1867 Basking Ridge Base Ball Score Book Returns To New Jersey!

Published by Robert Lifson on Tagged Uncategorized

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We just received the following extremely fascinating item for the spring REA auction. We are excited about it, and thought collectors would enjoy sharing our enthusiasm for our local baseball history:   

1867 Bernards Base Ball Club of Basking Ridge, New Jersey Base Ball Club Score Book

In the past thirty years, Robert Edward Auctions has handled many unique baseball treasures dating from the game’s earliest days. This early baseball treasure, an 1867 baseball score book, is far from the most valuable nineteenth-century item we have handled, but it holds a special significance for us, both due to its extensive use in years past in celebrating the rich history of baseball in New Jersey, and its long-ago place of origin (which happens to be just minutes away from our New Jersey office). This score book was first used to record the action for games in 1867 by the Bernards Base Ball Club of Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Basking Ridge is a neighboring town of Watchung, where Robert Edward Auctions resides. Any baseball scorebook from this era is an extraordinary and rare find. But it is particularly remarkable to us that this score book will be offered to the collecting community for the very first time by a company that specializes in nineteenth and early twentieth-century baseball memorabilia, that is located just a few miles down the road from where the score book was originally used 143 years ago! 

The game of baseball has a long and rich history in New Jersey. Just twenty-one years prior to this book’s use, the first organized baseball game was played at the Elysian Fields, in Hoboken, New Jersey, located only thirty miles due east of Basking Ridge. One of the most fascinating things about this book, as documented by the letters and articles that accompany it, is the fact that all throughout the years its great historical significance was recognized in the community, and the book was often showcased at various baseball-related events in the state. It was at one of those events, a banquet given by the Tri-County Baseball League on October 19, 1938, that the book obtained a most distinguishing feature: an exemplary Jimmie Foxx black fountain-pen signature on the interior cover. The signature, which is exceptionally large, measures over five inches in length and grades “9″ overall (downgraded only because of a slight ink smudge to the “O” in “Foxx”). Foxx was a guest of honor at the dinner, as were his fellow Philadelphia A’s teammates Frank Hayes and Charlie Berr (both of whom were New Jersey natives), and the book’s owner at the time (Paul Cowell of Woodglen, New Jersey) thought it appropriate that each player sign it in black fountain pen. The signatures of Hayes and Berry appear below Foxx’s and grade “9.” (Ideally, the signing of the book by Foxx, Hayes, and Berry is documented in a vintage newspaper clipping affixed to the interior front cover.) Years later, in 1956, at another Tri-County Baseball League Banquet at which the book was displayed, the interior front cover was signed in blue ink (grading “10″) former Yankees star Gil McDougald. A fifth blue-ink signature, of an individual named Frank Schott (not a former Major Leaguer, possibly a local player), also appears on the interior cover.

The popularity of baseball in the United States was growing by leaps and bounds in 1867. Small rural towns in New Jersey such as Basking Ridge were a hot bed of activity for baseball in its earliest days. It is very rare for such a substantial relic related to such an early specific organized team to survive the ages. This is the second-oldest baseball score book we have ever offered (the other was a Peck’s New Pocket Base Ball Score Book, copyrighted in 1866). The team’s official scorebook in many ways is the heart and soul of a club, the ultimate record of their activity. We cannot imagine a more important surviving item to represent the long-forgotten Bernards Base Ball Club. This is an extremely important artifact documenting the earliest days of baseball in New Jersey and the rise of our national pastime in the days prior to the dawn of the era of professionalism in the sport. The hard-bound score book, with leather trimmed spine, features the team name and town printed in gilt stamped letters on the cover: “Bernards Base Ball Club - Basking Ridge - New Jersey.” The title page, which includes both preprinted and handwritten notations, reads “The Champion Base Ball Score Book - The Bernards Base Ball Club - Organized June 4-1867 - Manufactured and Sold by Wilbur & Hastings, Stationers - 40 Fulton St. N.Y.” The book records six games played by the Bernards Base Ball Club in 1867 and one in 1868. Additionally, the last few pages of the book record the statistics of two of Bernards’ opponents for games dated July 4, 1867 (Oscola) and June 18, 1875 (Red Stockers).

Many years later the book was used to score fifteen games of the Woodglen Base Ball Club (New Jersey) played between the years 1902 and 1908. The original owner of the score book, Paul Cowell, was a member of the Woodglen team and his name appears in the lineup for one of the 1903 games. There are a few scored games in the book where neither the names of the teams nor the dates are listed. The age of the book is immediately apparent by some of the language used therein; most notably the term of “Striker,” as opposed to “Batter” or “Player” in the first heading on each sheet. The Bernards team must have been a local powerhouse given the numbers compiled here. The club, which won all of the games recorded, never scored fewer than 39 runs and on three occasions scored over 70 runs. An old newspaper clipping, dated 9/25/47 and which is affixed to one of the interior pages, makes note of the book’s history and reads in part “One of the prized possessions of Paul Cowell, proprietor of the general store at Woodglen, is a baseball score book of the Bernard’s Club of Basking Ridge. It was first used on June 4, 1867 and, without a doubt, is one of the oldest of its kind in this entire vicinity…The Woodglen team started to use the book for its own games about 1900 and Paul’s name is listed in one of the 1903 contests…Cowell proudly pointed to three autographs appearing this this ancient score book. A glance revealed they were the names of Jimmie Foxx, Frankie Hayes, and Charlie Berry. ‘That helps to make the book even more valuable,’ explained the proud owner.” Accompanying the book are additional documents and newspaper clippings, all dating prior to 1957, that reference the offered score book, including a letter from the president of the Tri-County Baseball League from 1956. 

The book (10.5 x 8 inches), which contains enough pages to record 136 games, is heavily worn, including numerous abrasions and areas of surface paper loss to both the front and back covers. The spine is nearly separated, and a number of the interior pages are now loose, however, all of the original pages are present and accounted for. The interior pages, mainly those recording games, display minor edge tears, as well as light soiling and/or toning. Good condition overall.



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