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Lot # 1336 (1336 of 1911)   « Previous Lot | Next Lot »

1920 C. I. Taylor Signed Letter - Legendary Negro League Manager - Mentions Oscar Charleston

Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $1,200

One-page typed letter, dated January 5, 1920, signed by C. I. Taylor, famous Negro League manager of the Indianapolis ABCs. The signature of C. I. Taylor is exceedingly rare because of his early passing in 1922 at the age of 47. This is one of only two C. I. Taylor signed letters we have ever seen, and it could not be any finer with regard to its baseball content. In his letter, on "C. I. Taylor Enterprises" letterhead, Taylor writes to his catcher on the ABCs, Russ Powell, urging him to sign his contract while also telling him of his plans on bringing the entire team back together for the upcoming season. In full:

Friend Russ: Am forwarding contracts for your signature. Talk doesn't amount to much- figures are best. I have already signed most of the old men. Oscar will sign tonight. He made me that promise this morning. I am even sending Dicta Johnson a contract and already have his word that he will sign. I am trying to get all the old men back together once more. The fans over the country have written me many letters in the last few weeks asking that I get back in the game with the same old bunch. That old 1918 club cannot be duplicated and the people are just now realizing it. I am now dickering to train at Birmingham. They have a colored league in Texas and If I go South at all will tour that state before returning. Am expecting the return of your contract, signed, at an early date. Am going to have the greatest club on the market this year. Wishing you a great share of the blessings of the new year and with best luck, I am, Yours truly, C. I. Taylor [signed].

Taylor's signature has been boldly scripted in black fountain pen and grades "10." The "Oscar" mentioned in the letter is Hall of Famer Oscar Charleston, who starred with the ABCs from 1915 to 1920, and then again in 1922 and 1923. Taylor was on the verge of making history at the time of this letter. In 1920 he and Rube Foster founded the Negro National League, with Foster acting as president and Taylor assuming the duties of vice president. The ABCs suspended play after the 1918 season because nearly all of its players had been called into service during World War I. In this letter, we see Taylor attempting to reorganize the club for the Negro National League's inaugural season.

Taylor was a member of one of black baseball's most famous families, with three of his brothers (Ben, "Candy" Jim, and "Steel Arm" John) also leaving their mark upon the game. C. I. Taylor began his career as player/manager in 1904 with the Birmingham Giants and after five seasons moved his team to Indiana. It was in 1914, as manager of Indianapolis ABCs (they were sponsored by the American Brewing Company), that Taylor rose to fame as the game's top field general. In 1916 his team, which included Oscar Charleston, his brother Ben, and Bingo DeMoss, defeated Rube Foster's Chicago American Giants for the western championship. Russ Powell, to whom this letter is written, was Taylor's catcher on the ABCs from 1914 through 1921. Interestingly, the only other C. I. Taylor letter we know of was also written to Russ Powell (they were obviously saved by the Powell family). The letter (8.5 x 11 inches) displays two horizontal folds, edge tears (one with a small amount of paper loss), and five small ink stains, one of which touches upon the "r" in Taylor's signature. In Very Good condition overall. Full LOA from James Spence/JSA.
Reserve $500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,200

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