Rare 1912 Louis Sockalexis Real-Photo Postcard

Sold For: $1,320

Auction Year: 2017 spring

Lot: 1803

Item Year: 1912

Category: Post-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Real-photo postcard capturing Louis Sockalexis, the first Native American, and first recognized minority, to play in the National League. This is one of only three real-photo postcards featuring Sockalexis that we have ever seen and the only one to picture him alone (the other two, both of which are also offered elsewhere in this auction, picture him with other members of the Bangor Base Ball Club). It is also the rarest of the three. This is the first example of this particular Sockalexis postcard we have ever offered and can recall having seen just one other at auction. The formal studio photograph pictures Sockalexis seated, in uniform, as he gazes pensively at the camera. The preprinted text along the base reads "Louis Sockalexis Penobscot Tribe Old Towne, ME/Copyrighted 1912 by A.F. Orr of Old Town, ME." The postcard (3.5 x 5.25 inches), which bears no writing on the reverse and has not been postally used, displays a heavy diagonal crease in the upper-right corner, a small tear along the base of the left border, and a few minor surface blemishes. In Very Good condition overall.

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. Reserve $500. Estimate (open).

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