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Lot # 17 (of 1512)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1899-1900 Brooklyn Dodgers Financial Record Book: A Treasure Trove of Lost Dodgers History (Plus REWARD for Missing Pages 177-178!)

Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $48,000

Offered here is one of the most extraordinary items we have ever handled and one that would be the cornerstone of any advanced Brooklyn Dodgers collection: the official ledger book recording all of the Brooklyn Base Ball Club's finances from April 1899 through December 1900. We have never before seen anything comparable to this ledger, which provides a complete accounting of the team's day-to-day financial operations at the turn of the century. Recorded in this book (in the personal hand of co-owner Charles Ebbets and another club official) are all of the club's income and expenses during the two-year period, during which the team won two pennants, including everything from player salaries and gate receipts to the cost of peanuts and mowing the grass.

How this historic ledger book survived is in itself fascinating story. It was literally saved from the dumpster during the dismantling of Ebbets Field following the club's move to Los Angeles in 1959. According to our consignor, former Bishop Ford High School Board member Robert Dunn of Brooklyn, a friend of his was part of the labor crew working at Ebbets Field at the time and he asked his boss if he could take home any of the items that were being thrown in the trash. His boss said he could help himself! This ledger was one of the items he thought looked interesting enough to save. A year or two later, the friend gave it to our consignor, due to his great interest in baseball, as a gift. This was back in the early 1960s, when the ledger (and almost all baseball memorabilia) had little monetary value. But Mr. Dunn's interest in baseball and Brooklyn history was most sincere. He was the ideal caretaker for this extraordinary volume that captures the heart and soul of the Brooklyn Dodgers during an era from which so little exists that documents the inner workings of the Brooklyn Club or any other Major League franchise. This ledger book documents virtually everything!

While our consignor has been the only owner of the ledger since that time, unfortunately, it has not remained in his sole possession during this entire time. In the mid-1990s he loaned the ledger to a third party, allegedly for museum display purposes. Incredibly, the third party subsequently represented in his personal financial dealings with others that he owned the ledger book. In 1997 he used it to obtain a loan of sorts, actually "selling" the ledger book which he did not own (along with additional items, including other Dunn family personal keepsakes such as the Dunn family's ticket stubs to the final game at Ebbets Field, saved by Mr. Dunn's grandfather) for $15,000, but with the right to buy the ledger and other items back for $16,000 the following year if desired (an option which was exercised). All of this was completely without the knowledge of Robert Dunn, who for years requested the return of the Brooklyn Dodgers ledger book and the rest of his material. Finally, in October 2005, Mr. Dunn threatened to hire an attorney if the material was not returned by October 31, 2005. When the return was not forthcoming, legal counsel was retained. The ledger book and other items were finally recovered in 2006.

The drama, however, does not end there. Unbeknownst to our consignor, during that decade-long "loan" period, one leaf of the ledger book (pages numbered 177 and 178), appears to have been removed. Those two pages we believe are the Brooklyn Dodgers financial ledger pages in Ebbets' hand that surfaced in 2000 when they were offered as Lot 1104 in Hunt Auctions' February sale. We have no way of knowing who won the sheet in that auction, or where it is today, but Mr. Dunn has authorized Robert Edward Auctions to offer a $1,000 reward for the return of the missing sheet to reunite it with and complete the 1899-1900 ledger book. If the sheet is returned to REA prior to the close of the auction, it will be reunited with the ledger as part of the lot. If the page should be returned after the auction, it will be sent to the winning bidder at that time.

The ledger (9.5 x 14) is comprised of 301 numbered pages. The entries end on page 181. Of those 181 recorded pages (minus pages 177 and 178), all but seven contain handwritten financial information of the club. Two years are represented: 1899 and 1900. Page 1 is blank, as are pages 64-69, which separate the years 1899 and 1900. All of the entries are neatly scripted in black fountain pen, grading "9" on average. In general, the ledger proceeds chronologically, with income and expenditures recorded, respectively, on the left-hand and right-hand pages. Some sections of the ledger are in the personal hand of Charles Ebbets. The balance is in the hand of another club official.

This book is a treasure trove of financial information. All incoming and outgoing funds of the club are recorded. Included are the exact attendance records for Brooklyn's games, with gate receipts broken down by seat prices. Also recorded are all of the concession sales, including peanuts, refreshments, and scorecards. Included on the expenditure side are both player and employee salaries (team owner Charles Ebbets' salary is also recorded numerous times, including in his own hand), as well as the cost for general repair and maintenance of Washington Park, equipment (balls, bats, uniforms, etc.), team stationery, newspaper advertising, a subscription to the Sporting News, and, of course, peanuts (150 pounds of peanuts cost $7.75 in 1900). Players on this powerhouse team include stars such as Hughie Jennings, Joe Kelley, Joe McGinnity, and Willie Keeler, as well as manager Ned Hanlon (all future Hall of Famers). With that remarkable roster of talent, Brooklyn captured the pennant in both 1899 and 1900. Each of the future Hall of Fame players is listed numerous times in the ledger with regard to salary payments and special compensation. The ledger also records the payment of fines to the National League levied against Kelley, Keeler, and Bill Dahlen in 1899; bonuses to McGraw and Wilbert Robinson in 1900; etc. In short, virtually all financial information relating to the business of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1899 and 1900, this volume was Charles Ebbets' single most important record of the club's finances. It was literally the heart and soul of the business of the Brooklyn Base Ball Club. The business of major league baseball at the turn of the century has few surviving records, let alone such complete records for a team of the stature of the Brooklyn Base Ball Club, the National League Champions of 1899 and 1900. There is no doubt that in the future this volume will serve as an extremely important original source document of incalculable value to historians and scholars of the game and Brooklyn baseball.

Condition: The exterior portion of the leather-bound ledger is extremely worn.. Moderate separation is evident along the spine, but the volume remains firmly bound. The interior pages display only minor toning and are in Ex SOLD FOR $48,000


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