Spring Premier Auction 2020


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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/2/2020

At the conclusion of his season with the Homestead Grays in the fall of 1938, Negro League superstar Josh Gibson headed south for the winter, as he typically did, to continue playing for a paycheck – this time joining the 1938-39 Leopardos de Santa Clara in the Cuban Winter League. Thanks to the power-hitting catcher's Herculean efforts, the 1938–39 Santa Clara Leopards won the Cuban league title. Gibson batted .356 with 11 homers in just 163 official at-bats and scored 50 runs due to an absurd number of intentional walks. Hardly anyone would pitch to him! Gibson shattered the Cuban league's previous home run record of seven set by fellow Negro Leaguer and Baseball Hall of Famer Mule Suttles. Clearing the fences in Cuba's expansive ballparks was no small feat. For example, the dimensions at La Tropical Stadium in Havana during that era were ludicrous: 398 feet down the right-field line, 498 down the left-field line and 505 to straight-away center.

This incredibly rare 3" by 4¾ " black and white snapshot shows Gibson and his fellow Santa Clara teammates from that 1938-39 winter triumph. The twelve men are pictured in full uniform, including Gibson, who is standing in the back row at center, head tilted slightly to the left. The photograph contains an ink note in Spanish (“Doñada Por S.J. Avila”; Donated by S.J. Avila”) on the bottom. It was originally sourced from the Puerto Rican estate of a Leopardos teammate of Gibson's. A shoulder patch honoring the Cuban team's 1937-38 championship squad is visible on the players’ uniforms, which serves to accurately date the picture to the following season when Gibson came aboard.

Completely in focus with sharp resolution quality, the condition of this original pre-war photograph is stunning, with no creases or surface issues. The reverse is properly dated with an unidentified signature. We rate it NM-MT overall. Tales of Gibson’s majestic home runs and incredible displays of power earned him status as the “Black Babe Ruth.” For Negro League players and fans that witnessed his exploits regularly, Ruth was the “white” Josh Gibson. Unfortunately, segregation has made the man more myth than reality, leaving the few surviving photos like this critical in keeping his legend alive.

*This photo has already been authenticated as Type I by Henry Yee of PSA/DNA. It is currently in the process of being encapsulated in a Type I holder.  The pandemic has delayed this process, but it will get done for the winning bidder.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $1,000
Final prices include buyers premium.: $2,578
Number Bids: 9
Auction closed on Saturday, May 2, 2020.
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