Western Union envelope
At the June 20, 2007, appraisal event in Baltimore, a guest named Kathy brought in this old Western Union envelope, marked "Chgo. Balll Team 1885" in her great-grandfather's handwriting. Inside it was a well-preserved, 120-year-old souvenir program from Opening Day that provides a remarkable glimpse into the very early years of professional baseball.
The cover of the program
The cover of the program, emblazoned "Souvenir" in ornate lettering, reads "Dedication of the Chicago Ball Park. Loomis, Throop, Congress and Harrison Sts., Saturday, June 6th, 1885." On that day the National League's Chicago White Stockings opened their season in a brand-new ballpark, known as West Side Park.
The White Stockings' 1885 home
Inside is a photograph of the park, looking towards home from the outfield. The White Stockings' new home could hold a crowd of about 10,000 and featured a bicycle track — the white band visible in the photograph — that surrounded the playing field. The field saw only seven years of action, however, as the team abandoned it for another venue, South Side Park, in 1891.
The 1885 White Stockings
Inside the program also features a team portrait. According to appraiser Simeon Lipman, the 1885 White Stockings (precursor to the Chicago Cubs) were "the Yankees of their time" — a self-contained all-star team loaded with many of the game's best players.
1885 season schedule
On the back is a full list of the team's officers, directors, players, and schedule of home games for the 1885 season.
The name of one team member, W.A. "Billy" Sunday, was subsequently underlined, not because he was the star of the team, but presumably because he was an alcoholic who later cleaned up his act, found God, and became a famous evangelist.
Other White Stockings notables
Besides Sunday, the 1885 White Stockings featured several other notables. First-baseman A. C. "Cap" Anson, the team's player-manager, was perhaps the greatest hitter of his era. J. G. Clarkson was one of the league's preeminent pitchers. And M. J. "King" Kelly, the club's highly paid right-fielder also known as "$10K Kelly," was considered a very good-looking celebrity of his day.
And the desk?
Ironically, Kathy actually came to the Roadshow that day to have her desk valued (around $2,500), and it was in the course of that appraisal that they found the souvenir program inside — which Simeon Lipman appraised for between $8,000 and $12,000.
Watch the full appraisal in our ROADSHOW Archive