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1946 Roy Campanella Twice-Signed Nashua Dodgers Contract - First Contract in Organized Baseball!
Starting Bid - $1,500, Sold For - $6,600
Contract between Roy Campanella and the Nashua Dodgers Baseball Club, Inc., signed by both parties on April 3, 1946, just five months after Jackie Robinson had signed to play for Montreal. This is Roy Campanella's first contract in organized baseball and its enormous historical significance 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. While playing for Nashua, Campanella faced many of the same hardships endured by Robinson. The fact that Campanella was twenty-five years old and 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. As he had done with Robinson, Rickey tested Campanella and found that he also possessed the courage and mental fortitude to deal with but not fight back against the racism he would inevitably encounter, be it from the other teams, the fans, or even his own teammates. That was essential if Rickey's "great experiment" were to succeed. Campanella did not let him down, on the field or off. Campanella batted .290 during his first year of organized ball, which, combined with his defensive prowess behind the plate, helped earn him the league's MVP Award at season's end.
The four-page fold-over contract has been signed in black ink by "Roy Campanella" (grading "10") and "E. J. Bavasi" ("10"), as president of the club. ("Buzzy" Bavasi was later promoted to general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.) The contract has also been signed in black ink ("10") by "Robert L. Finch," who negotiated the terms of the agreement. (Finch was one of Branch Rickey's assistants and he was assigned to watch over the Nashua club that season.) Both Campanella and Bavasi signed the contract a second time in black ink (each grading "10"), with Bavasi's signature required under the section titled "Club President's Affidavit," and Campanella's required in acknowledgment that "no remuneration other than that provided for in the contract has been promised me." The contract also bears the stamped facsimile signatures of both the president of the National Association and the New England League. The one-year agreement calls for Campanella to receive a salary of $185 per month for the 1946 season. However, in addition to his monthly salary, a special clause grants Campanella a bonus of $2,400, payable in unequal quarterly installments. That bonus is important, because otherwise his monthly salary would have amounted to just $1,100 for the season, which was $2,000 less than we was making as a member of the Elite Giants in the Negro League the year prior.
Contracts of Hall of Fame players are rare and the offered example is no exception. This is one of only seven Roy Campanella professional baseball contracts we have ever seen. Of the seven, three were major league contracts, two were Puerto Rican league contracts, and two were minor-league contracts (the other was his 1948 St. Paul contract). However, the fact that this his very FIRST contract in organized ball makes it especially desirable. As a point of reference, Roy Campanella's LAST contract, dating from 1958, appeared as Lot 966 in REA's April 2014 auction, where it sold for $32,588. The contract (8.5 x 11 inches) displays two horizontal folds and is in Excellent to Mint condition. Full LOA from PSA/DNA and LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $6,600
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