The Mystery of Baseball’s First Star, Jim Creighton

From SABR member Peter J. Nash at Hauls of Shame on April 5:

In 1983, historian [and SABR member] John Thorn spearheaded an effort to microfilm most all of the fragile scrapbooks and score-books found in the Spalding Collection. Thanks to that endeavor, baseball researchers have since had unfettered access to the valuable information found in the Spalding scrapbooks, Knickerbocker Club-Books and other treasures.

Most of the gems in the collection at that time were captured on microfilm, however, at some point, the library put aside various loose pages from the scrapbooks and score-books that featured photographic materials affixed to them.  Those pages and images were never documented on the microfilm.  One such page, features the rarest and most important image of nineteenth century baseball photography, a carte-de-visite size albumen photograph of Brooklyn Excelsior pitcher, James Creighton.


Creighton’s legend grew when he died tragically at the age of twenty-one in 1862.  Reports stated that he injured himself after hitting a home run and that he soon after passed away due to what the New York Times reported were “internal injuries sustained while playing in a match.”  Thorn notes the true cause of his death was a “ruptured inguinal hernia,” but also that Creighton’s mystique was augmented by a “final epic blast that Roy Hobbs might have envied.”   

I first became aware of the NYPL’s Creighton image almost a decade ago when I saw a photocopy of the image in a box along with other items in the Spalding photograph collection.  But it wasn’t until last year that I discovered the original, thanks to NYPL’s Manuscript Head William Stingone and his colleague Thomas Lannon.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: April 5, 2011. Last Updated: April 5, 2011.