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1910 Joe Kelley Handwritten Letter
Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $6,000
Rare one-page handwritten letter, dated October 9, 1910, signed by Hall of Fame outfielder Joe Kelley. In his letter, written to "Griff," on "House of Delegates, Annapolis, Md." letterhead, Kelley makes inquiries regarding available players for the upcoming season. In full:
"Friend Griff. Now that the season is over thought you might have a few players to let out if so wish you would give me a line on what you have and what will take for them. Drop me a line when you have a chance. Sincerely, Joe Kelley, N. Calvert St. Baltimore Md."
Both the text and signature are boldly scripted in black fountain pen and grade "10." While we cannot state with certainty, the "Griff" to whom this letter is addressed may be Clark Griffith, who was manager of Cincinnati at the time. Kelley was player/manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Eastern League) in 1910 and managed the club for a few more seasons before accepting a scouting job with the Yankees in 1915. His last baseball job was as a coach with Brooklyn in 1926. Kelley, of course, made his fame as one of the top players on the Baltimore Orioles of the late 1890s. Teaming with John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler, Wilbert Robinson, and Hughie Jennings, Kelley helped lead the Orioles to four pennants and two World Championships between the years 1894 and 1897. Joe Kelley signature examples are extremely scarce today. Handwritten letters are rarer still. The primary reason for the extreme rarity of Kelley's signature today is timing. In addition to playing his career in an era in which signature collecting was not very popular, Kelley passed away in 1943, and he wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame until 1971. For nearly thirty years he was simply forgotten by autograph collectors. That lack of foresight by earlier collectors has resulted in Kelley's signature becoming a "holy grail" for anyone trying to assemble a substantial Hall of Fame autograph collection. While we cannot state with certainty exactly how many Joe Kelley letters exist today, the number is certainly quite small. This is only the second we have ever offered and we cannot recall having seen more than one other at auction during the past fifteen years. The letter (8.25 x 11 inches) displays one horizontal and two vertical folds, as well as two tiny interior holes. In Excellent condition overall. Full LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,000. Estimate $5,000++. SOLD FOR $6,000
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