Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Historical Jackie Robinson Contracts Fail to Sell Again - Were They Pilfered?

Like a lot of collectors, I've been fascinated with the Jackie Robinson player contracts being billed as the founding documents of the American Civil Rights Movement. After all, it's not hyperbole to make the claim. Robinson was one of the first to buck cultural norms, and his importance to the movement had been acknowledged by Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King -- saying that he was, “a pilgrim that walked in the lonesome byways toward the high road of freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”

So the existence of these contracts -- his 1945 Montreal and 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers documents -- have significant historical importance. That being said, I do believe it's unfortunate that they remain in private hands. They should reside in a museum somewhere -- anywhere.

Of course, I'm not advocating that they be taken from the owners without compensation. After all, these contracts, with prior claims that they originate from the Robinson family, were legally sold and transferred. At least, that's what we were told to believe.

It is being alleged, by Peter Nash at Hauls of Shame, that those contracts currently up for sale were originally stolen out of the back offices of the Dodgers front office decades ago.


Was Dodger history pilfered?

You should check out the story for yourself. (link here) It's an unusual tale that makes certain incendiary accusations regarding the actions of a former Dodger player who had access to the materials. I won't name names here, so go there if you want to see the gossip/rumors/so far unfounded allegations. I will, though, add this one snippet from the story:
The veteran hobby source also claimed that the Dodgers were aware of the thefts and that the owner at the time, Peter O’Malley, was very upset about the situation.
This is a big "Wow" if true.

On another note, the writer doesn't exactly have a spotless background when it comes to vintage Baseball material. A decade back he was embroiled in his own scandal related to alleged stolen memorabilia.

BTW, the aforementioned contracts, for a second time in as many months, did not sell when publicly placed on auction yesterday. They were first made available through Goldin Auctions in November and did not sell. Then last night they were made available again, but also did go to a new owner. Darren Rovell at ESPN was all over last nights non-sale:
Goldin Auction also responded to Rovell:
The contracts are said to have been appraised for $36MM, so maybe the owners are holding out for a huge payday. On the other hand, maybe the hobby (i.e. the market) is just saying that these contracts are not worth anywhere near that price. (A Robinson 1949 signed contract sold for $276,000 last year) Or, maybe... just, maybe (no matter how unlikely)... the docs are not selling because there is a perceived cloud on its title, and there's a fear that the Dodgers might try to regain ownership if they can prove it was stolen.

If the later is the case, I would welcome the opportunity to see them publicly displayed for fans and historians to see.

I've reached out to the Dodgers for a comment on this matter, so I will pass that along should they want to address it. (I doubt they will)

Below are several screen grabs focused on last nights non-sale of the contracts and the contracts themselves.

The 1945 Montreal Royals -- Jackie Robinson Signed Contract

The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers -- Jackie Robinson Signed Contract

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* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

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