Exquisite 1868 "Creeper Tournament" Trophy Bat - One of the Earliest Known Trophy Bats & Possibly The Earliest Cornell University Baseball Item!

Sold For: $19,200

Auction Year: 2017 spring

Lot: 1755

Item Year: 1868

Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Addendum (4/10/17, 2:00 p.m.): Further research conducted by members on the Net54 memorabilia chat board (specifically "vintagesportscollector") has discovered that the "Cornell" listed on this bat denotes Cornell University. As such, this bat is possibly one of the earliest items relating to Cornell athletics and almost certainly the earliest known Cornell baseball piece. Cornell was founded in 1865 and according to the school's website, "sports started at the University with the very beginning. It has been said that Cornell has had a baseball team since the first nine men registered. The first administrative organizations took the form of clubs -- the Tom Hughes Boat Club, the Cornell Baseball Club, etc. -- each club independent of all others and financing itself by dues, contributions and benefit entertainments." The first official Cornell varsity baseball game took place on May 5, 1869. The fourth game of that year took place on June 29th against the Creepers of Groton, which is one of the games recorded on the engraved bands. (Groton is located only approximately 10 miles from Ithaca.) Interestingly, Cornell's second game of the year in 1869 was against the Amateurs of Owego, the team listed on another of the engraved bands. Cornell played six games in 1869, four of which were against the Amateurs of Owego, one against the Creepers of Groton, and one (their first game) against the Cascadilla Club. A screenshot of the team's baseball record is added to the images of this lot. As we noted in our original description, nineteenth-century trophy bats are rare and those dating from the 1860s are even more so. The fact that this bat also commemorates the fourth varsity baseball game ever played at Cornell University makes it especially significant. Offered here is not only one of the most impressive nineteenth-century trophy bats we have ever seen, but one of the earliest as well, predating the rise of professional baseball. This beautiful rosewood bat, dating from 1868, was an annual prize issued to winners of the "Creeper Tournament", as evidenced by a number of silver-colored bands bearing the engraved names of tournament winners from subsequent years. The engraving on the main plaque, which is positioned on the handle, reads "Creeper Tournament/Oct. 16th 1868." The largest and topmost band on the barrel reads "Creepers/Groton N.Y." Positioned below are three additional bands that read, respectively, "Cornell/June 29th 1869," "Creepers/July 3rd 1869," and "Amateurs of Owego July 2nd 1870 26 to 13." The New York towns of Groton and Owego, as well as Cornell University in Ithaca, are all located near each other in the Finger Lakes region of New York, indicating that the "Creeper Tournament" was an invitational affair involving many of the local teams. Given the exquisite nature of the bat, the tournament was certainly a prestigious event, and one that afforded significant bragging rights to the winner. Nineteenth-century trophy bats are rare and those dating from the 1860s are even more so. This is the earliest trophy bat we have ever offered and we can recall having seen only a few others that predate it. The bat, which is not cracked, displays only light wear, with all of the hand-polished plaques and and bands bright and clean. In Near Mint condition overall and one of the finest nineteenth-century trophy bats one could hope to find. Exceptional in all respects. Length: 38.5 inches. Weight: 49.8 ounces. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000++.

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