Lot # 68: Rare 1888 Mike "King" Kelly (HOF) “Play Ball” Book

Starting Bid: $1,500.00

Bids: 31 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
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Item was in Auction "Summer, 2023 Premier Auction",
which ran from 8/2/2023 12:00 PM to
8/19/2023 9:00 PM

Extremely rare first printing of Mike Kelly's baseball memoir entitled Play Ball: Stories of the Ball Field, published by Emery & Hughes of Boston in 1888. Suffice it to say, this is a rare surviving example of an exceptionally rare softcover book, with experts generally estimating that approximately ten surviving examples are known. Noted as the first ever memoir of a baseball player, Play Ball is a series of anecdotes and memoirs by the Boston Beaneaters player Mike "King" Kelly. An early innovator of the game who played multiple positions (right field, catcher and third base), Kelly popularized and fine-tuned techniques like the hook slide, hit and run, and the idea that players could intentionally foul a ball in order to build up the pitch count. He was widely adored by fans of baseball, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Veterans (now Era) Committee. First editions of this book are exceedingly scarce, and this example is easily the finest we have seen, with a clean cover boasting a woodcut portrait of the Hall of Famer.  Some light cover wear is apparent in the form of soiling, a few small spots of paper loss, and a lower-right corner clip.  The spine is intact, the front and back covers both present and the interior pages well-preserved.  The lower quality paper on which the book is printed, coupled with the soft cover, result in significant condition issues with the surviving examples; this example stands head and shoulders above the ones we have encountered despite its condition flaws.

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