1950 Roy Campanella Brooklyn Dodgers Contract with Cover Letter - First MVP Season!

Sold For: $33,000

Auction Year: 2017 spring

Lot: 1736

Item Year: 1950

Category: Baseball Contracts

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Four-page fold-over contract, dated December 29, 1950, between Roy Campanella and the Brooklyn National League Baseball Club, Inc., signed in black ink by "Roy Campanella" (grading "10"), "E. J. Bavasi" ("10"), as vice president of the club, and Ford Frick (“8/9”) in his capacity as president of the National League. The one-year agreement calls for Campanella to receive a salary of $18,500 for the 1951 season. Included with the contract is the original one-page cover letter (8.5 x 11 inches), dated December 28, 1950, signed by Bavasi (signed simply “Buzzie” in blue ink). In part: Deary Roy: There are several matters to take up at this time. First of all, I am enclosing your 1951 contract with the Brooklyn Club which calls for a salary of $18,500. I know that you perhaps will be disappointed, but after giving it some thought, I feel that this contract is fair to both you and the club.” Bavasi was almost certainly correct in thinking that Campanella would have been disappointed with the amount, seeing as how Campanella led all National league catchers in home runs (31) and RBI (89) in 1950 (his home run total led all major league catchers and his RBI total was second only to Yogi Berra’s total of 124). Campanella, as seen here, obviously signed the contract, but it appears that he also received a cash bonus of $1,500, as indicated in a second accompanying file copy letter (on onion skin) sent to Campanella by Bavasi on January 12, 1951. That letter reads in part: “I have discussed the situation with Mr. O’Malley and both of us feel that the contract I am enclosing is fair to both you and the club. Of course, I am keeping in mind the $1500 that I have in the right hand drawer. If you do not care to sign this contract bring it in and we can discuss it further, but I think that after you give it some consideration you will realize that this contract, plus $1,500 is quite adequate.” If Campanella held any grudges over the negotiations he certainly did not let it affect his play in 1951. Campanella responded by batting .325, with 33 home runs and 108 RBI, numbers which earned him his first MVP Award (of an eventual three) at season’s end.

Contracts of Hall of Fame players are rare and the offered example is no exception. This is the only the fourth Major League contract of Campanella's we can recall seeing at auction, and just the second we have ever offered (a few minor-league and winter-league contracts are also known). A three-time National League MVP, Campanella was considered one of the greatest catchers of his era. He was already a star in the Negro Leagues when Rickey recruited him shortly after Jackie Robinson to join the Dodgers organization. When Buffalo Bisons manager Paul Richards, a former catcher himself, saw Campanella play against his club in the minors, he immediately declared him to be "the best catcher in the business - major or minor leagues." The Dodgers felt the same way and in 1948 he was promoted to the parent club, where he helped lead the team to five pennants and one World Championship over the next ten seasons. He was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame, in 1969. Accompanying the documents is a post office return-receipt card (5 x 3 inches, Ex), dated “1/2/51” that is signed by Campanella in pencil (grading “7”). The contract (8.5 x 11 inches) displays two horizontal folds and is in Excellent to Mint condition, as is the cover letter. The file-copy letter (8.25 x 11 inches) is in Very Good condition, with staple holes and edge tears. Total: 4 items (contract, cover letter, file-copy letter, signed return-receipt card). Auction LOA from James Spence/JSA. Pre certified by Steve Grad and Brian Sobrero/Beckett Authentication. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open).

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