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Bidding on baseball letters suspended

Associated Press / July 4, 2009
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NEW YORK - Authorities are looking into whether a newly discovered trove of letters to one of baseball’s founding fathers contains documents that disappeared long ago from the New York Public Library.

The letters are 19th-century correspondence to Harry Wright, who built the country’s first professional baseball team in Cincinnati and went on to manage in several cities.

Hunt Auctions, a major auctioneer of sports memorabilia, was preparing to sell a batch of Wright’s letters on July 14 at the All-Star Game’s fan festival in St. Louis, but has suspended bidding, at least temporarily.

The Exton, Pa., company’s president, David Hunt, said he hasn’t seen any evidence that the letters were among those that vanished, but thought a temporary freeze was prudent while authorities, including the FBI, investigate. “It is always better to be conservative,’’ he said yesterday, adding that he hoped to have the matter cleared up within a few days.

Hunt declined to identify the seller of the letters, other than to say that the person who consigned them said they had belonged to his grandparents.

“There’s nothing that gives me reason to believe, at this moment, that this person doesn’t have a right to sell them,’’ he said.

The library’s collection originally contained four scrapbooks of letters that had been sent to Wright between 1865 and 1894. Only one of those volumes is still at the library.