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Estimate: $ 500 - $ 750
(SPORTS--BASEBALL.) Richmond, William. Letters concerning the amateur Poughkeepsie Junior Base Ball Club and the Civil War. 10 Autograph Letters Signed, each about 8 x 5 inches, most about 4 pages long; condition generally strong. Poughkeepsie, NY, 1860-63
These letters offer a young man's charming perspective on baseball's "Big Bang." They begin in early 1860, the year when organized baseball clubs first exploded out of the New York metropolitan area to become a national phenomenon. The author was William Richmond (born circa 1846), son of an Episcopalian minster. His correspondent was Henry Winter Syle (1846-1890), son of an Episcopalian missionary (see lot 81), who had previously attended the David Bartlett Private School for the Deaf in Fishkill, New York. By 1860 Syle had followed the school to Hartford, CT. He later attended Trinity College and became the first ordained deaf Episcopal clergyman in the United States. Richmond's letters are steeped in the mock formaility that was typical of baseball clubs in that era. Though they were both about 14 years old when this correspondence begins, he addresses his friend as "the Rt. Rev. H.W. Syle L.L.D." and extends a formal third-person invitation: "The Liberty Base Ball Club . . . requests the pleasure of his company at the grounds at 9 a.m." He discusses the election of officers and membership fees, and encourages Syle to form his own club in Hartford. The scheduling of matches among the various local clubs is discussed; "there is also a possibility, I can hardly say probability, of our having a match with Unknown, champion junior club of New York. I suppose, of course, we should be beaten." His 28 August 1860 letter describes some of the games played by his Poughkeepsie Junior Club; one 40-37 loss was blamed on his opponents' use of three ineligible players from other clubs. A box score clipping is laid in, and the club's new uniform is described in loving detail. 6 of the letters are written from 1861 to 1863, frequently touching on politics and the war. On 27 February 1861, Richmond wrote that "when Mr. Lincoln passed down the river, I of course went to see the big thing. . . . I think him a very fine looking man. . . . not half so ugly as all the pictures I have seen of him." That fall, he noted with relief that his father (then serving as a regimental chaplain) missed the Battle of Bull Run: "My father had come home on furlough, and was at home on the memorable 21st. . . . If he had been there he would have either been killed, or wounded, or taken prisoner, or else he would have run."