See also : Sport Sport II Origins of sports Olympic Games Baseball Babe Ruth Basketball Autograph
Chronology : 1850-1859
1857 The Rules of Base Ball
2016 SOLD for $ 3.26M by SCP
The spirit of competition requires fixed rules that will identify champions who will defend their title in the following season. In England, football has a similar story at the same period.
The activist of the standardization of base ball, which will later become the baseball, is the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club established in 1845 and named after the uniforms of the firefighters who lent to them their playing field.
The Knickerbockers were not the best in sport but they had the merit of endeavoring to impose their rules. They were also one of the two teams that played the first official match in 1846 and the first base ball club to use a distinctive uniform in 1849.
In 1857 in New York, the first congress of the National Association of Base Ball Players establishes the first regulatory body and freezes the rules that will remain virtually unchanged for ever, ending the initiatives of the Knickerbockers.
A set of three manuscripts that were almost unnoticed in an auction in 1999 gives a new vision on the fundamental and even unique role of the Knickerbockers in defining the final baseball laws.
In 1857 the President of the Knickerbockers is Doc Adams who had been a player in the 1846 pioneering game. The three documents are the first autograph draft written by Adams in 1856 (the last page is missing), an iteration annotated by him before the congress and the final laws submitted to Congress and approved.
These documents were sold together as lot 1 for $ 3.26M by SCP on April 23, 2016. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
We are record setters here at SCP #Auctions. Remember when we sold The Laws of Baseball for over $3,000,000? We’d love to help you with your #sports #memorabilia in our Summer Premier Auction. Send in your #consignments before it’s too late. pic.twitter.com/jVT7YCG3vh— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) July 7, 2019
1857 Sheffield Foot-Ball Club Archives
2011 SOLD for £ 880K by Sotheby's
Particularly dynamic since its creation in 1857, the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club immediately established a working group to standardize the sport. On October 28, 1858, a set of eleven rules was adopted. Sheffield succeeded where other clubs had failed: in 1863 the new Football Association confirmed the game as it was played in Sheffield.
The club sold its archives for £ 880K on July 14, 2011 at Sotheby's. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The documents contain the official records of the club with the minutes of meetings and the first accounts of games. They include, of course, the oldest handwritten version of the rules of football, but also the only known copy of the first printed edition (1859).
It is an extraordinary set for the knowledge of sports history, so important as an input to social history as a whole. The estimate, £ 800K, seems low.
1891 The Rules of Basket-Ball
2010 SOLD for $ 4.3M by Sotheby's
By design, it is not a rough sport. The idea of the inventor, the Canadian James Naismith, was to occupy without risk of injury the sportsmen in winter, when weather conditions do not allow to play baseball or football.
The elevated position of the baskets gives a specific interest to this sport that does not invite to physical contact. One can argue whether similar sports existed before basketball and inspired Naismit. No matter: the basketball based on his thirteen rules has become one of the most popular sports due to the simplicity of its required equipment.
Naismith had typed these thirteen rules, in two sheets that he modified by hand writing and signed. His family, who had kept this precious document, consigned it at Sotheby's on December 10, 2010 for the benefit of a Canadian foundation that spreads the ideals of sportsmanship of the inventor.
It was sold for $ 4.3M from an estimate in the region of $ 2M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1892 Coubertin's Address for the Olympic Games
2019 SOLD for $ 8.8M by Sotheby's
With a remarkable open-mindedness, Coubertin compares the progress of sport in several countries. In England, the country of the fair play, football is a team sport practiced in colleges, including Rugby, and the establishment of official rules allows competitions. In Sweden the mental benefit of gymnastics is officially recognized. In the United States, sport opens the way to the practice of collective recreation. He does not like the use of sport for military training in Germany but recognizes its heroic character.
The time is also favorable for meetings of thematic clubs in England and France. They will support the development of the Coubertin project. In 1891 he promulgates a motto : citius, fortius, altius (later modified in its sequence). Coubertin is setting the example : on March 20, 1892 he is the referee in the final of the first French rugby championship.
Taking as a pretext the fifth anniversary of a running club, a conference is organized at the Sorbonne on November 25, 1892, with three speakers. Bourdon and Jusserand tell the history of the sport. Coubertin, entrusted for dealing with modern sport, concludes his speech by proposing the reestablishment of the Olympic Games.
In this seminal address, Coubertin's vision is universal. The most developed nations will help the others. It is a matter of practicing sports in common between athletes of all nations with a search for the individual excellence, but not yet of international competition or rewards.
The autograph draft of this Coubertin thesis, largely modified by the author in the preparation phase, was sold for $ 8.8M from a lower estimate of $ 700K by Sotheby's on December 18, 2019, lot 173.
Very remarkably, despite necessarily different visions of his international interlocutors, it is Coubertin himself who will concretize his concept. A January 1894 autograph document defining the stadium and sports passed at Goldin Auctions on October 29, 2016. In June 1894, Pierre de Coubertin creates the International Olympic Committee.
#AuctionUpdate Moments ago in our #NYC salesroom, the original Olympic Games manifesto soared to $8.8 million, more than 8.5x its $1 million high estimate following a 12-minute bidding battle. The manifesto outlines Pierre de Coubertin's vision for reviving the ancient games. pic.twitter.com/xoR4uAzs2t— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) December 18, 2019
1918 Red Sox Contract with George H. Ruth
2014 SOLD for $ 1.02M by Goldin
He knows that he can demand a salary increase for 1918. He will earn $ 5,000 for the new season, compared with the $ 3,500 of his paycheck from the previous year. The debate is not difficult because the employer knows the actual value of the player. This contract is considered as a bargain for the club.
The contract was signed in triplicate on January 16, 1918 by the player, the club owner and president of the American League in the official format. The copy for Babe Ruth is the oldest surviving contractual document concerning the champion. It was sold for $ 1.02M by Goldin on July 12, 2014. This document is illustrated in the post sale release by Auction Report.
1919 Contract selling Babe Ruth to the NY Yankees
2017 SOLD for $ 2.3M by Lelands
Until 1918 the Boston Red Sox team dominated the prestigious World Series of Major League Baseball. The 1919 season is bad for the Red Sox and the club owner Harry Frazee decides to change his strategy, preferring to build a consistent team rather than relying on a star player. The larger than life behavior of Babe Ruth and his growing demands of salary do not please Frazee : the player George H. Ruth is now available for sale !
Frazee who is also a theater director is in a urgent need of money. He accepts the proposal of the New York Yankees of a $ 300K mortgage loan hiring his Boston ballpark and sells Ruth to the Yankees for $ 100K.
The contract selling the player is signed with a notary in New York City on December 26, 1919. Cautiously some clauses are added on how both parties shall handle a probable new demand of salary increase by Ruth or a possible deficiency of the player to work for the Yankees.
Three copies of this contract have been established. Frazee's document was sold for $ 1M by Sotheby's on June 10, 2005. The document attributed to Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert was sold for $ 2.3M by Lelands on June 30, 2017, lot 2. The third copy did not resurface.
Babe Ruth signed with the New York Yankees in the following month. The most brilliant part of his exceptional sporting career was beginning.
From a sporting point of view, Frazee's decision is a disaster for the Boston club which disappears until 2004 from the list of the World Series winners. This long period is assimilated with a curse in the legend of baseball under the name of Curse of the Bambino.
2005 SOLD for $ 1M by Sotheby's
1922 Yankees Contract with Babe Ruth
2016 SOLD for $ 550K by Goldin
Three major contracts mark the progress of the fame of Babe Ruth.
On January 16, 1918, Ruth signs with the Boston Red Sox for a salary of $ 5,000 per year which is an increase by 43% compared to his previous payment. A signed copy was sold for $ 1,02M iby Goldin in 2014.
The champion is not directly involved in the contract signed in 1919 by the Red Sox and the Yankees for his transfer to the New York team because the contract defining his salary is still valid. A copy of the contract between the two clubs was sold for $ 2.3M by Lelands in 2017.
Babe Ruth is eager to renegotiate his salary. Thanks to his skills the Yankees can compete with their rivals the New York Giants. Crowds rush to watch the champion on the field and the Yankees will soon decide to build the Yankee Stadium.
Ruth is in a strong position. He refuses the offers by the Yankees at $ 30,000, 40,000 and 50,000 per year before concluding at $ 52,000 stating that this number suits him because it corresponds to one grand per week. The contract is signed on March 10, 1922. Unable to oppose the unprecedented salary expectations of the champion the Yankees had obtained that Ruth refrains from drinking liquors and does not stay up after 1 A.M. during the playing season.
A signed copy of the contract was sold for $ 550K by Goldin on April 30, 2016, lot 43.
1924 Yankees Contract with Lou Gehrig
2017 SOLD for $ 480K by Heritage
From that first phase his records are sensational. As early as 1920 he attracted attention by scoring in front of 10,000 spectators one of the most prestigious and rarest points of baseball, a grand slam whose he will be the best specialist throughout his long career.
Lou was born in New York City. His skills very logically appealed the leaders of the New York Yankees with whom he plays his first match in Major League on June 15, 1923.
At that time the star player of the Yankees is Babe Ruth, strong enough to grab a weekly salary of $ 1,000 in 1922. An original copy of that contract was sold for $ 550K by Goldin in 2016.
The president of the club, Jacob Ruppert, who accepted the exorbitant conditions of Ruth, is definitely a competent manager. On August 30, 1924 Gehrig signs his first contract with the Yankees for a monthly salary of $ 800, well below Ruth's salary but nevertheless quite attractive for a rookie. An original copy of this document signed by Gehrig, Ruppert and two other officials was sold for $ 480K by Heritage on August 19, 2017, lot 80093.
Lou proved himself. From 1 June 1925 he played 2,130 consecutive games with the Yankees. This stunning record will be surpassed in 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr of the Baltimore Orioles and will never be approached by any other player in Major League.
1946 Bureau Questionnaire filled by Jackie Robinson
2022 SOLD for $ 1.68M by Heritage
Engaged in the US army during the war, Jackie Robinson manages to force his admission into a school for White officers. In 1944, following the path opened in boxing by Joe Louis and Ray Sugar Robinson, he refuses the segregation in a military bus.
Once released from the army Jackie Robinson chooses baseball. He stirs the attention of club managers : the Major League is banned for the Blacks but this young guy is too skilled to remain in the minor leagues. It was to a White, Branch Rickey, to force the fate.
Rickey is manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in Major League and of the Montreal Royals in a minor league. He summons Robinson in August 1945, warning him that he will be the object of the vociferous hatred of the Whites, including within his own team. Robinson keeps in mind the deserved glory of his friend Joe Louis. He accepts.
Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson filled out the standard questionnaire of the American Baseball Bureau. This document is date stamped 28 Mar 1946. It was sold for $ 1.68M from a lower estimate of $ 1M by Heritage on February 26, 2022, lot 80079.
His ambition is made clear in this autograph document. He enters in baseball "To open door for Negroes in Organized Ball" and he recognizes the influence of "Mr Branch Rickey". Unsurprisingly he does not reveal the "most unusual experience" of his 31 months of service in the US Cavalry.
Robinson's signing with the Royals on October 23, 1945 had been unnoticed. His first MLB game, on April 15, 1947 with the Dodgers, will be the major social breakthrough as planned by Rickey and himself.
This is Jackie Robinson’s American Baseball Bureau Questionnaire filled out in 1946 before he began Triple A ball with the Montreal Royals. Filled with incredible content from the man who would change not only baseball, but the hearts and minds of a nationhttps://t.co/Lz4g8ErkDA pic.twitter.com/FTndSyUJgK— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) December 29, 2021