Thursday, March 06, 2014

Like Finding Treasure In Your Own Pocket - A Ladies Baseball Club Postcard - Features the Man Who Signed Jackie First

As I'm sure many of you have realized, I am an avid collector of oddball Baseball memorabilia.  I've got everything from pinbacks to statues, nonsports cards to autographs, press photos to postcards.  In fact, that last item, postcards, is the main subject of this post.

While recently going through the current Hake's Americana auction (that I wrote about here) I came across an item that looked very familiar.  For sale is a 1910 Hopkins Bros. Champion Lady Baseball Club postcard (see it here) at a very high opening bid, and I realized that I have that exact same postcard in my collection (see it at the very top).

As is the case with much of my collection, I am a frugal buyer.  I shop around and rarely splurge, unless it was a must have item.  I would not consider the Hopkins Bros. postcards to be must have - just interesting.  So, imagine my surprise when a postcard that I likely paid less than $20 for is listed at an opening bid of $200.00.  Needless to say, I was shocked and elated.

Did I stumble upon a rarity?

Apparently, I did.

As I found out, the 1910 Hopkins Bros. Champion Lady Baseball Club postcard is notable in the hobby because it features the only known Baseball memorabilia item of Negro League pioneer and Baseball Hall of Famer J.L. Wilkerson.  Wilkie, as he was better known, is shown as the gentlemen on the top row, at center.  A blow-up of him is on the right.

Wilkerson was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2006, and was the founding owner of the Kansas City Monarchs.  His Monarchs won 10 league titles and 2 Negro League World Championships.  He was also the first league owner to hire African-American umpires and set up portable lights to play night Baseball.

Per a description on Wikipedia:
Wilkinson was the only white team owner trusted by Rube Foster when the Negro National League was founded; Wilkinson became a trusted member of Foster's inner circle. Stories were told by his players that during the Depression, Wilkinson would bunk with his coaches and players when the team was on the road and hotels were short of rooms.
Of special note to Dodger fans, Wilkie signed Jackie Robinson to his first professional contract as owner of the Monarchs.

Further searching found that a similar postcard sold at a Goodwin & Co. auction in 2012 at $756.  That postcard was in much better condition that what I have.

BTW, my postcard has been marked up with notation from the original owner.  Apparently, this postcard was purchased during an exhibition game in Kemmerer, WY in August 1910.

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