As teams battled during the earliest years of pennant and World Series competition, the fanfare wasn’t nearly as voluminous as it is in today’s atmosphere defined by endless media outlets and live coverage. But that’s not to say that baseball’s clinching celebrations weren’t just as raucous for those on hand. Limited basically to statistical accounts and the gospel according to the printed word in daily newspapers, we can only imagine the fervor in the New York Giants dugout and locker room (perhaps “dressing quarters” would be a more appropriate term) as they clinched the 1911 National League pennant on October 4 at Brooklyn’s Washington Park. Decorated with the resplendent signature of Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson on that memorable afternoon, the offered baseball simultaneously provides perhaps the strongest lasting memory of a chapter in the storied histories of Major League Baseball, the New York Giants and a pitcher without peer.
The orb exhibits age-induced toning and shows definitive diamond use. These factors are mere afterthoughts, however, when viewing the sweet spot. There, Mathewson has signed in black-ink steel tip fountain pen. Complete and flowing with potency never waning in the least, the penning projects (“7-8”) strength and clarity. Just below, in Mathewson’s hand, an inscription reads: “Oct. 4 1911.” Of obvious significance to Mathewson and his teammates, that date represented the clinching of the National League pennant. On the hill that Wednesday against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Mathewson fired a 2-0 shutout for his 26th triumph of the campaign and 289th of his brilliant career. As the Giants had eight games remaining and the second-place Chicago Cubs had but five, the race was over. To this day, archaic attendance records indicate that there were 2,500 on hand that day (crowd estimates were always rounded in increments of 500 in that era). A documented account, meanwhile, quoted Giants second baseman Larry Doyle as proclaiming: “Damn it’s great to be young and a New York Giant!” On the south panel, Giants skipper John McGraw added his black-ink endorsement. While the surname is affected by surface abrasions near the ball’s trademark stampings, McGraw’s penning maintains (“4”) quality.
The “Spalding” sphere bears the facsimile signature of former National League President Harry Pulliam who, ironically, played a noteworthy role in fueling the Giants-Cubs rivalry just three years earlier. In the September 23, 1908 game between the Giants and Cubs at the Polo Grounds, umpire Hank O’Day ruled 19-year-old Fred Merkle “out” for failing to touch second base after an apparent game-winning single by teammate Al Bridwell. Pulliam agreed with and upheld O’Day’s decision and the game was declared a tie. The game was completed to break a first-place tie and the Cubs won, 4-2. The Cubs went on to prevail in the 1908 World Series and have not won a title since.
As components of this nature meld, the result is a precious, one-of-a-kind heirloom which, more than 100 years later, lives on alongside tales, curses and superstitions (apocryphal or not) that make baseball the greatest game in the world.
Full photo LOA from JSA.