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Lot # 941 (of 1866)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1946 Roy Campanella Handwritten Letter - Pre-Integration Scouting Report on Larry Doby and Joe Black!

Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $5,629

Rare and extremely historically significant Roy Campanella handwritten letter to Robert Finch of the the Brooklyn Dodgers, dated September 23, 1946, in which he provides a scouting report on black ballplayers Larry Doby and Joe Black. The one-page letter, scripted in black fountain pen on both sides of an unlined sheet, is addressed to Finch, who was Branch Rickey's assistant with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In full:

Dear Mr. Finch, Everything is fine with me. I truly hope its the same with you. Concerning Doby, he can hit, run and throw very good. Hits with a lot of power, but needs to learn how to pull. I've seen him hit home-run in Ruppert Stadium, Newark also Shibe Park, Philadelphia. He has a nice personality, good habits and is intelligent. At present I am watching a right hand pitcher of the Elite Giants. His name is Joe Black, 22 years old, attends Morgan College in Baltimore, Md. He spent three years in service pitching for Tommy Bridges [sic] team and was the only negro on the team. He has an exceptionally good fast ball, good change, good curve ball. Very good disposition. He's very apt to catch on. I will send you a report later on this week about him. Also, I will be too [sic] you the beginning of next week. Respectfully yours, Roy Campanella - P. S. The home-runs Doby hit were in the left-field seats.

Both the text and Campanella's signature grade "10." This is one of three Roy Campanella handwritten letters offered in this auction (all from the same remarkable Dodgers collection), all of which are similar in content and concern the potential recruitment of other black ballplayers by the Dodgers prior to Jackie Robinson's historic major league debut the following spring. Despite the fact that three are offered in this sale, it should be understood that Roy Campanella handwritten letters are exceedingly rare, and we can only recall having seen two other examples at auction in the past fifteen years. As a point of reference, one of those other examples, which was also a similar 1946 scouting report (on Doby and Monte Irvin), sold at auction for $23,900 in 2013.

The historical significance of this letter cannot be overstated. While everyone is aware of the fanfare surrounding Jackie Robinson's historic debut with the Montreal Royals (Brooklyn's top minor-league club) in 1946, whereby he became the first black player in modern organized baseball, the debuts of Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe with the Nashua Dodgers (a Class B team in the New England League) just one month later are largely forgotten today. This letter was written by Campanella immediately following his first season of organized ball with Nashua, during which time he faced many of the same hardships endured by Robinson. Campanella was twenty-five years old at the time, and the fact that he had been an established star in both the Negro and Mexican leagues since the age of sixteen helped him considerably as he too helped pave the way for integration in baseball. That maturity, along with his obvious physical talents, was one of the main reasons that Branch Rickey picked Campanella to follow closely on the heels of Jackie Robinson's debut. It was also why Rickey trusted his judgment and valued his opinion on other black ballplayers the club was interested in. As one can see in these scouting reports from Campanella, the Dodgers were concerned not only with the player's physical ability, but also his personality. Like Robinson, Campanella, and Newcombe, Rickey knew that the black players they signed needed to have the courage and mental fortitude to deal with but not fight back against the racism they would inevitably encounter, be it from the other team, the fans, or even their own teammates. That was essential if Rickey's "great experiment" were to succeed.

Doby, of course, was signed by Bill Veeck in 1947, just months after Robinson's debut, and became the first black player in the American League. He later joined Jackie Robinson in the Hall of Fame. Joe Black was signed by the Dodgers in 1950 and made his major league debut in 1952, winning the Rookie of the Year Award that season. The letter (7.25 x 10.5 inches) displays two horizontal folds, a tiny stain in the lower right corner, a small diagonal crease in the lower left corner, and both a paperclip impression and staple hole at the top. A red Brooklyn Dodgers stamp, recording the date it was received, appears along the top border. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $5,629


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