We often receive consignments featuring photos of turn of the century amateur or factory teams, and love trying to identify the teams and their players. Hosting an auction is fun, but researching these old photos of nameless players, and giving them back their names is one of the most rewarding parts of doing this. The pieces usually wind up not being incredibly valuable, but the gratification of learning about these regional teams is more than worth it anyway.
This auction features two such pieces from the great The Wilmington, Delaware A. A. team of 1902. The team was managed by Jesse Frysinger, a local baseball legend who received accolades in the Northeast as well as nationally. The team posted an outstanding record, prompting a mention of Frysinger in the October 25 issue of Sporting Life under the headline “Worthy of Promotion: An Independent Manager Who Made a Great Record Last Season.” The article went on to describe Wilmington’s 93-34 record, including six victories against Major League teams, suggesting that Frysinger was destined for bigger and better things.
The young manager left Wilmington for Harrisburg in 1903, then departed to the Holyoke, Massachusetts Paperweights team of the Connecticut State league in 1904 and bringing several of his players with him. At the conclusion of the 1904 season, he jumped the team and returned to the Tri-State League to manage the Lancaster Red Roses. He later had surgery for an appendicitis and developed an infection from the surgery, dying in 1906 at the tender age of 33, his whole life still ahead of him.
Pictured in the cabinet and matching pinback are: Back Row (L-R): Harry Kuhn, Snake Deal, Chick Hartley, Winham P Aubrey. Center Row (L-R): Russell, Harry Tate, Stirlith, Frysinger, Harry Barton, Doc Blough. Front Row (L-R): O’Neil and Bert Everson. The African-American mascot is an anonymous Wilmington resident.
Of the members of this team, several went on to play briefly in the Majors. Snake Deal had 243 plate appearances with the 1906 Cincinnati Reds. Chick Hartley went 0-for-4 in one game with the 1902 New York Giants. Harry Barton had 65 plate appearances in 13 games with the 1905 Philadelphia A’s. Severeal other players had brief minor league careers as well.
The cabinet photo is in outstanding condition, taken by Bucher studios of Wilmington. Unlike the pinback offered elsewhere in the auction, where the image is small enough to be difficult to identify faces, this particular photo is very strong. It is very difficult not to focus on the team mascots – a young, African-American boy, and a goat. Envisioning these young ballplayers, each in their late teens or early 20s, their imaginations transfixed on a possible Major League career while the young boy is ineligible to do anything but be a mascot lends a sort of sadness to the photo that is almost visible in the young boy’s eyes. This makes for a poignant image, and an excellent document not only of a great amateur or semipro team, but also of the social issues of the time.
We’re offering the pinback and the cabinet photo as two separate lots in our auction.