Atlantics, Bridegrooms, Ward's Wonders, Superbas, Robins, Trolley Dodgers—all were early nicknames for the Brooklyn Base Ball Club before officially committing to Dodgers in the 1930s. (Or, as Willard Mullin would have it, Dem Bums!) The Superbas moniker lasted from 1899 to 1910 (possibly also 1913) under the managerial tenures of Hall of Famer Ned Hanlon and then Patsy Donovan. Willie Keeler, Hughie Jennings and Joe McGinnity won pennants with the powerhouse turn-of-the-century lineup, whereas the much-diminished late-aughts squad had only one saving grace: Nap Rucker.
Rucker ranked among the best southpaws of the Deadball Era, racking up 15 wins and a 2.06 ERA in his 1907 rookie campaign, then nabbing 17 victories the next year—including a 14-strikeout no-hitter. He also led the league in starts and complete games in 1910. Much like his peer Walter Johnson, all this success came despite lackluster defensive support and abysmal run production. Another claim to fame was Rucker's early connection with fellow Georgian Ty Cobb. The two had roomed together while playing in Augusta, where Rucker experienced Cobb's notorious intensity first hand, both on and off the field. After hanging up his spikes in 1916, Nap returned south to become a successful businessman, small-town mayor and occasional Brooklyn scout—discovering Dazzy Vance and others. He always had great affinity for the borough, once saying, "It’s got New York beaten by three bases. You can get a good night’s rest in Brooklyn. You meet more real human beings in Brooklyn. Your life is safer in Brooklyn.” Rucker died at home in Georgia in 1970 at age 86.
The Peach State is precisely where our consignor long ago obtained this Superbas cap from a Rucker family member. By definition, it's one of the earliest game-worn caps ever offered publicly. Indeed, any surviving Deadball caps are exceedingly rare—especially those from Brooklyn. Measuring approximately size 7-1/4, Rucker's example was most likely manufactured by Spalding. It features a short 8-stitch bill (common to the period) and a seemingly hand-embroidered "B" that's stitched completely through the fabric. Accompanying style-match provenance includes a Superbas team image, a Rucker Sporting News supplement, and a consignor-prepared document showing multiple angles and related graphics. The consignor's LOA reads, "This is to state that I purchased the baseball collection of former major league pitcher George 'Nap' Rucker directly from his daughter Anne Quay of Roswell, Georgia in 1986...At the time, I purchased one of the caps as the Grandson wanted to keep one hat/cap. This letter pertains to Nap Rucker's 1908-1909 Brooklyn Superbas hat/cap that the Grandson kept and I have now since purchased."
Additional LOA from expert authenticator Phil Wood, who concludes, "Century-old major league caps are rarely available on the open market. Invariably, players of that vintage who took their caps home wore them while they worked around the house. They wore them until the cap fell apart, and they threw it away. This cap is still intact, and while it displays heavy wear, is quite collectible...It's a complete understatement to describe this cap as simply a rarity. I seriously doubt you'd ever find another one like it."