1945 Josh Gibson Signed Baseball - One of the Finest Examples Known!

Sold For: $36,000

Auction Year: 2017 spring

Lot: 1552

Item Year: 1940

Category: Autographed Baseballs/Flats/Photos

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Official American Association (Trautman) baseball featuring the exceedingly rare signature of legendary Negro League Hall of Famer Josh Gibson. Accompanied by full LOAs from James Spence/JSA and Steve Grad and Brian Sobrero/Beckett Authentication. Gibson's signature ("'Josh' Gibson") has been beautifully scripted in black fountain pen on a side panel and grades "8" overall. Joining Gibson on the side panel, directly below, is the black fountain-pen signature ("8") of Negro League pitcher "RT Walker." A vintage black fountain-pen notation printed to the right of the signatures reads "Danville, Va./7-18-45." Josh Gibson's signature is rare in any form, but especially on a baseball. This is one of only six baseballs we have ever seen signed by Gibson and just the second we have offered. Aside from the balls, we have probably seen fewer than fifteen other items signed by Gibson, making his signature one of the most elusive of all Hall of Fame players, Negro League or otherwise. It should be further noted that nearly all of the other Josh Gibson signed balls that we know of are team balls, and we have never seen or heard of a Josh Gibson single-signed ball. (Note: On 4/19/17, we were furnished with a picture of a Gibson single-signed baseball, the first of its kind we've ever seen.) The offered ball, with just one additional autograph, wonderfully showcases Gibson's boldly scripted signature, making it one of the premier Josh Gibson signed balls in the hobby. RT Walker was a teammate of Gibson's on the Homestead Grays in 1945 and 1946. Research indicates that this ball was almost certainly signed at a regular-season Negro National League game between the Grays and the New York Black Yankees held in Danville, Virginia. A copy of the July 18, 1945, local Danville newspaper, The Bee, features a short article that reads "Negro Teams To Play Here Tonight - The third game of the season between teams of the colored 'big leagues' is scheduled at the local baseball park tonight when the New York Black Yankees will play the Homestead Grays. Game time is '8:30 o'clock with a section of the grandstand reserved for white fans." The ball displays moderate soiling, and a few abrasions (none of which affect the Gibson signature panel). The manufacturer's stampings are badly faded, but portions are still legible to the naked eye. In Very Good condition overall. Josh Gibson was one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, players in Negro League history. As a hitter he was without equal and his power was said to be on par with that of Babe Ruth. While no official statistics are available, Gibson's Hall of Fame plaque credits him with over 800 home runs during his seventeen-year career (1930-1946). While that total and some of the stories regarding his prodigious power may be apocryphal, Negro League historian John Holway credits him with 224 home runs in 2,375 at bats against top Negro League teams. If accurate, his home run to at bat ratio of 10.6 is easily the best in Negro League history. Also, in recorded at bats against Major League pitchers Gibson compiled a .426 average. In the opinion of those who saw him play, there seems no doubt that Gibson was one of the best players in baseball history, black or white. Monte Irvin once said that Gibson "had an eye like Ted Williams and the power of Babe Ruth. He hit to all fields." After Walter Johnson saw Gibson play he commented to reporters, "There is a catcher that any big league club would like to buy for $200,000. His name is Gibson. He can do everything. He hits the ball a mile. And he catches so easy, he might as well be in a rocking chair. Throws like a rifle." Gibson probably would have been the front runner to break the color barrier in 1947 had he not experienced both serious physical and mental health problems. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1943 and struggled with both excessive drinking and substance abuse for the remainder of his short life. In January 1947, just a few months prior to Robinson’s historic debut with the Dodgers, Gibson suffered a fatal stroke at the age of thirty-five. His untimely death at such a young age is the primary reason for the great rarity of his signature today. Full LOA from James Spence/JSA. Full LOA from Steve Grad and Brian Sobrero/Beckett Authentication. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open).

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