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Lot # 123 (of 873)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1874 AG Spalding World Tour Letter to Harry Wright

Starting Bid - $5,000.00, Sold For - $25,875.00

Four page handwritten letter by Al Spalding, to Harry Wright, written during the World Tour of 1874, from London, England. This letter is of astounding importance since it documents the earliest attempts both to popularize the game around the world and to claim baseball as America's own. This letter was the uncontested prize of The Barrie Sullivan Collection, which was one of the most significant collections of baseball manuscripts and signed items ever assembled. When the Sullivan Collection was sold at auction in 1998, this was the premier lot. The letter has been consigned to this sale directly by the original purchaser. The letter sold for the sum of $14,438 in 1998. There will never be another letter relating to the 1874 World Tour which approaches the significance of this manuscript treasure. The 1874 World Tour, organized by Al Spalding, was the very first serious attempt to interest the English in baseball. By this time the game of baseball had developed a serious business footing in the United States. Al Spalding was the chief proponent of expanding interest in the game to the rest of the world to open up new markets. England was the obvious primary target of interest because the game had originated there in some form (though Spalding would never admit this fact), and the two countries were closely linked by a common language and by a shared heritage. In the end, the tour was only modestly successful, in that efforts to encourage the English to take up the game were clearly not fulfilled. But the desire to spread the gospel of baseball throughout the world would continue in years to come, in the form of the World Tour of 1888-89, the World Tours of the 1930s, and other very successful efforts which continue to this day. The seeds of Spalding's desire to define baseball as a purely American sport date to this first World Tour. Three decades later Spalding would be the primary force in having the world recognize "The Doubleday Myth" as fact. The letter details some of Spalding's travels around England to promote America's National Pastime, including specific mention of the game at the Crystal Palace Grounds in London, and even notes that the box scores of the London games were sent to Henry Chadwick. The fact that the letter is written to British-born Harry Wright, who as the founder of the 1869 Reds is widely credited with making baseball a professional sport in America, gives this letter all the greater significance. The four-page letter, written on both sides of two sheets, reads as follows: London Feb'y 24, 1874 Dear Harry, This will probably be the last (game) letter you will receive from me before I see you. I will sail from Liverpool next Tuesday March 3rd on the Hecla, in company with Mer. Briggs of Bostons and with favorable weather we should be in Boston on the 15th or 16th when "I will tell you all about it." We had a base ball match on the Oval Grounds this afternoon between sides chosen by Briggs and myself from some of the foot ball and cricket players and as usual my side got badly whipped the score standing at the end of the 6th inning, when the game was called on account of darkness 17 to 5. Some of my players complained after the game that I "fielded" too well and they "it" me too easy. I sent the score of the game to Chadwick. I was down to the Crystal Palace yesterday and find we can arrange for one or two games there. I have seen some of the steamship cos. and find I can make very satisfactory arrangements with them. I am going to meet Mer. Alcock tomorrow/Saturday/evening at his residence and give him final instructions about arranging. I met Mr. Fitzgerald by appointment today at the Gaswick Club and he said he had rec'd a letter from a cricketer in Dublin asking for my address, for he wanted to arrange for us to visit Dublin. I expect to leave here for Liverpool Sunday night and be in Liverpool Monday when I will have a further talk with the White-Star Inman & Cunard Line. I have written to Mr. Sparks asking him to meet me there. If I have time and money enough I will stop at Dublin and catch the boat at ? I have letters from Mr. Fitzgerald to some cricketers in Liverpool and will try and see them. Hoping to see you soon I remain as ever Yours Truly A.G. Spalding P.S. Saturday afternoon Your telegram "yes" was received this morning Briggs and I are just going over to the Oval Cricket Grounds this afternoon to see a foot ball match, and after the game we will go home with Mr. Alcock take dinners and shared the evening. Yours A. This is a most extraordinary letter, with substantial content, from Al Spalding to Harry Wright, and with reference to Henry Chadwick, written during the first baseball World Tour of 1874. All writing is perfectly immaculate and neat. The letter is in Near Mint condition, with signature and all writing grading "10." One of the most historically significant of all nineteenth-century baseball letters. LOAs from Mike Gutierrez/GAI and James Spence & Steve Grad/PSA DNA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate $10,000/$15,000. SOLD FOR $25,875.00

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