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Lot # 1140 (of 1560)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Circa Mid-1920s Pittsburgh Crawfords Photo Album

Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $705

Extraordinary photo album, compiled during the 1920s, featuring numerous original photographs of members of the Crawford Recreation Center baseball team, the youth team that was the forerunner of the legendary Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro League club that was formally founded in 1931. This fascinating photographic archive is a time capsule of great historical significance to Negro League baseball in Pittsburgh in the 1920s, an era from which little survives. A total of seventy small black-and-white photos are beautifully housed in the leather-bound album, most of which depict family members in various activities. Of special importance to historians and collectors, however, are the fifteen baseball-related photos included here, all of which picture members of Pittsburgh's Crawford Recreation Center posing on a local sandlot. Thirteen of the photos capture an individual member of the club (some players are represented more than once), while another depicts thirteen players together (many of whom are also pictured individually in the other photos) in a classic team pose. The remaining photo pictures a catcher and umpire. The majority of the baseball photos (9) are set against the backdrop of the grandstand, which, surprisingly, is filled with mostly white spectators. The history of black baseball in America is woefully incomplete due to a lack of both written and photographic records. For that reason, photographs such as these are especially important to historians, providing a rare window into a lost time and world. Although the names of the players will probably never be known, the images seen here offer rare insight into the nature of inner-city black baseball during the 1920s. In that respect, these photos are remarkable in what they show. The sandlot they are on was exactly that. Not a blade of grass can be seen and many of the rocks and other debris strewn on the "field," such as pieces of wood, would frighten even the most resolute fielder today. Also interesting are the two players who are pictured, in a variety of actions, dressed in street clothes. Although the uniforms and fenced-in playing "field" indicate some degree of organization, little else is known about the Crawford Recreation Center team other than the fact that the club soon gave rise to the Pittsburgh Crawfords in the 1930s, one of the greatest teams in Negro League history.

This amazing album was purchased by our consignor a little over two years ago on Ebay, at which time he, the seller, and most of the other bidders, thought that the baseball players featured here were probably members of the legendary 1930s Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro National League. After receiving the book and conducting extensive research, it has been determined that the players pictured in this album were not members of the 1930s Pittsburgh Crawfords; however, the team and city are correct. Only the dating was wrong. It was earlier. While the appearance of Josh Gibson (who was with the team later and is not in these photos) would no doubt add many thousands of dollars in value to collectors, to many historians the greater rarity of the earlier dating of these photos give them an even greater historical significance. This is the youth team from the 1920s that was the genesis of Gus Greenlee's powerful Pittsburgh Crawford club in 1931. As one can easily see, most of the uniforms clearly read "Crawford" across the chest and bear the initials "RC" on the left sleeve. The sleeve initials, which stand for "Recreation Center," are the most important identifier on the jerseys. The same uniform style, with Crawfords across the chest and "RC" on the sleeve, can be found in an undated photo of the Crawford Recreation Center baseball team of Pittsburgh that is part of the permanent collection of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. There is no question that the photos in the offered album definitively originate from Pittsburgh, as opposed to another town named Crawford in some other state. Pittsburgh Crawford owner Gus Greenlee formed his new professional Negro League club in 1931, at which time most of the players came directly from the roster of the Recreation Center team. In conducting research on this album, neither we nor the consignor were successful in identifying any of the players pictured (our consignor even consulted the Negro League Museum for assistance) but it is possible that some of these players may have eventually went on to play with the Crawfords of the Negro Leagues. Josh Gibson, one of the greatest players in Negro Leagues history and star of the Crawfords during the 1930s, was a member of the Crawford Recreation team during the late 1920s and some of these players may have been his teammates at one point.

Nine of the baseball photos measure 2.75 x 4.75 inches, while the other six measure 2.5 x 3.5 inches. All display outstanding clarity and contrast. Eleven of the baseball photos are mounted to the album page by means of photo corners and are easily removed. The remaining four photos have been glued to the pages and would probably require professional service for safe removal. The photos are in Excellent condition overall, with five displaying a few light creases. The album (11.5 x 7.5 inches) is in Very Good condition overall, with most of the pages having been separated from the spine. Reserve $500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $705


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