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1865 Silver Trophy Ball - Mutuals vs. Actives
Starting Bid - $5,000.00 , Sold For - $21,150.00
Silver trophy balls were only awarded by outside parties or organizations. Teams did not purchase their own silver balls to commemorate important victories; they were prizes to be won. In that way they differ significantly from the gold-painted trophy balls from the era, which were game balls from the match that were elaborately decorated and given to the victorious club for display in its clubhouse. The announcement that a silver ball would be presented to the winner of a match game conferred a special status upon that contest and always served not only to increase fan interest but also to promote the organization or individual offering the trophy.
The Ulster County Agricultural Society offered this ball as a special prize in order to attract two of New York City's premier ball clubs, the Mutuals and the Actives, to play a match game at the Ulster County fair in Kingston, New York. The game was heavily promoted and was prominently covered in the September 20, 1865 issue of The New York Times, which made special note of it under the headline "THE NATIONAL GAME - MUTUAL VS. ACTIVE FOR A SILVER BALL." The text of the entire article appears in the longer complete catalog description at:
The New York Times article notes that at the close of the game, the ball was presented by C. S. Stillwell, Esq., the secretary of the Fair, to Mutuals' owner "Boss" Tweed. "Boss" Tweed was one of the most corrupt politicians in New York City history. Even his ballclub was a drain on the city coffers, as Tweed rewarded membership on his club with no-show jobs as city street sweepers. The Mutuals had a reputation for dishonest play. They were one of the best clubs of the era, but they had a history of "suspicious" losses, and it was openly known within the gambling community that many of their players could be "bought." Incredibly, just one week after its game with the Actives in Kingston, the Mutuals were involved in what is recognized as baseball's first major gambling scandal. On September 28, 1865, the Mutuals lost a game to the Brooklyn Eckfords by a score of 23-11. Following that loss it was discovered that three Mutual players, Thomas Devyr (shortstop), William Wansley (catcher), and Edward Duffy (third baseman), each accepted $100 to throw the game. After admitting their involvement in the conspiracy, all three were expelled from baseball shortly after. Devyr, Wansley, and Duffy all participated in the game against the Actives on September 21st, and their names are duly noted in the box score as reported by The Kingston Argus.
All baseball items relating to the most prominent teams of the 1860s, the era immediately predating professionalism in the sport, are exceedingly rare, and few are as rare or as significant as a documented silver trophy ball. Today, silver trophy balls are virtually nonexistent. Even the Baseball Hall of Fame does not have a silver trophy ball dating from the 1860s. This is a phenomenal relic dating from the earliest days of our national pastime, just months after the Civil War had ended and the great popularity of the game was just beginning to spread throughout the land. The fact that it was awarded to the Mutuals, one of baseballs most historically significant and notorious clubs, just one week prior to their gambling scandal, and was also personally presented to the infamous Boss Tweed, only adds to its great historical significance. Photocopies of the newspaper articles cited in the description accompany the ball. Reserve $5,000. Estimate $10,000+. SOLD FOR $21,150.00
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