In 1869, led by visionary Harry Wright, the Cincinnati Red Stockings took the field as baseball’s first all-professional team. Drawn to Cincinnati from cities far and wide to play for pay, the team included many of the most talented ball players of the day. To facilitate the compensation of his players, Wright began the unprecedented practice of charging admission to home games. Fans turned out in droves in support of their local professional nine. That summer the Red Stockings delivered 65 wins without losing a game and the team managed to eek out a tiny profit. In an instant, baseball had become a business. The team built a 92 game winning streak into the middle of the 1870 season until they suffered a heartbreaking defeat by the Brooklyn Atlantics.
The team soon after fell out of favor with the fickle patrons of Cincinnati and an undaunted Wright brought his team east to Boston. In the following spring of 1871 Harry Wright helped form the National Association of Professional Baseball Players comprised of nine teams including the Boston Red Stockings. The pioneering Red Stockings dominated the first professional league in 1871, led by stars like A.G. Spalding and Harry’s brother George Wright. Boston would go on to win the league’s championship in four out of the Associations five seasons of existence. Their roots firmly planted in the history of America’s national pastime, the Red Stockings continued to thrive their new city. In 1876, the team was among the founding members of the National League. Eventually they changed their name to the Beaneaters (and later the Braves), and in 1907, John I. Taylor, owner of the American League's Boston Pilgrims, used the old Red Stockings name as inspiration when he changed his team's name to the Red Sox.
This group of eight (8) 1871/72 Boston Red Stockings autographed cabinet cards have only recently been discovered in the New England family home in which they’ve descended. Produced by Warren Studios of Boston, they are a scarcely-known cousin to the rare (and smaller) Warren CDVs (carte de vistes). Unlike their CDV relatives, these cabinet cards are currently uncatalogued, with only a handful of scattered examples rumored to exist. It is conceivable that several of the cards within this group are unique.
Amazingly, the back of each card also reveals each player's signature. Appearing with vivid clarity and vitality are original Boston Red Stockings members Cal McVey, David Birdsall, John Ryan, Al Spalding (HOF), Andy Leonard, Harry Wright (HOF), Ross Barnes, and Harry Schafer. Their survival together gives an almost familial perception. Five of the players even added date notations to their signatures, each within a span of three days from July 22nd 1872 to July 24th, 1872, suggesting that the team was together in one location when each man was presented his photograph for consideration. Many of these Boston Red Stockings signatures are among just a handful of known examples on any medium. Harry Wright, dubbed “the father of professional baseball”, Al Spalding, and the rest of the early Boston Red Stockings players are early baseball royalty. No finer representation of these pioneering players is known to exist.
Condition: Each card has a single tack hole near the top edge with the exception of Ryan which has one near the bottom as well. The image quality is consistent and outstanding, with exceptional clarity and contrast. All of the mounts are free from significant edge wear, demonstrating only light to moderate soiling. With the exception of Wright, all have the Warren Studios Stamp on the reverse. The backs are uniform with the fronts in terms of condition. All signatures are in dark fountain pen, neatly rendered, averaging 9/10. Overall the group averages excellent condition with note to tack holes. LOAs from JSA and PSA/DNA.
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