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Lot # 420 (of 1525)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1885 Al Spalding Letter to N. E. Young Regarding Lucas and Union Association

Starting Bid - $800.00, Sold For - $7,540.00

Two-page typed letter by Chicago Nationals owner A. G. Spalding to National League secretary N. E. Young, with very significant baseball content relating to the National League's relationship with the Union Association's Henry Lucas, and the serious issues relating to Union Association player contracts. Written on Spalding Bros. letterhead and dated March 21, 1885, the letter is beautifully signed by "A. G. Spalding" ("8") in fountain pen. Spalding was at this time owner of the Chicago Nationals. This is an extremely important letter written to the office of the National League, in which Spalding states "It seems to me that this is the most critical time the League ever passed through," referring to the threat the Union Association represented to the National League and the reserve clause. The Union Association folded immediately following the 1884 season, after just one season. The focus of the letter relates to how the National League will handle the star players as they were brought back into the National League after the demise of the Union League, in light of the players' violation of the National League's reserve clause. "I realize, and no doubt you do, that this is a grave question to decide, and upon its decision, and consequent result, will, in a large measure, depend the future of base ball." Henry V. Lucas, a wealthy St. Louis entrepreneur, was the driving force behind the Union Association. His team, the St. Louis Maroons, topped the circuit in 1884, but the Union Association couldn't meet expenses, and closed its doors in January 1885. Lucas promptly bought the National League's failing Cleveland franchise, and relocated the team to St. Louis. The arrival of Lucas had to be reconciled with the other franchise owners in the National League, and part of the arrangements included that the Union Association's players had to be restored in good standing to the National League. In the letter, Spalding encourages Young to "work out some practical plan, by which St. Louis can be accommodated with [Fred 'Sure Shot'] Dunlap, [George 'Orator'] Shafer [sic], and if possible, [Charlie] Sweeney." These superstars had, after all, earlier violated their reserve clauses by jumping to the Union Association, and this matter had to be addressed with great care and thought. While the National League's battle with the Union Association could now be put in the past, Spalding writes "It seems to me a fight with the American Association is inevitable sooner or later, and I confess I would prefer to go into such a fight with Lucas than without him." This is an extraordinary correspondence between two of the primary architects of the National League, relating to the behind-the-scenes inner workings and politics of the League, during the most tumultuous days of the mid-1880s. The pages measure 10.75 x 8.25 inches. With three horizontal and two vertical folds, otherwise in Excellent condition. This letter originates from a significant find of National League correspondence saved by N. E. Young, which was sold by the Young family many years ago. LOAs from Mike Gutierrez/GAI and James Spence & Steve Grad/PSA DNA. Reserve $800. Estimate $1,500/$2,500. SOLD FOR $7,540.00


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