Willie Wells and Hilton Smith Negro League Hall of Fame Signature Collection (3)

Sold For: $588

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1115

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This collection of three items showcases the rare signatures of two Hall of Fame Negro League players: Willie Wells and Hilton Smith. 1) Willie Wells signed photo. Portrait photographic print (3.5 x 5 inches) signed by Hall of Fame shortstop and former Negro League star Willie Wells. The photograph, which pictures him during the twilight of his career as player/manager of the Winnipeg Buffaloes of the Western Canadian League (circa 1952), is beautifully signed along the bottom white border in blue ink (grading "9"), "Best Wishes Willie Wells Sr.” Wells signed photos are extremely rare. This is in large part because he passed away in 1989, but was not elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee until 1997. This signed photograph is of special note as it appears to us to actually date from circa 1952; all the other Willie Wells signed photos we have seen were signed at a special signing in the 1990s on enlarged 8 x 10-inch reproductions of an original smaller circa 1952 photograph such as this. Wells was the first shortstop in baseball history to combine dazzling fielding with home-run power. He set a single-season Negro League 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. Although this is a non-vintage photographic print (on heavy stock), it exhibits much greater clarity than the larger 8 x 10-inch examples we have seen. The photo is in Mint condition and has been mounted onto a black cardboard backing (4.25 x 5.25 inches). 2) Hilton Smith signed 3 x 5-inch card. Unlined white card signed in blue ink (grading “10”) by Hall of Fame pitcher and former Negro League star Hilton Smith (1907-1983). According to his Negro League and Major League contemporaries alike, Hilton Smith was one of the top pitchers to ever take the mound. Despite pitching in the shadow of Satchel Paige for much of his career, Smith’s accomplishments actually rivaled those of his more flamboyant teammate. Smith won twenty or more games in each of his twelve seasons with the Monarchs and appeared in six Negro League All-Star Games. He was at his best between the years 1939 and 1942, when he won ninety-three games against only eleven losses. Smith passed away in 1983 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. The card displays a few tiny surface wrinkles and both light adhesive and paper residue along the reverse borders resulting from an album removal. Excellent condition overall. 3) 1982 Jackie Robinson first-day cover signed by Willie Wells and four other former Negro League Stars. The envelope, postmarked "Aug 2 1982," has been signed on the front in blue ink by Willie Wells, Bill "Ready" Cash, Larry Kimbrough, and George Giles, and in black ink by Leon Day. All of the signatures grade "9/10." The cachet (6.5 x 3.5 inches), produced by Namake Cachets, remains in Near Mint condition.Total: 3 items (photo, 3 x 5 card, and first-day cover). LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000+. SOLD FOR $588

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