Play ball: 10 remarkable pieces of signed baseball memorabilia
From bats and photographs to contracts and personal letters, a selection of signed treasures offered in The Golden Age of Baseball sale on 19 October at Christie’s New York
A posthumous inductee into the Hall of Fame, Edward ‘Ned’ Hanlon made his mark on baseball as both a centre fielder and a play strategist, and then as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Superbas.
The unexecuted player contract from 1897, above, between W.L. Hoffer and the Baltimore Orioles, signed by Hanlon as President of the club, outlines the details of acquiring a player, with the terms all transcribed in Hanlon’s hand.
As a pioneer female baseball player, Lizzie Stride (professionally, Lizzie Arlington) revolutionised the game, pitching in 1898 to solidify a win for the Reading Coal Heavers of Pennsylvania, a men’s minor league team.
Dated 15 June 1898, this agreement between Stride, W. J. Connor, and Hall of Famer Ed Barrow, who was then President of the Atlantic League, set Stride’s pay at $50 per game to appear throughout the summer of 1898 as a pitcher and second baseman with select clubs.
King Solomon ‘Sol’ White’s influence on baseball went beyond the field. As a reliable contact hitter, infielder, manager and eventual Hall of Famer, White adds author and advocate to his accomplishments. He pioneered a Negro League baseball team and in 1907 penned one of the most important volumes in baseball history: the History of Colored Baseball.
This handwritten letter is from White to H. Walter Schlichter (1866-1944), a Philadelphia journalist who, along with White, founded The Philadelphia Giants Negro League team. Dated 15 January 1940, it illuminates their intimate conversation on the timing for an interview and the feasibility of a brochure on baseball. White’s signature remains one of the most elusive in baseball memorabilia.
This uncracked, well-used Hillerich & Bradsby Eddie Collins Professional Model bat, dating from 1930, touched the hands of more than one Hall of Famer. James Joseph ‘Jimmy’ Collins — known for his defensive skills as a third baseman, and who later became the first manager of the Boston Red Sox franchise (then the Boston Americans) — used this bat in the first hit of the Boston Post Old Timer’s Game at Braves Field on 8 September 1930.
The bat was then signed by 51 attendees of the event, including Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Napoleon Lajoie, Fred Clarke, Ed Walsh, Eddie Collins, Roger Bresnahan, Tris Speaker, Cy Young, ‘Home Run’ Baker, Chief Bender, Edd Roush and Bill McKechnie.
‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson, arguably the greatest player never to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, had a lifetime batting average of .356, the third best in baseball history. But he was rejected from baseball in his prime for his presumed association with the Black Sox scandal in which eight players of the Chicago White Sox had been bribed to fix the 1919 World Series.
Both Jackson and ‘Lefty’ Claude Williams, the recipient of the above letter, had been connected to the scandal. The original signed Bill of Sale transfers ownership of a Pool Room and Cigar Store at 1202 E. 55th St. in Chicago, Illinois from ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson to his teammate ‘Lefty’ Claude Williams for the sum of $1 (and all outstanding debts). The sale was probably precipitated by Jackson and his wife Katie’s decision to move back down south to Savannah, Georgia.
The collection of more than 300 individual player photos taken by amateur photographer George Outland at both the Major League and Pacific League encapsulates America’s fascination with its national pastime. Outland would go on to become a college professor and a United States Congressman.
Most of the snapshots were taken during the 1920s and some during the 1950s, with the majority signed by Hall of Famers, including Hack Wilson, Tris Speaker, Paul Waner, John Evers, Joe Cronin, Mel Ott, Joe McCarthy and many more.
The dream team: the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics, winners of 104 games, the American League Pennant and the 1929 World series against the Chicago Cubs, four games to one. The panoramic photographic above, signed in black on their respective images by all 28 members of the team, includes Connie Mack, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons, Lefty Grove, Eddie Collins and notables George Earnshaw, Mule Haas, Jimmy Dykes, Bing Miller, Kid Gleason and Homer Summa.
With his grace, talent and ability to succeed at any position, the Cuban all-star Martin Dihigo embodied the essence of the all-purpose player. Debuting at 17 years old, Dihigo excelled as both a hitter and a pitcher, and has been inducted into four Halls of Fame: Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico and the United States. Typewritten to his father-in-law in Spanish and dated 10 May 1938, the above letter reveals Dihigo’s private side and his patriotism towards his homeland. The lot includes a translation of the letter.
Dating from the 1938–1939, this uncracked, Hillerich & Bradsby Pre Model number bat is the only known example of a Jimmie Foxx signed bat. Nicknamed ‘Double X’ and ‘The Beast’, Hall of Famer Foxx relied heavily on this wooden sidekick: it comes complete with ball marks covering the barrel; green bat-rack streaks; a brownish residue; a scored handle and of course his signature in ink — Foxx’s proud declaration of ownership.
In his 20 MLB seasons, Foxx was the second player in history to hit 500 career home runs and the youngest to accomplish that feat until Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Foxx probably used the bat during his time with the Boston Red Sox between 1936 and 1942.
Discovered at the age of 16 by Reverend Harold ‘Hooks’ Tinker Sr., the manager of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, Joshua ‘Josh’ Gibson, the 6ft 1 in man-child of pure muscle, became one of the most prolific sluggers and catchers in baseball history.
Quietly boasting a .925 slug percentage in 1943, 61 home runs in 1947 and 14 total bases in one game (8 June 1934), Gibson proved a pivotal force impossible to overlook. The Puerto Rican League player contract dated 15 September 1941 between Gibson and the Santurce Baseball Club notates Gibson’s conditions: payment of $25 per week and a round-trip ticket from New York to Puerto Rico. The Hall of Famer certainly embodies the phrase ‘for love of the game.’