June 23, 2018
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Rare baseball artifacts tied to Civil War team to be auctioned off by Maine company

By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff

BIDDEFORD, Maine — A local auctioneer will sell a collection of items this month that may appeal to baseball and Civil War collectors alike.

A score card, game tickets, invitation and other items related to an 1862 contest between the National Base Ball Club and 71st Regiment of the New York Militia represent rare surviving evidence of the intersection between the country’s burgeoning national pastime and the war that threatened to split that country in two.

The Saco River Auction Co., which will put the collection up for bid on Feb. 19, last year sold an 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics baseball card — considered one of the two oldest baseball cards still in existence — for $92,000.

The previous year, Saco River auctioned off a set of seven historic cards — including an 1888 card featuring flamboyant Hall-of-Famer Michael “King” Kelly — for $102,000.

The company’s latest baseball prize, which is from a Long Island estate, is unusual because it also has a Civil War connection, auction house manager Troy Thibodeau said.

The score card and other game materials are tied to a rematch of the two teams.

“They played for the first time in June of 1861,” Thibodeau told the Bangor Daily News Monday. “The 71st Regiment [handily defeated] the National Base Ball Club by a score of 42-13. Then the 71st Regiment went off to fight in the Battle of Bull Run, and most of their baseball team was killed. When they played again — and these items up for auction are from the second time they played a year later — the Nationals beat a depleted team, 28-13.”

The rematch took place in Camp Martin Tenallytown in Washington, D.C.

“You’re talking about baseball’s infancy and a war that changed our country forever,” he continued.

The origins of baseball, now one of America’s most popular sports and a game largely regulated by multibillion-dollar professional leagues, are the focus of debate. A long popular belief that future Civil War hero Abner Doubleday invented the game in 1839 has been widely disproven.

The framework for the rules of the sport played today are often traced back to 1845, when a New York City club published a set of rules written by the so-called “Father of Baseball” Alexander Cartwright.

The first organized league, the National League, was founded 15 years after the game between the 71st Regiment and National club. That National Base Ball Club is considered an ancestor to today’s Washington Nationals team, which was revived in 2005 using the logo of the team of the same name that played from 1905 to 1956.

But back when startup clubs were playing militia units, branding and marketing still weren’t that complicated, Thibodeau said. Personal paper invitations from Arthur Gorman of the fledgling National Base Base Club long predated the multimedia public relations work done by today’s franchise.

“The team owner and president was running around town handing out invitations [reading] ‘Come see our game.’ This was the infancy of marketing, the infancy of everything,” Thibodeau said. “Now, they just release the season schedule and 50,000 people come fill up the stadium.”

The auction takes place at the company’s Biddeford auction hall on Feb. 19 at 5 p.m. Live bids will be taken alongside those logged remotely through the Internet. For more information, visit www.sacoriverauction.com.


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