1866 Union of Morrisania Trophy Ball (vs. Oriental)

Sold For: $5,700

Auction Year: 2017 spring

Lot: 1749

Item Year: 1866

Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Rare 1866 trophy game ball from a match between the Unions of Morrisania and the "Oriental" ball club. 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 gold-painted "belt" ball is lettered "1866 - Oct 30 - Union 20 - Oriental 8 - 6 innings." Not much is known about the "Oriental" club, but, we did find a listing of a game between the Unions and Orientals in 1866. According to the records found in Charles Peverelly's Book of American Pastimes (self published in 1866), the two clubs met on October 22nd, with the Unions prevailing by a score of 24-5. As such, either the records found in the book are in error or the two clubs met again a week later, with the result recorded here on this ball. The Unions of Morrisania were one of the top clubs in New York, and the following season the team was recognized as the Champions of 1867. The ball displays heavy wear, including a few abrasions which obscure portions of the text (all of the lettering remains legible). A mounting hole and an area of light discoloration appear along the bottom of the ball (obviously a result of its original method of display in the Union trophy case). In Good condition overall. 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 winning team's clubhouse trophy case. All early trophy balls are extremely rare and prized by collectors, and this example is no exception, especially since it was awarded to one of the most powerful clubs of the era. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open).

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