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Lot # 1278 (of 1866)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1923 St. Louis Stars Negro League Team Photo with Cool Papa Bell

Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $8,295

Original photo capturing eighteen members of the 1923 St. Louis Stars, members of the Negro National League, posing together in front of the grandstand, including future Hall of Fame outfielder James "Cool Papa" Bell, who is pictured standing, third from the right. The photographer's credit and year, handwritten in black fountain pen in the lower right corner, reads "Photo By/JE. Miller/KC 1923." It should be noted that the only other example of this photo that we have ever seen resided in the legendary Richard Merkin collection. Bell signed with St. Louis at the age of nineteen during the 1922 season, therefore 1923 was his first full season in professional baseball. Despite his natural abilities, Bell was still a raw talent that season and could not crack the starting lineup. Maybe it is for that reason that Bell, and the player standing next to him (both of whom are clearly the youngest players on the team) are wearing different uniforms than the other players. Bell quickly developed into one of the greatest Negro League players of all time and later helped lead the Stars to league titles in 1928, 1930, and 1931. This is almost certainly the earliest known photo of Bell as a professional player and, as such, one of the most historically significant Negro League photos extant. The photo (8.5 x 6.5 inches) displays two extremely tiny spots of light discoloration (not affecting any of the player images) as well as what appear to be a few tiny ink specks near the upper border. In apparent Excellent to Mint condition overall. Matted and framed to total dimensions of 12.75 x 11 inches. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $8,295

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