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Lot # 876 (of 1807)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Remarkable 1909 to 1914 Charles Comiskey Scrapbook with 41 Letters and 54 Telegrams Including Historic Babe Ruth Content

Starting Bid - $10,000.00, Sold For - $16,590.00

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The following is an edited (shortened) version:Robert Edward Auctions has had the privilege of handling many of the hobby’s most valuable and significant items over the years. Even so, we are always excited when important new material surfaces, especially something as unique as this remarkable discovery: a scrapbook containing letters and telegrams sent by Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey to George Earl Windham Mills, one of his top scouts in New England, between the years 1909 and 1914. A total of forty-one signed Comiskey letters are featured in the album, all relating to baseball matters. However, what makes the album truly remarkable and of monumental historical significance is the inclusion of three telegrams which clearly show that the White Sox were given the first opportunity to purchase Babe Ruth from the Baltimore Orioles in 1914. That information has been undocumented and unknown to almost every historian prior to the public emergence of this album, thereby making it one of the most significant discoveries relating to baseball history in recent times.

When the granddaughter of George Mills first contacted us regarding this scrapbook, we were initially struck by the sheer number of Charles Comiskey signed letters contained within its pages. That fact alone made it a substantial find, but we were particularly intrigued when she mentioned that there were also fifty-four telegrams from Comiskey, one of which she said mentioned Babe Ruth in 1914. It was only when we received the album that we discovered the enormous importance of those telegrams.

All three messages relating to Ruth are original Western Union Telegrams sent by Comiskey to George Mills, who was staying at the Lexington Hotel in Baltimore. The first of the three, dispatched on June 9, 1914, conveys the following instructions: “Follow Baltimore Club and advise of best players there.” Mills did as told and the next telegram from Comiskey, dated June 17, 1914, reads “Secure best price on men mentioned in your wire and when Dunn will deliver advise me at once.” Fortunately, we know the names of the players Mills recommended because they were recorded in vintage pencil notations along the base of the telegram: “Cree, Daniels, Twombley [sic], Midkiff, Derrick, Ruth.” Years later, Mills' sister Ethel, realizing the historical importance of this telegram, felt obligated to provide further details of the negotiations taking place at that time. Written along the bottom and right-hand borders of the album page, framing the telegram, is this important information: “Note: Earl told me he could have all six men for $18,000 but Comiskey turned thumbs down. Too much money. Ethel.” The final telegram regarding Ruth’s potential sale to the White Sox is dated June 27, 1914, and reads: “Do not need pitchers bad enough to go that high get prices on other men and stay in Baltimore until further advice.” A vintage pencil notation, written in red on the telegram, puts Comiskey’s final words on the matter in their proper historical context: “Will sell Ruth to Chicago Club for $16,000 cash. Dunn.” Jack Dunn was the owner of the Baltimore Orioles and the man who signed Ruth right out of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys just a few months earlier.

Prior to the discovery of this album, it was known that both the Philadelphia Athletics and Cincinnati Reds passed on purchasing Ruth from the Orioles just before he was sold, along with Ernie Shore and Ben Egan, to the Red Sox for $25,000 on July 9, 1914. Connie Mack was offered the same three players at a price of $10,000 two days earlier but balked at the price. The Reds also passed on Ruth, purchasing George Twombly and Claud Derrick instead. That the White Sox were the initial pursuers, nearly a month earlier than the A’s and Reds, has been lost from all historical accounts and probably would have never been known if Mills’ wife had not created this album for her husband. If Comiskey had purchased Ruth in 1914, one can only image the ramifications.

Interspersed among the forty-one letters by Comiskey in this album are fifty-four telegrams (mostly from Comiskey or a White Sox executive), as well as a few additional baseball-related letters and telegrams from other individuals. (All of the pages can be viewed in their entirety online.) It must be noted that of the forty-one signed Comiskey letters, only twenty-eight are actually signed by Comiskey. The other thirteen bear the signature of either general manager Harry Grabiner or an unidentified secretary. (It has been learned in recent years that many of the letters, document, photos, etc., formerly thought to have been signed by Comiskey, were in fact signed by Grabiner, thereby making the discovery of the twenty-eight authentic Comiskey signatures in this album all the more extraordinary.) Additionally, the album contains a rare invitation to the grand opening of White Sox Park (more commonly known as Comiskey Park) on July 1, 1910, and a few period newspaper clippings of Comiskey and various Chicago White Sox ballplayers. The forty-one Comiskey letters vary in size from approximately 7.5 x 3.5 inches to 7 x 9 inches, with twenty-six examples representing the largest size. All of the letters (as well as some of the telegrams) were trimmed so that they could better fit on the album page (8 x 10 inches), but each of the larger examples displays either the full or partial official White Sox letterhead in the upper left-hand corner (most the of the smaller trimmed letters were also written on White Sox letterhead, but only the “Chicago” header remains). Two of the forty-one Comiskey signed letters are handwritten (neither are in Comiskey’s hand); the remainder are typewritten. All of the letters, telegrams, and other correspondence have been affixed to their respective album pages by means of adhesive. Aside from the trimming and normal fold lines, a number of letters display minor toning (mainly those on pages opposite telegrams); otherwise all of the correspondence is in Very Good to Excellent condition overall. The album (8.25 x 10.5 inches) has brown cloth boards and is lettered “Round House/Register/M. C. R. R.” on the cover. General wear is evident, including staining to the covers, separation along the spine, and numerous detached interior pages. It should be noted that the current SMR value for a Charles Comiskey signed letter is $1,500; however, the scrapbook’s historical value, especially with regard to the Ruth telegrams, cannot be quantified. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $16,590.00

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