Thorn: Baseball, boating and gymnastics: who was William Wood?

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on October 14, 2019:

A Mears online auction of December 1, 2018 included an offering that struck my interest. I recall opening the bidding at $100, knowing I had little hope of winning with that amount. The item shown above bore this listing notice:

Offered is a game worn pillbox style baseball cap likely dating to circa the 1890s-1900s. Hat is constructed of grey wool with a pair of burgundy stripes circling the exterior with some fabric loss revealing the woven backing. Interior features a leather sweatband and a screened logo for “Wm. Wood Mfr. & Importer High Grade Sporting Goods 25 W. 125th St. NY.”

The pillbox cap was intriguing because so few from this period survive, even in museums. What made it stand out for me beyond its rarity was its merchant, about whom I knew a thing or two for his role in popularizing gymnastics and for his 1867 book, Manual of Physical Exercises. That book bore a key citation of baseball in New York as played in 1832 — long before the Knickerbockers — that astounded me when I discovered it 35 years ago.

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Originally published: October 15, 2019. Last Updated: October 15, 2019.