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Circa 1875 William Hulbert ALS (d. 1882)
Starting Bid - $2,000.00 , Sold For - $16,450.00
Exceedingly rare one-page handwritten letter signed by William Hulbert, second president of the National League. Hulbert died in 1882, and his signature has always been revered as one of the virtually impossible key rarities among all Hall of Famers. A handwritten letter is a greater rarity still. In this letter, which is undated and addressed simply "Dear Sir," Hulbert is very concerned regarding the scheduling of "a new date," almost certainly relating to the scheduling of a championship game with the White Stockings. He writes in full: "In reference to my letter of a new date, of course I realize that there is no reason why you should do as I therein ask, but on my honor, you will run no risk of loss, and it would remove a most awful worry from my mind. I will barely sleep or eat until I hear from you, and some way I have faith you will help me. Please wire either way. Yours truly. Wm. Hulbert." Both the text and signature have been scripted in black fountain pen and grade "9" overall. William Hulbert was a Chicago businessman who was owner of the Chicago White Stockings of the National Association. In 1876 he, along with few of the other more responsible National Association team owners, founded the National League. Although Hulbert was the driving force behind the League, he declined the position of president during the first year in an effort to deflect any criticism of bias or prejudice from the other clubs. The following season the owners elected him president of the National League and he held that position until his death in 1882. During his tenure, Hulbert helped "clean up" the game by introducing a regular schedule, banning alcoholic beverages from games, limiting rowdyism among players, and, most important, working to eliminate gambling on games. In 1877 he banned four Louisville players for life when he uncovered evidence that the players had deliberately fixed games. Despite his six-year tenure as League president, very few William Hulbert signed items have survived the ages and his signature today remains one of the rarest belonging to any member of the Hall of Fame. Although everyone knew Hulbert deserved to be in the Hall of Fame, when he was finally elected, in 1995, advanced collectors were unable to find examples of his signature to purchase since almost none existed. The few that did trade hands in most cases sold for prices exceeding $10,000. Hulbert instantly became the "Button Gwinnett" of Baseball Hall of Fame signatures. (Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett has always been regarded as the key rarity of that long-popular field of signature collecting. This is where the expression "Button, Button, who's got the Button?" comes from.) Almost all of the few Hulbert signatures known are on documents that originated years ago directly from the estate of National League secretary and former president Nicholas Young. The letter (6 x 6 inches), on a lined sheet of paper, displays a horizontal mailing fold and appears to be trimmed along the top border, otherwise in Excellent to Mint condition. Matted and framed together with a non-vintage photograph (7.5 x 9.25 inches) of Hulbert to total dimensions of 11.25 x 20 inches. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,000. Estimate $4,000+. SOLD FOR $16,450.00
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