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Lot # 1158 (of 1673)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1864 Fielding Award Trophy Ball - The Earliest Known Individual Player Field Performance Award Known

Starting Bid - $2,000.00 , Sold For - $7,050.00

This wooden trophy ball, dating from 1864, holds the distinction of being the earliest known baseball prize awarded to an individual player for his performance on the field. Today there are many awards that are a great tradition, ranging from Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards to Golden Glove awards, but this practice, which began in the 1860s, did not become common until the twentieth century. According to our research, this is the earliest known example of such an award. The gold-painted ball (9 inches in circumference) was awarded as a fielding prize and is lettered “Awarded to – H. Manolt, for the Best Fielding in the Union Game of May 21, 1864.” The Union Game was a special “pick-nine” contest between teams made up of various players. Because many young men were away fighting in the Civil War at the time, teams were often undermanned, resulting in few regular match games. The “Union Games” were held on the grounds of the Star Club on Saturdays and participation was open to "first-nine" players on a first come, first served basis. Coverage of the Union Games, and most importantly, mention of the awarding of individual prizes to participants, can be found in an April 30, 1864, article in The Brooklyn Eagle : The first-class practice games recently introduced by the Star Club, who have liberally devoted the use of their grounds and club house on Saturday afternoons for the purpose, are going to be a decided feature of the season’s play. The title of ‘Union Games’ has been given them on account of the fact that the players of other clubs take part in them, every first-nine player of any regular club being eligible to a position, provided he be on the ground at the time appointed for the selection of sides…We understand that it is in contemplation to offer a series of prizes on these occasions for the best displays of batting and fielding – the first prize to go to the batsman making the most runs and fewest outs, and in the case of a tie in this respect, the one being left on his base the most times to take the lead. In fielding the prize is to be awarded to him who makes the most fly catches and returns the most balls to basemen when players are running the bases. A second mention of prizes awarded at the Union Games can be found in an earlier published newspaper article listing the schedule of baseball games in May: May 14 – Fourth of the ‘Union Games,’ on the Star grounds, on which occasion four handsome prizes are to be contended for by selected sides of ten each from the first nines of the Brooklyn clubs . Henry Manolt was a prominent member of the Eckford Base Ball Club of Brooklyn and one of the top outfielders of his day. In 1858 he took part in the famed Fashion Course games, the historic three-game series between the all-stars of Brooklyn and the all-stars of New York. Three years later he participated in the famous Grand Match between the Brooklyn All-Stars and the New York All-Stars, held in Hoboken. That match, witnessed by a crowd of over twelve thousand, was the first ever played for a trophy (a silver ball), which was donated by Frank Queen, owner of the New York Clipper newspaper. The fact that Manolt was chosen to play in both the Fashion Course games and the 1861 Grand Match (alongside the likes of James Creighton, Harry Wright, Dickey Pierce, and Al Reach) is testament to his ability. This is both an exceptional display piece and historically significant relic, presented to one of the top players of the era, dating from the earliest days of our national pastime. This trophy award ball was once displayed in the Unions' clubhouse. It was originally discovered over twenty years ago with approximately a dozen traditional Unions trophy balls (the source of most of the 1860s Union trophy balls known to exist). This was the only individual player trophy award ball in the find, and it had never been researched until this year when presented to REA for auction. The trophy award ball displays light handling wear, including a few minor abrasions and a small chip on the reverse. A mounting hole appears on the base. All of the black-painted letters remain completely intact and the ball is Excellent in its appearance. A copy of the April 30, 1864 Brooklyn Eagle article accompanies. Reserve $2,000. Estimate $4,000+. SOLD FOR $7,050.00

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