Pair of Rare 1907 Louis Sockalexis Real-Photo Postcards

Sold For: $1,320

Auction Year: 2017 spring

Lot: 1802

Item Year: 1903

Category: Post-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Pair of real-photo postcards, each featuring Louis Sockalexis, the first Native American, and first recognized minority, to play in the National League. Both postcards capture Sockalexis in 1907 as a member of the Bangor Base Ball Club (Maine League). The first pictures him posing with the entire club (Sockalexis is seated on the ground, far left). The other captures him on the bench with two of his teammates (the preprinted caption below reads "Montgomery in armor/Mitchell and Sockalexis on the bench"). Although the postcards are not dated, Sockalexis played with Bangor only for the 1907 season, which represented his final year in organized baseball. The story of Louis Sockalexis is one of the most tragic in baseball history. A member of the Penobscot tribe, Sockalexis was one of the most talented players of his time, but his dependence on the bottle abruptly ended his major league career just as it started. Sockalexis appeared in sixty-six games with the Cleveland Spiders in 1897, finishing the season with a .338 average while wowing the crowds with his spectacular defensive abilities in the outfield and his daring on the base paths. However, an ankle injury that season, combined with all-too-frequent drinking binges, ruined what was sure to be an outstanding pro career. Just two seasons later, after his appearances at the local taverns became much more frequent than his appearances at the ballpark, Cleveland released him. He never played in the major leagues again and died in 1913 at the age of forty-two. His popularity never waned, though, and in 1914, the Cleveland Naps were renamed the Indians in honor of Louis "Chief" Sockalexis. Each postcard measures 3.25 x 5.5 inches and has never been mailed. The team card has a few very light pencil notations on the reverse and is otherwise in Near Mint condition. The other card (picturing three players) displays a tack hole along the top border, a few moderate edge and corner creases, and light surface wear. In Very Good condition overall. Total: 2 postcards. Reserve $500. Estimate (open).

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