The controversial 1910 American League Batting Champion returns to the fray1911 Napoleon Lajoie Signed Photograph from The Frank W. Smith Collection, PSA/DNA Mint 9. Was it the enormous love for this man, or the equally strong antipathy for his challenger that made the difference? Probably a little of both. As the 1910 season wound closer to its conclusion, the Cleveland Naps' namesake found himself neck and neck for the American League batting title with Ty Cobb, the victor promised a shiny new automobile from the sponsors at Chalmers Automotive. But as the Georgia Peach surged in the late stages, Lajoie stumbled, leaving him with little hope on the season's final day, a Cleveland doubleheader at St. Louis.
Needing a base hit in virtually every at bat to catch the Tigers legend, Lajoie found an unlikely ally in Browns manager Jack O'Connor, who instructed his third baseman to play at the edge of the outfield grass whenever the Cleveland captain came to the plate. Lajoie dropped seven straight bunts down the third base line for a hit, recording his eighth of the day with a double over the center fielder's head. O'Connor was fired for his actions, but eight of Cobb's teammates in Detroit sent Lajoie a congratulatory telegram.
Ultimately, American League President Ban Johnson would declare Cobb the victor by a margin of .00086 (though subsequent research would find two hits improperly assigned to Cobb, making Lajoie the "official" victor). Fearing an inevitable revolt in the making, Chalmers opted to present a car to each inaugural class Hall of Famer, though Lajoie nearly refused it in protest, believing only he was worthy of the honor.
The big smile on the legendary batsman's face here suggests a long winter had cooled Lajoie's hot temper, the flawlessly rendered photographic portrait one of our favorites even discounting the spectacular inscription at his feet. Making full use of the unusually large (for the era) 8x10" dimensions of the image, he signs, "N. Lajoie, Alexandria, La, March 19, 1911."
PSA/DNA assigns a rating of Mint 9 to Lajoie's bold pencil text, a fact that should similarly edge out any challenger for the title of finest Lajoie signed photo on Earth. Remnants of scrapbook removal on reverse and an upper right corner crease confined entirely to the wide white borders account for the entirety of condition caveats. Full Grading LOA from PSA/DNA, Mint 9. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.
The Frank W. Smith Collection
For the second time in three years, the state of Ohio has proven to be the geographical origin of one of the most thrilling discoveries in hobby history. In the spring of 2012, the Buckeye State served up the incredible "Black Swamp Find" of pristine 1910 E98 baseball cards, a stunning time capsule of untouched cardboard picturing the greatest stars of the day, immortals like Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Cy Young. In one fell swoop, the known population of Mint condition Dead Ball Era trading cards from any issue was expanded by multiples.
Heritage is now proud to announce a newly-unearthed autograph collection that could stand shoulder to shoulder with that fabled trading card find in terms of significance, rarity and its remarkable state of preservation. Named for the Cleveland Plain Dealer photographer who assembled the remarkable collection, The Frank W. Smith Collection is a truly peerless amalgamation of one-of-a-kind vintage photography and the flawless autographs of the subjects captured.
Among the targets of Smith's lens and autograph requests appear some of the true immortals of the game, most notably the legendary "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, the illiterate superstar whose path to Hall of Fame immortality was derailed by the scandal of the 1919 World Series fix. His labored pencil signature on Smith's skilled portrait establishes the pristine relic as the only known Joe Jackson signed photo in existence.
The majority of the photographs were snapped at Cleveland's 1911 spring training grounds of Alexandria, Louisiana, and most of that team is captured in photographic and autographic format. Napoleon Lajoie, after whom the team was nicknamed (the Cleveland Naps) during his tenure, is present, one of twenty-nine members of the third-place American League squad.
The balance of the signed photography focuses on the 1911 National League Champions, the mighty New York Giants. Counted among those fifteen subjects are two of the earliest inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame, legendary pitcher Christy Mathewson and esteemed manager John McGraw.
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2018 November 15-16 Fall Sports Card Catalog Auction