Auction Item Details

Lot 291



Lot Number: 291

Description: Significant "Shoeless" Joe Jackson autographed professional model baseball bat c.1910-11. The true scarcity of this treasure lies not only in the mathematical and existing H&B archive evidence but also in all the known related circumstances that contribute to this terminology. J.F. Hillerich & Son professional model bat (pre-1912) measures 33" long and weighs 39oz., retaining bold manufacturer's stampings at the center-brand area. H&B records and historians alike verify that this batÆs markings confirm that it was manufactured as a professional model game bat sometime during the period 1897-1911. These experts also contend that the bat's exceptional wood quality and its hand-turned knob only underscore this conclusion. Its evident usage, including repaired handle crack and wear to the barrel area, are consistent with game-use wear. Most notably and what makes this bat so special and remarkably unique, Joe Jackson has signed the sweet spot of the barrel in black, fountain pen ink. The signature remains remarkably bold and pronounced, especially given the medium on which it is signed, and it rates an 8/9 out of 10. When comparing this signature to the handful of documented authentic Jackson signatures, one can instantly recognize the crude penmanship characteristics and trademark letter formation as being that of the semiliterate Jackson. The offered bat originated from estate of Major League catcher Syd Smith. Smith and Jackson were lifetime friends, and their relationship is well documented. Both Smith and Jackson were born in South Carolina where they both also retired and lived out their lives. Smith played in the Major Leagues for five seasons between 1908-1915. Notably, Smith and Jackson both debuted in the same year, 1908, with the same team. Jackson played 5 games that year and Smith played 46 for Connie Mack's Athletics before Smith was traded to the St. Louis Browns. The two were again re-united as teammates two years later when they played together on the Cleveland Nap's (Indians) in 1910 and 1911. At that time, the closest Major League franchises to the Mason-Dixon line were both in St. Louis, and it was not uncommon for Southerners to refer to all Major League teams as "Yankees", since teams were located in "Yankee" cities. Because of their unique and similar geographical backgrounds and considering the times, one can easily understand how it was natural for Jackson and Smith to forge a strong friendship that would last until death (Smith was a member of the honorary escort at Jackson's funeral in 1951). Included with this historic bat is a professional quality catcher's mitt c.1910 which was also found in the Smith estate at the time of the bat's discovery. The glove is a RHT model buckle back catcher's mitt of a very high quality exhibiting strong evidence of usage. The back of the glove retains the original buckle back, which has been repaired with a fortified leather support on the right side having been peened with a metal rivet style attachment. Interior of the glove retains a wonderful original surface with several period leather reinforcements stitched onto the mitt. It is very characteristic for gloves of this period to have such reinforcements and illustrates the length at which players would go to salvage their preferred fielding tools. Note the image of Smith pictured on pg. 136 wearing an almost identical glove which may in fact be this very glove prior to the interior leather reinforcements. In addition to the supporting provenance that this glove provides to the Jackson bat, it is fascinating to think that this very glove may well have received the pitches of Addie Joss. The weight of the bat is consistent with other Joe Jackson professional game bats and though there are documented Jackson professional model bats that measure as much as 36" long, there are also several Jackson 125 professional model bats that have measured under 36" long including two documented 33" long models. Additionally, Hillerich & Bradsby Co. shipping ledgers from the 1910-11 era list several player bat specifications that include an order from Joe Jackson for a 39oz. bat. It is interesting to note that there were no lengths included in these ledgers, though it is well documented that during the deadball era the weight of a player's bat was deemed to be far more critical than its length. The handle of the offered bat is very pronounced and the end of the barrel is clearly rounded with minimal tapering from end-to-end. These characteristics are nearly identical to those evidenced on Jackson's "Black Betsy" models the style of which were used only by a select group of players. This very bat was on exhibit at the MCI’s National Sports Gallery museum in Washington, D.C from December 1, 1997 through June 30, 2001. It should also be noted that the National Sports Gallery’s museum curator, Judge Frank Ceresi, further corroborated the provenance of this bat by reviewing the bat with Jackson's sister in South Carolina, and included with the bat will be an affidavit from Judge Ceresi recounting this meeting. In short, Mrs. Gertrude Jackson Trammell examined the bat and proclaimed, "That’s Joe’s signature". Furthermore, she emotionally insisted that her brother Joe, “could, and did sign his name by drawing his signature.” As recounted by Judge Ceresi, she was particularly saddened by the myth that Joe was a very uneducated backward person. Based on the aforementioned provenance, the uncommon characteristics of the bat, the appropriate professional model markings on the bat, and the authentic signature of Jackson, it is absolutely possible that Jackson in fact used the offered bat. No other likely explanation carries more merit. Joe Jackson remains today one of the most legendary and yet tragic figures in baseball and American history. He was regarded by many of the greatest players in history (including Ruth and Cobb) as the finest pure hitter who ever lived. And he remains, in many ways, the King Lear of American sports history. Never before has a more significant piece of autographed Jackson memorabilia been offered for public sale, and this is likely the most significant Jackson autographed item in existence. The offered bat is a monumental rarity with multiple category appeal. Includes LOA from PSA/DNA J.Spence-S.Grad, LOA from SCD Authentic D.Bushing/D.Knoll, letter of provenance from the orig. recipient of the bat from the Smith family, letter of examination from noted American antique furniture consultant Alan Miller regarding the bat characteristics in relation to the signature, and notarized affidavit from Judge Frank Ceresi regarding the Jackson family encounter and surrounding evidence: Bat: EX, Signature: EX/MT-NM

Estimated Price: (Est. upon request)

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