Fall Premier Auction 2019

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Sports teams invited to the White House is an American tradition going back over 150 years, the first documented instance being August 30, 1865, when the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals visited President Andrew Johnson. On October 3, 1911, however, a rare role reversal took place when President William H. Taft traveled to Colorado to speak at a public lands convention. According to The Fort Collins Express, the President “stopped long enough to be a baseball fan” and paid a visit to the Western League Champion Denver Grizzlies baseball club, presenting players and coaches with prizes “all the way from buttons to automobiles.” The Salida Record reported President Taft presenting manager, Jack Hendricks, with a new car and giving the ballclub’s owner, James Christian McGill, a loving cup. There was one other important gift McGill received from President Taft that day: this stunning 14-karat gold fob.

Raised by his uncle, the notorious gambler George E. Smith (a.k.a. “Pittsburgh Phil"), McGill owned the team until 1916. Under his watch, the Grizzles dominated the Western League, averaging 102 wins a season over a five-year stretch. Playing in Class A – the highest level in the minors at that time – the 1911 squad went 111-54 and rank 22nd on MiLB’s list of the top 100 minor league teams in history.

Measuring 1½ inches in diameter and weighing 28 grams, the obverse of the fob features a real diamond atop a baseball, with a Grizzly bear at center within a baseball diamond. “Western League Champions” appears in a ribbon-like motif at the top, with “Denver 1911” along the depicted base paths. The intricate engraving on the reverse reads, “Presented by The Denver Base Ball Association to James C. McGill” and “Presentation Made by President Wm. H. Taft, Oct. 3, 1911,” with the “14K” and maker hallmarks. Two crossing bats on top and the loop complete this beautifully handcrafted, well-preserved piece of jewelry crafted nearly 110 years ago.

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