Baseball’s Lost Chalice, Part 2

Part I ran in this space yesterday, and may be linked directly at

This article from the forthcoming Fall 2011 number of Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game appears here with the courtesy of the publisher. For more information about purchase or subscription, see:

In Paris Dauvray, perhaps through the courtesy of sister Clara, had the money to commission a play, hire a hall, and reinvent herself. Returning to New York, she applied the same template, commissioning Felix Morris to write a drama for her: Mona, which opened on April 27, 1885, to poor notices. One theater critic candidly stated that “she returns to the stage purely for the purpose of satisfying her ambition.” Another was brutal:

The play is handsomely placed upon the stage and excellently acted; but it fell as flat as a pancake, without syrup, on the first night, and will probably die of inanition before the three weeks for which Miss Dauvray has hired the theatre are over. It is gossiped that Miss Dauvray is a lady of fortune: the play-bill assures us that she must return to Paris, in June, to fill another engagement at the Folies Dramatiques; consequently we are justified in regarding her as a theatrical angel, who comes here just to show herself and expend about $10,000 upon the profession, and then flutters back to France again.18

Next, Helen tried her hand at comedy, as Bronson Howard wrote for her One of Our Girls, which ran for several months. This was the only true success of her career. Howard then prepared for her Met by Chance, which was first played on January 11, 1887. The San Francisco Chronicle acidly observed:

“Met by Chance,” written for Helen Dauvray, primarily known as Little Nell, the California Diamond, was withdrawn after five or six weeks at the Lyceum, the actress not liking the character she filled, and which was expressly designed for her. She is not versatile, as she seems to think. She is devoid of emotional power; she is hard, unsympathetic, uninteresting, being far better fitted to the line of parts she sustained as a girl than those she now undertakes. The story is that she made $300,000 by a lucky investment in a Pacific slope mine, and some years later, returned to the stage from which she had withdrawn. She will not believe it; but she would not have been an irreparable loss to the theater had her withdrawal been lasting.19

After this Helen indeed withdrew from the stage, ostensibly because of nervous prostration from over-study. She was, according to the New York World of October 16, 1887, one of many actors and actresses for whom “the iteration and reiteration of exhausting parts, night after night, have produced either actual insanity, softening of the brain, spinal difficulties of a nervous nature,” and other mental ailments. This condition did not prevent her from embarking upon a romance with John Ward, or in dreaming up the stunt of the Dauvray Cup to keep her name before the public while she awaited the next turn in her dramatic career. The New York Times reported, some months after the romance became public knowledge:

All through the earlier part of the Summer she was a regular attendant at the Polo Grounds, and always aggressively and enthusiastically championed the home team. Her tiny hands beat each other rapturously at every victory of the Giants and her dark eyes were bedewed at every defeat. But the thousands of spectators who observed Miss Dauvray’s emotions little suspected that one of the Giants had any precedence over the others so far as her affections were concerned.20

Helen’s intent to commission a “Grecian loving cup,” valued at $500, to be competed for by the winning clubs of the League and the Association, was announced in the press on May 20. Hers was not baseball’s first self-promotional trophy; one year earlier Erastus Wiman, owner of the New York Metropolitans of the American Association, had offered a self-named cup for the champions of the AA that, incidentally, would promote his own club all season long. He said:

Naturally, I place this trophy for the current season in the custody of our club, the Mets, being confident that they will endeavor to hold it by winning the pennant. You will please instruct the Mets to carry the trophy from city to city where they play with our association clubs, and place it on exhibition during the games, in order that all contending clubs may see the prize for which they are playing.21

On June 1, 1887, the Gorham Silver Company—not Tiffany, as was sometimes reported—designed her trophy. The first step was modeling those portions requiring to be cast: bats, masks, and ribbons. Modeling required 20 hours, charged at $12. From this modeling a casting pattern was made. Casting took five hours, 20 minutes, and was charged at $2.75. The castings were then chased for seven hours at a charge of $3.50. The prepared silver then went to the silversmith, who devoted 120 hours—two working weeks—to fashioning the cup. Next came the polishing: stoning, bobbing, and applying “green rouge” to bring the silver to its final luster, and 36 hours for etching to letter the inscription:



Miss Helen Dauvray





Materials and labor came to $164.76, including $83.36 in silver, to which Gorham added 20 percent for overhead and 30 percent for profit, yielding a final bill of $247.14, which the company rounded up to $250, the amount of the estimate it had originally provided.22

At her suggestion and with the later concurrence of the NL and AA, the Dauvray Cup was to be held by the winner of the World Series, and would remain in that club’s possession until a new champion was crowned. When a club won three championships, it would claim permanent possession and retire the trophy.

After announcement of the cup and the terms of its award, complaints arose that while it served to honor the victorious club’s owners, the players would have no commemorative of their role. To this Dauvray responded by arranging for gold medals to be struck for the players of the winning team, and for the umpire designated by the winning league. Writing to Nick Young, NL president, on June 12:

Your favor of the 9th inst. was received, for which accept my thanks. As I have already explained to Mr. Ward, I fear I have gone too far with the “cup” to retract my word, but recognizing the justice and force of your argument I have decided to give with the cup gold badges to the players composing the club that first wins the trophy and also to the club that wins it for the third and last time.23

Young replied four days later to express his concurrence and appreciation. By August 5 the Cup and the badges were completed (absent the engraving of the latter, which depended on the World Series outcome), and on August 23 they began to be displayed in the window of Gorham’s establishment on Broadway and 19th Street.  But the press had long before determined that the whole affair was a publicity stunt. On June 11 the Brooklyn Eagle had noted, “Helen Dauvray’s offer of a silver cup to the champion baseball nine has been worth twice the amount in advertising.” The Police Gazette had added on July 2:

What is wrong with Helen Dauvray? Is she not of sufficient importance in the theatrical world, that she is seeking notoriety and cheap advertising in baseball circles by offering a costly “loving cup” as a trophy for the world’s championship, to be competed for by the winners of the League and Association pennants?

Helen of course had hoped that her beau’s Giants would contend for the cup, but the World Series would match the Detroit Wolverines of the NL against the AA champion St. Louis Browns in a best of 15 (!) traveling circus, with games scheduled for 11 parks in 10 different cities. The Series started and ended at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Other venues included not only Detroit but also Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, and Baltimore. But after the Browns took Game 1, Detroit went to work, winning seven of the next eight. By the time the contestants got back to St. Louis, Detroit had a whopping lead of 10 games to four; no wonder only 659 folks showed up for the October 26 finale, called after six innings.

On September 20, not quite three weeks before the World Series would open, Dauvray had written to Detroit president Frederick K. Stearns:

The Dauvray cup and medals are quite finished, and I thought perhaps it would be agreeable to yourself and President Von der Ahe to have the trophies accompany the two teams on their travels during the series of games to be played for the world championship. If so, I will be pleased to give them into your custody. I take great interest in the series and hope to have the pleasure of witnessing the New York game to congratulate you and the Detroit team on their fine play. I hope no accident will cripple the team at an inopportune moment….24

Of this proposal the Boston Globe offered: “The fair Helen is bound to get all there is out of the ‘ad.’”25 Before each game of the World Series, Detroit’s Dan Brouthers—who indeed injured himself in the final days of the season and played only once in the World Series—would set the cup on home plate, where it would stay during pregame activity, and then bring it back to safety.26 The account in the Detroit Tribune of the World Series game between St. Louis and Detroit on October 17, 1887, played at the Phillies’ park, says this of the crowd:

One was John M. Ward, the ball player, and the other Helen Dauvray, his bride, an actress of some renown. They haven’t been married a week, but they didn’t seem particularly affectionate…. She is rather pretty, with strong Hebraic features, and evidently Ward’s senior. Ward shouted for the Detroits and Mrs. Ward applauded the Browns [her brother Adolph had been born in St. Louis]. They occupied opposite ends of the box, and hardly spoke to each other during the contest. Before the game began the Dauvray Cup sat on the home plate and winked at the sun. Hanlon threw in a ball that upset the cup and Mrs. Dauvray Ward’s feelings simultaneously. “How disgusting,”she exclaimed to her husband. “What is the matter with Hanlon, anyhow?”27

By this date the Wards had been married for five days, as far as anyone knew. If there was already a visible froideur between them, this may be the reason: Helen, relentlessly exploiting baseball and the cup to keep her fading star before the public, had concocted a mid–Series marriage for the delectation of the press. On October 12—a day when Detroit would win Game 3 at home, 2–1, in 13 innings—The New York Times broke the news that the baseball couple would be wed that morning:

Miss Dauvray had just returned from an extended stay in the country, when a TIMES reporter called on her last night, at her residence, 49 Park-avenue. When asked as to her approaching marriage, she seemed dumfounded [sic] and denied that she had any such intention. She could not imagine how such a story could have been circulated.

But Mr. Keller, the Times’ theatrical reporter, persisted. Miss Dauvray admitted that she was getting married in the morning, in Philadelphia. Once this cat was let out of the bag, Ward immediately made the rounds of the other New York City papers,

…so that they should have the news as well as the Times, and on Wednesday morning the couple came to Philadelphia, accompanied by a married sister of the bride. Here they were joined at the Lafayette Hotel by another married sister from Baltimore. Then Ward betook himself to Clerk Bell, of the Orphans Court, and obtained marriage license No. 13,960. Mr. Ward, with this official document, rejoined Miss Dauvray and then drove to the parsonage of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church, 110 South Seventeenth Street. Here they were married by the Rev. Mr. Chapman.28

Why might Ward have been visibly upset only five days later? First, there was the charade on the evening of October 11 involving the Timesreporter, which compelled the baseball player to become an actor. Second was the public but fraudulent marriage in Philadelphia; in fact the couple had run up to New Haven, Connecticut, on August 31 and tied the knot then and there. This fact was revealed in their divorce decree six years later.29 After playing in the Giants’ league game against Indianapolis at the Polo Grounds on Tuesday, August 30, Ward was replaced at shortstop in Wednesday’s exhibition game against the same club. He was in New Haven. While he took the field once more on September 1, in a game against Detroit, his secret bride was not in her accustomed spot in the stands. Her sister told a World reporter at the Polo Grounds:

“Helen is very ill, but I hope she soon will be well…. She dearly wanted to see to-day’s game, but her doctor forbade her leaving the house.”30

The Wards’ marriage was contentious from the start, and no wonder. Helen leaked to the press that the reason for the couple’s multiple separations and failed reconciliations was that she wished to return to the stage and her Johnny would not allow it. In the fall of 1889 the Daily Graphic reported that “Helen Dauvray’s reason for retirement is that her husband, the eminent shortstop, does not approve of her stage career and wishes to stop it as he would a hot ball.”31 The following spring, after the Wards had parted ways, the San Francisco Call reported that “Miss Dauvray is about to essay the stage again, and resuming her career without divided interest, but with a sole purpose to make a histrionic success.” Recalling her past efforts, the paper added hopefully, “Future reports of her artistic ability will no doubt have a warmer and more encouraging tone than those we have heard heretofore.”32

[End of Part II; more tomorrow!]


18. Spirit of the Times: May 2, 1885, p. 422.

19. San Francisco Chronicle: Aug. 7, 1887.

20. “Helen Dauvray’s Choice,” The New York Times: Oct. 12, 1887, p. 1.

21. Brooklyn Eagle: Apr. 25, 1886; from Bob Schaefer’s fine article in Base Ball 1:2.

22. Gorham Costing Book, Vol. 35, p. 118, B815 Prize Vase; Gorham Company Records, John Hay Library, Brown University Library.

23. Sporting Life: June 22, 1887.

24. The Sun (N.Y.): Sept. 25, 1887.

25. Boston Globe: Sept. 26, 1887.

26. Auburn Citizen: Jan. 9, 1908.

27. Thanks to Don Jensen for bringing this passage to my attention. His fine article in Base Ball 3:1, “Everyone Went to Nick’s,” was an inspiration for mine.

28. “Ward Dauvray Marriage of Two Noted Professionals,” Sporting Life: Oct. 19, 1887.

29. The Sun (N.Y.): Nov. 30, 1893, p. 5.

30. New York World: Sept. 2, 1887.

31. Daily Graphic: Sept. 9, 1889.

32. San Francisco Call: Apr. 20, 1890.


Great article. It reminds us of how small professional baseball once was. How many layers of bureaucracy would, say, Paris Hilton have to go through to get the leagues to compete for the Paris Plaque? Today, Ward and Dauvray probably would “accidentally” release an X-rated video. The stakes have been raised. It takes a great deal more than a hunk of precious metal to get noticed.

Interesting too, to see the “currency” advertising piece. What is the name of the company stamped in red? I can read London and Paris and Parlours but not the other word.

If anyone is interested in seeing another baseball related “currency” advertising piece (at very high resolution), see The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts has examples of currency advertising printed on actual currency of the Confederacy.

If you click to enlarge the image you may be able to read:
London and Paris Misfit Parlors
801 Locust Street
St. Louis, Mo.

Pingback: Baseball’s Lost Chalice, Part III « Our Game

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