Baseball and the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Australia, Sydney, ‘Inaugural Celebrations for the Opening of Sydney Harbour 19th March 1932’ Commemorative Medallion, struck in Silver by Amor Ltd., issued to the ‘N.S.W. W.B.A.’ for Baseball. Obverse: the Shield of Arms of Sydney: a ship, representing Sydney’s harbour as well as its history with the First fleet, at the centre below the coat of arms of Sir Thomas Hughes, Captain James Cook, and Margrave Thomas Townsend, flanked by an Aboriginal and a British Sailor, “SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE OPENED 19TH MARCH 1932 / · INAUGURAL CELEBRATIONS ·”. Reverse: Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from above. Edge: Impressed “BASEBALL. BASEBALL MATCH. N.S.W. W.B.A. THE REST.”. Carslisle-1932/5. Displayed in its original Amor box in as virtually issued condition. The medallion is exceptional with lovely eye appeal – the obverse fields are captivating and reflective, the detail on the shield of arms is accentuated with the lovely hue of rainbow toning around the periphery. The reverse, displaying a captivating bird’s eye view of the Harbour Bridge itself, emits such lovely rainbow radiance across the whole face. Virtually Fleur de Medal.

Although brought to Australia as early as the 1850’s by American gold miners that would frequently play on the gold fields of Ballarat, Baseball would not officially be taken up by Australians until several decades later. The first competitions would be held in 1878, in which the Surry Baseball Club and the NSW Cricket Association would compete at venues in Sydney and were likely only local competitions. Baseball would only officially kick off as a recognized, competitive sport in 1885 after the NSW Baseball Association was formed. When looking back with a 21st Century perspective, it is clear that Australian cricket was, and would be, the dominating bat and ball sport for Australia – despite this, however, baseball would have clear historical implications for Australia. Most notably would be in 1925 in which Australia received the largest single contingent of foreign naval vessels it had ever seen for a fortnight long visit by the USA Navy between 26th July and 6th August. Melbourne, being the interim capital city at the time, would receive the larger contingent of 43 vessels, and Sydney, with its deep-water harbour, hosted the 8 largest battleships and remaining support vessels. Baseball, among a few other things, would be one of the larger events provided as entertainment for officers and sailors, as clearly the sport’s origins were rooted in American culture and would be received in kind. This event was a resounding success and would strengthen Australian-American relations during the interwar period, laying the foundations for ANZUS, the ‘Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty’, of 1951 following the second world war.

Sydney Harbour Bridge would be opened on the 19th of March 1932 and, likely influenced by the events of 1925 only 7 years earlier, would hold baseball matches during the inaugural celebrations, as commemorated by this silver medallion impressed “BASEBALL”. The historical significance of baseball during Australia’s history, as well as the American cultural connection, creates distinct collectability for this silver medallion, only expedited by its gem condition.

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