1897 California Tour Composite Team Photo Display
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $2,350
In the fall of 1897, members of the World Champion Baltimore Orioles, winners of two consecutive Temple Cups, toured the country with a group of Major League all stars to take part in a series of exhibition games against local clubs. Today, one of the few tangible reminders of that cross-country "California Tour" is this extraordinarily rare photographic composite display, which was very likely produced as a special keepsake for the players. All of the participating players are pictured individually in uniform, while the respective managers (Frank Selee and William Barnie) and the tour's general manger (J. Frank Eline, a Baltimore businessman who financed the excursion) are dressed in formal attire. Each individual is identified in print next to his photo. Notable for their absence here are Baltimore standouts John McGraw and Willie Keeler, but most of the remaining starting nine for the Orioles are pictured, as well a few "ringers" from other clubs: Hughie Jennings , Joe Kelley , Jack Doyle, Boileryard Clark, Heinie Reitz, Joe Corbett, Tom O'Brien, Arlie Pond, Elmer Horton (played for Pittsburgh in 1896 and Brooklyn in 1898), Patsy Donovan (Pittsburgh), and Mike Griffin (Brooklyn). The "All-America" team is comprised of Jesse Burkett (Cleveland), Jimmy Collins (Boston), Billy Nash (Philadelphia), Patsy Tebeau (Cleveland), Charlie Hastings (Pittsburgh), Billy Rhines (Cincinnati), Aleck Smith (Brooklyn), John Powell (Cleveland), Bill Dahlen (Chicago), Tim Donahue (Chicago), Charles Stahl (Boston) and Bill Lange (Chicago). Boston manager Frank Selee is pictured as manager of the "All-America" team, while Brooklyn manager William Barnie is pictured as manager of Chicago (Ned Hanlon obviously declined the trip). Also pictured is a young man identified as "Abe Marks," who appears to be a valet based upon his attire and a valet-style cap that reads "Baltimore-All American/B. B. Teams." The lettering on the piece, which is interspersed among the photos and illustrations of bats, balls, and gloves, reads "Baltimore and All-America Base Ball Teams/California Tour 1897." The photographer's credit ("Marceau Foto, San Francisco") and copyright date ("1897") appear in the lower left corner.
The announcement of this postseason tour, which appeared in the August 21, 1897, issue of The New York Times, reported that "The first game will be played at Weehawken, N.J. on Sunday, Oct. 10. The teams will then go to Richmond, Va.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Atlanta, Ga.; Mobile, Ala.; New Orleans, La., and thence into Texas, where games will be played in all the leading cities. From Texas the aggregations will move to California, where games have already been scheduled up to New Year's Day. A short trip will then be made to Mexico. The players will live in special cars chartered for the trip." The article also makes note of a special stipulation: "Each of the players who is selected must post a forfeit of $100 as an assurance of his good behavior on the entire trip." (That provision might explain McGraw's absence.) Further information regarding the tour can be found in the December 5, 1897 issue of the San Francisco Call . Apparently, Baltimore and the All-America club did not face each other, but instead played alternating games against local clubs: "Reliance went up against the great aggregation of Eastern ball players, All America, who with Baltimore came out here to illustrate how the national game should be played. Baltimore recently went down before the crack Gilt Edge, and yesterday, up to the conclusion of the first half of the ninth, it looked at all times squally for the Easterners." Based upon the box score of the game reported, it's apparent that the teams intermingled players if needed, as O'Brien is listed at short stop for the All-America team. The article also revealed that, for added publicity, general manager J. Frank Eline "has offered $50 for any and every club defeating either the All America or Baltimore [club]..."
The display (19 x 14.5 inches) has undergone repairs to a number of defects, the most significant of which is a meandering tear winding from the top border to the bottom border (the piece was almost certainly torn in two pieces at one time). Evidence of the repair is clearly evident; affecting the images of Nash, Smith, and Donahue. The portrait of Pond has also suffered a tear and/or water damage, with a large portion having been "filled in." Another tear slightly affects the portrait image of Kelley, Griffin, and Marks. The condition of the white borders (or if they even remain) is unknown due to the fact the piece is now matted and framed. Despite the many flaws, the integrity of the piece has not been compromised and nearly all of the photos display exceptional clarity (one can even clearly see the small "oriole" on the front of each Baltimore player's cap). Despite the technical condition problems cited, the piece still displays beautifully, as intended, and remains an outstanding example of one of the rarest and most impressive display pieces in existence dating from Baltimore's legendary 1894-1897 dynasty. Matted and framed to total dimensions of 25 x 20 inches. From the Ron Menchine Collection. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $2,350