An 1889 National League application letter made when baseball stars the New York Yankees were still the original Baltimore Orioles is expected to bring more than $10,000 on August 5.
The historic letter will sell as part of Heritage Auctions' Signature® Sports Collectibles Auction at the Baltimore National Sports Collectors Convention.
"Though there is admittedly little drama in the current rivalry between the Yankees and Orioles, the best and worst teams in baseball respectively, we don't expect the same to be true in the battle to win this lot at auction," said Chris Ivy, Director of Heritage Sports Collectibles.
"Collectors from both Baltimore and New York have shown great interest in the piece."
Make no mistake, though: this is not the Baltimore Orioles of Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken. That team appropriated the name when the former St Louis Browns baseball team moved to town in 1954.
The offered document was penned by William Barnie, the president and manager of the American Association Orioles, which would go on to represent the National League from 1892 until the league's contraction from 12 teams to eight at the close of the 1899 season campaign.
"The application can be definitively traced to the estate of Nicholas E. Young, first secretary of the National League, and N.L. President from 1885-1902," said Ivy. "The provenance is unimpeachable and the history that flowed from this document is indisputable."
With an economy of text disproportionate to its weighty significance, the document reads: "New York, Nov. 15, 1889 The Baltimore Base Ball Club, an organisation located in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, duly organised and officered, hereby respectfully asks admission to membership in the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs. (signed) W Barnie, President."
Inactive during the 1900 season, the Baltimore Orioles resurfaced in 1901 as a member of the newly founded American League. Two years later the club relocated to uptown Manhattan, becoming the New York Highlanders.
After a decade at Hilltop Park, the club set up shop at the famous Polo Grounds, where it officially took on the New York Yankees moniker.
While its status as a seminal document in the history of American sports' most storied franchise elevates the document to the upper reaches of collecting, it's unfair to overlook Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s, arguably the most influential club of that decade.
"That amazing team produced six future Hall of Famers and won multiple championships," said Ivy. "It's a far cry from the mightily struggling Orioles of 2010, but should still be a source of pride for Baltimore, which is, after all, the birthplace of Babe Ruth."
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