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1868 "Clipper Prize" Medal Presented to George Wright with George
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While the identity of the greatest ballplayer in Major League history will never find an answer of full consensus, there is no question that George Wright owns that distinction for the years prior to its inception. Like Wilbur and Orville, the pioneering Wright brothers of aviation, George and his brother Harry rank among the most essential early figures of our national pastime, laying the foundation upon which the professional game would be constructed.While Harry played the more cerebral role, innovating such enduring trends as the box score, the standard baseball uniform and defensive shifts based upon hitters' tendencies, the much younger George was the superior athlete by a wide measure, the sport's most coveted hired gun before the formal establishment of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings as the first professional team ended his peripatetic ways.The glorious early relic presented here finds George Wright on the brink of that tectonic shift in baseball history, just a year before he and his brother bade farewell to the often disingenuous but nonetheless "official" identification of baseball as a strictly amateur affair. Identified by baseball historians as the very first individual baseball player award ever constructed, The Clipper Prize got its name from The New York Clipper, one of the leading sports periodicals of the day. While we have never encountered any others--hardly a surprise when considering the century and a half since their presentation--research tells us that prizes such as this were issued to players who compiled the highest batting average in their respective positions. This example was earned by Wright at shortstop for the Union of Morrisania, Champions of 1867 and the most important team to call the Bronx home before the Yankees claimed that ancestral baseball ground in 1923.We also know that this "Clipper Prize" tradition was short-lived--just a single season, in fact--another reason for this relic's singular rarity today. We suspect that the high cost of production was the limiting factor, as the gold construction and rather regal design are considerably more extravagant than most 19th century hardware.Beginning at the top, we find a brooch-backed bow tie engraved "George Wright" in delicate script. A ribbon attaching this piece to the more substantive lower portion disintegrated over the passage of decades, but a period replacement is included. We stress that this ribbon is the only part of the piece that is not 100% original. The lower segment begins with the "1868" vintage showcased at center of a laurel victory wreath, g:linked to a Maltese cross with a hammered finish and embossed images of a cap, two shoes and a base. Crossed figural bats radiate from a circular center bearing enameled "Clipper Prize" text. A blue stone and figural baseball form the nucleus. When positioning the two metal pieces at proper locations relative to the ribbon, the award measures approximately 4.5" in height and 2" at its widest point. Total weight is sixteen grams (16 g.).Finally, a small (3x2") slip of paper bears a wonderfully bold black fountain pen identifier in the hand of the recipient: "I give to Geo Wright 2nd a prize I valued, Granddady [sic]." Unquestionably one of the most significant relics of 19th century baseball ever to appear on the hobby's auction block. HID07601242017
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