Saturday, July 28, 2012

Goodwin & Co: A 1887 Card of Beloved Dodger- Darby O'Brien

Goodwin & Co. recently concluded their most recent auction, so I thought I would feature a really old card they sold of a Brooklyn favorite.

Check out the card below of old Brooklyn Bridegrooms/Grays William "Darby" O'Brien.  Born in Peoria, Illinois in 1863, Darby came of age just as Baseball was exploding in popularity.  He was a right handed batter with a good bat, great speed, and a head for the game.  Unfortunately, he would only have 6 years to show his stuff.

Darby first joined the Brooklyn team after opening his rookie year with the New York Metropolitans in 1887 at the age of 23.  Later in the year as the Metrolpolitans were closing shop, he was packaged along with 7 other teammates to Brooklyn for a then princely sum of approximately $25,000.00, and signed on for the next season for a reported annual salary of $1,900.00.  The outfielder was described by The New York Times as an "honest, competent, hard-working and game ballplayer."  For a working class neighborhood these traits quickly endeared him to the fans. 

He would bat .280 in his first season, while knocking in 65 runs and stealing 55 bases.  The next year he would bat .300, and hit a career high 5 home runs (this was quite a lot back then).  Over his first 5 season with Brooklyn he would have a batting average of .278 with 648 hits, 321 RBI's and 272 steals (he currently ranks 137th on the Majors all-time steals list with 321).

Then, lung problems he developed in his career caused him to enter the 1893 season in less than healthy shape.  The team captain could no longer play, so he was sent to Colorado to allow his lungs to recover.  Soon, the team and the community got behind him by putting together a benefit game in his honor in hopes of helping him pay for his treatment and his future.  A news report from that time period indicates that 9,000 people showed up and $5,000.00 was raised.  Every dollar earned from ticket and scorecard sales went directly to him.  Heck, it was reported that numerous tickets were sold that were never used.

Unfortunately, his change of scenery did not help Darby.  Later that year in 1893 he would die of typhoid fever.

Below is a 1887 N172 Old Judge card of O'Brien that recently sold for $346.29.
(Auction Link)

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