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Circa 1860 Baseball Memorabilia Collection with 1859 Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $4,994
This interesting collection of nineteenth-century baseball material originates from an estate in Massachusetts. While it is not known with certainty if all the materials date from the same exact time period, the fact that they were found together certainly suggests that possibility. The most significant item in the group, by far, is an 1859 copy of the Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion , which is universally recognized by historians as one of the most important of all early baseball books. It is revered both for its great rarity and significance. Published in 1859 by Mayhew & Baker, Boston, the Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion was the first book ever published that is entirely devoted to the newly emerging sport of baseball. Editions were also published in 1860 and 1861, but the 1859 edition is the first and most significant. This book was published during one of the most important evolutionary periods in the history of the sport. In the late 1850s, baseball was governed by two different sets of rules: those of the "Massachusetts Game," popular in the New England states, and those of the "New York Game," which were the rules set forth and adopted by the National Association of Base Ball Players. The primary differences between the two sets of rules were the use in the "Massachusetts Game's" of stakes instead of bases and the shape of the playing field, with the "New York Game" employing the familiar diamond layout, as opposed to a square. This volume includes the rules, regulations, and field diagrams for both the "Massachusetts" and "New York" rules of the game, as this volume was published at a time when the controversy over which rules would gain acceptance was at its peak. The newer "New York" rules, which placed the batter at home plate and replaced posts with bases, were growing in popularity in the late 1850s. It was not until 1858 that the first game between prominent teams using the New York rules was played. This volume literally documents the work-in-progress nature of the game at that time, detailing the most significant changes to the rules of the game which largely define the game of baseball as we know it today. The monumental significance and dramatic presentation of its contents make it very easy to appreciate why the Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion is universally regarded as the most significant of all early books exclusively devoted to baseball and that were available to the general public. The book (3.75 x 5.5 inches) consists of thirty-six pages with its original thin, brown cloth cover, upon which is a gilt-stamped image of a player and the title, "Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion." Included within the pages are diagrams of the playing field for both games as well as four full-page illustrations depicting "The Thrower," The Catcher," "The Striker," and "The Base Tender" (standing next to a waist-high pole), respectively. The book also lists the names of the officers of the Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players for 1859, as well as the names of the twenty member clubs. One of the most important aspects of this book is the author's note of the sport's growing popularity: "The game of Base Ball is fast becoming, in this country, what Cricket is to England, a national game, combining as it does, exciting sport and healthful exercise at a trifling expense." While this book is partial to the "Massachusetts Game" (it was published in Boston), it is the "New York Game" that eventually gained universal acceptance among players. In 1858, this was the volume which the most serious baseball teams and players in the country used to guide their rules of play. This was a book for teams and players of the highest caliber of play, produced at the time when the sport was developing into the game of baseball that we would recognize today, the game that would explode in popularity in just a few short years during the Civil War. The offered volume has suffered from exposure to water, which has resulted in heavy staining to both covers, and, to a lesser degree, staining along every single interior page. Aside from that, the volume remains tightly bound and the pages are otherwise clean and free of any significant defects. While technically in Fair condition, the rarity of this piece far overshadows its cosmetic flaws and it would be a welcome addition to any advanced baseball library. The remaining five items in this collection, found with the book, are as follows: 1) Circa 1860s figure-eight style baseball. The ball has a circumference of 8.5 inches and weighs 3.6 ounces. A few tears are evident on the panels, one of which has been repaired, as well along the seams. In Good condition. 2) Benicia Base Ball Club business card. The card features the club's name, "Benicia Base Ball Club," its hometown, "South Danvers" (Massachusetts), and the names of both the club president ("George F. Shaw") and secretary ("A. W. D. Murray"). (South Danvers is known as Peabody today.) The name "Mary E. Shaw" is scripted in pencil on the reverse, as is the date "Feb 21st 1862." According to research (provided by world-renown scholar John Thorn and for which we are very appreciative), Mary Shaw was the younger sister of club president George Shaw. The Benicia club took its name in honor of America's famed bare-knuckle prizefighter John C. Heenan, who was known as the "Benicia Boy" because he worked at the Pacific Mail Steamship Company in Benicia, California. Heenan became champion in 1859 and had his most famous fight the following year against British champion Tom Sayers, thereby dating this card to the 1860s. The card (3.25 x 2 inches) displays toning and a number of minor creases. In Very Good condition. 3) Circa 1860s baseball tintype. The formal studio photograph pictures two ballplayers posing together. One is holding a ball, while the other is holding a bat. Although purely speculation, given the presence of the business card, these two players might very well be members of the Benicia Base Ball Club. The tintype photo is bordered by its original gold filigree frame, which in turn rests in an ornate gutta percha casing with hanging attachment on the reverse. In Excellent condition. 4-5) Two circa 1860s generic baseball pin backs, each displaying a similar "shield" design. One of the pins, which is silver colored, is in Excellent condition. The other example, which is gold colored, is missing its pin on the reverse and is in Very Good condition. Total: 6 items (pocket companion, baseball, business card, tintype, and two pin backs). Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,500+. SOLD FOR $4,994
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