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19th Century Baseball Silk Ribbons Display of 62....

2010 August Signature Sports Collectibles Auction #7024

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Auction Ended On: Aug 5, 2010
Item Activity: 6 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Baltimore, MD

19th Century Baseball Silk Ribbons Display of 62. Extraordinary "attic find" is one of the most thrilling early baseball discoveries in hobby history, a stunningly comprehensive collection recalling the earliest days of the organized game. Only a handful of these ribbons have ever surfaced in the collecting world prior to this archive's emergence, with most appearing here as the only known examples. For years the precise nature of these delicate team ribbons remained a mystery until the finding of an article from a June 1902 issue of the periodical Outing put the matter to rest.

"One or two of the customs of the old game were unique. Such for instance was the habit of the better class of clubs of exchanging, just before each match, silk badges imprinted with the club name. The players wore those accumulated trophies pinned upon the breast, sometimes with startling color effects; and the baseball man was proud, indeed, who could pin on the outside of his deep strata of badges a ribbon from the mighty Atlantics, Mutuals or Eckfords, attesting his worth for meeting giants, if not mastering them."

While the exact identity of the ribbons' original owner cannot be established definitively, one can safely surmise that he was a player for a particularly noteworthy early team, considering the breadth and quality of the competition he faced, which includes those three teams referenced in the 1902 article. Our suspicion is that the original owner may have been Charlie Sweasy, the second baseman for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball's first professional team. His name (though misspelled) appears on a ribbon at center of the display near the top, the only ribbon lacking team attribution. It is also noteworthy that the display was unearthed less than twenty miles from Newark, New Jersey, where Sweasy lived and died.

Sweasy's lengthy (by nineteenth century standards) baseball career would also explain the vast array of ribbons deriving from both the National Association of Base Ball Players and the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. The former is recognized as the first governing body of the sport of baseball, and the latter as the first professional league of any sport. Sweasy was active in both organizations, debuting with the 1866 New Jersey Irvingtons and bouncing between over half a dozen clubs throughout the 1870's including the Washington Olympics, Cleveland Forest Citys and Brooklyn, each among the teams represented with ribbons. A comprehensive list is available on our website, but other highlights include Athletic of Philadelphia, Excelsior of Chicago, Niagara, Olympic of Washington DC, Union of Morrisania.

Only a full-length book could pay proper tribute to the history and importance of this remarkable find, which was compiled into a proud display well over a century ago, involving the affixing of all ribbons to a framed board measuring 22 x 31". Some apparent dampstaining at the edges only minimally affects a small selection of the ribbons, but quibbles about condition are silly considering the spectacular scarcity. From a purely historical perspective, this may well be the most important baseball lot to be offered in 2010.

1. Albert B. B. C. of Rochester (1865-)
2. Allegheny (1872-90)
3. Amateur Cincinnati
4. Active of Indianapolis
5. Athletic of Philadelphia (1860-76)*
6. Atlantic of Brooklyn (1855-75)*
7. Baltic (1855-64)
8. Baltimore (Blue on white) Canaries? (1872-74)
9. Baltimore (Blue on white)
10. Bloomington B. B. C. (Illinois)
11. Buckeye - Blue on White Ohio, (1883-84)
12. Buckeye - Black on Blue Ohio, (1883-84)
13. Cincinnati (1866-70)*
14. Columbian C. S. C.
15. Contest. Brooklyn (1866)
16. Cream City (1878)
17. Detroit
18. Eagle
19. Eagle B. B. C. (1854-70)
20. Eckford Brooklyn (1855-72)*
21. Empire B. B. C. of St. Louis (1861-73)
22. Empire. Saint Louis. (Red) (1861-73)
23. Erie City
24. Eurekas Newark (1860-69)
25. Excelsior of Chicago (1859-68)
26. Forest City of Cleveland. (1868-72)*
27. Hartford, Conn. (1863?-)
28. Harvard (1864-Pres.)
29. Irvington New Jersey (1850-73)*
30. Jefferson. Washington.
31. Keystone Philadelphia (1850-71?)*
32. Live Oaks Cincinnati
33. Lone Star New Orleans (1859-)
34. Louisville Colonels?-AA (1883-91)
35. Lowells Boston (1861-73)
36. Maryland. - Block lettering (?-1873)*
37. Maryland - Script w/Graphics (?-1873)*
38. Monitor of Waterbury Conn. (1865-?)
39. Mucuat of Baltimore
40. Mutuals New York (1858-76)*
41. Nation
42. Nationals (1861-75)*
43. National's of Albany
44. Neptune
45. Niagara (Buffalo) (1859-70?)
46. Olympic Ball Club
47. Olympic of Pittsburgh
48. Olympic of Washington DC (1861-72)*
49. Olympic of Paterson, N. J.
50. Pacific Long Island (1865-68?)
51. Pastime of Richmond
52. Quaker City
53. Railway Union B. B. C. of Cleveland (1860's)
54. Railway Unions. Cleveland
55. Reliable. Kentucky
56. Southern New Orleans
57. Sweasey
58. Union Morrisania, New York (1855-73)
59. Union of Lansingburgh (Troy) (1866-72)*
60. Xenia (Xenia, Ohio)
61. Yale (1865-Pres.)
62. Member's Badge for Troting Meeting. 1869.
63. Unidentifiable - "G" Logo

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