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1877 William Hulbert Signed Chicago White Stockings Season-Ticket Book
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $9,400
Exceedingly rare 1877 Chicago White Stockings season-ticket book, signed on the interior rear cover by team owner William Hulbert, second president of the National League. Hulbert died in 1882, and his signature has always been revered as one of the virtually impossible key rarities among all Hall of Famers. The fact that his signature appears here on a Chicago White Stockings ticket book makes it all the more desirable. The high-quality small leather-bound book, which once housed a complete set of season tickets, has "The Chicago Ball Club" stamped on the cover in gilt letters. While Hulbert no doubt signed other season ticket books, this is the only surviving Chicago White Stockings ticket book (with or without tickets) that we have ever seen. The paper overlays on the interior covers are badly worn; however, one can still easily make out much of the printed lettering, including the team name, "Chicago Ball Club," the year "1877," and the original recipient's handwritten name "Thos J. Foley" (twice). While the fact that this book has survived the ages is amazing enough, the real prize is to be found on the interior rear cover. There, at the base, in the space reserved for the name of the team official authorizing the sale of the book, is the signature of "W. A. Hulbert." Hulbert's signature has been beautifully penned in black fountain pen. It remains quite legible, although it has to some degree been affected by the elements (general wear and foxing), resulting in its overall grade of "4." It is still an exceptional signature example (one of the very few known) on an exceptionally interesting and significant item. Interestingly, Thomas Foley was a former Major League outfielder who played for Chicago's entry in the National Association's inaugural season of 1871. (The National Association was baseball's first professional league.) Foley only played one season in the Majors, but as this book indicates, he still maintained ties with his old club and was a familiar face at the ballpark. The ticket book (4 x 2.25 inches) overall displays heavy wear, including numerous abrasions to the leather covers, toning to the interior paper overlays, and moderate water staining. Some collectors would say it has a lot of "character." Despite flaws, it certainly does have an impressive appearance. In Good condition overall. 1877 marked only the second season of play for the nascent National League, making this an extraordinary William Hulbert signed item pertaining not only to the team he owned, but the league he founded and presided over as president for six years.
William Hulbert was a Chicago businessman who was owner of the Chicago White Stockings of the National Association. In 1876 he, along with few of the other more responsible National Association team owners, founded the National League. Although Hulbert was the driving force behind the League, he declined the position of president during the first year in an effort to deflect any criticism of bias or prejudice from the other clubs. The following season the owners elected him president of the National League and he held that position until his death in 1882. During his tenure, Hulbert helped "clean up" the game by introducing a regular schedule, banning alcoholic beverages from games, limiting rowdyism among players, and, most important, working to eliminate gambling on games. In 1877 he banned four Louisville players for life when he uncovered evidence that the players had deliberately fixed games. Despite his six-year tenure as League president, very few William Hulbert signed items have survived the ages and his signature today remains one of the rarest belonging to any member of the Hall of Fame. Although everyone knew Hulbert deserved to be in the Hall of Fame, when he was finally elected, in 1995, advanced collectors were unable to find examples of his signature to purchase since almost none existed. The few that did trade hands in most cases sold for prices exceeding $10,000. Hulbert instantly became the "Button Gwinnett" of Baseball Hall of Fame signatures. (Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett has always been regarded as the key rarity of that long-popular field of signature collecting. This is where the expression "Button, Button, who's got the Button?" comes from.) Almost all of the few Hulbert signatures known are on documents that originated years ago directly from the estate of National League secretary and former president Nicholas Young. The offered piece is one of the extraordinary exceptions and represents just the third Hulbert signed item we have ever offered. The book is housed in a custom-made solander case for ideal storage and presentation. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,500+. SOLD FOR $9,400
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