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Lot # 31 (of 1525)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1859 Excelsior Commemorative Trophy Baseball

Starting Bid - $5,000.00, Sold For - $26,100.00

This impressive trophy ball is inside a sealed bottle, suspended from two short chains that hang from the bottom of the wooden top. The lemon peel-style ball is elaborately decorated on its four panels as follows: "Brooklyn," Excelsior," "BBC," "March 1859." This ball was a souvenir given to the Excelsior Club, one of the most prominent teams of the era, to commemorate the first meeting of the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1859. Few events in the nineteenth century were as important to the development of the game than this first meeting of the newly formed association. The National Association of Base Ball Players was the first ruling body of organized baseball. Comprised of the leading teams of the day, the organization provided a forum for the standardization of rules and etiquette for the game, for both teams and players, and provided the first formal organization for the sport. The first meeting of the National Association of Ball Players was an extremely momentous event which had a profound impact on baseball in America. It would be hard to imagine a trophy baseball was ever produced to commemorate a more significant non-game event. This extraordinary relic dating from the earliest days of organized baseball has been beautifully preserved in the bottle, which itself has been perfectly preserved. The creation of this presentation ball-in-bottle was an extremely complicated process utilizing a virtually lost art form. This may look very much like it has been produced utilizing the traditional "ship in a bottle" processes which involve either resealing a section of glass, or putting the ship with sails folded down into the bottle top, and with long thin tools unfolding and assembling the sails with the base of the ship already in the bottle. This ball-in-bottle presentation has been produced in the most difficult manner possible. No "tricks" have been employed by the glassmaker. The lead-based glass has actually been blown around the ball in a very dangerous and delicate procedure involving tremendous heat and fire. A very small amount of singing is evident on the ball (affecting a couple of letters in "Brooklyn") and the glass interior as a result of this procedure. This is one of two 1859 Brooklyn Excelsiors ball-in-bottle trophies known to exist. Each club sent two delegates to the convention, and it is possible that each of the Excelsiors' delegates (J. B. Jones and J. B. Leggett) received a commemorative ball-in-the-bottle. It is also very possible, as many historians have speculated, that the Excelsiors were the hosts of the convention and presented each of the attending member teams a commemorative ball-in-bottle. The only other known 1859 Excelsior trophy ball-in-bottle was part of the Barry Halper Collection. That example appeared as Lot #159 in the famous 1999 Halper auction and sold for $39,100. Several years ago the small looped hanging attachment in the bottle of the offered trophy ball-in-bottle snapped, causing the ball to fall from its suspended height to the bottom of the bottle. A conservation company was employed to provide a reinforced replacement loop, reattaching the ball to the suspension mechanism. The repair is undetectable and is mentioned strictly for the sake of accuracy. Due to the unusual qualities of the piece, an art transport company will be used to send the trophy ball to the winner. Also of significant note, this ball was a featured exhibit at the much celebrated museum show of baseball relics and art at the American Folk Art Museum in New York in 2003. Reserve $5,000. Estimate $10,000/$20,000. SOLD FOR $26,100.00

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