Gallery: See the Boston Red Stockings Baseball Cards

Read how one guest’s unique family connection to the Boston Red stockings baseball team makes for a one-of-a-kind home run story.
By Juliet Fusco

During ROADSHOW’s 2014 event in New York City, a guest named Gail brought in an astounding archive of Boston Red Stockings baseball cards, originally given to her great-grandfather by members of the team. The archive included baseball cards, a league pass, a letter signed by members of the team, and team photographs.

Sports Memorabilia appraiser Leila Dunbar told Gail her archive was one of the earliest known baseball-fan collections in history and gave it an insurance value of $1 million.

Gail explained that back in 1871, her great-great-grandmother, a Mrs. Wright, often hosted the Red Stockings at a boardinghouse she ran in Boston. Mrs. Wright's son (who was to become Gail’s great-grandfather) lived in the house with his mother, and members of the team would gift him special passes to their games, where he also collected player photographs.

Dunbar explained how originally player photographs contained a scorecard on the back of them, which fans could use to keep track of a game. Once the game was complete, the owner was left with a photograph of the player plus a great memento of the game he had enjoyed. Knowing the players personally, Gail’s great-grandfather saved the cards and gradually accumulated an impressive collection.

After one such visit in 1871, when the team had moved on to Washington, D.C., they sent their Boston host a sentimental letter while staying in what they evidently considered less hospitable accommodations. The letter contained a short sentence or two from several of the players, mostly conveying their desire to be back in Boston's, enjoying Mrs. Wright's cooking.

During the appraisal, Leila Dunbar commented on the personal significance of the team to Gail’s family as well as the team’s mark on baseball history:

“So you have brought a treasure trove here. Because you know these gentlemen from what they wrote to your great-great-grandmother. You know them as gentlemen. You know the affection for them. So they’re almost part of your family. But we know these gentlemen as pioneers of baseball. These are some of your earliest Hall of Famers … they were your first winners, your first professional baseball players. And what you’ve actually brought to us today is one of the most important baseball card archives we have ever seen.

See the baseball cards and read the letter below!

Letter of thanks from members of the Boston Red Stockings baseball team, to Mrs. Wright, a recent boardinghouse hostess, 1871

He asking for the “little chuck around the corner,” and big meals.
 — Fred Cone

I am just going up stairs to supper and feel awful hungry but do not expect much, poor meals here. Too hungry to say any more.
 — Harry Wright

“Would that we were home again” my sentiments have been expressed in the above paragraphs. Big meals.
 — A. G. Spalding

I am looking for a “murphy” and a steak and a good cup of Coffee.
— H. L. Schafer

Poor meals! Coming home for big meals. 
C. A. McVey

All the boys send their kind regards to Mrs. Wright and your family.
 — “The Eleven”

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