Exceedingly early baseball contract, dated April 17, 1879, signed by Andy Leonard, who was a key member of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball's first all-professional team. In addition to playing for the Red Stockings, Leonard also played in the augural seasons of both the National Association in 1871 and the National League in 1876. The one-page contract, between Leonard and the Capital City Base Ball Club of Albany, New York, has been signed in black fountain pen by "A. J. Leonard" (grading "9"), the president of the club (name illegible), "John J. Harrigan" ("9"), treasurer of the club, and two witnesses who were teammates of Leonard on the club: "H. C. Schafer" ("9"), and "J. E. Manning" ("9"). Like Leonard, Harry Schafer and Jack Manning also played in the major leagues, with each appearing on the roster of both American Association and National League clubs during their careers. Although information regarding the National Association in 1879 is scarce (the league was a minor league circuit at the time), it appears that the Capital City Club of Albany was also known as, or eventually merged with, the Rochester Hop Bitters, as both team names are listed on the few existing records we could find. Nineteenth-century baseball contracts, especially those of players of Leonard's stature, are extremely rare; this is only the fourth we have ever offered. This particular document originates directly from the Leonard family and is accompanied by a signed letter of provenance from Charles J. McCarty III, Leonard's grandson.
Andy Leonard, who began his baseball career as an infielder, was the left fielder and one of the top hitters on the undefeated 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. He later joined the National Association (baseball's first all-professional league) during its inaugural 1871 season as a member of the Washington Olympics (he was joined on the roster by former Cincinnati Red Stocking players Asa Brainard, Doug Allison, Charlie Sweasy, and Fred Waterman). The following year he was reunited with former Red Stockings manager Harry Wright, who recruited Leonard for his Boston Red Stockings ball club. With Leonard in the lineup, the Red Stockings proceeded to win the National Association pennant each of the next four years before the league folded. In 1876 he remained with Boston as a member of Harry Wright's team in the newly formed National League. By the end of the 1878 season Leonard's eyesight was failing him and he could no longer perform at the major league level, which forced him to seek employment with Albany/Rochester of the National Association. He attempted a major league comeback in 1880 with Cincinnati, but his time with the club was short lived and he retired from baseball at the end of the year. The contract (8.5 x 14 inches) displays four horizontal folds and light wear, including a tiny corner chip in the lower right and a few tiny edge tears. In Excellent condition overall. Auction LOA from James Spence/JSA. Pre certified by Steve Grad and Brian Sobrero/Beckett Authentication. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open).
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