Circa 1899 John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson Photo

Sold For: $2,644

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1393

Item Year: 1899

Category: The Golden Age of Baseball Photography

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Vintage original press photo, culled from The Detroit News archives, picturing Hall of Famers John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson as members of the Baltimore Orioles, circa 1899. McGraw and Robinson are each dressed in their home white uniforms as they pose together in a formal studio setting. This is one of the most extraordinary photos we have ever seen from this era, which has so few surviving images, let alone quality ones featuring such important Hall of Famers. While we have not seen all of the photos (there are millions) and have only handled a small handpicked selection of the very best of the entire Detroit News archives, this photograph, in our eyes, may be the prize of the entire archive. This is an extraordinary photo and rarity. Reverse markings include three date stamps ("May 25 1902," "Feb 14 1923," and "June 9 1932") and various period editorial notations. Although the earliest date stamp reads "May 25 1902," and both McGraw and Robinson were members of Baltimore's entry in the American League at that time, we believe that this photo captures the pair in 1899, during their National League days. That conclusion is based upon the uniform style and, most important, comparison to an 1899 Baltimore Orioles imperial team cabinet photo previously sold by Robert Edward Auctions (April 2007, Lot 1241). According to the Baseball Hall of Fame uniform database, the Orioles did not wear this style uniform in 1902; however, the uniforms worn by McGraw and Robinson in the offered photo are identical to those worn by the club in the cited 1899 imperial cabinet photograph (produced by Betz of Baltimore, Maryland). Closer scrutiny (undershirt sleeve lengths, background curtain, etc.) indicates that this photo was taken in the same studio, and almost certainly on the very same day, as that of the imperial cabinet photo. McGraw and Robinson spent much of their respective careers together with the legendary Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s, where they helped lead the club to three consecutive pennants and two World Championships between the years 1894 and 1897. While there they became close friends and even owned a saloon together. Years later, Robinson served as a coach under McGraw with the Giants before eventually taking the managerial reins of the Brooklyn Robins in 1914, a position he held until 1931. Ironically, both men passed away in 1934. This is an outstanding photo of the pair and, given their friendship, one that was most likely taken at their request. The photograph (7 x 9.125 inches) displays perfect clarity, and has a few very minor flaws common to nearly all working press photos, including a couple insignificant light creases. This is a remarkable early original photograph. Very Good to Excellent condition. Reserve $200. Estimate $400+++. SOLD FOR $2,644

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