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Lena Blackburne

Second Base
  • Series: Diamond Heads '15
  • City: Chicago
  • Team: White Sox
  • League: American League

Russell Aubrey Blackburne (1886-1968) was no great shakes as a player and had a sub-.500 career as a manager. Not many with a lifetime .214 average get mentioned at Cooperstown. But Lena had a bulldog spirit and a zeal to improve one key aspect of baseball: the sheen on the balls themselves. Until Blackburne’s “Rubbing Mud,” balls were doctored with tobacco juice, Shinola, and whatever the local swamps provided, all in an attempt to take some of the manufacturer’s shine off the spheres. Lena found a solution that still serves the game today. True to his discoverer’s spirit, he kept secret the source of the clay from which he made the rubbing compound. It was believed to be a spot on the Delaware River near his home. Blackburne had played for the White Sox, Reds, Braves, and Phillies before coaching and managing for the Sox, Browns and Athletics. He was enough of an AL-partisan to restrict use of his wonder-mud to the American League until the mid-1950s when the NL at last could partake.

  • No other compound improved the grip on the ball without damage to the horsehide
  • No one has gotten rich from the Mud. Team’s can get by with one 32-oz container per season at a cost of about $60. The current vendor of Blackburne’s concoction has to work full-time to support his family

Auction History

George Bradley

Third Base
  • Series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: Sioux City
  • Team: Corn Huskers
  • League: Western Association

George Washington Bradley (1852-1931) groomed for the major leagues with the vaunted Easton, PA club, known as the top amateur squad of the day. He signed with the NA’s St. Louis Brown Stockings in 1875 with a number of teammates. “Grin” (for what may have been his mesmerizing smirk that befuddled batters) hurled a shut-out in his second start against the White Stockings, a feat that came to be known as “Chicagoing” for years after. That promising beginning was completely overshadowed the following year as Bradley led St. Louis to a second-place finish in the new National League. George pitched all but four innings of the ‘76 season and his record and the team’s were identical: 45-19. He led the league in ERA at 1.23. He threw 16 shut-outs. He scored the first NL no-hitter. No one has since exceeded the shut-out record (only Grover Cleveland Alexander tied it). After that remarkable year Grin became a vagabond. He logged 16 cities over the next dozen years. He never came close to such heights on the mound and played infield as much as he pitched. He was a superb-fielding third baseman.

  • A former manager, Frank Bancroft, cast a shadow over Bradley’s career-year. Grin was said to have found a way to access the game ball and smash it with a vise, yielding a malleable sphere to befuddle batters even more than the evil smile

Auction History

Tommy Beals

Second Base
Tommy Beals
  • Series: Beginnings: 1870's
  • City: Boston
  • Team: Red Stockings (NAPBBP)
  • League: National Association (NAPBBP)

Thomas Lamb Beals (1850-1915) played for four early major league teams, getting into 123   games in six seasons over the first decade of big league ball. He began in Washington D.C. with the Olympics of the NABBP in 1871. He batted .194 in 10 games, which was about a third of the schedule.. He came back the following year and hit .306 playing in all nine games. His manager with the Olympics was Nick Young, one of the founders of the game. He followed Young to the new D.C. club, the Blue Stockings, in ‘73. Beals was a regular that year and hit a respectable .276. He had played under the name W. Thomas in Washington. When he moved to the powerful Boston Red Stockings in 1874 he assumed his given name. He was only a part-timer in Boston for two seasons. When the National Association gave way to the new National League in ‘76 Tommy found himself out of work. He got one more chance with the White Stockings in 1880, getting into 13 games. His poor .152 average sent him into retirement.

  • During his hiatus from the majors Beals had played briefly in the Bay Area for the SF Mutuals and the Oakland Pioneers in the California League

Auction History

Ross Barnes

Second Base
Ross Barnes
  • Series: Beginnings: 1870's
  • City: Boston
  • Team: Red Stockings (NAPBBP)
  • League: National Association (NAPBBP)

Charles Roscoe Barnes (1850-1915) was the best player in the five year history of the fist professional baseball league, the National Association of Professional Baseball Players (NAPBBP), 1871-1875. Barnes is the all-time NAPBBP leader in runs, hits, doubles, walks, stolen bases, total bases, batting average, OBP and SLG%. He then dominated the National League in its inaugural year, 1876, leading the league hits, runs, average, OBP, SLG%, total bases, doubles, triples and walks. He also hit the 1st HR in National League history, for the Chicago White Stockings, 5.2.1876. Over the first six years of his major league career, Barnes' batting average was .397. An unidentified illness limited Barnes to just 22 games in 1877, and he was never the same player again, retiring shortly thereafter at the age of 31.

“Roscoe C. Barnes…was the greatest second baseman the game ever had…” - A History of the Boston Baseball Club, 1897.

"No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget. Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.” - W.A. Phelan, Baseball Magazine, 1915

  • Because he played in the second game in MLB history, is credited with the 17 other players that day as the 27th player to debut in MLB
  • 1st hitter to win batting titles in 2 leagues: NA in ’72-73 and NL in ‘76
  • In 1918, made Cap Anson’s all-time team as the shortstop
  • Barnes was selected as SABR’s ”Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend “ for 2013

Auction History

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