A collection of mid-19th century documents that include handwritten notes setting down fundamental rules of baseball, were sold for over $3.2 million by a California auction house early Sunday.
SCP auctions told the Associated Press the 1857 papers called the "Laws of Base Ball" were sold to an anonymous buyer after more than two weeks of bidding.
The documents date from 1857, when representatives of 14 clubs met in New York to codify rules for the fledgling sport. As a result of the meeting, the distance between the bases was standardized at 90 feet, nine innings became the standard game length, and the minimum number of players on each team was set at nine.
The notes sold Sunday were written by Daniel Lucius "Doc" Adams, president of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club. In addition to strengthening Adams' claim to be the father of the modern game, the documents also put baseball's birth date three years earlier than most historians had accepted.
According to Reuters, the documents had been in the family of William Grenelle, a Knickerbockers delegate to the rules meeting. They were sold for $12,000 to an anonymous bidder in 1999. That buyer didn't realize the significance of the documents until SCP appraised them in preparation for this month's sale.
The price is the third-highest ever paid at auction for a piece of sports memorabilia. Babe Ruth's 1920 New York Yankees jersey sold for $4.4 million in 2012. Two years earlier, Dr. James Naismith's 1891 Rules of Basketball sold for $4.3 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.