A crown jewel in the realm of season passes, this one-of-a-kind Reds relic not only pre-dates almost all other such team/league passes, but it is also the most original ever to be produced. Crafted in what appears to be alligator leather (yes, alligator), the purse-like, button-clasp holder measures 3-1/2 x 2-1/2 x 3/4" and features 2 sets of rotating scorers for "Games" and "Points." What's more, it contains a full deck of the 1896 "Stage No. 65" playing cards produced by Cincinnati's very own U.S Playing Card Company. Lillian Russell, Maurice Barrymore and "Casey at the Bat" performer DeWolf Hopper are just some of the 1890s theatrical luminaries depicted on the face cards of the extraordinarily crisp, clean, gilt-edged NM deck. (Intended, no doubt, for the leisure time of quiet pre-game moments...and rain delays.)
And who, pray tell, was the honored recipient of such a luxurious treasure granting complimentary stadium access? Why, none other than Eleanor Brush Hempstead—eldest daughter of then-Reds owner John T. Brush, whom, it must be said, was a theater lover nonpareil. Brush married a starlet named Elsie Boyd Lombard, and the couple hosted actors the likes of Sarah Bernhardt at their private estate. Eleanor, meanwhile, became the wife of businessman Harry Hempstead—who later inherited the mantle of the N.Y. Giants upon Brush's death. But we digress.
Eleanor is referenced in the artifact's gold-embossed interior lettering: "CINCINNATI BASE BALL CLUB / SOUVENIR / OF 1897 / IN FAVOR OF Mrs. E.B. Hempstead." Overall display appearance is EX, with close examination revealing two partial seam splits at back left and back right, as well as a small area of discoloration on the underside of the flap. Purchased privately two decades ago, this elite offering has never seen the light of day since and is completely fresh to the auction block.