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This stunning albumen photo is merely one of the most profoundly important -- and profoundly rare -- survivors of baseball antiquity ever found. It is no less than an original photograph from 1868 of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. The date here is extremely important, as it was the last year baseball was officially an amateur sport. The following year, the Red Stockings would openly go pro (4 were already being paid under the table), courting great players for $200 a month to play under HOF pitcher/manager Harry Wright, seen in this picture seated second from left holding a ball in his right hand. The "Reds" would win 68 straight games. They weren't bad in '68 either, going 31-7. The players' names and positions are written in fountain pen outside the edges of the image and include Asa Brainard, Rufus King, Charles Grant, and Fred Waterman. President A.B. Champion appears in an inset, as do other team officers. Perhaps the earliest original piece in existence with a photo of Harry Wright -- arguably the greatest manager of all time -- and of an organized team. What's more, the condition is astonishingly good. The tone is strong and bright, the looks on the faces brilliantly clear, and only a smattering of wear around the edges. Piece is slightly trimmed on top. For early baseball collectors, the ultimate. Period.
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