Think your family tree is interesting? One vintage dealer has a direct link to the beginning of the National League.
For DeDe Kovacs, vintage baseball cards and memorabilia are more than just a hobby. They’re a connection to her family history.
DeDe’s great-grandfather was Timothy Murnane, who played for Boston in the National League’s inugural year of 1876.
"He actually started playing ball in 1871," Kovacs told Sports Collectors Daily while standing behind the Kovacs Vintage Baseball booth at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Anaheim, CA. "After his career ended in 1878, he managed and later became President of the New England League in 1909."
DeDe and her husband Kirk have been collecting vintage baseball memorabilia for the last several years and within the last 18 months, began dealing in pre-War autographed items and memorabilia at shows and on-line. "My husband and I have always been interested in history and vintage baseball was just a natural off-shoot of that. There seems to be a lot of interest in 19th century material. We buy from auction houses, individuals and other dealers."
Kirk was busy at the National, as several customers stopped by to look at his vintage pieces which are sometimes hard to surrender because of the history involved. "Decade to decade, basball is not just a national game, it’s history from our country. That’s what attracted me. There are still things that surface in the hobby about who produced it and why. Then with the answers often come pieces that wind up in major auctions. Bidders who love the game and the item bid against each other very aggressively to own the piece. It’s a lot of fun to watch things happen with the older material."
Along the way, the couple has picked up several items relating to Murnane. "We have his 1909 Ramly card. We also saw a cabinet card from 1874 at auction but it sold for $37,000 which was a bit out of our price range. There was another issued in 1877 but they had spelled his name wrong. It’s an unusual name and sometimes people can’t quite get it right–even now."
Murnane left the game after his league presidency term ended and became a well-known sportswriter with the Boston Globe. "He was one of the first reporters to collect statistics," DeDe said. "He was well-known with the players of the day like Ty Cobb and Joe Jackson. He wrote about the evolution of the curve ball which is something he had witnessed first-hand as a player. He had children late in life and so the connection isn’t as distant as you might think."
Timothy Murnane passed away in 1917 and when he did, baseball staged a special game to raised money for the family. "They held Timothy Murnane day," DeDe told us. "The Red Sox played a team of All Stars of the day inclduing Cobb and several other future Hall of Famers. He was well respected and well-liked in the community."
And he’d be proud to know future generations of the family have carried on his love for baseball.