Auction items might be library’s missing letters

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

It is unclear exactly when the rest disappeared, but authorities have been aware since the 1970s of thefts from the library’s collection of baseball memorabilia.

Wright organized the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869, managed the team and played center field. He later managed the Boston Red Stockings, the Providence Grays and the Philadelphia Quakers.

Many modern elements of the game were his innovations, such as hand signals, defensive fielding shifts and hitting fungoes to outfielders before the game.

Around the horn

Texas Rangers team president Nolan Ryan said that the club is not hamstrung by owner Tom Hicks’ financial difficulties despite a report that Major League Baseball loaned millions to the team owner. … Target Field, the new outdoor baseball stadium in Minneapolis, will open April 12, 2010, when the Minnesota Twins play host to the Boston Red Sox. … Struggling Atlanta second baseman Kelly Johnson has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with right wrist tendinitis. … Cincinnati activated third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who had been on the 60-day disabled list with a chip fracture in his left wrist. Infielder Danny Richar went on the 15-day disabled list with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.