Sportress of Blogitude

Rare autograph by illiterate Shoeless Joe Jackson could fetch $100,000 (pic)


Heritage Auctions believes an extremely rare autograph by one of the most infamous personalities in the long and storied history of Major League Baseball could fetch a tidy sum at auction.

An autographed photograph of Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was illiterate and rarely signed anything outside of legal documents, could bring in upwards of $100,000.

”If I were a betting man, I’d say the chances of another one surfacing would be highly unlikely,” said the president of Professional Sports Authenticator, Joe Orlando, the individual who validated the signature and photo, according to an AP report.

Jackson of course was one of the central figures in the “Black Sox Scandal,” a permanent stain on the integrity of baseball after members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the 1919 World Series. Jackson was among the eight White Sox players banned from baseball by Kenesaw Mountain Landis, baseball’s first-ever commissioner, in 1921.

Jackson, who died in 1951 and remains on the MLB’s ineligible list to this day, maintained his innocence in the wake of the scandal until his death. According to two lawyers who reviewed the papers of Eliot Asinof, author of the 1963 book, “Eight Men Out,” which explored the Black Sox Scandal, argued in 2009 that the writer misrepresented Jackson’s role in the conspiracy and based on inaccurate information.

Regardless of Jackson’s innocence or guilt, he remains one of the most infamous player in MLB history. Adding that to the fact that his illiteracy meant there are so few confirmed autographs by Shoeless Joe — estimated by experts to be around only 100 — means it’s hardly surprising an authentic signature of his is so valuable.

The auction of said rare item of baseball memorabilia will occur this month. The autograph, included in a scrapbook featuring black and white baseball photos from the early 1900s, had been in the possession of Bill Bowen for years until his death last April. His widow, Sharon, has decided someone else who will treasure it should own it.

Bowen’s husband, Bill, first saw the scrapbook about 10 years ago.

It was stored in a barn near Cleveland and belonged to a couple whose family was friends with Frank W. Smith, a photographer with The Plain Dealer newspaper. He shot the photo of Jackson along with those of Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Napoleon Lajoie during spring training in 1911.

The family offered to sell the scrapbook five years ago to Bowen’s husband because they knew how much he treasured the 60 photos. The price tag: $15,000.

”I told him ‘absolutely not,”’ Bowen said. ”Luckily for me, I lost that argument.”

Indeed. Her late husband’s love of baseball’s history will prove to be a huge financial windfall for Bowen.

(photo credit: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)