Circa 1950 Roy Campanella Game-Used Catcher's Mitt with Batboy Provenance

Sold For: $15,600

Auction Year: 2017 spring

Lot: 2019

Item Year: 1950

Category: Game-Used Jerseys & Equipment

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Catcher's mitt used by Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame backstop Roy Campanella during the late 1940s. Game-used gloves, by their very nature, require much more provenance than other types of equipment, such as bats or jerseys, which can often be independently authenticated. The provenance accompanying the offered glove not only meets that high standard, but is probably as good as we have seen, outside of having a letter of authenticity from the respective player himself. This particular catcher's mitt was originally obtained by Stan Strull, who was a bat boy with the Dodgers from 1947 to 1951. In his accompanying one-page, signed, notarized letter of provenance, dated "9-11-03," Strull provides a detailed history of the glove. In full:

My name is Stan Strull and I was the bat boy for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 through the 1951 seasons. I am included in many of the team photos taken during that era as well. While I was employed as a bat boy for the Dodgers, I became friends with many of the players from those great Dodger teams and at the end of the season, many of them gave me items to keep for myself. One of those items was the Spalding catchers mitt that was worn by the great Dodger catcher Roy Campanella. He wore this glove the entire season and gave it to me sometime during the the late 1940s, I don't recall the exact year. I do know that that I obtained this game worn glove of his directly from him and he used it all season and that it has been in my possession until such time that I am selling it. I hope that it makes a great addition to someone's baseball collection.

As Strull noted in his letter, he can be found in many of the Dodgers team photos of the era, as well as in various newspaper photos (usually congratulating a player after a home run). Strull later worked for the New York City Police Department and his 2011 obituary specifically notes his tenure as a bat boy for the Dodgers. At approximately the same time that he originally sold this Campanella glove he also parted with a glove given to him by Carl Furillo (based on past auction results the Campanella and Furillo gloves appear to be the only Brooklyn Dodgers items in the hobby originating from Strull). Although Strull doesn't recall the exact year that he received this glove from Campanella, it can only date from the four-year period 1948 to 1951 since Campanella didn't join the Dodgers until 1948 and Strull ended his tenure as a bat boy after the 1951 season. As such, it is an extremely early Campanella game-used glove and one of only three examples, from any time period, that we can recall having seen at auction. The glove, which is a Spalding "Professional Model" right-handed catcher's mitt, displays heavy wear consistent with a full season of use. Because of the heavy wear, no other stampings in the leather, including the model number, can be seen. All of the lacing to the wrist strap on the reverse is missing, and a few additional broken laces are evident throughout.

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. This is both a rare and significant piece of equipment, with rock-solid provenance,used by the greatest catcher in Dodgers history. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open).

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