Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Slip of the Cup 'Twixt the Actress and the Ballplayer


Helen Dauvray -- born Helen Gibson on this day in 1859 in San Francisco -- made her name as an ingénue on the stage, having appeared as "Eva" traveling stage productions of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and as "Little Nell, the California Diamond." In her 20s, she moved to Paris, studied at the Paris Conservatory and under the name "Dauvray," became one of the great stars of the New York stage with her role in One of Our Girls (debuted 1885). Although she played other roles (contemporary critics lament, for example, her unfortunate tendency to take on singing roles from time to time), her triumph in Our Girls became the staple of her touring repertoire, and made her a wealthy woman.

A bona fide darling of the press of New York, Dauvray rather astonishingly became involved with the rough-and-tumble world of baseball, sponsoring in 1887 the Dauvray Cup, a $500 silver trophy to be bestowed upon the winner of the "World Series" between the National League and American Association pennant winners. Shortly thereafter, she married Monte Ward (pictured at left), a dashing but mercurial ballplayer for the New York Giants and a Columbia-educated lawyer.

Perhaps consonant with her effort to reform Ward, she did her best to reform baseball during a time when fans would typically witness, during the course of a game, copious amounts of swearing, spitting and spiking. Dauvray wrote to National League president Nick Young concerning the raucous base-coaching of the St. Louis ball club: "There is no reason why base ball should not become to America what cricket is to England, but in order to accomplish that the players should do everything they can to refine and improve the game."

Her marriage to Ward, like her infatuation with baseball, was doomed to failure. They were divorced in 1890. But there were happy "Valentine" endings for both Dauvray and Ward. In later years Dauvray retired from the stage and became the wife of U.S. Navy Admiral Albert Winterhalter, and as his widow was given an honorable burial at Arlington National Cemetery upon her death on December 3, 1923. Monte Ward married golfer Katherine Wass in 1903, and lived happily and comfortably with her until his death on March 4, 1925 in Augusta, Georgia. He was posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.

The Dauvray Cup, last awarded in 1890, has unfortunately been mislaid. If you see anything resembling the cup pictured below, please contact the Baseball Hall of Fame. I'd imagine there might be some reward involved.



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