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1912 First Pitched Ball at the Grand Opening of Fenway Park
Starting Bid - $85,000.00, Sold For - $85,000.00
In terms of historical significance, few baseballs can rival this unique relic: the first pitched ball from the grand opening of Boston’s Fenway Park on April 20, 1912. Its provenance is equally impressive. This baseball originates from the personal collection of Hall of Fame umpire Thomas Connolly, one of the two arbiters assigned to that inaugural contest. Connolly loved the game of baseball and held the sport in high regard. That reverence for our National Pastime is reflected by the fact that included in his collection were not only personal mementoes but a number of balls commemorating milestone events or games, the most significant of which is this offered piece. Connolly has duly noted the ball’s unique provenance by neatly inscribing it in blue fountain pen on all five panels. Printed upon the sweet spot of the Official American League (Johnson) ball is the notation “First Ball Pitched-Saturday April 20th 1912.” The words “Opening of Fenway Park,” are written upon the West panel, while the East panel makes note of the teams and score, “New York-6 Boston-7 11=Innings.” The North panel lists the pitcher and catcher for each club, as well as the names of the umpires: “Batteries. O’Brien-P & Nunamaker, Caldwell & Sterret – Umpires. T. H. Connolly & Bob Hart.” The fifth panel records the attendance “Attendance, 25,000.” The ball displays light soiling as well as a dark abrasive mark on the South panel. All of the manufacturer’s stampings remain bold and distinct. Excellent condition overall.
Few franchises in Major League baseball have a richer history than the Boston Red Sox, and fewer still have a greater significance to fans and historians. Boston is a baseball town. This ball, the first pitched in Fenway Park, is an icon. It is perhaps the most significant and historic piece of memorabilia that could possibly exist relating to the legendary home of Boston baseball.
Fenway Park is the oldest Major League stadium and, in many ways, the most famous. Home to the Red Sox for more than ninety years, its signature left field wall, known as the “Green Monster,” remains the most recognizable architectural feature of any sports arena today. The opening of the stadium in 1912 was a gala event in Boston and coincided with the advent of the team’s legendary baseball dynasty during that decade. The Red Sox won a team record 105 games in 1912 and went on to defeat the Giants in the World Series. They later captured World Championships in 1915, 1916, and 1918. Fittingly, their opponents on opening day 1912 were the New York Highlanders, who would later be known as the New York Yankees. On that memorable day the seeds of what would soon become baseball’s greatest rivalry were planted as Boston defeated the Highlanders 7-6 in extra innings.
Thomas Connolly began his career as a National League umpire in 1898. A man of high principles, he abruptly quit his position in mid season of 1900 due to what he perceived was a lack of support for the umpires by the League president. In 1901 he returned to the Majors, signing with Ban Johnson’s newly formed American League. He remained one of baseball’s top umpires for the next thirty years before becoming the League’s first supervisor of umpires, a position he held until 1954. At the time of his retirement he was considered to be the foremost expert on baseball rules. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953 and is one of only six umpires currently enshrined in Cooperstown.
This ball was sold at Sotheby's in 2005 when the Connolly estate was originally offered. It has been consigned to this auction directly from the original purchaser. Reserve $85,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $85,000.00
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