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Remarkable 1930s Baseball Autograph Album Featuring Many Rare Signatures - From the John O'Meara Collection
Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $4,994
This 55-page soft leather-bound autograph album, featuring eighty-one signatures on thirty-six pages, and the sixteen lots that immediately follow, originate from the legendary collection of Dr. John O'Meara, an early hobby pioneer in the field of autograph collecting. A resident of Providence, Rhode Island, O'Meara was not simply a fan, but an astute historian of the game and his collection included a vast array of correspondence from ballplayers past and present, including George Wright, Connie Mack, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb. The compilation of this album represents O'Meara's greatest accomplishment and, in its original state, was without question one of the finest baseball autograph albums ever assembled. Of special note are the virtually flawless examples of the extremely rare signatures of nineteenth-century stars such as George Gore, Abner Dalrymple, Charles Bassett, and Paul Radford (each one of the very few examples known, and, it is interesting to note, each of these players appears in the Old Judge baseball card set of the 1880s). Due to the great significance, rarity, and value of many of the signatures originally found in this album, the consignor elected to have sixteen signature pages professionally removed in order that they could be encapsulated by Beckett and offered individually. An autograph album of this magnitude naturally presents a dilemma: if the album were sold intact its significance as a historic item would be preserved and the owner would still realize a handsome profit; on the other hand, its break value could be extraordinary. The owner made an intelligent compromise between the two extreme options, allowing the album to remain largely intact, while presenting a selection of the most valuable signatures individually. The near-complete autograph album offered in this lot represents the complete album less the sixteen pages offered separately. (The removed album pages, which include the extremely rare signatures of Ned Hanlon and Billy Hamilton, as well as those of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and George Wright, are represented by the sixteen lots that immediately follow.) O'Meara obtained many of the signatures in person but, as we know from reading his correspondence with players, he had no reservations about actually mailing the album to players for their signature, and then relying on them to send it back.The near-complete album as offered here contains eighty-one signatures, and remains a singular repository for many very rare and prominent signatures, many of which could have been removed and offered individually. Needless to say, all of the individuals whose signatures appear in this book are long deceased, with many having passed away prior to 1950. We know from the dates of O'Meara's correspondence with players, and from the fact that a number of album entries are dated, that the book was compiled during the 1930s. It must be noted that O'Meara was a sophisticated collector, one of the few of his era, and that none of these signatures were gathered in haste (O'Meara wasn't one in a throng of fans fighting to get the attention of a ballplayer at the park.) Over the years he had developed friendships with many players past and present, and the quality of the autographs in this album indicate that each individual took great care in the execution of his signature. A number of players also chose to add a few career stats or notes below their names. One of the additional aesthetically pleasing attributes of this album is the variation in the colors of the pages, with each signature "popping" off the page. In addition to player signatures, the book also includes the signatures of several prominent sportswriters from the era as well as that of famed stage composer and performer George M. Cohan and Christy Mathewson Jr. Twenty-six of the signatures appear individually, alone on a single page. Notable signatures include those of George Gore (1879-1892; NL batting champion in 1880; lifetime .308 average; set Major League record of seven stolen bases in one game in 1881; passed away in 1933), Abner Dalrymple (1878-1891; leadoff batter for the Chicago White Stockings during the team's 1880s dynasty; led the NL in at bats four times and home runs in 1885; played on five NL pennant winning clubs; passed away in 1839), Charles Bassett (1884-1892; member of the 1884 World Champion Providence Grays; winners of the first World Series; passed away in 1942), Tommy Leach (1898-1918; star third baseman with the Pirates; made the first hit in the 1903 World Series), Frank Crosetti, Charlie Devens, Dan MacFayden, Andy Coakley, Jack Barry, Paul Radford (1883-1894; played with the NL Champion Boston Red Stockings in 1883 and with the 1884 World Champion Providence Grays, winners of the first World Series; passed away in 1945), Jack Hendricks (manager of Cincinnati in the 1920s; passed away in 1943), Fred Hoey (managed the New York Giants for 81 games in 1899; passed away in 1933), Fred Tenney (1894-1911; star first baseman; player/manager of the Boston Braves for four years; passed away in 1952), Dizzy Dean, Charley Gelbert, Al Eckert (only appeared in eighteen games during the 1930s), Pepper Martin, Billy Evans, Billy Werber, Dusty Cooke, Rick Ferrell, Lefty Grove, Bing Miller, Oscar Melillo, Doc Cramer, Wes Ferrell, Hank Gowdy, Al Lopez, Tony Cuccinello, Wally Berger, Bill McKechnie, Tommy Thompson, Hal Lee, Elbie Fletcher, John Lanning, Ben Cantwell, Ed Moriarty, Eldon McLean, Jim Chaplin (passed away in 1939), Ray Mueller, Joe Coscarart, Duffy Lewis, Augie Galan, and Johnny Gill. Included in the album are two small, loose sheets (as placed by O'Meara, not removed from the album). The first (5 x 3 inches) features the signature of Mickey Cochrane while the second bears the signature of Thomas York (1871-1885; led the NL in total bases and extra base hits in 1878; lifetime average of .274; passed away in 1936). Ten of the signatures in the album are clearly identified as those of sportswriters (the names of their respective newspaper appear below their names) and another two belong to members of the Providence baseball team. The signatures have been scripted in either blue or black fountain pen, and due to the nature of the writing instrument, approximately fourteen display very minor brushing or bleeding; otherwise all grade "9" or "10." The first page of the book bears the scripted notation "This book belongs to John G. O'Meara - 1047 Westminster St., Providence, R. I." The black, leather-bound album (6.25 x 5 inches) displays moderate handling wear and all of the interior pages remain clean and bright. This album was offered in its complete form in Christie's October 2, 1993, sale, and the original auction labels appear on both the front and back covers (O'Meara's other papers and correspondence were featured, as separate lots, in that auction as well. Images are provided online for reference). In Excellent overall condition. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open) SOLD FOR $4,994
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