Original 1909 Forbes Field Opening Day Panoramic Photograph (Vic Willis Provenance)
Starting Bid - $300.00, Sold For - $1,540.50
This rare panoramic photo, which captures the action between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates during the first game ever played at Forbes Field, on June 30, 1909, was once owned by Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis and is accompanied by a letter of provenance from his great-granddaughter. The spectacular image, taken from the perspective of the center-field bleachers, captures the entire field and grandstand, as well as many outlying buildings. The Pirates are in the field and one can easily see the Cubs' batter dashing to first as another Cubs player takes off for second. While one cannot make out the faces of the players, all nine Pirates in the field are visible, including, presumably, Honus Wagner at shortstop. The copyright notice in the lower right corner reads "Photo by Chautauqua Photographic Co./Copyright 1909." The photo remains housed in its original matting, which bears a number of vintage handwritten notations in black fountain pen, including "First Game Played on Forbes Field, Pitts, Pa. June 30-1909 - Attendance 30,338." Below that are the lineups for both the Pirates and Cubs, as well as the box score from the game (the Cubs defeated the Pirates 3-2) and the umpires: "Emslie & O'Day." Accompanying the photo is a handwritten letter, dated 2/9/2005, signed by Christie Anne Byers in which she attests to the photo's extraordinary provenance. In full:
To Whom it may concern: I, Christie Byers, do hereby testify that the 1909 photo of Forbes Field was passed on to me, being the great-granddaughter of Victor Willis Sr. it was passed down to Victor Willis II, who was my mother's father. I inherited it, when my mother "Anne Degus Willis Byers" passed away in 1987. To all of our families [sic] knowledge, the writings on photo was by Hall of Famer Victor Willis Sr.
It should be noted that we have seen only one other example of this panoramic photograph in its original matting. That piece came directly from the estate of Paddy O'Connor, who was also a member of the 1909 Pirates, indicating that these panoramic photos were probably produced as special presentation pieces for the players. The opening of Forbes Field was certainly a special occasion at the time. Forbes Field was one of the great architectural and engineering marvels of its day, and one of baseball's first great stadiums. Built at a cost of $2 million and constructed out of steel and concrete, the stadium included a number of "novel" features, such as electric lights, telephones, and even maids in the ladies room. Forbes Field and Shibe Park, which also opened in 1909, were also the only stadiums at the time with a visitors' dressing room. The photo (19 x 5.25 inches) displays remarkable clarity and is in apparent Near Mint condition. The original matting (20 x 9 inches) displays a tear in both the lower left and right corners and is otherwise in Excellent condition. The entire piece has in turn been matted and framed to total dimensions of 28.5 x 14.5 inches. Reserve $300. Estimate $500/$1,000. SOLD FOR $1,540.50