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1883 "Champions of Pennsylvania" Cabinet Photo with John Frye
Starting Bid - $300.00, Sold For - $1,725.00
Large format cabinet-style team photograph (10.5 x 13.5 inches) of the Lock Haven Baseball Club, the "Champions of Pennsylvania." This photograph has an extraordinary significance in that this team includes John H. (Jack) Frye, one of the first two or three African-American players to break into the white professional leagues in 1883. Frye is sitting in the front row, second to left, the only black ballplayer on the club. It would be hard to communicate how controversial the fielding of a black ballplayer was in a white professional league team in the early 1880s. Frye and Fleetwood Walker are credited with being the second and third black players in organized baseball (Fowler was the first in 1878). The attempts of these early pioneers to play on white teams were met with great resistance, ultimately leading to a ban on integration which led to the rise of the great Negro Leagues, and defined baseball until Jackie Robinson shattered the color barrier in 1947. This haunting original photograph dates from the earliest days of integration, that very brief chapter during the 1880s, which existed for moments, and was gone in the blink of an eye. Few photographs exist from this era which capture the earliest black baseball pioneers posed with their white teammates. This is the first original photograph of Frye we have ever seen. The photograph apparently once belonged personally to Frye. On the reverse are period notations which read "Compliments of John H. Frye of Lock Haven B.B.C. Champions of Pennsylvania 1883." Frye was already dead by 1907, when he was pictured in Sol White's Guide (p.25, his photo appears with the notation "deceased"). Frye played with many teams throughout the 1880s and early 1890s, and was a member of the famous Cuban Giants in 1887 and 1888. This is an extremely rare, very possibly unique team photograph featuring one of the nineteenth-century's most significant black ballplayers. There is some chipping to the corners of the mount. The photograph has soiling but exhibits remarkable clarity, and has a very striking appearance. Rough condition with a chip along bottom restored, technically overall Good, but still with tremendous character, display value, and historical significance. Reserve $300. Estimate $800/$1,200. SOLD FOR $1,725.00
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