1946 Newark Eagles Negro League World Championship Ring (Cecil Cole Family Provenance!)

Sold For: $11,750

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1723

Item Year: 2008

Category: Internet Only

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This 1946 Newark Eagles World Championship ring is not only the first Negro League championship ring we have ever seen, but one of the most historically significant Negro League items in existence, for it symbolizes the end of an era in professional baseball. With the signing of Jackie Robinson by Montreal in 1946, and his subsequent signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the modern age of professional baseball truly began, and with it came the demise of the Negro Leagues. The 1946 Negro Leagues World series, which matched the Newark Eagles against the Kansas City Monarchs, marked the final World Championship in Negro League history before all of its top players were signed by Major League clubs. While the fight for integration in organized baseball was long and hard, once the battle was won, its implementation was quick. Within in just two years the Negro Leagues lost nearly all of its best players to Major League clubs and although team owners attempted to keep the league afloat, most historians agree that its official history basically ended with the signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947. The offered ring was issued to Newark Eagles pitcher Cecil Cole and is accompanied by signed letters of provenance from both his widow and grandson attesting to its provenance. Mrs. Cole's letter, handwritten on Pittsburgh Pirates stationary, reads "I am the wife of Cecil Cole. My husband played baseball for the Newark Eagles in 1946 and in that year they were World Champions. 1946 is the year this ring was made." Also included is a photo of Cole wearing the ring during his later years. The elegantly designed gold-colored ring (we do not know the exact composition or carat of the metal) features an eagle clutching a solitary faux diamond on the top surrounded by the team name: "Newark Eagles." The left shank reads "Negro World Champs/1946," in a combination of relief and engraved letters. The right shank features an engraved illustration of a bat, ball, and glove, and includes both Cole's position and uniform number, "Pitcher" and "14," in relief. A red and yellow enamel accent are positioned, respectively, on either side of the number. The name "Cecil Cole" is engraved on the interior in block letters, as is the name of the manufacturer "R.Johns Sun-Lite." The ring displays light-to-moderate surface wear and the only flaw of note is a tiny chip on one side of the diamond. Cecil Cole only played one year in the Negro Leagues, but his debut could not have come at a more fortuitous time. The Newark Eagles captured their first and only World Championship in franchise history in 1946. Powered by a lineup that featured three future Hall of Fame players (Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, and Leon Day) as well as legendary veteran Biz Mackey, the Eagles won the Negro National League pennant and then defeated the Kansas City Monarchs (a powerhouse team that included Hall of Famers Willard Brown, Buck O'Neil, Hilton Smith, and Satchel Paige), in a dramatic seven-game series to claim the World Championship. Cole saw only limited action in his one and only season with the Eagles, finishing the season with a 2-2 record. Although his professional career as a player was brief, Cole was involved in organized baseball for forty years. After five-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles as a scout, he enjoyed the same position with the Pittsburgh for thirty-five years. Any and all material relating to the Negro Leagues is rare, but a championship ring, is an extraordinarily significant artifact (let alone from the final season of the glory years of the legendary Negro Leagues). The Negro Leagues were not nearly as financially sound as their Major League counterparts and individual player awards, because of the expense involved, were rarely presented. This is the only Negro League World Championship ring we have ever seen. We have no idea if others have survived, or if all players on the team even received one. It is possible that players had to pay to receive one. This ring, honoring the last champions of the great Negro Leagues and symbolizing the last hurrah of a bygone era, represents one of the most historically important Negro League artifacts that could possibly exist. The ring has been in the Cole family since 1946 and, as mentioned previously, is accompanied by individual signed letters of provenance from both Cole's widow and his grandson. Size: approximately 9.25. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $11,750

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