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1867 Bernards Base Ball Club of Basking Ridge, NJ, Scorebook (Signed by Jimmie Foxx)

  • Sold For: $1,185
  • Year: 1867
  • Auction: 2013 spring
  • Lot #: 1185
  • Auction Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

Robert Edward Auctions has handled many unique baseball treasures dating from the game's earliest days, and this is certainly one of the most fascinating and unique. This 1867 Bernards Base Ball Club of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, scorebook is a very important and interesting early rarity on many counts, but holds a special significance for Robert Edward Auctions, both due to its connection to the rich history of baseball in New Jersey (a hotbed of baseball activity in the 1850s and 1860s), and the fact that by chance its place of origin is literally just minutes away from our New Jersey office.

It is very rare for such a substantial relic related to such an early specific organized team to survive the ages. This is the second-oldest baseball scorebook we have ever offered (the other was a Peck's New Pocket Base Ball Score Book , copyrighted in 1866). The team's official scorebook in many ways is the heart and soul of a club, the ultimate record of its activity. We cannot imagine a more important surviving item to represent the long-forgotten Bernards Base Ball Club. This is an extremely important artifact documenting the earliest days of baseball in New Jersey and the rise of our national pastime prior to professionalism in the sport. The hardbound scorebook, with leather-trimmed spine, features the team name and town gilt-stamped on the cover: "Bernards Base Ball Club - Basking Ridge - New Jersey." The title page, which includes both preprinted and handwritten notations, reads "The Champion Base Ball Score Book/The Bernards Base Ball Club/Organized June 4-1867/Manufactured and Sold by Wilbur & Hastings, Stationers - 40 Fulton St. N.Y." The book records six games played by the Bernards Base Ball Club in 1867 and one in 1868. Additionally, the last few pages of the book record the statistics of two of Bernards' opponents for games dated July 4, 1867 (Oscola) and June 18, 1875 (Red Stockers). Many years later the book was used to score fifteen games of the Woodglen Base Ball Club (New Jersey) played between the years 1902 and 1908. The original owner of the scorebook, Paul Cowell, was a member of the Woodglen team and his name appears in the lineup for one of the 1903 games. There are a few scored games in the book where neither the names of the teams nor the dates are listed. The age of the book is immediately apparent by some of the language used therein, most notably the term of "Striker," as opposed to "Batter" or "Player" in the first heading on each sheet. The Bernards team must have been a local powerhouse given the numbers compiled here. The club, which won all of the games recorded, never scored fewer than 39 runs and on three occasions scored over 70 runs. An old newspaper clipping dated 9/25/47, which is affixed to one of the interior pages, makes note of the book's rich history and reads in part "One of the prized possessions of Paul Cowell, proprietor of the general store at Woodglen, is a baseball score book of the Bernard's Club of Basking Ridge. It was first used on June 4, 1867 and, without a doubt, is one of the oldest of its kind in this entire vicinity. . . . The Woodglen team started to use the book for its own games about 1900 and Paul's name is listed in one of the 1903 contests. . . .Cowell proudly pointed to three autographs appearing in this ancient score book. A glance revealed they were the names of Jimmie Foxx, Frankie Hayes, and Charlie Berry. 'That helps to make the book even more valuable,' explained the proud owner." Accompanying the book are additional documents and newspaper clippings, all dating prior to 1957, that reference the offered scorebook, including a letter from the president of the Tri-County Baseball League from 1956.

The game of baseball has a long and rich history in New Jersey. Just twenty-one years prior to this book's use, the first organized baseball game was played at the Elysian Fields, in Hoboken, New Jersey, located only thirty miles due east of Basking Ridge. One of the most fascinating things about this book, as documented by the letters and articles that accompany it, is the fact that all through the years its great historical significance was recognized in the community, and the book was often showcased at various baseball-related events in the state. At one of those events, a banquet given by the Tri-County Baseball League on October 19, 1938, the book obtained a most distinguished feature: an exemplary Jimmie Foxx black fountain-pen signature on the interior cover. The signature, which is exceptionally large, measures over five inches in length and grades "9" overall (downgraded only because of a slight ink smudge to the "O" in "Foxx"). Foxx was a guest of honor at the dinner, as were Philadelphia A's teammates Frank Hayes and Charlie Berry (both of whom were New Jersey natives), and the book's owner at the time (Paul Cowell of Woodglen, New Jersey) thought it appropriate that each player sign it in black fountain pen. The signatures of Hayes and Berry appear below Foxx's and grade "9." Ideally, the signing of the book by Foxx, Hayes, and Berry is documented in a vintage newspaper clipping affixed to the interior front cover. Years later, in 1956, at another Tri-County Baseball League Banquet at which the book was displayed, the interior front cover was signed in blue ink (grading "10") by former Yankees star Gil McDougald. A fifth blue-ink signature, of an individual named Frank Schott (not a former Major Leaguer, possibly a local player), also appears on the interior cover.

The book (10.5 x 8 inches), which contains enough pages to record 136 games, is heavily worn, including numerous abrasions and areas of surface paper loss to both the front and back covers. The spine is nearly separated, and a number of the interior pages are now loose; however, all of the original pages are present and accounted for. The interior pages, mainly those recording games, display minor edge tears, as well as light soiling and/or toning. Good condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,185.00

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