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1870 Rockford Forest City's Team Composite with Albert Spalding
Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $3,900
This exceedingly rare and significant team composite of the 1870 Forest City Base Ball Club of Rockford, Illinois, is especially notable for the fact that it features one of the very few known images of baseball great Albert Goodwill Spalding from his brief but legendary playing career. This is one of only approximately five known examples of this particular team composite; however, it differs in two extremely interesting ways: 1) all of the others are in the form of CDVs, whereas this is a larger cabinet-size image; 2) the portrait image of Spalding on this cabinet is not the same image as that featured on the CDVs (all of the other player portraits on the offered team composite, including their placement, are identical to those on the CDVs). The existence of this unique composite suggests that it is very possible that Forest City Base Ball Club CDVs were also produced with this alternate Spalding portrait, and none have survived or yet surfaced.
The card displays portrait images of nine team members in formal attire, with Spalding's photo prominently featured in the center above that of manager Scott Hastings. Each player is identified below his respective image. "Forest City's 1870" is printed along the base of the photo. Other notable players depicted here are Ross Barnes, one of the best infielders of the era, as well as National League batting champion in 1876, and Bob Addy, one of the top outfielders of his day. The main attraction of the club, however, was young Albert Spalding. Though only twenty years old, Spalding was considered by many to be the top pitcher in the country at this time, and his performance on the mound helped establish Forest City as one of the premier ball clubs in the land. The following season Forest City became a charter member of the National Association, baseball's first organized professional league. Spalding, however, lured by the bonus of $1,500, jumped the club to play for Harry Wright's newly formed Boston Red Stockings, where he led the club to four championships during the league's brief five-year existence. After a stellar pitching career which saw him post an unbelievable 185-43 mark during the four-year span 1872-1875, Spalding retired to open a sports emporium in 1877. In his positions as a sporting-goods magnate and president of the Chicago White Sox, Spalding continued to play an important role in the business and development of Major League baseball throughout the late 1800s. Spalding's power gradually grew and by the close of the century he was widely regarded as the most influential man in baseball. Photos featuring teams predating the advent of organized professional baseball are extremely scarce and this particular example, featuring both Spalding and an important early club, is an extremely significant rarity.
The team composite has been unevenly trimmed to its current dimensions (approximately 6 x 8 inches) and is mounted onto a cardboard backing (approximately 6.5 x 9 inches) that is also trimmed. Staining affects both the bottom and left portions of the photo and mount, but does not touch upon the portrait images. A few tiny surface indentations and very light foxing are also evident on the photo. Black-ink notations, listing the position of each player, appear directly below each portrait image. The black-ink notation "Rockford Ill" is printed along the base of the mount. A number of ink notations appear on the reverse as well, including "Al Spalding/Pitcher/Sporting Good-Co." In Good condition overall. Encapsulated and certified "Authentic" by SGC. SOLD FOR $3,900
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