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Lot # 638 (of 1594)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1908 Dicky Pearce Handwritten Letter Regarding the Origin of the Curveball

Starting Bid - $500.00, Sold For - $5,287.50

Extremely rare and historically significant two-page handwritten letter from legendary baseball pioneer Dicky Pearce to sportswriter Sam Crane in which he discusses the origin of the curveball. It is generally acknowledged today that Candy Cummings was the first pitcher to throw a curveball; however, at the turn of the century the question of who "invented" the pitch was debated by many. Pearce, whose career began in the 1850s, refrains from endorsing any one player as the true "inventor" of the curveball, but instead offers his own personal reminiscence of the first time he ever encountered "the crooked pitch." In his letter, dated February 3, 1908, Pearce writes in full: Friend Crane - I see by the journal that was sent me from New York I see that you want hear from the old players. I think I am the oldest player. You want the name of the first curved a B Ball not one in front of a bar. I have seen a grate [sic] many but Boby [sic] Mathews was the first that I ever saw when he came to New York with a club from Loway and dumped all that went against him but if you will consult pop Chadwick or Will N. Rankin of the New York Clipper you may get what you are looking for as they have all the records from way back when the ball took its first curve. - Hope that you will meet with success. I remain yours truly - Dicky Pearce. Both the text and signature have been scripted in blue fountain pen. A few of the words display slight bleeding, otherwise both the text and signature grade "8/9." It's interesting that Pearce mentions Mathews, as he has always been one of the few pitchers, other than Cummings, singled out by historians as having possibly first thrown the curveball. At the very least, as this letter proves, he was certainly one of the earliest practitioners of the pitch. In his letter, Pearce makes clear that he is not endorsing Mathews as the originator of the curveball, only that he was the first pitcher he ever encountered who threw the pitch. Pearce, who died just eight months after penning this response to Crane, was certainly qualified to offer his opinion on the subject, as he is universally regarded as one of the most important players of the nineteenth century. He began his career with the Brooklyn Atlantics in 1856, at which time he and fellow teammate Jim Creighton were two of the first ballplayers to be paid as ballplayers. Fleet afoot and an excellent infielder, he helped revolutionize the game by basically creating the modern-day position of shortstop. Pearce starred for Brooklyn in the legendary Fashion Course Series of 1858, and was called the greatest shortstop of the nineteenth century by no less an authority than Albert Spalding. He is also credited by many today with introducing the bunt, known back then as his "tricky hit." After a career as a star which spanned over twenty years, including the formative years of professional baseball (1856-1870), all five years of the National Association (1871-1875), and two years in the National League (1876-1877), Pearce later umpired in the Major Leagues. Many historians consider Pearce worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. This letter originates from the estate of Sam Crane, who was a former ballplayer and later a very prominent longtime New York sportswriter and editor. In a 1911 story in The New York Journal , Crane ranked Dickey Pearce eighth on a list of the fifty greatest ballplayers in history.

The letter is attached to a single page removed from a scrapbook kept by Crane. Each page of the letter (5 x 8 inches) displays minor glue residue and paper remnants on the reverse from having been mounted onto the scrapbook page and very carefully removed. Both pages of the letter can be removed and currently remain attached to their original scrapbook page only by means of two vintage paper clips. Each page displays extremely minor imperfections including light toning, and is in Very Good condition overall. The mounting scrapbook page, in addition to the Pearce letter, contains vintage newspaper clippings (on both sides, including articles by Sam Crane) regarding the debate at the time over the origin of the curveball. In his article, Crane, despite receiving the Pearce letter, concurs with other historians of his day that Cummings is the rightful "inventor" of the curveball. This is not only an extremely rare handwritten letter by Dicky Pearce, one of the most famous players of the nineteenth century, but one that is written to one of the most prominent sportswriters of the day and which also offers extraordinarily significant historical content as well. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000/$2,000. SOLD FOR $5,287.50

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