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Lot # 859 (of 1807)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1901 Lewis Carr Pittsburgh Pirates Contract Signed by Harry Pulliam!

Starting Bid - $1,000.00, Sold For - $4,443.75

Four-page fold-over contract, dated July 1, 1901, between the Pittsburgh Athletic Co. and Lewis Carr, signed in black fountain pen (grading "9") by Harry Pulliam in his capacity as secretary of the club. (The contract is torn along the base and does not include the signatures of the player and respective club official.) The signature of Harry Pulliam, who later became National League president, is exceedingly rare today as a result of his tragic death in 1909 at the age of forty. Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss had originally hired Pulliam as his club secretary in the mid 1890s, when he was owner of the Louisville Colonels. In 1900, after purchasing the Pirates, Dreyfuss brought Pulliam to Pittsburgh to work for him in the same capacity. With a reputation for honesty and diligence, Pulliam was elected as National League president in 1903. Unfortunately, the nature of the job, especially dealing with the warring factions within the League, was at odds with his introverted personality. The fact that he also took on the duties of League secretary and treasurer further added to his strained psyche. The tipping point for Pulliam came in 1908 after his controversial ruling in the legendary "Merkle's Boner" game between the Giants and Cubs at the Polo Grounds. Pulliam stood by the ruling of the umpires in that game, which meant the game was recorded as a tie instead of a Giants victory. That game became all the more significant when the two clubs finished tied in the standings at season's end, necessitating a one-game playoff, which the Giants lost. In the days following the Giants' playoff loss, McGraw lambasted Pulliam for what he thought was a terrible and unjust decision. At the time of the Merkle incident, Pulliam was already on shaky ground with National League owners for his perceived weakness in dealing with League matters. His decision to uphold O’Day’s call, for which he was endlessly crucified by McGraw and the New York press, only exacerbated the situation. In February 1909 he suffered a nervous breakdown at the banquet for League owners. A leave of absence seemed to do him good and he was thought to be in better spirits when he returned to work that June. Unfortunately, his problems and the cloud of the Merkle incident remained, and on July 25th he took his own life by means of a bullet to the head. The Giants were the only team not in attendance at his funeral, and upon learning of his death, McGraw was quoted as saying “I didn’t think a bullet to the head could hurt him.” This is only the second Pulliam signed piece we have ever offered and we cannot recall having seen many others. This piece also comes with an ideal and remarkable provenance: It, along with three other pieces relating to Lewis Carr in this auction, was only just recently obtained by our consignor directly from a scrapbook long ago personally kept by Carr. The contract (8.5 x 10.5) displays two horizontal folds and is moderately toned throughout. The bottom portion of the contract (on all pages) has been neatly excised from the document, resulting in the loss of the section reserved on the interior for the signatures of the player and team official. Without regard to the loss of the bottom section, the contract is in Very Good to Excellent condition. We have seen very few Major League player contracts from this era and literally just a handful of items of any kind signed by Harry Pulliam. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $4,443.75


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