Circa 1942 Photo Signed by Ruth, Cobb, Speaker, Wagner, J. Collins, and Lajoie

Sold For: $5,288

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1039

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This signed photo, featuring the signatures of six of the greatest ballplayers who ever lived, is one of the most interesting and enigmatic pieces we have ever offered. The small black-and-white photo, which appears to be a photo of a photo, pictures portrait images of Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Larry Lajoie, Honus Wagner, Jimmy Collins, Christy Mathewson, Buck Ewing, and John McGraw, superimposed upon a baseball diamond. The placement of each portrait image on the diamond (with the exception of McGraw) corresponds to the player's respective position. McGraw's image has been placed in the lower left corner. Obviously, the ten players featured here represent someone's all-time baseball team, with McGraw chosen as the manager. Each player has signed the photo in the area of his respective image; however, the signatures of Gehrig, Mathewson, Ewing, and McGraw are secretarial. With regard to the six authentic signatures here, the grading is as follows: Ruth (black ink, "10"), Speaker (green ink, "9"). Cobb (green ink, "9"), Wagner (black ink, "10"), Lajoie (blue ink, "7," minor brushing), and Collins (blue ink, "9/10"). The four secretarial signatures are also boldly scripted and grade "9/10." What makes this signed photo so intriguing is the fact that not only are there several other known signed examples in the hobby (which is amazing enough), but that each of the other examples features the very same four secretarial signatures, and has been signed in the same color and/or shade of ink and writing instrument for each player. It is also fascinating that according to authenticators (including JSA) the Lou Gehrig signature on this and the other known examples was scripted by his wife. While we have no direct knowledge whatsoever regarding the precise origin of these signed photos, it seems obvious to us that given what we do know, they were all signed at the same event or venue, perhaps as a souvenir given out at a dinner or banquet honoring these ten individuals as members of someone's all-time baseball team. The reason why the four same signatures are secretarial on all of the few known examples also seems clear: each player was deceased at the time of the event. If we assume that the wife of each deceased player was in attendance at the event, then it appears, based upon the Gehrig signature, that the protocol that day called for the respective spouse to sign the photo in lieu of her husband. Since Gehrig was the last of the four to pass away (June 2, 1941) and Collins was the first of the remaining six signers to die (March 6, 1943), we can further surmise that this piece was likely signed sometime during that brief nineteen-month period. Our research has been unable to discover whether or not such a dinner or banquet did in fact occur honoring these ten individuals, but perhaps in the years to come some more information will be found that will corroborate our theory. The ambiguity regarding its origin notwithstanding, this is an incredible Hall of Fame signed item and one of the few pieces we have ever seen bearing the combined signatures of Ruth, Cobb, Wagner, Speaker, Lajoie, and Collins. The photo (3.5 x 4.5 inches) has been trimmed along the left and bottom borders, and there is a very slight paper clip impression touching upon the Speaker signature; otherwise in Excellent condition. Encapsulated and labeled "Authentic" by Beckett/JSA. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000+. SOLD FOR $5,288

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