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"For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'"1962 Ernie Davis Signed Cleveland Browns Rookie Contract. The words of poet John Greenleaf Whittier were penned a century before a young Ernie Davis established himself as the most exciting collegiate athlete in America, but he may as well have been commenting on the tragedy that robbed the sport of football of a budding legend. It's all the more fitting that Whittier stood as one of the most outspoken abolitionists of the mid-Nineteenth Century, as Davis had faced the same breed of ugly injustice en route to becoming the first African-American to claim Heisman Trophy honors following a stellar 1961 senior class season at Syracuse.
Despite his enormous talents, Davis was a reluctant choice by the Washington Redskins as the first pick in the 1962 NFL draft, team owner George Preston Marshall having been threatened with revocation of his stadium lease if his team roster remained the only one in the League lacking a black player. It was reported that Davis himself refused service to Marshall, stating "I won't play for the S.O.B." Davis' disappointment quickly turned to elation, however, as Hall of Fame executive Paul Brown orchestrated a trade to bring Davis to Cleveland, where he would share a backfield with his personal hero Jim Brown, a man he had honored at Syracuse by reprising his feared Double-Fours jersey. Brown would wear number "44," and Davis number "45." It would be pure magic.
Presented is a thrilling five-page addendum expanding upon the terms of the December 28, 1961 contract establishing the historic pairing. The text addresses the terms of Davis' "Outside Employment," a bit of legal wrangling which allowed the Browns to circumvent NFL salary policy and make Davis the highest paid rookie in League history. The final page features flawless signatures from "Ernest Davis," team owner "Art Modell," and general manager "Paul E. Brown." It is, to the best of our knowledge, the only Ernie Davis NFL paperwork ever to surface in the collecting hobby.
Just months after this document's execution, Davis would receive the fatal diagnosis of acute monocytic leukemia. He would make a single public appearance at Cleveland Stadium during a 1962 pre-season game, but he never played a single professional down before his passing in May of 1963. The Browns nonetheless retired Davis' number "45" jersey, a fitting tribute to The Express. Joining the contract addendum is a grouping of four letters from legal counsel involved in the contract negotiations, none signed by sporting figures. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.
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2017 June 29 Premium Sportscard Catalog Auction - Dallas