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Lot # 1197 (of 1560)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Circa 1875 Deacon White Game-Used Baseball Pants - Earliest Known Major League Baseball Uniform Item!

Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $2,233

Pair of white, unadorned baseball pants worn by Deacon White during the 1870s. To the best of our knowledge, this is the single earliest Major League uniform item known to exist! Nineteenth-century game-used jerseys and/or pants are exceedingly rare, almost to the point of being nonexistent. Furthermore, even when authentic examples do surface, player attribution is nearly impossible due to the fact that, unlike in modern times, the practice of stitching the player's name in the garment had yet to established and the use of uniform numbers would not begin until 1929. Fortunately, the offered pants are accompanied by an impeccable line of provenance that makes all other methods of identification irrelevant. These pants originate directly from Deacon White's great-grandson, Roger Watkins, who has provided a one-page signed letter attesting to its provenance. In part:

My great grandfather, James "Deacon" White, was a professional baseball player in the 19th century, playing for several teams in the 1860s-80s including the Cleveland Forest Citys, Boston Red Stockings, and Detroit Wolverines. Before she died, my grandmother, Grace White, brought a box full of Deacon's things to our house. We put the box in a closet where it remained unopened for many years. This pair of uniform pants originates directly from Deacon White's personal collection.

The plain white pants feature a three-button fly and a single rear pocket. The name "White" is printed twice along the interior waistband in black marker. The pants display moderate wear and are affected by a large number of small moth/insect holes, the majority of which are located on the reverse of each pant leg (a common problem with garments of this age which have remained untouched for decades in storage). Watkins eventually sold these pants, as well as all of Deacon White's personal possessions (consisting of numerous photos, letters, awards, equipment, and other baseball-related materials) at public auction in 2006, where they realized a final sale price of $6,750. They were purchased at that auction by our consignor and have been in his private possession since that time. Our dating of the pants is based in part upon the original lot description in 2006. At the time of that sale, the auction house strongly attributed the pants to White's four-year tenure with the Boston Red Stockings (1873-1875, and 1877). It did so based upon comparisons of uniform styles worn by White in the many baseball photos of White found in his collection. While we did not have access to the library of photos from his estate used for comparison, we have drawn the identical conclusion based on other photos from the era. White's professional career spanned the years 1871-1890. Deacon White was one of top players of his era and his four years spent with Harry Wright's Red Stockings, both in the National Association (1873-1875), and the National League (1877), were among his finest. White batted a League-leading .366 in 1875, which was the final season of the National Association. After playing one season with Chicago of the newly formed National League in 1876, he returned to Boston the following year. Reunited with Harry Wright and many of his old teammates, White flourished once again and led all National League hitters with a career-high mark of .387. White also took part in three League Championships while with Boston (1873-1875). This is a remarkable nineteenth-century garment in all respects and the only nineteenth-century uniform item we have ever offered that can definitively be attributed to a specific player. The fact that these were worn by a player of White's stature, and shared the field with the likes of Harry Wright, George Wright, and Al Spalding, only adds to their appeal. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,500+. SOLD FOR $2,233

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