Summer Premier Auction 2019

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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 9/28/2019

Baseball has many argued calls and protests, but very few wind up as contested games. Even fewer are scheduled to be re-played. One such contested game was an April 23, 1909 matchup between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The game was a pitcher’s duel between the Red's Harry Gasper and the Pirates' Vic Willis. The game ended 2-1 in Pittsburgh's favor, with Willis tossing a two-hitter. However, Gasper, aided in the later innings by reliever Billy Campbell, was just as good, holding the Pirates to just three hits. It turns out the Pirates winning run was scored after a contested call in the bottom of the sixth. This letter, from Pittsburgh left-fielder and manager Fred Clarke, sheds some light on the incident from a player-manager perspective.

The letter, addressed to “John A. Heydler, Acting President National League” and dated "May 1, 1909", is typewritten in blue on Pittsburgh Athletic Company team letterhead. Clarke happened to have a good view of the incident as he was “sitting on the home club’s bench” when Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner was batting. With the count 3-0, Wagner stepped on home plate in pursuit of a wide pitch. Cincinnati’s manager Clark Griffith protested, as Rule 51, Section 10 states that a batter is out if he steps on home plate as a pitch is on its way. Griffith believed that Wagner was anticipating a ball four call and had prematurely stepped on the plate going to first base. However, the home plate umpire overruled Griffith and Wagner was allowed to continue his at-bat. Then, before the next ball was pitched, Clarke testifies that Wagner “did step from the right hand to the left hand box, as he had perfect right to do.” The problem was that Wagner did indeed draw a walk, and it was he who scored what would be the winning run in the tight contest. Griffith and the Reds contested the game and the umpire’s decision to acting league president Heydler, who upheld the umpire’s call. The Reds appealed, and in June the National League’s board of directors ruled in favor of Cincinnati. The game was re-played on September 10, 1909, and once again Vic Willis beat Harry Gasper by one run, this time 4-3.

This interesting letter from Clarke was likely used by Heydler to make his first ruling to uphold the umpire’s call. The letter shows toning throughout and has horizontal folds from mailing. Clarke’s black fountain pen signature is strong against the off-white of the sheet and displays nicely. An interesting piece of one of baseball’s rarest events: a contested and re-played game -- involving no less than Pirates Hall of Famer legends Fred Clarke and Honus Wagner. The letter comes with an LOA from PSA/DNA.

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Minimum Bid: $250
Final prices include buyers premium.: $954
Number Bids: 9
Auction closed on Saturday, September 28, 2019.
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