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1941 Josh Gibson Signed Puerto Rican League Contract....

2009 April Signature Vintage Sports Memorabilia Auction #714

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Auction Ended On: Apr 24, 2009
Item Activity: 13 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Heritage Auctions
3500 Maple Avenue
Dallas, TX 75219

1941 Josh Gibson Signed Puerto Rican League Contract. He was known as "the black Babe Ruth" in his day, the most fearsome slugger in the Negro Leagues, but forever locked out of the Majors by the improperly termed "Gentlemen's Agreement" that stood until Jackie Robinson crossed the color line three months after Gibson's early death. Imperfect Negro League record keeping has mixed with Gibson's superior talents to create a folk hero of sorts, with estimates of the Hall of Fame catcher's home run tally reaching as high as 950. Chicago American Giants infielder Jack Marshall insisted for years that Gibson once delivered a Yankee Stadium home run over the third deck next to the left field bullpen, which would stand to this day as the only fair ball driven beyond the confines of the Bronx ballpark in its eighty-five year history. Satchel Paige asserted, "Josh was the greatest hitter I ever pitched to, and I pitched to everybody. Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle. None of them was as great as Josh." Fellow Hall of Famer Leo Durocher also weighed in on Gibson, claiming, "Everything said about him was true, and then some."

Even the most casual baseball collector is aware that very few artifacts have survived from the days of the Negro Leagues, with most of the autographs populating the hobby penned by the hands of old men decades removed from their service to the game. Of course Josh Gibson's fatal stroke at age thirty-five made any such Negro League Reunion autographs from him an impossibility, and it is estimated that fewer than one dozen authentic Gibson autographs exist in the hobby today. Here we present one of the most appealing examples from that microscopic supply, the very contract that secured Gibson's world class services for the Santurce club of the Puerto Rican League for the 1941-42 winter term. The agreement, dated "Nov 7 - 1941" establishes that "the Club will pay the Player the sum of twenty-five dollars per week and One Round Trip Ticket from New York to P.R." This would prove to be money very well spent, as Gibson would post an outrageous .480 batting average for the 1941-42 Santurce Crabbers, a record that stands to this day. Gibson agrees to the terms of the contract with a 9+/10 black fountain pen signature in the full "Joshua Gibson" format. Two witnesses and Puerto Rican League president Pedro Zamilla sign as well.

Whereas most of the paper baseball material to emerge from such tropical locales as Puerto Rico or Cuba have suffered terribly from the Caribbean climate, this contract remains mercifully free of these condition problems, with only original storage folds, some minor scrolling along the vertical fold line and some inconsequential rust spots from the metal filing tabs. Again we must stress that the all-important autographs are not affected in the slightest by the few small deviations from the contract's original condition. In every regard, from the quality of the Gibson autograph itself, to the supremely desirable contract format in which it resides, this is a piece that stands as one of the most significant to be offered to the Negro League collecting community. LOA from PSA/DNA. LOA from James Spence Authentication.

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