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1897 Ned Hanlon Signed Baltimore Orioles Player's Contract....

2009 April Signature Vintage Sports Memorabilia Auction #714

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Auction Ended On: Apr 24, 2009
Item Activity: 11 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Heritage Auctions
3500 Maple Avenue
Dallas, TX 75219

1897 Ned Hanlon Signed Baltimore Orioles Player's Contract. Properly ranked among the rarest of all Hall of Fame baseball autographs, Ned Hanlon resides in only the most comprehensive of private collections, with just a single example appearing on a major sports auction block in the twenty-first century prior to this offering. Over a century has passed since Hanlon managed his last game for the 1907 Cincinnati Reds, and over seven decades since his 1937 demise. Inversely proportional to his availability is his relevance to the sport, as he single-handedly developed such strategies as the "hit and run" and backing up fielding plays in case of errors as he revolutionized the skipper's role. His pupils included fellow managerial legends John McGraw, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Miller Huggins and Kid Gleason. Hanlon ruled the game with an iron fist, such an autocrat that Orioles owner Harry Vonderhorst himself was often seen wearing a button that read, "Ask Hanlon."

Presented here is a player's contract for that Baltimore Orioles club, executed to bring ace hurler Bill Hoffer into the fold for the 1897 season. On a team swollen with Hall of Fame talent--McGraw, Jennings, Kelley, Keeler, Robinson--Hoffer was the top man on the mound, posting National League-topping winning percentages in both 1895 and 1896. This is apparently Hoffer's personal copy of the contract, as his own signature does not appear upon it.

But more importantly, Hanlon's does, applied with 10/10 perfection on the closing page. It must also be stressed that the rest of the handwriting on the contract, filling in blanks for the identities of the parties involved and issues of salary and payment dates, is likewise that of Hanlon himself. The four-page document survives in remarkably fine condition, with the lightest of age toning and insignificant bending at the edges all that might suggest eleven decades of existence. The scarcity of the autograph, the condition of the contract, and the added lustre of one of baseball's greatest dynasties--the 1890's Baltimore Orioles--makes this one of the most exciting baseball documents available in the hobby today. We expect the true baseball historian to bid accordingly. Auction LOA from James Spence Authentication.

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