It looked like a potentially great find. Browsing eBay earlier this spring, David Maus came across a photo with the name "Cuppy" on the back. Knowing his baseball history, Maus knew the photo had to be George Cuppy, the pitcher who spent the 1890s as the number two starter for the Cleveland Spiders. The number one guy? Fella named Cy Young.
He was right.
Subsequent research led to the discovery that the photo was one of dozens stolen from the Boston Public Library in the late 1970s or early 80s.
The photo was one of several taken in the studios of Rufus Holsinger, a Charlottesville, Va., photographer whose studio wasn't far from the team's spring training home.
Eventually, they wound up in the hands of one of the first baseball memorabilia collectors--"Nuff Ced" McGreevy, head of Boston's famous Royal Rooters fan club and the owner of what may have been the nation's first sports bar.
McGreevy's tavern closed once Prohibition became reality in the 1920s and his immense collection of what would be priceless baseball artifacts today were donated to the library.
Some have been recovered over the years, but many other pieces of baseball memorabilia remain missing from the library's collection.
Little care was taken to preserve the photographs back in the 1970s and "people were able to put them into a briefcase or walk out with them", according to Maus.
After contacting the eBay seller, Maus got his $66 refunded and the photo was turned back over to the library, where it will presumably be kept in a safer environment.
"I didn't have a lot of money invested in it and what I did have was returned to me so once I found out it was stolen, there was never a question about returning it," Maus told WBUR, the NPR affiliate in Boston.
The photo had been in the collection of the eBay seller's father, who died several years ago.