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1886 Tip O'Neill St. Louis Browns Framed Display
Starting Bid - $1,000.00, Sold For - $2,900.00
This extraordinary display piece pays homage to both the American Association's greatest ball club, the 1886 St. Louis Browns, and its greatest star, Tip O'Neill. Originating years ago directly from the family of Tip O'Neill, this display is, in many ways, one of the most unusual baseball presentations we have ever seen. This piece is both folk art and a unique display presentation of significant nineteenth-century baseball memorabilia. The display is comprised of a large "shadow boxed" wood frame from which two decorated trophy baseballs hang, which are attached to the bottom of the frame by linked chains. Contained within the frame are the following items carefully arranged and mounted: 1) A small wooden ball upon which is written "1886 Worlds Champions" in white paint. 2) A velvet-lined framed studio portrait (4 x 6 inches) of St. Louis Browns team owner Chris von der Ahe. 3-5) Three period American Association scorecards: the first features a portrait illustration of Charles Comiskey on the cover, the second features a portrait illustration of Tip O'Neill on the cover, and the third features a generic baseball illustration with the caption "Two Strikes" printed along the base. The portrait programs are extremely rare. We have seen other similar examples of programs with portraits of players from other teams, but these are the only St. Louis portrait programs of this style that we can recall ever seeing. It is possible that the programs are covers only. 6) A small wooden bat (13 inches in length) which has been decorated with printed materials wrapped around its entire length. Identifiable materials wrapped around the bat include cutout sections of two baseball scorecard covers featuring illustrations of J. L Quest and H. E. Wheeler, respectively, a piece of hotel stationery ("The Southern, St. Louis") and, most important, a preprinted scorecard section listing the St. Louis Browns lineup. The significance of that scorecard is revealed by the handwritten notation scripted in pencil upon it: "1884 - Card from Tip O'Neill's First Game For St. Louis Browns Base Ball Club." Harry Wheeler was the manager of the Browns in 1884 (for the first five games) and Quest (who is listed among the starting players in the preprinted lineup) played 81 games with the club that year before being traded to Pittsburgh. All of the items have been mounted within the frame by means of nails. The bat, however, has come loose and is no longer firmly anchored within the display. A piece of white fabric decorated with circular brown cloth accents provides the backdrop upon which the items are mounted. Aside from the manner in which the pieces are mounted, all are in apparent Excellent condition. The two baseballs (both of which date from the 1880s) that hang from the base of the frame are each related to the career of Tip O'Neill. The first ball, which is darkly toned, is decorated with white lettering (with fancy accents) that reads "St. Louis 1886 Champions of the World Tip O'Neill Home Run Ball." The inscription, which encompasses both side panels and the sweet spot, remains perfectly legible. Attached to the ball (one on each side panel) are two brown cloth swatches that are identical to the brown cloth accents appearing on the white fabric in the frame. Tip O'Neill was the hitting star of the 1886 World Series, batting .400 with two home runs (both in Game 2) and five RBIs in the club's six game victory over the Chicago White Stockings. While we can not be certain that this ball represents one of those World Series home runs, the decorations on the ball suggest to us that this is a likely possibility. The second ball (heavily soiled and somewhat darkly toned) is also decorated in white and reads "Champ Batsman 1887 O'Neill St. Louis." While the inscription is quite light, it is still legible. O'Neill led the American Association with a .435 average in 1887; however, the precise potential significance of this ball is unknown. The St. Louis Browns were the American Association's most dominant franchise during its short ten-year existence. Led by player/manager Charles Comiskey and two-time batting champion Tip O'Neill, the Browns won four consecutive pennants (1885-88) and one World Series (1886). They are also the only American Association club to defeat the National League champions in World Series play. In addition to their talent on the field they also boasted the most flamboyant team owner of the era. A German saloon owner who originally purchased the team only to promote increased beer sales, Chris von der Ahe soon became one the game's greatest fans. He often attracted attention after games when, flanked by armed guards, he personally transported the stadium receipts to the bank in a wheel barrow. By some accounts he is also credited with introducing the hot dog to stadium concession stands. This is truly a remarkable piece, one that combines folk art, game-used baseballs, photography, and extremely rare American Association portrait programs of Comiskey and O'Neill (the first we have ever seen featuring these two great stars on the cover) to create a most unique and fascinating nineteenth-century baseball display and tribute to the the legendary St. Louis Browns of the 1880s and one of their greatest star players, Tip O'Neill. Total dimensions (including the balls): 17 x 24 inches. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,000/$4,000. SOLD FOR $2,900.00
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