Helen Dauvray

  • Card series: Pioneer Portraits II: 1875-1899
  • League: National League

Ida Louisa Gibson (1856-1923), aka Helen Dauvray, was a child prodigy on the stage whose subsequent real estate investments made her wealthy. By 1887 her acting career was waning, but she had grown accustomed to and still longed for the acclaim accorded theatrical stars of her era. A love affair with celebrated baseball hero John Montgomery Ward was budding when Helen announced she would commission a “$500 . . . true lover’s cup” to be presented annually to the players who triumphed in the “World’s Championship” between the American Association and National League. In an era of shameless self-promotion, Helen’s award gained traction in baseball and cast her back into the spotlight. It endured precisely as long as the romance between Monty Ward and the woman still known by many as Little Nell, the California Diamond after a long-running role of Helen’s.

The Gorham Silver Co. finished the 12″ tall cup on June 1, charging Helen $250. It was engraved “THE DAUVRAY CUP, Presented By Miss Helen Dauvray, to the players winning the WORLD’S CHAMPIONSHIP.” It didn’t take long for some to realize that the cup would undoubtedly reside in the team owner’s office, so Dauvray also commissioned medals to be given to individual players, a few of which survive in the Hall of Fame and private collections today.

Alas, the Dauvray Cup is now lost to history, having served its purpose from 1887-1893. The American Association expired following the 1890 tournament, so Miss Dauvray redirected it to become the trophy for the National League’s champions. Helen had proposed that the cup become the permanent property of any club to win it three times consecutively, and the Boston Beaneaters took final possession following their third straight win in the fall of 1893. The cup was known to be in Kentucky that winter but, sadly, has disappeared since. Perhaps fittingly, the end of the cup’s reign coincided with the Ward-Dauvray union’s demise. Married in ’87, the celebrity couple divorced in 1893.

The first recipients of the cup were not, as Dauvray may have expected, Ward’s Giants. Rather, the Detroit Wolverines captured it first in a marathon 15-game series that was as much a barnstorming tour as a post-season tourney. The cup toured with the teams that inaugural year and offered Miss Dauvray the attention she sought, being displayed on the field during each game. In 1894, Helen’s legacy lived on in the Temple Cup, instituted by Pirates owner William Chase Temple, to honor the winners of the NL’s seven-game post-season series. It was awarded four times, last in 1897. Unlike its predecessor, the Temple Cup resides today in Cooperstown.

  • Ars Longa is indebted to baseball historian John Thorn for his excellent research on the Dauvray Cup and the delightfully insouciant Miss Dauvray herself

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