Friday, February 28, 2014

Some Vintage Dodgers Memorabilia and a Negro League Rarity at Hake's Auctions

Hake's Auctions is currently running their 211th auction.  As you may know, Hake's specializes in Americana, so their catalogs are like a peek through American pop history.  Below are a couple of Dodgers related items I came across, along with a Negro League item I thought worth noting.

Below is an original editorial cartoon created by Bob Coyne of the Boston Post.  Featured are Dodgers manager Leo Durocher and Boston Braves manager Casey Stengel.  Per the auction description:
Durocher compliments Stengel who has a question mark over his head, noting “What A Swell World This Would Be If All The Players Were As Nice As The Braves And All The Managers As Fair As You Casey!” A small player holding box of cigars stands between the two facing Stengel saying “Compliments Of Mister Durocher” as other players talk in background including mention of Braves relief pitcher Errickson.
What's funny about this drawing is that Durocher was the man who coined the phrase, "nice guys finish last."  Considering that Stengel's Braves never finished better than 5th during his tenure, this must be a the papers way of saying that Stengels is too soft to manage.  Of course, Casey would prove the Boston paper wrong when he went on to win 7 World Championships with the Yankees a decade later.
(auction link)

Hake's Auctions had been consigned to sell the collection of Richard Merkin - who was known to have one of the finest collection of Negro League memorabilia in the world.  The below original painting comes from that collection.

Featured is former Brooklyn Dodger Joe Black in a Cienfuegos Elephants, of the Cuban League.  It was drawn by a Jorge S; who doesn't appear to be a well known artist.
(auction link)

Of all the Negro League items available for sale through Hakes, the photograph at the very bottom stuck out to me.  It is a team photo of the 1937 Dominican Republic Ciudad Trujillo Dragons Baseball Club, and it features Hall of Famer Satchel Paige (top row, far left).  Also shown are Cuban HOF members Lazaro Salazar and Silvio Garcia.

It isn't that it features Paige that makes this photo notable; not that he wasn't a great player.  In fact, this photo is thought to be an early season photo since it doesn't includes some other great Negro League players that would eventually join him and help lead the club to a league championship.  Soon to be teammates include Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Sam Bankhead, Bob Griffith, Leroy Matlock, Cy Perkins, and Harry Williams.  Perucho Cepeda, father or Orlando, was also on the team.

This team is considered by many Baseball historians to be one of the 10 best clubs ever put together, and to others their championship is one of the greatest Baseball stories that must be told.

From a REA Auctions description of another photo that describes this well.
Baseball had long been the National Pastime of the Dominican Republic when, in 1937, Dictator Trujillo decided that he would sponsor a team to win the Championship of the Dominican Baseball League, to beat the teams owned by his political opponents, and increase his popularity with the people, and his hold on the country.

Trujillo took control of two teams, which he merged to create a single powerhouse team which he named the "Cuidad Trujillo Dragons." As the season progressed, the Ciudad Trujillo team soon found themselves locked in a bitter struggle for the Championship of the Dominican League with the Santiago team, led by the great Martin DiHigo. To remedy the situation, Trujillo sent his henchmen to the U.S. with $30,000 and instructions to recruit the best Negro League players in the United States to add to the already very talented Ciudad roster to help them secure the championship. 
They (eventually) won the title in a tense finale. The night before the final game, according to interviews with pitcher Chet Brewer, Trujillo actually put the players in jail for the night so that they could not be disturbed, or get into any trouble. Legend has it that Trujillo's players were under armed guard, and were "instructed" to win at all costs.

The American players literally feared for their lives if they were not successful. When the players arrived at the stadium for the seventh and deciding game of the championship series, they found Trujillo's troops lined up with rifles and bayonets along the first base side of the field.

According to Satchel Paige, the team was given a "pep talk" by the manager, in which they were told, very simply, that "you had better win." When Paige inquired exactly what this meant, he was told "I mean just that. Take my advice and win." Fortunately, Bankhead's grand slam over DiHigo won the title, and the players took the first opportunity they were given to get on a Pan Am Clipper and leave the Dominican Republic as quickly as possible.
(auction link)

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