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    1950 "Shoeless Joe" Jackson Signed Envelope--Two and a Half Autographs!

    "I ain't afraid to tell the world that it don't take school stuff to help a fella play ball."

    He was six years old when his family moved to Brandon Mill on the outskirts of Greenville, South Carolina, a company town centered around a textile factory where he worked twelve-hour shifts as a "linthead," sweeping the floors as the machinery whirred and clanged around him. It was a life punctuated by hard work and very limited funds, with education one of the many luxuries the Jackson family was unable to afford. Though the mill's baseball team would ultimately prove to be the key that would unlock the door to a better life for "Shoeless Joe," his lack of education is often cited as a root cause of his banishment from the game he loved as he fell victim to corrupt forces demanding his participation in the destructive 1919 "Black Sox" scandal.

    Even the most casual collector of sports memorabilia is aware that Jackson's autograph stands as one of the hobby's "Holy Grails," the vast gulf between supply and demand fueled by the legendary slugger's illiteracy and his supreme baseball relevance respectively. Typically Jackson would avoid signing autographs whenever possible, allowing his wife to tend to those duties when possible, and only assuming them himself when legal matters demanded. It's unclear what inspired Jackson's attempt to personally honor a youngster's polite request for his autograph tendered in the October 1950 letter presented here, but Jackson was intent upon putting his best foot forward in doing so.

    On the back of the envelope containing the boy's autograph request, Jackson practiced forming the shapes he had been taught, consonants and vowels whose mysteries had never been unlocked for him. He had begun years earlier by copying the script his wife provided him as a template, but by now he had committed the patterns to memory. Twice he completed the ten letters of his name. A third attempt ended after two letters.

    In 1998, our consignor tracked down William Bennethum, then sixty-two years old. He reported that he had ultimately received the same signature as every other boy who had solicited an autograph by mail, that of Jackson's wife Katie. Apparently this had been just one more sadness in a life populated by many, as Joe proved too embarrassed to provide his own childlike scrawl in satisfaction of the boy's request.

    Jackson's blue ink remains as bold as the day it was applied, and the boy's autograph request letter likewise survives without flaws, only original mailing folds to report. A touching, important and exceedingly rare artifact from one of the game's greatest talents and cautionary tales. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.

    View all of [The Seth Swirsky Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2012
    3rd-5th Thursday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 20
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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