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Lot # 917 (of 1560)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1916 Armando Marsans St. Louis Browns Contract - Signed by Marsans and Branch Rickey

Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $2,644

Significant and extremely rare American League Player's contract, dated April 12, 1916, between Cuban star Armando Marsans and the St. Louis Browns, signed in black fountain pen by Marsans and Branch Rickey, president of the club (who thirty years later signed Jackie Robinson). Marsans' signature is flawlessly scripted and grades a perfect "10," while Rickey's grades "9." Marsans is an important figure in baseball history. Although he was not the first Cuban player in the Major Leagues, he was certainly the first successful one. He was also highly popular with both his teammates and fans. Marsans broke into the Majors in 1911 with the Cincinnati Reds. A talented athlete, his greatest attribute was speed and he quickly established himself as one of the game's most daring base runners. In 1912 he appeared in 110 games with the Reds and batted .317 with 35 stolen bases. The following year he turned in similar numbers, finishing the season with a .297 average and 37 stolen bases. Unlike most players of the day, Marsans came from a wealthy family and owned large tracts of land in Cuba. He also owned a cigar factory in Havana and a successful cigar store in Cincinnati. At the time, it was said of Marsans that he was an aristocrat by birth, but a big league outfielder by choice. The fact that baseball was a secondary career for him is probably what led him to challenge baseball's infamous reserve clause in 1914. Unhappy with his situation following a fight with Reds manager Buck Herzog he demanded a trade, but his request was rejected by team officials. Defiantly, he gave the team ten days' notice (the same notice a team was required to give a player before terminating his contract) and jumped to the St. Louis Terriers of the newly formed Federal League. Cincinnati immediately filed suit against Marsans in Federal Court, with the court shortly after issuing an injunction barring Marsans from playing with St. Louis prior to the outcome of the case. Marsans played only nine games with St. Louis before returning to his homeland. In August 1915 the court reversed its ruling, stating that Marsans could play with St. Louis while his case was pending. He immediately returned to the states and was able to appear in thirty-six games with the club. After the Federal League folded, Marsans' contract was assigned to the St. Louis Browns. Without the leverage afforded by the Federal League, Marsans chose to return to the Major Leagues and signed the contract offered here. What is most interesting regarding this contract is the fact that Marsans was able to void clause 8, which states that the club can terminate the contract provided it gives the player ten days' written notice. The voiding of the clause was probably perceived by Marsans as a moral victory and at least allowed him to return to the game with his head held a little bit higher than when he left. Even more important, his negotiated salary of $6,000 (with a club option for 1917) was also only slightly less than what he signed for with the Terriers ($21,000 for three years). Unfortunately, for Marsans, his nearly two-year layoff from the game affected his performance in 1916. Although he stole a career-high 46 bases, his average dipped to .254, his lowest mark to date. The following season he was batting just .230 before he was traded to the New York Yankees. 1918 marked his final season in the Major Leagues and he finished his eight-year career with a .269 lifetime average. After playing a few more seasons in Cuba, he returned to the states in 1923, where he briefly played with the Cuban Stars of the Eastern Colored League, thereby becoming the first player to play both in the Major Leagues and Negro Leagues. The following year he broke another barrier by becoming the first Cuban manager in minor league history when he took over that position with the Elmira Colonels in the New York-Penn League. On July 26, 1939 Marsans became one of the first ten inductees into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame. He passed away in 1960. The contract (8.5 x 14 inches) has one vertical and three horizontal folds, minor tears along the edges and fold intersections, small areas of light discoloration, and a few tiny holes on the back page. In Very Good condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $300. Estimate $500+. SOLD FOR $2,644

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