Monday, August 21, 2017

Uncle Robbie's Letter to Scoops at Christie's Auction

The often venerated Christie's auction house is currently running their "Golden Age of Baseball" auction, and it includes numerous historical artifacts; including this fantastic vintage original letter featured here.

Dated February 9th, 1930, Dodger manager Wilbert "Uncle Robbie" Robinson writes to friend and ex-Dodger Max Carey. (auction link)

As you may know, future Hall of Famer Max Carey had just retired from the game after having spent 17 years with the Pirates and the past four seasons in Brooklyn. So now he was looking towards life after playing, and naturally wanted to stay in the game. After all, he was a captain and a leader throughout his time as a player, and many believed he would eventually make a fine manager.

Knowing this, Uncle Robbie had his eyes on keeping Carey in Brooklyn. As he would soon find out, though, that would not happen. The team that had unceremoniously ditched him, the Pirates, welcomed him back as a coach. So, Robinson put pen to paper and sent Max a note. Check out the complete dialog below.
Dear Max, 
Yours at hand, when I saw where you had signed with Barney (Dreyfuss) I was very sorry. I thought you would wait until I was fixed up my self then I could take care of you. I know that York was not strong for you but Dr. Gilleaudeau was and you know how you stood with me. I hope you got a fair deal from Barney, and hope thing will be better for you after awhile. Otto was with me all the time I was in New York at the Schedule and we talked things over. I will see you some time soon and we can have a little talk. I hope your family are all well. I will soon have to leave for the old training camp, then the troubles start again. Mrs. Robinson sends her best to you and yours. 
Sincerely, Wilbert Robinson
As background, Carey was blamed by the Pirates ownership for a incident called the "Great Pirate Mutiny." Max, as the teams captain, sought to pass a team resolution banning Fred Clarke from the bench. Clarke, a future Hall of Famer himself, was a former teammate and current pain in the players' behind. As a retired player (but having ownership shares in the club) he would often sit in the dugout and openly criticize then Pirates manager Bill McKechnie. Obviously, the players didn't like it and Max Carey took up the responsibility to stop Clarke's interference. He would soon be waived by the team as a result.

Wilbert Robinson, knowing this, likely hoped that his friend wasn't angry at him. He probably told Carey that he wanted him in Brooklyn, but his inability to quickly make that happen might have struck an off-key chord in Carey's mind. Robinson probably feared that Carey had little choice but to return to the team that showed him such great disrespect.

Strangely, a couple years later Max Carey would become the Dodgers Manager in 1932 -- just two years after this letter. I guess the Brooklyn Dodgers finally got their man.


On another note, check out the design of this vintage Brooklyn Dodgers letterhead. I especially love the woodcut-style drawing dubbed the "Scene of Battle of Long Island," also known as the Battle of Brooklyn. You can see an enlarged example of this drawing at the very top, on the left.

As you may know, the Dodgers very first home park was played at a field called Washington Park I, and that facility had previously been the home to General George Washington's headquarters during the Battle of Long Island of the Revolutionary War. In fact, that little house you see in the graphic above is likely the "Old Stone House" that still sits there today. It is the place where General Washington commanded his army and what the Brooklyn Dodgers later used as a clubhouse over 100 years later.

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