Friday, June 26, 2009

Auction Recollections: Professional Baseball is Born

Once in awhile late at night as insomnia kicks in I'll be roaming around the internet and run into something interesting. Lately, I've noticed that many auction houses provide archived information on past offerings for collectors to search through. These listings are like virtual museums filled with sport history.

One recent evening, I came across an old REA auction from 2005 that I found amazing. A true museum piece. Below is a presentation case made in 1906 that was given to Henry Chadwick, the original Baseball historian, with a vintage trophy ball inside from the 1858 Fashion Course games. What is that you say?
Well, this 3 game series at the Fashion Race Course in Corona, Queens is considered the birth of professional Baseball. It was a match of all-star players from Brooklyn versus New York. This may be the birthplace of the rivalry between the Dodgers and Yankees. I jest, of course. Anyway, this event marks the very first time fans were charged an entrance fee to see a game. It was a charity event for New York area fire departments.
Prior to the Fashion Course all-star games of 1858, baseball was almost exclusively a private gentleman's sport of participation, which virtually excluded crowds as spectators of the game. Although the Fashion Race Course games had been organized for charity, their extraordinary success demonstrated for the first time to baseball entrepreneurs that fans would pay money just to see the finest players of the game compete. The success of the Fashion Course games was revolutionary. The game of baseball as a professional sport was born. By 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings would be fielding the first all-professional salaried team, touring the country to play the best teams in the nation before enthusiastic crowds of thousands of paying fans.

The trophy ball is decorated with gold paint and the following word drawn on:
"29 - All Brooklyn Nine. 8 - All New York Nine. Fashion Race Course Long Island N.Y. Match Aug. 17, 1858 Umpire - J. Bache Excelsior - H. Chadwick - scorer."
It comes from game 2 of the series in which Brooklyn walloped New York 29 to 8. Unfortunately, New York won the first and third game to take the crown. (What else is new?) Trophy balls from the other two games currently reside in the vaults of the Hall of Fame. Read he entire auction description here.

This amazing piece sold for an incredible $498,800.00.
Auction Link: 1858 Trophy Ball:

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