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Nineteenth-Century Baseball Bat Attributed to George Wright In 1869
Starting Bid - $5,000.00, Sold For - $88,125.00
The title of this description notes that the offered bat is "Attributed to George Wright In 1869" because it is impossible for us to prove that this is the bat that George Wright used with the Red Stockings in 1869, yet that is precisely what we believe it to be. Offered is a nineteenth-century bat that is decorated by a number of attached items that strongly suggest that this bat was owned by and used by Cincinnati Red Stockings shortstop George Wright during the club's historic 1869 season. Included among the attached items are two extraordinary circa 1869 baseball trophy ribbons, the first of each we have ever seen in private hands, one for the Atlantics and one for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, which themselves are among the most incredible baseball items we have ever seen from the era. The bat itself is extremely impressive, and is the only nineteenth-century bat that we have ever handled that appears from comparison with photographs to be exactly the type, in terms of design and dimensions, used by George Wright and the Red Stockings in countless photos from that era. Nineteenth-century bats, unlike modern-day bats, had no manufacturing labels or model numbers, and were not stamped with the player's names on the barrel, thus making it impossible to definitively state, without additional provenance, that a particular nineteenth-century bat was used by, or was even issued to, a specific player. That being the case, we can only present our opinion that we believe that the offered bat was used by George Wright in 1869, and describe what we base this opinion on. At the very least, it is a monumental museum-caliber bat dating from circa 1869, identical in style to those used by professional players of the era including the 1869 Red Stockings, and is accompanied by two attached ribbons, the finest, most extraordinary and desirable baseball trophy ribbons of the era (one Brooklyn Atlantics, and one Cincinnati Red Stockings), that are each the only examples known in private hands, and which could only have originated from someone directly involved with these teams during that era. The bat, measuring 38 inches in length and weighing 37.4 ounces, is very distinctive and is in the classic style of bats from the late 1860s era. The knob features a slight protuberance at the end and the circumference of the handle is only slightly less than the barrel. Very few examples of any baseball equipment other than balls have survived from this era. This is the first bat of this type we have ever had. In addition to the trophy ribbons, the bat has been decorated with additional related period pieces. The most direct association to Wright comes from the property tag attached to the handle by means of string. The tag bears the preprinted notation "Property of" followed by the name "Mrs. George Wright" scripted in vintage black fountain pen. Printed above her name, upside down in faded black fountain pen, is an additional notation that reads "Geo. Wright's Bat From 1869 Given By Him To M. T. M." We believe that the initials "M. T. M." almost certainly stand for "Michael T. McGreevy," owner of the legendary 3rd Base saloon, which was so elaborately decorated with baseball memorabilia that it could rightly be called the first baseball museum. McGreevy secured new pieces for his walls as gifts from players and fans alike. After his death, much of his collection was donated to the Boston Public Library. Today, numerous photos exist of the tavern during its heyday (including a number of photographs offered in other lots in this auction) in which one can clearly see the vast amount of baseball material on display. After a brilliant career on the diamond, George Wright opened a sporting goods store in Boston. Interestingly, the reverse of the tag features a portion of a printed advertisement for Wright's sporting goods store, "Wright & Gould." The 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings silk ribbon (7 x 3.5 inches) is affixed to the barrel. This ribbon, issued during the Cincinnati Red Stockings historic 1869/1870 campaigns, remains one of the most incredible finds in the hobby. The only other known example resides in the Spalding Collection of The New York Public Library. The white ribbon bears the team name "Cincinnati" printed in red lettering, above which is the team's unique logo of a bat, belt, and base designed in the shape of the letter "C." The ribbon is attached to the barrel of this bat by means of twenty-two small, vintage nails. Adjacent to the Cincinnati team ribbon is the blue silk ribbon (5.25 x 1.5 inches) of the "Atlantic B.B.C." (also attached by small, vintage nails). The Atlantics ribbon is also, to the best of our knowledge, the only example in private hands, with the only other example also residing in the Spalding Collection of The New York Public Library. The Brooklyn Atlantics were one of the top teams in New York in 1869 and, in 1870, were the first team ever to defeat the Cincinnati Red Stockings. All silk baseball ribbons dating from the 1865 to 1875 era are extremely rare, due to both their fragile nature and the fact that they were intended to actually be worn by players, pinned to their uniforms during games. (The game's elite clubs normally exchanged team ribbons before the game and wore them on their uniforms, a practice which largely ended by 1875.) Few ribbons from this era have survived, let alone from such a prominent team as the Atlantics. Below the ribbons, attached by nails, is a thin strip of white paper bearing the handwritten notation "The Cincinnati Ball Club, Cincinnati, Ohio." An 1869 newspaper article, recapping the undefeated season of the 1869 Red Stockings, including scores of the games, is attached to the back of the barrel, also by means of vintage nails. The final item is the handwritten draft of a newspaper article by legendary Boston sportswriter Tim Murnane, which encircles the center of the bat, regarding the 1869 Red Stockings. The article, penned in black fountain pen by Murnane upon a sheet of yellow paper reads as follows: "The first time I had the pleasure of seeing the Cincinnati Club play was at the Capatoline grounds Brooklyn in 1870. They had won every game up to this time and many were willing to bet they would go through this second season without meeting a defeat. No club ever received as much notice. Wherever they went they were the lions of the hour." Affixed to the yellow sheet is a portion of the published article, as well as additional coverage of that famous game. The Cincinnati Red Stockings ribbon is of such particular importance that if it were not attached to the bat it would all by itself be one of the most extraordinary and major items ever offered relating to the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. This bat is a fascinating item in every way and one of the most impressive nineteenth-century baseball display pieces we have ever seen. Graded A10 by MEARS. LOA from James Spence/JSA. LOA from Dave Bushing & Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $88,125.00
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