Fall Premier Auction 2015

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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/6/2015
In 1876, the United States was a century old and had 38 states. Grant was president, and Custer met his end at Little Big Horn. Alexander Graham Bell was demonstrating his telephone, but Thomas Edison's electric light bulb was still three years away.

In Chicago, horse drawn streetcars rattled along cobblestone streets in front of wooden sidewalks and gas street lights. Nearly half of the city's 400,000 residents were foreign born, including many Irish, Germans, Jews, Czechs, Poles and Swedes. Other ethnic groups had not yet arrived in significant numbers. And in their first year of existence, the Chicago Cubs - then called the White Stockings - won the National League's first pennant.

Technically, the team's ancestry can be traced back a few years earlier. Following the example set by the Cincinnati Red Stockings, Chicago formed its first professional baseball club in 1870. Since the team's uniforms included white hose, they were called the White Stockings. When the National Association of Professional Baseball Players was formed in 1871, the Chicago team entered and was in close running for the championship until the Chicago Fire destroyed its ball park, situated at Michigan and Randolph Streets. Forced to play their last three games on the road, the White Stockings lost the pennant.

As Chicago recovered from the blaze, the White Stockings lapsed into semi-professional status for the next two years, then re-entered the Association in 1874. On February 2, 1876, the National Association was disbanded in favor of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, largely through the efforts of Chicago club president William Hulbert, who had purchased the team the previous June. The Chicago club was totally re-organized also; hence the Chicago National League Ball Club, as such, dates from 1876. Since the nickname White Stockings was retained, the Cubs of that era were actually Chicago's first "White Sox" team. (The nickname Cubs was not coined until 1902 and it took several years before it was universally accepted.)

Managed by 25-year-old pitcher Al “A.G.” Spalding, the team stormed through the 1876 season, boasting eight starters with batting averages over .300 including Spalding himself who hit .312. For good measure, the tireless 6’ 1” right-hander won 47 and lost 13 to lead the league with a .783 percentage. His win total also led the league, while his 529 innings pitched ranked third. Ross Barnes is credited with hitting the first home run in the organized Major League on May 2, 1876 off of Cincinnati's right-hander Bill "Cherokee" Fischer. This was Barnes only homer of the year, although he led the National League with a torrid .429 batting average and led Chicago's offensive assault. Numerous .300 hitters in the lineup included Peters (.348), McVey (.345), Anson (.343), White (.335), and Hines (.330). The Tribune was especially lavish in its praise of Anson, speaking highly of "the nervy, hard, hang-on, stubborn grit of that rugged, skillful, and intense player, Anson, who has won more games this year than any other man in the business."

The laudatory words were not wasted. Anson went on to collect 3,041 hits with a lifetime batting average of .333. Appointed manager in 1879, he led the White Stockings to five pennants during the 1880's.

In the time that has passed since the White Stockings took the National League's first pennant, several generations of players have come and gone. Catcher Jim White, the last survivor of the 1876 Chicago champions, died in 1939 at age 91, and everyone who saw them perform is also long dead. Today's Cub fans need not be reminded that their favorites have not finished on top since 1945. But in 1876, at least, Chicago was baseball's "First City."

Presented here is a truly historic and immeasurably rare 1876 Chicago White Stockings large format print with team composite images of 11 players. The print, which measure 16” wide by 17” high, is simply entitled “THE WHITE STOCKINGS 1876 CHICAGO.” The aged print features superbly detailed player portraits, a game scene, and other finely rendered artistic embellishments. Well preserved and unrestored, a detailed condition report is available online.

Without question this is one of the finest 19th Century baseball display pieces to surface in the hobby in recent years.

RARE AND EXCEPTIONAL 1876 CHICAGO WHITE STOCKINGS LARGE FORMAT PRINT WITH TEAM COMPOSITE IMAGES INCL. SPALDING AND ANSON
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