Fifth Anniversary Auction - Closes August 12, 2017
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/13/2017

While the origin of the American League dates to Ban Johnson becoming president of the Western League in 1894, the league was renamed and became the American League that we know today in 1901.  The league's original eight teams were the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Senators, Cleveland Bluebirds, Boston Americans and Chicago White Stockings.  Of all those teams, the Tigers are the only one that has continuously remained in its original city, the oldest American League ballclub.  Presented here is what is likely one of the club's oldest pieces of memorabilia.

The Tigers played their first game as a "major league" team on April 25, 1901, at the newly-constructed Bennett Park.  The team was managed by George Stallings, a former player who managed the Philadelphia Phillies in 1897 and 1898, and then moved to the Tigers.  Though newspaper accounts suggest otherwise, Stallings took credit for giving the team its name.  After the 1901 season, Stallings had a falling out with league president Ban Johnson, and left the ballclub to become manager of the Buffalo Bisons of the International League.

Presented here is a beautiful pocket watch that we believe was given to Stallings during his tenure with the Tigers.  In lieu of any official league awards during those early days, local organizations often supported their hometown favorites by showering them with gifts and awards.  At the start of the 1901 season, the BPO Elks conducted a pregame ceremony with members of the Tigers and Brewers  (who were playing Detroit that day) that included a street parade and presentation of a loving cup to Stallings and team owner James Burns.  Stallings and Burns were both members of the Detroit Elks' Lodge, and the Elks hosted a carnival at the Tigers' Bennett Park each summer.

The watch itself is a handsome nickel-silver timepiece, measuring more than 3 1/4" from the top of its bow to the bottom of the watch.  Manufactured by the Illinois Watch Company, the serial number of 1566157 indicates it was manufactured in 1901, one of a run of 200 watches produced (the company produced nearly 19,000 of this model between 1893 and 1919).  A heavy piece (6.5 oz), it is bright and clean, with some natural, age-related wear.  The watch mechanism is not currently functional.  The reverse of the watch is adorned with an ornate border, in the center of which is the unmistakeable Detroit Tigers logo that was used in 1901 and 1902.  The initials "GTS" (George Tweedy Stallings) are inset in diamond chips in the center of the Tigers logo.  Engraved along the bottom edge of the watch is "Jackson Elks Lodge No. 113," one of the lodges that participated in the Bennett Park carnivals.

Provenance of the piece is unclear.  It has been a fixture in a family collection for many decades, long before such pieces had significant monetary value.  While we can find no direct historical account of Stallings being presented with such a timepiece, we find it entirely likely, as there were several occasions where local BPOE lodges could present such tokens to its better-known members.  A likely occurrence would be the April 1902 exhibition games between the Buffalo Bisons and the Detroit Tigers that marked Stallings' return to Detroit for baseball purposes.  Other potential occurrences could have been the opening date of the 1901 season (attended by various BPOE members who celebrated with the team) or the Bennett Park carnival of 1901.  The Jackson Lodge No. 113, sadly, has closed, and our attempts to reach other local chapters were unsuccessful.

It is, however, our opinion that the engravings on the piece, coupled with its undisputed date of manufacture, make it entirely likely that this piece is exactly what it was purported to be: a ceremonial pocket watch given to the manager of the Detroit Tigers in appreciation for his work in their first season of the American League.

c.1901 Detroit Tigers Presentation Pocket Watch Given To George Stallingsc.1901 Detroit Tigers Presentation Pocket Watch Given To George Stallingsc.1901 Detroit Tigers Presentation Pocket Watch Given To George Stallingsc.1901 Detroit Tigers Presentation Pocket Watch Given To George Stallings
c.1901 Detroit Tigers Presentation Pocket Watch Given To George Stallings
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Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $1,000
Final prices include buyers premium.: $1,722
Number Bids: 5
Auction closed on Sunday, August 13, 2017.
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