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    1932 "Smokey Joe" Williams Signed Album Page, PSA/DNA Authentic--One of the Hobby's Rarest Hall of Fame Autographs! Few artifacts that Heritage has ever presented to the collecting community have been as rare and remarkable as the one listed here, an autograph as inaccessible as any in the hobby. Only the most educated of baseball historians are likely to know the name "Smokey Joe" Williams, the great ace of the early Negro Leagues, and fewer still have dared to dream of owning his autograph. It is a true privilege to offer that opportunity to one advanced collector.

    The discovery of this profound rarity is a miracle in its own right, a seemingly unremarkable vintage album page tucked into an estate collection consisting nearly entirely of signed Perez-Steeles and other relatively ubiquitous blue sharpie signatures from the modern "autograph show" era. The appearance of both Major Leaguers and Negro Leaguers on opposite sides of the same page was in itself highly unusual, and, while the autographs were clearly applied by the same pencil, the rosters appeared to make no sense. The Major Leaguers derived from several different teams, and, while Joe Williams' autograph appeared to match the two exemplars in PSA/DNA principal authenticator Kevin Keating's database, there was no apparent connection to the Crawfords. Furthermore, he would have been in his late forties at this time these players were active.

    But then, in an instant, the mystery was solved. Tucked deep in the recesses of the Internet, at a Negro League history website called "Seamheads.com," we located a reference to a 1932 series of seven games between the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Major (National) League All-Stars played in Pennsylvania after the close of the 1932 regular season. We clicked on the respective rosters and our jaws dropped.

    Every autographed name on the sheet was there, for both teams, including Joe Williams, aged forty-six.

    Not one of us here at Heritage, or Mr. Keating himself, had been aware of this early battle between the Major and Negro Leagues, a decade and a half before Jackie Robinson stepped across the color line. The cause was as noble as the white ballplayers who flouted racist convention to share a diamond with their African-American counterparts in the depths of the Great Depression. The October 1, 1932 edition of "The Altoona (PA) Mirror" concludes an article about one of the seven contests, "A good sum was realized by the Women's aid of the Altoona Works." A September 29th article in the same newspaper suggests that "Smokey Joe," in what may well have been the final pitching appearance of his illustrious career, was well past his prime: "In yesterday's game the Nationals hammered the veteran Joe Williams, pitcher for 19 hits. Hack Wilson hit a homer while Oscar Charleston smacked a pair of circuit hits."

    But, in his younger years, Williams had been the best pitcher in the game, considered by many baseball historians to be a superior talent even to the iconic Satchel Paige, thus the greatest ace in the full history of Negro League baseball. Born in 1886, Williams entered the professional game in 1907 and represented a host of black baseball's most storied franchises: the Chicago American Giants, the Hilldale Club and the Homestead Grays among them. Negro League records are tragically incomplete, but it is reported that Williams posted a stunning 41-3 record in 1914. This last stand from which the offered treasure derives was not his first facing the best of the Majors, and Williams outdueled such competition as G.C Alexander, Walter Johnson, Chief Bender, Rube Marquard and Waite Hoyt in various barnstorming contests. He pitched a no-hitter against John McGraw's New York Giants in 1919.

    For decades after this last series in 1932, the name of this elite right-hander fell into obscurity until a Cooperstown committee was formed in the late 1990's to more effectively represent the greatest stars of the Negro Leagues in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1999, "Smokey Joe" Williams would earn his rightful position among the sport's immortals along with fellow overlooked greats like Bullet Rogan, Hilton Smith and Turkey Stearnes. However, in the collections of the foremost collectors of Hall of Fame autographs, "Smokey Joe" Williams simply does not exist. Keating believes only one of his two exemplars survives to this day, a partial team sheet in a Waterman's Autograph Album. The other, a government registration card of some sort (perhaps for voting), was likely destroyed when it was transferred to microfiche, as was common practice in Williams' New York City hometown.

    And so Mr. Keating proclaims this exceedingly significant relic to be one of two Joe Williams autographs known to exist, thus almost certainly the last you'll ever see. The album page measures 8.5x5.75", with the pencil autographs, including Williams, rating a consistent 9/10. Other notables include Hack Wilson, Judy Johnson, Jimmie Crutchfield, Roy Parmelee and Fred Frankhouse. The included PSA/DNA letter notes multiple erasures on the Major League side of the page, and states that the blue ink is written in an unknown hand. Encapsulated by PSA/DNA, Authentic. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2020
    10th-13th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,511

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