Franchise history is rewritten with stunning historical discovery!1903 New York Highlanders (Yankees) Stock Certificate Representing Majority Ownership. Baseball historians are put on notice with this remarkable find, arguably the most important relic ever to surface from the first year of existence for the team that would come to be known as the New York Yankees. The franchise had officially been born two seasons earlier as the Baltimore Orioles, but the worst record and worst attendance in the newly-formed American League precipitated the team's collapse, and it has become a point of debate whether this New York franchise should be considered a Baltimore relocation or a newly-created expansion. Only a single starter for the 1902 Orioles appears on the 1903 Highlanders roster.
But whether or not Baltimore plays a proper role in the team's history, the 1903 season is universally considered to be the birth of the New York Yankees, America's most significant athletic franchise. Relics from that debut season are exceedingly rare and coveted, but none that has ever surfaced has matched the offered document. Dated "this seventh day of November, A.D. 1903," the certificate assigns "Five hundred and seventy shares of the Capital Stock of Greater New York Baseball Association" to "Henry T. Randall."
Noting that the full value of "Capital Stock" is listed at "$100,000" at center of the certificate, and each share valued at "$100" as indicated at the ornate left border, we can calculate that 1,000 shares of New York Highlanders stock existed in 1903. As such, 570 shares would represent 57% of the available stock, and thus majority ownership in the franchise.
But while Randall is listed in historical records, along with John R. Bushong, Samuel C. Worthen, Jerome H. Buck and Bernard T. Lynch as Directors of "The Greater New York Baseball Association," never is he mentioned as a team owner, that distinction applied solely to William S. Devery and Frank J. Farrell, who sold the team to Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston in 1915.
Could this have been simply some form of bureaucratic maneuver distinct from a true transfer of ownership? Perhaps. But the discovery of this stock certificate, just the fifth ever issued by the New York franchise of the infant American League, asks more questions than it answers. Original vertical storage folds and general handling wear are evident, as is a degree of toning typical of century-old paper, but the piece still presents very well. Dimensions 9x11". The imprinted seal of the team appears at lower left, and Randall's signature on reverse may be the only example extant of an early and forgotten owner of the mighty New York Yankees.
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