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Bunny Madden and James J. Donahue were like Boston harbor ships passing in the night—yet their divergent legacies are forever linked by this historic uniform. Back-up catcher Madden was the first to don Red Sox threads, averaging just 9 games and 22 at-bats per year between 1909 and 1911. A broken finger during April warm-ups led to his release early in the 1911 season. Enter James J. Donahue, who had a cup of coffee with the Sox by signing a contract on June 17, 1911, receiving Bunny Madden's old pants, and then—much like the immortal Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams—never making a single major-league appearance. As chance would have it, Donahue did happen to appear in a Red Sox team photograph that was produced both as a Boston Herald supplement and as an imperial team cabinet (of which Donahue's personal example is also offered in this auction). Otherwise, his career has essentially been lost to the sands of time, since there are no official records of major-league or minor-league play except for his Red Sox contract (included here), a brief Herald reference to that contract, and some basic information provided by a still-living descendant—for example, that Donahue had been captain of the baseball and basketball teams at Manhattan College. There do exist, on the other hand, a few known individual images of Bunny Madden. He's even featured in the SABR Biography database, where author Bill Nowlin reports that Madden was picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies on June 24th (just a week after Donahue's arrival in Boston): "In what remained of the 1911 season, [Madden] appeared in 28 games, and he hit .276 and drove in four runs. When the Phillies came to Beantown to play the National League’s Boston Rustlers (soon to be the Braves), a sizable welcoming party greeted him with a basket of flowers." Madden went on to log a decade of Double A ball with the Montreal Royals, Newark Bears and Syracuse Stars.
The earliest known complete Red Sox uniform, this significant shared ensemble carries Bunny Madden's chain-stitched surname in the waistband and entered the hobby directly from the James J. Donahue family—as evidenced by the inclusion here of Donahue's actual contract, as well as the separate offering of Donahue's own imperial team cabinet photo (which originated with the uniform and pictures him at far right of the front row in a different style cap). The cream-colored heavy wool jersey measures a size 44 and gives every logicial indication of having also been worn by the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Madden before being handed off to Donahue. It exhibits a wonderful Wright & Ditson collar tag; a frayed collar edge; scattered tiny holes and stray threads to the felt "BOSTON" lettering across chest; and light pinkish bleed around the letters. The pants display a matching Wright & Ditson tag; one patched knee; horizontal bluish discoloration near the hemlines; and soiling throughout. Turning to the accoutrements, the are some moth-eaten spots on the cap brim, and the thick red stirrups bear a far more extensive amount of age- or insect-induced holes. Lastly, the Taylor & Co. leather glove, which boasts an intact manufacturer's label on the strap, is still mostly supple across the front yet more weathered and cracked on the reverse with a few holes on the thumb and index finger. All of this wear, of course, is quite routine and expected for a game garment of this century-old vintage, and in no way detracts from the artifact's importance and visual appeal.
Authentication comes in the form of: 1) Our Legendary Auctions LOA, and 2) A MEARS LOA grading the jersey alone as A5 due to a subtraction of 3 points for no name in the collar—thus not taking into account the essential detail of the chain-stitched "MADDEN" inside the pants. Further provenance is James J. Donahue's signed 1911 Red Sox contract (desirable and collectible in its own right), which has a visible area of 7" x 8-1/2" (EX w/filing folds) within an 11" x 12-1/2" frame, and reads, "THIS AGREEMENT made this 17th day of June, 1911, between Louis C. Hartman, No. 42 Broadway, New York City, agent for John I. Taylor, President of the Boston American League Base Ball Club, and James Joseph Donahue, of No. 193 Orange Street, Albany, New York. IT IS HEREBY AGREED by the party of the first part to give to the party of the second part the sum of Three hundred Dollars per month for services rendered, as a Base Ball Player of the above named Club, during the season of 1911..." LOA from Legendary Auctions.