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1940 Buck Leonard Signed Puerto Rican League Contract
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $5,400
Four-page fold-over contract, dated November 23, 1940, between Buck Leonard and the Mayaguez-India Base-Ball Club of the Liga Semi-Profesional de Base-Ball de Puerto Ricao. Signed in black fountain pen ("9/10") by "Walter Buck Leonard," the president of the club, and two witnesses. Also signed by the league president, with the league stamp located just to the right of his signature. The one-year agreement, for the winter-league season of 1940-1941, calls for Wells to receive a salary of $60 per week, plus "round trip ticket and boarding." Leonard, like many Negro League players from that era, earned extra money during the winter by playing for teams in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. The Puerto Rico Semi-Pro Baseball League was founded in 1938 and was very successful in acquiring the services of many of the top Negro League players at the time, including Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige. Often referred to as the "Black Lou Gehrig" (which complimented teammate Josh Gibson's nickname as the "Black Babe Ruth"), Leonard starred for seventeen years with the powerful Homestead Grays. Leonard is credited with a lifetime Negro National League average of .341 and an average of .382 in exhibition games vs. major leaguers. He was also an incomparable fielder, a team player, and is recognized as being the best first baseman in the history of the Negro Leagues. Leonard was elected to the Hall of Fame, along with Homestead Grays teammate Josh Gibson, in 1972. Baseball contracts of Hall of Fame players, especially those dating from their respective playing careers (let alone those of the greatest Negro League stars), are rare and the offered example is no exception. This is just the second Buck Leonard contract we have ever offered or seen (the other, his 1946 Homestead Grays contract, appeared as Lot 286 in our April 2004 auction, where it realized $8,050). The contract (8.5 x 11 inches) displays two horizontal folds, two notebook holes and light staining along the top border, and a few light surface wrinkles. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $5,400
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