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1930 "Cool Papa" Bell Almendares Cuban-League Contract
Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $2,938
Four-page fold-over contract between James "Cool Papa" Bell and the Almendares Park Association of the Cuban League, signed in blue ink (grading "8/9") by "James Bell" and in black fountain pen ("9") by Merilo Arosta, the President of the Almendares club. Although the actual signing date has been left blank, the first page of the contract states that the agreement is for the "season of winter 1930/1931." Furthermore, the contract stipulates that Bell is to receive $200 per month for his services. Baseball contracts of Hall of Fame players, especially those dating from their respective playing careers, are rare and the offered example is no exception. This is the first Bell contract we have ever offered and we cannot recall having ever seen another. Bell, like many Negro League players from that era, earned extra money during the winter by playing for teams in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Considered by many to be the fastest player who ever lived, Bell was at the peak of his career during the time of this contract. A standout both on defense and at the plate, Bell played on a number of top clubs in the Negro Leagues, including the Pittsburgh Crawfords, the Homestead Grays, and Kansas City Monarchs. Bell's lifetime average is not known due to the limited-record keeping in the Negro Leagues, but he estimated it to be around .340 or .350. What records do exist seem to confirm his numbers. In a series of fifty-four exhibition games against white barnstorming teams, played between the years 1928 and 1948, the existing box scores indicate that Bell batted .378. Most important, he compiled that average while facing many of the top pitchers the Majors had to offer, including Dizzy Dean, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Bobo Newsome. As for his abilities in the field, Bill Veeck once remarked that "defensively, he was the equal of Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio, or Willie Mays." Bell, who was too old to play in the Majors when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, eventually retired in 1950. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. The contract (8.5 x 11 inches) displays two horizontal folds, along the lengths of which exist a few tears, two of which have been repaired with clear tape (one on the front page, the other on the back page). Two separate tears, each partially repaired with clear tape, are present on the back page, both of which include small areas of paper loss (approximately 1 x 1 inch). This is an extraordinary item from the career of James "Cool Papa" Bell, a player for whom very little exists from his playing days, and one of the Negro League's greatest legends. In Very Good condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate (Open). SOLD FOR $2,938
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