Significant 1867 Union of Morrisania Trophy Ball (Championship Season)

Sold For: $7,200

Auction Year: 2017 spring

Lot: 1748

Item Year: 1867

Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Rare 1867 trophy game ball from a match between the Unions of Morrisania and Riverside-Norwich. Though we have no definitive history of the trophy balls that were once displayed in the Unions' trophy case, it is known that many years ago (we believe prior to the 1940s) the team's trophy balls were broken up from their original display case and scattered to the collecting winds, many apparently given away as keepsakes. The few that have survived are among the finest trophy ball examples in existence and among the most highly prized of all nineteenth-century baseball memorabilia. A handful of examples can be found in the hobby's most advanced collections, while an equally small number reside in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. All are extremely desirable and significant. The offered ball is of great historical importance on many counts, including that it dates from 1867. The Union Club of Morrisania (based in the Bronx, N.Y.) was recognized as the champions of 1867 by virtue of their victory in match play against the previous year's champions, the Brooklyn Atlantics. The gold-painted "belt" ball is lettered "1867 - Aug. 31 - Union 66 - Riverside-Norwich 17 - 7 innings." While not much is known about the Riverside club (we assume they hailed from Norwich, Connecticut), its obvious from the score of the game that they were not in the same "league" as the powerful Unions of Morrisania. The ball displays some wear, including a few cracks to the gold paint and one large chip (flaws that are very common to balls of this age), but all of the black-painted lettering remains bold and perfectly legible. While technically in Very Good condition, the ball presents at a much higher level and offers exceptional visual appeal. In this era it was a tradition for the game ball (only a single ball was used for the entire game at this time) to be decorated with the key information relating to the game (including the date, teams, and score) and presented to the victor for display in the team's clubhouse trophy case. All early trophy balls are extremely rare and prized by collectors. This is a fascinating trophy ball on many counts, including the fact that the high score itself (66-17) documents a characteristic of the game of baseball during its earliest days. The fact that it was awarded to one of the most powerful clubs of the era, was once displayed in their trophy case, and dates from a championship year only adds to its historical significance. This is an extraordinary relic from the earliest days of our national pastime. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open).

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