Extremely early and historically significant National League fold-over scorecard for an 1877 game between Hartford and Louisville, featuring three of the four Louisville players who were expelled from the league at the end of the 1877 season in baseball's first big gambling scandal for "throwing" games: Jim Devlin, George Hall, and Bill Craver. The National League wasn't even two years old before the game's first great gambling scandal threatened to destroy its credibility. On Monday, August 13, 1877, the Louisville Grays enjoyed a four-game lead in the standings and appeared to be the favorites to capture the pennant. Then, inexplicably, the club lost ten of its next twelve games, including eight in a row. Most noticeably, the local papers noted, star pitcher Jim Devlin and a few other key members of the team had lost their effectiveness. At that same time an anonymous telegram was received by team management that warned of big money being bet against Louisville by certain gamblers. Without any concrete proof, however, Louisville president Charles Chase could only watch in despair as his team continued their free fall in the standings amid swirling newspaper reports that players were "throwing" games. A brief winning streak at the end of the season was simply a case of too little too late, and the Grays finished the season in second place, seven games behind Boston. Then a most remarkable thing happened. During a series of postseason exhibition games, Devlin suddenly regained his old form on the mound and the team was winning again. By that time, sportswriters had become more pointed in their public accusations against Devlin, with one scribe writing, "The Celt has completely given himself away." Furious, Chase confronted Devlin and demanded that he confess his wrongdoing. Devlin refused to admit anything to Chase, but unfortunately for him, his partners in the affair were not as tightlipped. Coconspirator George Hall, who was the club's top hitter, was the first to crack. He not only confessed his own actions, but also implicated Devlin and reserve infielder Al Nichols. It was Nichols, Hall said, who acted as the liaison between the players and the gamblers. After being confronted with Hall's accusations, Devlin too confessed his guilt. Eventually, it was learned that team captain Bill Craver was also involved in the fixing of games. In December 1877, the National League expelled all four men for "conduct in contravention of the objects of this league." Collectively, they would forever be known as "The Louisville Four." It should be noted that this was the most famous gambling scandal in the history of baseball prior to the 1919 World Series and any and all items pertaining to either the 1877 Louisville Grays or the "The Louisville Four" are exceedingly rare.
The offered scorecard is from a game between the Hartford Dark Blues and Louisville Grays played on Wednesday, June 27th, at Hartford's home grounds. The preprinted lineups included Devlin, Hall, Craver, Latham, and Hague for Louisville, and Ferguson, Start, Cassidy, and Larkin for Hartford. Based upon the names featured in each lineup, this scorecard can only date to the 1877 season. Neatly scored in pencil to record a 4-1 Louisville victory. Research indicates that the only 4-1 Hartford home loss to Louisville in 1877 occurred on June 27th. The reverse features an advertisement for Ward B. Snyder's Sportsman's Depot, "The only place in the City to buy George Wright's celebrated Boston Model Bat and Professional Dead Ball." National League scorecards from the 1870s are extremely rare. This is the first 1877 Louisville scorecard we have ever seen. The scorecard (4.25 x 6.75 inches) displays a name ("C. Eugene Brown") lightly written in pencil on the reverse and a very tiny tear along the right edge of the fold line; otherwise in Excellent condition. Reserve $400. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $705
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