Friday, September 29, 2017

Museum Worthy Jackie Robinson Memorabilia at Lelands

Imagine that your the first African-American to play on a Major League field -- the highest honor a ballplayer can ask for. Then imagine doing it at a time when racial discord and animus ruled the day. Layer on top of that a game where throwing at someones head was par for the course. Then mix that all together and you have recipe for violent confrontation.

This is what Jackie Robinson faced when he first donned Dodger Blue in Major League Baseball. He was cursed at, spiked at and thrown at. In fact, he got beaned nine times during his rookie campaign -- falling just one shy of the league lead -- and you know it wasn't because he leaned into them. Pitchers were throwing at his head, and that can cause some serious damage. So, how do you protect against that when the kind of batting helmets we see today did not exist?

Naturally, you put on your MacGyver hat and rig something together. The first item I feature in this post is an game-worn Jackie Robinson cap that has had its inner lining fortified with a fiberglass-and-cloth composite. In other words, it's a sturdy and somewhat protective batting helmet -- a first of its kind. (Auction Link)

It was originally purchased from Rachel Robinson in the 90's, and comes with her original letter detailing the cap's provenance. See it on the right.
The cap dates to circa 1948, with a white Brooklyn "B" embroidered on the front. The cap has three protective plates sewn inside the lining to protect his head from beanings. It was made by Spalding and is part of the Robinson Family Collection. 
This is the only cap to this date that I have ever made available to the collecting public. The cap is 100% original and was game worn by Jackie Robinson during his career as a Brooklyn Dodger.
This is a museum worthy artifact, and it sucks that it'll likely end up within a private collection -- never to see the light of day. At the time of this posting, it currently sits at $73,205 (not including the buyers premium).

This next Jackie Robinson relic isn't quite as important as the quasi-helmet above, but it sure is cool. Below is the very last Brooklyn Dodgers jacket worn by Jackie Robinson. (Auction Link)

It was originally gifted by Jackie to the consignor's godfather in late-1956. They had been neighbors in Brooklyn. Per the auction description:
Robinson and the consignor's godfather were both tenants in the same Brooklyn building, and shortly before Jackie gave him the jacket, one of his relatives was involved in a fatal car crash. This lot comes with a heartfelt letter from Jackie on his stationery saying, "I was very sorry to hear of your loss and the injuries you suffered. To console you with words I realize would be quite futile. I only hope that as you improve each day you will get added strength to be a comfort to your mother." Jackie concluded the letter, and mentioned this exact jacket, with "I also hope you will be able to fit into my jacket very soon. My very best wishes." 
This jacket, as of this posting, has a bid of $90,750, so far. BTW, the signature in the letter on the right is a secretarial.

Lastly, below is a limited edition photograph taken by legendary sports photographer Neil Leifer on Camera Day, August 12, 1956 at Ebbets Field. (Auction Link) At the time, Leifer was just a 14-year old kid still figuring out what he wanted to do. Based on this photo I think he found his calling. At age 16 he sold his first photo to Sports Illustrated, and by 19 he had his first cover shot in the magazine.

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* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

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