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1908 Boston Old Timers' Day Large Display Photograph - Earliest Known Old Timers' Day Photo!
Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $4,994
This unique, large-format photograph (18.25 x 13 inches) gives tribute to one of the most extraordinary groups of baseball stars ever assembled: The Old Timers' Reunion held on August 12, 1908, at Peddock's Island, Massachusetts. The photo is also historically significant due to the fact that it is, to the best of our knowledge, the earliest known photograph of a baseball old timers day event. Pictured here, seated together in front of the grandstand, are all of the participants at the event, flanked by the hundreds of fans who came out to see them on this day. Although the wide-angle scope of the image makes visual corroboration of most players difficult, forty-four "Old Timers" have been identified in vintage pencil notations along the base of the mount, including a number of important nineteenth-century players. Among the names listed are future Hall of Famers James O'Rourke, Tommy McCarthy, George Wright, Jesse Burkett, Tim Keefe, Billy Hamilton, and Candy Cummings (inventor of the curve ball), as well as Timothy Murnane, John Morrill, Tommy Bond, Dickey Pearce (he passed away just two months after this photo was taken), Billy Nash, Charley Ganzel, Fred Thayer (inventor of the catcher's mask while at Harvard), James Tyng (teammate of Thayer's at Harvard and first player to wear a catcher's mask), and Michael McGreevy (head of Boston's famed "Royal Rooters"). The handwritten caption on the mount reads "Peddock's Island - Old Timers - Aug 12th 1908." As one might expect, nearly all of the participants in this grand event either played in Boston, or had strong ties to the area (Tim Keefe, for instance, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and died there in 1933). Despite the listing of names here, we have uncovered a great deal of additional information about this game from articles published in Baseball magazine at the time. While it is possible that the players listed on the mount did indeed attend the event, many of them, including George Wright, Jesse Burkett, Tim Keefe, Billy Hamilton, Fred Thayer, and James Tyng, are not mentioned in the period articles as having been present at the game. One possible explanation for this is that the handwritten notations were made some years later, when the the original owner's memory was somewhat fuzzy regarding the attendees. Regardless of the discrepancy, the photo is extraordinary and historically significant. One article previewing the game, written by esteemed Boston Globe sportswriter Timothy Murnane, makes note that the practice of holding an "old timers' day" game began in Boston in 1906 and that the "1908 celebration will be the third annual observance of the event." With regard to the 1908 game, he further adds:
It is proposed to have the demonstration of this year eclipse anything of the kind yet attempted. Everybody is welcome, no matter how far from Boston he may live. Everybody is invited to come and bring his friends. The fun will begin early and last until late. Many will take the first boat down at 10:20. There will be baseball galore, a first-class band will give music and there will be a clambake and other attractions that will make the visit well worth the trouble. Julian Hart will be present and the Old Player's League flag will be again hoisted to the mast...It so happens that the day selected is one on which there is no major league game in Boston, something that happens very seldom, and so it will be possible for everybody, who wants to, to get away. A special effort has been made to swell the number of old-time players who will be present.
A second article, written after the event, begins by stating "They were privileged, indeed, who attended the Old Timer's Day at Peddock's Island in Boston Harbor this year. It occurred on Wednesday, August 12th, an open day in the local major league schedule." Ideally, the article goes on to mention this very photo. The photograph that was taken to memorize the occasion shows full well the character of the assemblage. Never before was such an array seen. Interestingly, on a sad note, the article also makes note that the game was directly related to the passing of former star Dickey Pearce, "Alas! it proved to be the last Old Timers' Day that he [Pearce] will attend, for he caught a severe cold as the result of the outing, and soon afterwards passed away." As noted in Murnane's article, Boston was the first city to establish an organized "old timers' day" game, in 1906, and that the event pictured here was the third in what quickly became an annual tradition, both in Boston and other major cities. We are not aware of any other photos capturing the two preceding Boston old timers' day games, and we strongly believe that this may be the earliest such photo in existence. While without additional information we will never know with certainty, we believe there is a possibility that this large Boston-related display photograph was once displayed in the famous 3rd Base Saloon owned by Michael McGreevy. McGreevy was the leader of the famed Royal Rooters and owner of the famed sports bar. 3rd Base (so named because it was the last stop before you went home), which was the unofficial headquarters of the Royal Rooters. It also doubled as one of the first baseball museums. McGreevy turned the bar into a baseball shrine and decorated it with every form of baseball memorabilia imaginable. Naturally, most of the memorabilia related to the Red Sox, but McGreevy also displayed items and photos relating to all of the top stars and teams of the era. While we cannot state with certainty, given the size, uniqueness, and significance of this display photograph, and the fact that McGreevy attended the event and is pictured here, we would not be surprised at all to learn that this very photo once hung in McGreevy's saloon amid all of his other baseball memorabilia. The crystal-clear photo displays minor toning, a few minor surface marks, and a number of light surface wrinkles throughout. It remains firmly affixed (by means of adhesive) to its original, vintage, cardboard mount (19.75 x 15.75 inches) and is housed in what appears to be its original wood frame (22 x 18 inches). This is an extraordinary display piece from a long-forgotten and very significant reunion of many of baseball's greatest pioneers. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $4,994
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