Willie Wells Single-Signed Ball

Sold For: $3,231

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1106

Item Year: 1989

Category: Autographed Baseballs/Flats/Photos

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Official National League (Giamatti) ball signed by Hall of Fame Negro League shortstop Willie Wells. Wells has signed his name in blue ink (grading "6") on a side panel. The year, "1987," is written (not in Wells' hand) directly below his signature, also in blue ink. Willie Wells signed items in general are rare, especially single-signed baseballs, because he passed away in 1989, but was not elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee until 1997. This is the first Willie Wells single-signed ball we have ever offered and we cannot recall having seen another. Based upon the manufacturer's stamps, this ball was produced between the years 1987 and 1989, a time period that corresponds to the printed date. Wells was seventy-nine years old in 1987 and it seems reasonable to assume that this was probably one of a relatively small number of balls he signed prior to his passing on January 22, 1989. Most of the few Willie Wells signatures obtained by advanced Negro League signature collectors were on 3 x 5 cards and poor-quality reproduction photos. Wells was the first shortstop in baseball history to combine dazzling fielding with home-run power. He set a single-season Negro Leagues record with 27 homers in 88 games for the St. Louis Stars in 1926. Willie Wells is also recognized as one of the first professional ballplayers ever to wear a batting helmet, when he fashioned a hard hat for protection after a 1942 beaning incident. As player-manager of the Newark Eagles in the 1940s, Wells developed into an extraordinary leader and teacher, and several of his young players later became stars in the majors, including Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, and Don Newcombe. The ball is lightly toned. In Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000/$2,000. SOLD FOR $3,231

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