Boston Beaneaters star Sam Wise weighed a considerable 200 lbs (around 90 kg), and the Boston Globe newspaper compared his swing to ‘a prize fighter landing the pivot blow’. This exquisitely-crafted sterling-silver bat was awarded to Wise after the 1887 season, in which he boasted a team-best batting average of .334 — the fifth-best in the National League overall.
The upper and lower barrel of the bat, as well as the grip, are decorated with an intricate floral relief, while a splendid figure of Wise himself, in his narrow-legged batting stance, decorates the mid-barrel. At the bat’s centre are the engraved words, ‘Presented by the Boston Globe to Samuel W. Wise, Champion Batsman of the Boston Base Ball Club, for the season of 1887’.
This extremely rare trophy baseball from the pre-professional era was used in an 1866 game between two of the best teams of the time: the Unions of Morrisania, based in the Bronx, and the Athletics of Philadelphia. Among the stars playing for the former was the shortstop and future Hall of Famer, George Wright.
It used to be traditional for a game ball to be decorated with the key information relating to that game, and for it to be presented to the winning team as a trophy — in this case, the Unions. The ball was painted bright gold and inscribed in still-readable black: ‘Philadelphia/1866/Oct. 27/ Union Athletic/42-29/ 8 Innings’.
Harry Wright was one of the legendary figures of early baseball, founding and managing the first all-professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869. Two years later he moved east and set up the all-conquering Boston Red Stockings (sometimes known as the Boston Red Caps).
He also patented baseball scorecards, and here — in his own meticulous hand — is a whole book’s worth, marking 23 games from Boston’s 1881 National League season (18 of which are initialled H.W. in the box marked ‘Scorer’).
Winner of five National League pennants and three World Series titles, Johnny Evers formed part of one of baseball’s greatest infield combinations, as second baseman for the Chicago Cubs in the early 1900s, alongside shortstop Joe Tinker and first baseman Frank Chance.
This handwritten letter on ‘Johnny Evers Company, Sporting Goods’ notepaper was Evers’ response to an autograph request from a soldier during the Second World War. He wrote, ‘May God bless you, watch over you and return you to the one and only U.S.A’. He signed off, ‘Sincerely yours, John J. Evers – Tinker to Evers to Chance’, in reference to his one-time team-mates.
Ed Delahanty was one of baseball’s first superstars, and his lifetime batting average of .346 is the fifth best in Major League history. Sporting Life magazine declared, ‘You look at his batting and say that chap is valuable even if he couldn't catch the measles’.
This rose-gold Elgin National pocket watch was presented to a 19-year-old Delahanty by the fans of Mansfield baseball club (of the Ohio State League) in 1887, at the end of his highly successful debut season in which he’d scored 90 runs in 83 games. It’s engraved ‘Presented to Edward J Delahanty by the Mansfield Rooters, 1887’. The next season he’d make his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Quakers.
Charles ‘Kid’ Nichols is another legendary figure of the game’s early days. He’s perhaps best known for being the youngest player in history — aged just 30 — to join the ‘300-Win Club’ (the group of pitchers who have won 300 or more Major League games in their careers).
This Spalding trophy bat was presented to him long before he was famous: in 1886, as a 16-year-old, while still playing for his local team, Blue Ave BBC, in Kansas City. The lot is accompanied by a photo of Nichols holding the bat in 1949, upon hearing the news that he had been admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
A superb pitcher, Christy Mathewson was one of the first five figures elected, in 1936, to the Baseball Hall of Fame. After retiring, he was briefly president of the Boston Braves, during which time he signed this player contract on the club’s behalf with shortstop Ernest Padgett in 1924. It was an ill-fated presidency, however: Mathewson would die within a year, from tuberculosis he had contracted through exposure to mustard gas while serving in France in the First World War.
Hilldale Athletic Club of Darby, Pennsylvania, boasted one of the strongest teams in the ‘Negro leagues’, which featured Afro-American players in an era when they were ineligible to play Minor or Major League baseball.
This collection comprises 164 tickets and stubs to Hilldale games between 1922 and 1925, including stubs to the ‘Colored World Series’ of 1924 and 1925, both played against the Kansas City Monarchs.
Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige spent two decades pitching in the American ‘Negro leagues’ before Major League baseball began integrating black players into its ranks in 1947. An eccentric showman who consistently attracted large crowds, Paige was said by Joe DiMaggio to be the greatest pitcher he had ever faced.
This original photograph shows him as a member of the St. Louis Browns in 1951, aged 45. Twenty years later he’d become the first black player admitted to the Hall of Fame.
Addie Joss was one of the premier pitchers of baseball’s early years, famous for his unconventional corkscrew delivery, which got the ball across the plate before many a batter could even see it. His career was tragically cut short in 1911, however, when he died of tubercular meningitis, aged 31.
This original photo shows him in his uniform for the Cleveland Naps in 1908, the year he threw the first of two perfect games in his career.