The only known example!1911 "Shoeless Joe" Jackson Signed Photograph from The Frank W. Smith Collection, PSA/DNA Mint 9. It took the greatest scandal in the history of our National Pastime to redefine Joe Jackson. He had been, for the last full decade of the Dead Ball Era, simply the greatest hitter on the planet, a distinction assigned to him by those most qualified to do so, the men who aspired to the title themselves. But where legends like Cobb and Williams turned a scientific eye to the process, deconstructing that fragment of a second that separates success from failure into parts far too small for the mere mortal to see, Jackson's approach was far less cerebral. An illiterate child laborer from the rural South, he was the prototypical "natural," the beneficiary of a gift from God that would be invoiced with a debt of ignominy yet to be forgiven.
The approaching centennial of the Black Sox scandal has done little to quiet the debate over culpability, and compelling evidence of Jackson's innocence survives in his 1919 World Series stat line. Clearly the passage of ninety-five years has eliminated any hope for a definitive answer, a fact which then begs what is arguably the more pertinent question--is the game improved by this unyielding fidelity to Judge Landis' grudge?
Of course there are those who would argue that Jackson's athletic immortality is bolstered by his banishment, and clearly his position atop the baseball collectibles market owes a debt, in practical terms at a minimum. A player of his stature would have been assured both Hall of Fame induction and the kind of ambassadorial role that would result in Old Timer Game appearances, coaching appointments and product endorsements of the sort that populates the hobby with autographs and relics from Ruth, Cobb and Wagner. For Shoeless Joe, the pickings are painfully thin.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the signed photograph subgenre, which counts the offered lot as the sole representation authenticated by a major service. It is well known that Jackson was embarrassed by his illiteracy, often taunted for it, and thus would avoid signing whenever possible. Most of the tiny population of known autographs derive from "official" paperwork like legal forms and bank documents where a signature was mandated. Here we find an exceedingly rare deviation from that policy.
We suspect that a degree of gentle coaxing was required, a reminder that his participation was necessary to complete the team set. Although Jackson's signature here is certainly childlike, it is applied with some degree of authority, fully earning its Mint 9 rating from the strict graders at PSA/DNA. While the other photographs from the collection are notated in the hand of the signer, Jackson's writing abilities began and ended at his signature, and thus it was photographer Frank Smith himself who added the inscription, "Alexandria, Mar. 1911" below. The date places Jackson just thirty games into his Major League career, on the brink of becoming, during the impending 1911 season, the first (and still only) rookie to summit the fabled .400 plateau.
While any quibbles over condition for such a singular rarity border on the absurd, we can report that not a single distraction of creasing, tearing or staining impedes upon the image area, with any small imperfection in the wide white borders too minor to mention. Scrapbook remnants appear on reverse but have no effect upon the front. Dimensions are 8x10".
When the myriad factors of importance, rarity and condition are calculated, there is no hyperbole in the suggestion that this ranks among the most finest autographed items ever to enter the baseball collecting hobby. Certainly there is no reason to expect another Shoeless Joe signed photo will surface, and the odds that such a specimen might outshine the presented example are all but incalculable. 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