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Lot # 873 (of 1673)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1932 Josh Gibson Homestead Grays Signed Contract

Starting Bid - $5,000.00 , Sold For - $32,312.50

Presented here is one of the most significant Negro League items in existence: Josh Gibson’s 1932 Homestead Grays playing contract, signed by both Gibson and team owner Cum Posey Jr. This is the only Josh Gibson Negro League contract in private hands. (Several Puerto Rican League Gibson contracts are known, and the Hall of Fame Collection has a 1940s Negro League contract.) The fact that it features not only Gibson’s signature but that of recent Hall of Fame inductee Posey as well makes it an extraordinary find for autograph collectors. The one-page contract, dated February 1, 1932, is between The Homestead Grays and Josh Gibson, and calls for Gibson to receive a salary of $275 dollars, payable on the first and fifteenth of each month starting on May 1st. The contract also stipulates that Gibson “agrees further not to play baseball with any other club during the 1932 season except with the consent of the Homestead Grays.” It as been signed in black fountain pen by “Joshua Gibson” and “C W Posey Jr.," as well as a witness. Both the Gibson and Posey signatures grade “9/10,” while that of the witness (“C. L. Washington") grades “8.” The signature of Josh Gibson is exceedingly rare, as is that of Posey, and to have both on such a historically significant Negro League document is extraordinary. Gibson joined the Homestead Grays in 1930, but it was in 1931 that both he and the Grays made history. Gibson was the star of the 1931 Homestead Grays, considered by most historians to be the best black baseball team of all time. Playing as an independent team in 1931, the Homestead Grays are credited with a record of 163-23 against all levels of competition, and it was in that memorable season that Josh Gibson is credited with hitting a record 75 home runs. With the signing of this contract, it appeared that Posey had all but guaranteed another successful season for his club, but it was not to be. Gibson broke this very contract and left the Grays to join the Pittsburgh Crawfords early in 1932 when Crawfords owner (and top numbers racketeer) Gus Greenlee raided the Grays roster, signing both Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston for more money. With Gibson on its roster, the Crawfords became the reigning power in black baseball for the next few seasons before Gibson finally returned to the Grays in 1937. By all accounts, Gibson was one of the greatest players in baseball history and he would have been the front runner to break the color barrier in 1947 had he not experienced both serious physical and mental health problems. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1943 and struggled with both excessive drinking and substance abuse for the remainder of his short life. In January 1947, just a few months prior to Robinson’s historic debut with the Dodgers, Gibson suffered a fatal stroke at the age of thirty-five. His untimely death at such a young age is the primary reason for the great rarity of his signature today. Posey was the “Father” of the Homestead Grays, one of the League’s most storied franchises. His association with the club began as a player and he later worked his way up the executive ladder to owner. He was considered an innovator in his day and instituted night baseball long before it became standard practice in the Major Leagues. Posey passed away in 1946 at the age of sixty-five, but he wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame until 2006. The document (8.5 x 13 inches) displays three horizontal folds and one vertical fold. The top and bottom horizontal folds have been torn through, with both having been repaired with clear tape (darkened with age). The tape along the lower tear, applied on the front of the document, covers a small portion of both the “Y” in “Posey” and the “J” in “Jr.” Additionally, a tiny tear further affects the "ey" in "Posey." The top tear has been repaired with tape on both the front and reverse. The piece also exhibits a number of minor creases and border tears. Good condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $32,312.50

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