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Jake Beckley

First Base
  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: St. Louis
  • Team: Whites (WA)
  • League: Western Association
  • Hall: National Baseball Hall of Fame

Jacob Peter Beckley (1867-1918) was a durable first-baseman over a 20-year career. Though he never played for a pennant winner, Beckley hit .309 lifetime and held the games-played-at-first record until Eddie Murray surpassed him in 1994. Hit .300+ in 13 seasons (three different Pittsburgh clubs, Giants, Reds and Cards). Upon his retirement, Beckley’s 2,930 career hits placed him second only to Cap Anson.

  • Not above subterfuge, worked a hidden-ball trick on Honus Wagner using two balls
  • Known for cheating on the base paths, was called out by the ump for “getting there too fast!” after racing from 2nd directly home while Blue wasn’t looking
  • Elected to Hall of Fame: 1971

Auction History

Chris von der Ahe

  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: St. Louis
  • Team: Browns (AA)
  • League: American Association

Christian Friedrich Wilhelm von der Ahe (1851-1913) put the beer in the “beer and whiskey league” as the American Association came to be known, perjoratively by National League purists and proudly by the upstart organization’s devotees. Von der Ahe had emigrated from Germany, bringing a zeal for making it big in the New World. His saloon in St. Louis hosted so many baseball fans that Chris decided to buy the bankrupt Brown Stockings. Perhaps recognizing his ignorance of the game, Chris had the sense to hire Charles Comiskey to play and eventually manage the club which went on to a string of pennants from 1885-88. The boss’s meddling hurt (Comiskey left) but his showmanship helped as a carnival atmosphere brought in the “fans” (possibly coined by von der Ahe.) The big, bluff German was always a center of controversy and drama. He lost the team in ‘98 after a ballpark fire following an earlier fire sale of the players to Brooklyn. After a year as the Perfectos, the team would ever after be known as the Cardinals.

  • Von der Ahe was the first to promote baseball to the great unwashed of his adopted country’s midsection, the blue-collar heartland of the game
  • While von der Ahe does have one pose in the Old Judge series, this image was taken from a Guerin Studio cabinet photo

Auction History

Yank Robinson

Second Base
  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: St. Louis
  • Team: Browns (AA)
  • League: American Association

William H. Robinson (1859-1894) became one of the most proficient “on-base” artists of his day. He knew how to capitalize on the evolving base-on-balls rules during the mid-to-late 1880s and crafted outstanding years from fairly meager hitting. Yank played infield for a decade in the majors, 1882-92. He was a starter for Charles Comiskey’s St. Louis Browns during their pennant stretch from ‘85-88. No doubt Charlie had noticed the item in the Post-Dispatch proclaiming Yank “the best all-around player in the Union Association,” during its ‘84 season. Robinson had such a knack for waiting on the pitcher that his walks exceeded his hits the last six years in the majors. Opinions of Robinson’s defense vary but considering he eschewed the glove, some historians have credited him with superior skills.

  • Yank had a notorious tussle with owner Chris von der Ahe in 1889 over a uniform the boss wanted changed. Robinson won the “strike” and the argument led him to jump to Pittsburgh’s Players’ League entry the next year

Auction History

Tip O’Neill

  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: St. Louis
  • Team: Browns (AA)
  • League: American League
  • Hall: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

James Edward O’Neill (1858-1915) came out of Woodstock, Ontario to take the American Association by storm, becoming Canada’s Babe Ruth. Tip debuted with the NL’s Gothams in 1883 as a pitcher, receiving tepid reviews. He made a better impression on Charles Comiskey who signed him the next season in St. Louis to replace switch-pitching Tony Mullane. The following year theWoodstock Wonder came into his own at the plate. He became the Browns’ best hitter and led the team to four straight pennants, then falling second to Brooklyn in ‘89. Ever loyal to Comiskey, Tip followed his leader to the Players’ League Chicago Pirates, back to St. Louis in ‘91 and on to Cincinnati for his final campaign the next year. In his decade at the pinnacle of the game, O’Neill established one of the best hitting records of the 19th century: .326 BA, .458 slugging and a Triple Crown. He and Paul Hines remain the only such champions eligible for the Hall to be excluded (a fate shared with all the greats who played primarily in the AA, save for Bid McPhee).

  • Tip’s excellence is commemorated north of the border with the Tip O’Neill Award given annually by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
  • U.S. Speaker of the House “Tip” O’Neill was nicknamed after James
  • Elected to Canadian BB Hall of Fame: 1983

Auction History

Jocko Milligan

  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: St. Louis
  • Team: Browns (AA)
  • League: American Association

John Milligan (1861-1923) was a catcher for 5 major league teams from 1884 to 1893, including two stints with the Athletics. A lifelong Philadelphian, Jocko played for nearby teams: the Senators, Orioles and Giants with a two-year hitch in St. Louis being his only sojourn away from the East Coast. Orphaned at age 8, Milligan was raised at Girard College, an orphanage that prized athletics and gave young Jocko the gift of baseball. He became one of 13 graduates to play the game professionally. During his ten-year career, Jocko hit a very respectable .286 with 49 home runs. Although he was primarily a back-up catcher, Milligan compiled lifetime stats that put him among the best of his era. Bill James has placed him at 103rd best all-around receivers.

  • On May 2, 1886 Jocko hit four doubles in one game
  • This gentle giant (6’1” and 190 lbs) and blacksmith entertained orphans with 360′ wallops long after his retirement

Auction History