One of two surviving posters touting a baseball barnstorming tour 136 years ago in Australia that was organized by Albert G. Spalding is being offered in the Heritage Auctions Platinum Night event this month.
The poster, which will be sold during the Feb. 24-25 auction, touted the games Down Under between the Chicago White Stockings and an “All America” squad put together by Spalding, a sporting goods magnate who was a star pitcher during the 1870s. The games were played after the 1888 season and were organized by Spalding, the president of the White Stockings.
The only other known example is in the permanent collection of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The poster features images collectors of Old Judge and N284 Buchner Gold Coin cards will recognize.
Albert Goodwill Spalding dared to dream. He envisioned a tour that would preach the gospel of baseball worldwide. Leigh Lynch, a prominent theatrical manager in Chicago, pitched the idea of a worldwide tour to Spalding in late 1887.
Spalding, who was called a “mix of P.T. Barnum and Michael Jordan” by author Mark Lamster, was intrigued by the idea of a worldwide tour.
According to baseball historian John Thorn, Spalding, along with Al Reach, Harry Wright and George Wright, sailed to England for a midseason tour in 1874 that pitted Spalding’s Boston Red Stockings against the Philadelphia Athletics.
The Boston Post noted in July 1874 that the teams sailed from Philadelphia to Liverpool; their tour lasted nearly two months.
For the 1888 tour, Spalding put together two squads, with players to be paid $50 per week. All travel expenses would be paid.
“Their mission, endorsed by President Grover Cleveland, had been to bring baseball … to the far reaches of the earth,” Lamster wrote in his 2006 book, “Spalding’s World Tour: The Epic Adventure that Took Baseball Around the Globe – And Made It America’s Game.”
The teams would play games in the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawaii), New Zealand, Ceylon, Egypt, Italy, France and England. The Australian leg of the tour was contested from Dec. 15, 1888, to Jan. 5, 1889, with stops in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Ballarat.
The Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper reported in April 1888 that Spalding “planned to take a double team of ball players to Australia at a personal expense of $30,000.
The team began a westward trek via train tour from Chicago to San Francisco beginning on Oct. 20, 1888, playing games along the way.
The teams “will show the people of the antipodes how we play base ball here,” the Champaign Daily Gazette reported two days after the teams’ departure.
The Chicago Tribune identified the sites as Milwaukee; Des Moines, Iowa; St. Paul, Minnesota; Minneapolis; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver; Salt Lake City; Stockton, California; Los Angeles; and finally Los Angeles, before boarding a steamer for games in Hawaii nearly three months later.
The website Chicagology did not list Milwaukee but included Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Hastings, Nebraska.
After finishing their games in the U.S., it was on to Auckland and games in New Zealand before a month of contests in Australia.
The poster up for bid by Heritage Auctions is 42 inches long and 28 inches wide, according to its listing.
“This is the most astonishing eight square feet of paper ever to appear on the Heritage auction block,” the company said in a news release.
Actually, 8.166667 square feet.
The poster showed many of the players who were barnstorming, although some did not make the trip. Collectors of 19th-century baseball cards will notice the similarity of the players’ poses with those that appear in the N172 Old Judge cards issued between 1887 and 1890.
The players who actually competed on the tour included future Hall of Famers Cap Anson, John Montgomery Ward and Ned Hanlon. Anson, who managed the White Stockings, was joined by some of his players – Tom Daly, Fred Pfeffer, Ned Williamson, Tom Burns, Marty Sullivan, Jimmy Ryan, Bob Pettit, John Tener and Mark Baldwin.
The All America squad included National Leaguers Ward and Ed Crane (New York Giants), Hanlon and George Wood (Detroit Wolverines), Fred Carroll (Allegheny City of Pittsburgh), John “Egyptian” Healy (Indianapolis Hoosiers), Jim Manning (Boston Beaneaters), Jim Fogarty (Philadelphia Quakers) Tom Brown (Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association), and Billy Earle, who would make his major league debut in 1889 with the Cincinnati Reds of the American Association.
The tour’s final game in Australia was played before 12,000 people in Melbourne, according to The New York Times. The game was shortened to five innings to accommodate a long-distance throwing contest. Crane won, tossing a baseball 385 feet, according to the newspaper.
According to Thorn, the teams were honored at a banquet at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City on April 8, 1889.
Other tours would follow, most notably a team of all-stars playing in Japan during the 1930s, particularly in 1934. But Spalding’s tour was the first, and the tour posters helped whip up enthusiasm for the sport, which had been professional for less than two decades.
Lamster said the idea of the 1888-89 tour was to wrap baseball in the American flag.
“Taking the tour around the world was (Spalding’s) way, ironically, of showing Americans that this was their sport, by just showing it off in other places and reporting back that, look where we are with America’s game,” he told NPR.
The poster carries a pre-sale estimate of $100,000.