Original cabinet card capturing shortstop Ezra Sutton, the player who hit the first home run in National Association history. We have never seen another example of this cabinet photo of Sutton, a player for whom very few original portrait photos exist, and it may be unique. Sutton is pictured here in formal attire in a studio setting. While there is no date or photographer's credit on the mount or reverse, given his age, it most likely dates from his time with Boston in the mid-to-late 1880s.
Sutton began his professional career in 1871 with the Forest Citys of Cleveland, members of the newly formed National Association, baseball's first professional league. Even at the young age of twenty-one, Ezra Sutton had the reputation as being the finest defensive third baseman of his day. He was also a fine hitter. Sutton led Forest City in average (.352), home runs (3) and RBI (23) in 1871. He also hit the first home run in National Association history. After the demise of the National Association, Sutton later played for the White Stockings in the National League's inaugural 1876 season before joining the Boston Red Stockings in 1877. He remained with Boston for the next twelve seasons until his Major League retirement in 1888 (he played several years afterwards in the minors). One of the team's fan favorites during his years in Boston, Sutton batted over .300 on seven separate occasions and finished his career with a .294 lifetime average.
This piece originates from an extraordinary unprecedented find of early baseball photographs recently discovered in a nineteenth-century photo album, all of which are offered in this auction. Included in the album were team-composite CDVs for seven of the nine founding members of the 1871 National Association, baseball's first professional league, plus individual portrait images of many of the game's earliest stars. Original baseball photos dating from the 1870s are exceedingly rare and for many of the players represented in this collection their offered photo is not only the first such example we have handled, but in many cases, the only one we have ever seen. While the history of the album is unknown (our consignor purchased it from an antique dealer), since nearly all the photos found in the album are of ball clubs or ballplayers from the early 1870s, it most likely belonged to a former player or perhaps a National Association team executive.
The cabinet card (4.25x6.5 inches) bears no photographer's credit and is blank backed, with gilt edges. Excellent to Mint condition overall. Please note: This cabinet photo was submitted to SGC for encapsulation but the company would not authenticate it because SGC generally will not evaluate nineteenth-century cabinet photos that do not feature a photographer's stamp.