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Lot # 1026 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1911 Signed First Edition of America's National Game by A. G. Spalding - Presented to John Montgomery Ward!

Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $4,994

Hardcover first edition of America's National Game by A. G. Spalding (American Sports Publishing Company, New York, 1911), beautifully signed, inscribed, and dated by A. G. Spalding in black fountain pen (grading "10") on the front flyleaf: "To my old friend/John M. Ward/with my compliments/A. G. Spalding/New York/Oct. 13. 1911." The fact that this book was inscribed not to just any future Hall of Fame player, but John Ward in particular, and that Spalding refers to him as "my old friend" makes this without question the most important signed edition of this book we have ever offered and very possibly the most important example that exists. Albert Spalding and John Ward were two of the most significant and influential figures in professional baseball during the nineteenth century. They were also bitter enemies at the time. A. G. Spalding was a former star pitcher who later rose to greater prominence as a team owner and sporting-goods magnate. Ward also starred on the diamond, first as a pitcher and then as a shortstop, but it was as chief organizer and president of the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players (the "Brotherhood" as it is often referred to) that he is best remembered today. In Spalding's position as the most prominent team owner of the day, and Ward's, as president of the "Brotherhood," the two men could not have been more diametrically opposed in their opinions and beliefs regarding the business of professional baseball. The "Brotherhood" was formed in 1885 to collectively protect the players against the abuses of management and represented the first organized labor movement in baseball history. As its leader, Ward frequently clashed with owners over unfair labor practices, most notably the reserve clause. In 1889 the owners adopted a fixed salary scale based upon a player's categorization, which, of course, was determined by management. For many players, Ward included, the tiered salary structure was the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back." After attempting to negotiate with owners for a year, only to be rebuffed, Ward and the Brotherhood obtained financial backing and formed their own league in 1890. The new league, named the Players League, successfully recruited many of the top stars from both the National League and American Association. Spalding, owner of the Chicago White Stockings, was elected leader of the National League's "war council" against the Players League. Using all of the monetary and political power at his disposal, along with a defiant rhetoric of no surrender, Spalding fought the upstart league tooth and nail. He initiated lawsuits, strong armed and bribed players to return to their old clubs, and even gained the support of the press by threatening to withdraw advertising. In the end his tactics worked. Even though the Players League earned more revenue than the National League, its team owners and financial backers were not brave enough to continue an ever-escalating financial war against Spalding. The league folded after just one year and Spalding had his victory. Obviously, as evidenced by Spalding's inscription here, the differences they had in the past were later patched over and the two were cordial to each other. Ironically, Ward was president and part owner of the Boston Braves at the time he received this book from Spalding. Perhaps it was that camaraderie of ownership that finally brought them together. Whatever the case, this is undoubtedly a most unique signed example of this important work, linking two of the most important early figures of the game. This book is considered one of the great classics of baseball literature because it was the most ambitious history of the game ever published to date, is profusely illustrated, and because it incorporates the findings of the Mills Report of 1907. That report credited Abner Doubleday (albeit erroneously) with having invented the game of baseball in 1839. With the publication of this book, that myth became firmly entrenched within the collective consciousness of American culture and persists to this day, despite its refutation in more modern times by numerous historians. While this book is not accompanied by documentation from the Ward family, when it was purchased at auction by our consignor (offered with a small selection of other personal Ward related-items), it was specifically represented as having been consigned directly by a member of the Ward family, and we have every reason to believe this was the case. The 542-page book (5.5 x 8 inches) is complete with all of its fold-out illustrations; however, two of the fold-outs are detached from the spine. The first two pages of the book, including the inscription page, are also detached from the spine. The covers display light-to-moderate wear and are partially separated from the spine. A second inscription, scripted in black fountain pen, appears on a blank page prior to the title page and reads "To John Montgomery Fleming/1934." (Note: Our research indicates that John Montgomery Fleming was a close younger cousin of John M. Ward, whose great interest in the game was encouraged by John M. Ward.) The pages remain clean and bright. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,500++. SOLD FOR $4,994

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