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The Largest Branch Rickey Signature in the World - Original Sign-In Sheet from What's My Line!
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $1,541
Offered here is one of the most extraordinary pieces of baseball memorabilia we have ever handled, and one that almost defies categorization, as it has great appeal to collectors in numerous fields, including autographs, history, and entertainment. This is the very sheet upon which Hall of Fame baseball executive Branch Rickey "signed-in" during his guest appearance on the hit television show What's My Line in 1959. Rickey has signed his name in thick, white chalk (grading "10") upon a black sheet (26 x 18 inches), the composition of which is similar to heavy-stock poster or craft paper. Measuring an incredible twenty-two inches in length and six inches in height, this is, by far, the largest Branch Rickey signature extant. Incredibly, Rickey's appearance on the show can be seen in its entirety on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPV-O_caBrs), so collectors can actually witness Rickey signing this very sheet, making its authenticity unimpeachable.
Rickey was the show's "mystery guest" on the September 13, 1959, episode of the show because his name was prominently featured in the newspapers at the time. While he is best remembered today for his role in breaking baseball's long-standing "color barrier" by his signing of Jackie Robinson to a major league contract in 1947, Rickey's appearance on the show had nothing to do with his prior accomplishments. Instead, he was on the show for what he was about to do: challenge the organized baseball establishment once again by leading the crusade for a third major league.
Rickey had just been named the president of the Continental Baseball League, which was formed as a major-league rival to both the American and National Leagues. The league, which was the brainchild of New York attorney William Shea, was the first such serious threat since the 1914-1915 Federal League. The league was basically formed because of the unwillingness of both the American and National leagues to expand. As the nation was growing, other cities were craving major league baseball, particularly New York, which had just recently lost both of its National League teams.
The establishment of the Continental Baseball League was formally announced on July 27, 1959, with Branch Rickey elected president. The league was well funded right from the beginning and had commitments for teams from five major cities: New York, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Houston, and Toronto, with applications from ten more. When Rickey appeared on the show, his "Line" was that of "President of New Continental Baseball League." Rickey's appearance on the highly rated show probably sent shock waves through the established baseball ownership. At the conclusion of his appearance, when asked the question "what about that new league?," Rickey responded "as inevitable as tomorrow morning." He further added that the league would commence in 1961 with an eight-team league and a full 154-game schedule. The formation of the Continental Baseball League was directly responsible for the expansion of both the American and National leagues, and resulted in new franchises being awarded to some of the cities committed to the Continental League, including New York and Houston. After both leagues agreed to expand, the Continental League gave up its fight and officially folded in 1960. The sheet, which is rolled and will be shipped in a tube, remains in Near Mint condition. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,541
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