From presentation bats and trophy balls to signed contracts and game tickets, we round up the pieces every collector needs — illustrated with lots previously sold at Christie’s and offered in The Golden Age of Baseball sale, 29 March to 6 April, online
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 original trophy baseball represents a 27 October, 1866 game between the Unions of Morrisania and the Athletics of Philadelphia. The lemon-peel style baseball has been painted gold and inscribed ’Philadelphia, 1866, Oct. 27, Union 42, Athletic 29, 8 Innings’. The 1866 Unions of Morrisania featured shortstop and future Hall of Famer George Wright (1847-1937), outfielder Dave Birdsall (1838-1896) and pitcher Charlie Pabot (1846-1913), while the Athletics of Philadelphia boasted baseball pioneers Al Reach (1840-1928), Lip Pike (1845-1893) and Dick McBride (1847-1916).
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 Boston Red Stockings (sometimes known as the Boston Red Caps).
Wright also patented baseball scorecards. Above, meticulously scored and signed by Wright himself, is an individual page from a 19th-century score book featuring a May 1883 game between the Providence Grays and the Chicago White Stockings.
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.
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.
This collection of more than 80 photographs taken by photographer Charles Conlon perfectly captures America’s fascination with its national pastime. Conlon would go on to become baseball history’s most important photographer. It is hard to not be awed by a Charles Conlon portrait of almost anyone he posed, whether Christy Mathewson or Joe Hauser.
From the sport’s earliest days, one of the joys of going to the ball game was opening a box of Cracker Jack popcorn to find the prize inside: baseball cards printed with the faces of team favourites. Pictured on this 1915 card is Shoeless Joe Jackson as a member of the Chicago White Sox. Jackson earned notoriety and was kicked out of the sport for his involvement in the fixing of the 1919 World Series. He returned to international fame with the release of the 1989 baseball movie Field of Dreams.
This original, professionally-backed broadside advertises a 9 May 1937 game between Ciudad Trujillo and the Estrellas de Oriente. Ciudad Trujillo’s legendary line-up included Satchel Paige, Silvio Garcia and Cy Perkins, while the Estrellas featured players Alejandro Oms, Cocaina Garcia and Tetelo Vargas.