An Award for a Star

Performer Helen Dauvray created the first baseball championship cup

March 22, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

Referred to as “Baseball’s Lost Chalice” by Major League Baseball’s Official historian John Thorn, the Dauvray Cup was the precursor to the modern World Series.

The woman behind that Cup made her fortune on the stage, but her baseball legacy remains intact thanks to one of the game’s earliest stars and an award that was ahead of its time.

Commissioned by 19th century stage star Helen Dauvray in 1887, the Dauvray Cup has more in common with the National Hockey Leagues’ Stanley Cup than with modern World Series trophy. 

Beginning in 1887, the cup was given annually to the team that won a postseason series between the National League’s pennant winning club and the American Association’s pennant winning club, with a provision that if a club should win the cup three seasons in a row, the club shall retain the cup in perpetuity.  Much like the Stanley Cup, the winning team would take possession of the prize for one year, until a new champion was crowned at the conclusion of the following season.

This is in contrast to the modern World Series trophy, of which there is a new trophy created annually for the winning team to keep.

As for the lady behind the Cup, events in Dauvray’s life can be interpreted in many different ways due to incomplete records. What is known is that Dauvray was born sometime in the mid-to-late 1850s and that her father either abandoned his family or died at some point while she was still young, and her mother remarried. It was then that she began to make her mark on stage as a child star.

As she grew into adulthood, she criss-crossed the United States and traveled to Europe, performing everywhere she went. Before her 30th birthday, she made more than a quarter of a million dollars investing in mining, a princely sum in those days. 

As a young lady, the critics were less than kind to her performances, and as a result, Dauvray was constantly looking to promote her star in some fashion. In 1887, the same year she commissioned the Cup, she was often found at the ballpark cheering on the New York Giants, whose star player, future Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward, she married later that year.  Some speculate that the Dauvray had no interest in baseball, or her husband, and that the marriage and the cup were simply a way for her to promote her fading star. 

Regardless, Dauvray and Ward would separate and subsequently divorce a short time later, and Dauvray would have no connection to the National Pastime for the rest of her days. At around the same time of Dauvray’s disappearance from the game, the Cup too, now owned in perpetuity by the Boston Braves having won the cup in 1891, 1892 and 1893, went missing, never to be seen again.     

Freddy Berowski is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum