1888 Davenport Team Cabinet Card
Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $1,560
Addendum: Our thanks to baseball historian and facial recognition expert Mark Fimoff who informs us that this card features the very first confirmed images of Charlie Reising and Charlie Briggs, who, along with Davenport teammates Willard Mains, Harry Jacoby, and Trick McSorely, all played in the major leagues.
Rare team-composite cabinet card featuring portrait images of thirteen members of the 1888 Davenport club, a minor-league club playing in the Central Interstate League. All of the team members are pictured in formal attire and have been identified in print above their respective images: Lucas (Mgr.), Small, Mains, McCabe, Crossley, Williams, Jacoby, Holacher, Phillips, McSorley, Reising, Manlove, and Briggs. The text "The Ollice Souvenir/Compliments of/Moore & Hood" is printed along the base of the photo. The photographer's credit, "Hastings of Davenport, Iowa," appears along the bottom of the mount. This is the only example of an 1888 Davenport team cabinet that we have ever seen and it comes with a remarkable provenance. This card originates from the personal collection of Charles W. Mears, longtime sports columnist for the Cleveland News and legendary pioneer collector who specialized in nineteenth-century baseball. Charles W. Mears ultimately donated his extraordinary collection to the Cleveland Public Library in the 1940s, but he did save a few items, of which this is one. This cabinet has been consigned directly by the Mears family.
An interesting aspect of this card is that the name "W. M. Rankin" is handwritten in pencil on the reverse. Many of the items in the Mears collection bear Rankin's name on the reverse, and for good reason: William Rankin's scrapbooks were among the many baseball items donated to the Cleveland Library by Charles Mears (the family recalls that Mears either purchased or was given Rankin's entire baseball collection). Rankin was a prominent New York sportswriter who worked for the New York Clipper in the 1880s (he eventually became the paper's sporting editor in 1894). Rankin was the first writer to publicly denounce Henry Chadwick's long-held assertion that baseball evolved from the English game of rounders. In an 1886 syndicated newspaper article he asserted, in part, "It can no more be claimed that the game of baseball had its origins in rounders or town-ball than billiards were the issue of pool, or the latter came from bagatelle. . . . The game of baseball seems to have sprung up, just as any game has." Three years later A. G. Spalding, perhaps after reading Rankin's article, would also champion that theory, positing further that the game must have an American inventor. In addition to writing about the sport of baseball, Rankin was also one of the game's preeminent scholars and a collector. According to his obituary in the April 5, 1913, issue of Sporting Life, when Rankin died he "left one of the most complete base ball libraries in existence. It contained records of the diamond extending over a period of nearly forty years." Another obituary from the time noted that Rankin "kept a record of everything of interest from the time he first became identified with the game [baseball], and after Chadwick's death he assumed the latter's title [Father of Baseball]." It is no surprise then that this card would have been one of many team cabinets in his collection at the time. The card (4.25 x 6.5 inches) displays light surface wear, as well as minor wear to the rounded corners. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. Reserve $300. Estimate $500+.