Jackie Robinson Historic Breaking the Color Barrier Contracts Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 2/27/2018



It is amazing to think that the most important transformational events in America’s history began with a pen. Our very nation was founded with a declaration of independence from Great Britain signed by 56 brave patriots. The freedom of 4 million slaves was set in motion when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. And perhaps it is fitting that a portrait of Lincoln was hanging on the wall of an office in Brooklyn in which Jackie Robinson signed the contract making him the first African-American to play professional baseball in the 20th century. And like the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation, Robinson’s signature on a pair of contracts was the beginning of something glorious, a hard-fought battle in which the way a nation looked at themselves and the ones around them in a whole new way.

Jackie Robinson’s signing by the Montreal Royals and then the Brooklyn Dodgers ushered in not only baseball’s most competitive era, but were the first two salvos in the fight for African-American’s Civil Rights. Today, it may seem unlikely that a baseball player could make such a difference, but in post-war America, it did. In 1945, baseball was the only game in town. Nearly every boy played the game, from poor street kids in vacant lot in Chicago to the well-heeled sons of the nation’s elite at a New England boarding school. So, in this world where baseball was so ingrained in the American fabric, it is only natural that when change of a racial nature was to happen, baseball would be the catalyst. What these two documents represent is the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. 9 years before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 17 years before Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech in Washington and 18 years before Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, and these two contracts started it. To say Jackie Robinson was the right man for the job would be an understatement.


Jackie Robinson


Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919. He was the last of five children born to Jerry Robinson, a sharecropper, and his wife Mallie. When Jerry abandoned the family shortly after Jackie’s birth, Mallie moved the clan to Pasadena, California. As one of the few minorities in a rich, white community, Jackie was often excluded from community sports and activities. To fill this void, Jackie joined a gang, but a close friend quickly persuaded him to give it up. Luckily, Jackie’s older brothers Mack and Frank recognized their sibling’s athletic skills and guided him toward sports. At Muir Technical High School, Jackie was a four-sport letterman in baseball, basketball, football and track. He also won the junior boy’s singles championship at the 1936 Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament. While his brother Mack was winning a Silver medal at the Berlin Olympics, Jackie entered his older brother’s alma mater, Pasadena Junior College. The younger Robinson again lettered in four sports and eventually broke the school’s broad-jump records, set by his brother Mack. After graduating from Pasadena, Robinson entered UCLA where he again lettered in four sports. It was football that he really excelled in, and UCLA’s 1939 team featured 4 African-Americans, the most integrated college football team of the time. While at UCLA, Jackie met the love and anchor of his life, Rachel Isum.

By 1941 Jackie was playing semi-pro football and was set to sign a contract with the LA Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast Football League when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Jackie was quickly drafted and sent to a segregated training camp. As a college graduate and professional athlete, Jackie should have been a natural for Officer’s Candidate School, but his requests for transfer were repeatedly ignored. Jackie’s friendship with boxer Joe Lewis, now an army sergeant, helped him win an appointment for himself and other qualified black applicants to officer training. After completing his training, newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Robinson was posted to an armored unit in Texas. In 1944 an incident happened which helped define the events of Jackie Robinson’s later life. On July 6, Robinson was instructed to take a seat in the rear of an army bus at Ft. Hood. The bus line was supposed to be integrated, yet the driver was insistent. Robinson refused, and the driver eventually backed down, but when the bus reached its destination, the Military Police were called in and Robinson was detained. Although his commanding officer dismissed any charges, Robinson was transferred to a different unit whose CO did. A court martial followed which was highly publicized and in which the NAACP was involved. The whole matter was extremely embarrassing to the army and resulted in Robinson’s complete acquittal by a panel of all-white officers. In the meantime, Robinson was declared medically unfit for combat due to a football injury and sent to Camp Breckinridge in Kentucky.

While waiting for his honorary discharge to go through, Robinson met a former Negro League pitcher named Ted Alexander. When Jackie shared his uncertainness at future prospects, Alexander gave him the address of the owner of the Kansas City Monarchs and told Robinson to contact him for a job. In the spring of 1945 that is just was Jackie did, and when the season opened, Jackie Robinson was the Monarchs starting shortstop. Jackie played the entire 1945 season with the Monarchs, a championship club which included Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith and Double Duty Radcliffe. Although Jackie was an undeniably talented athlete, he struggled at shortstop. With help from the veteran players, Jackie quickly learned the fast-paced mode of Negro League play. He was selected for the annual East-West All-Star Game and was soon attracting attention from outside Negro League circles. At the same time, Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey was looking for the perfect candidate with which to shatter baseball’s color line. African-Americans had been forced out of organized baseball in the late 1890s and Branch Rickey wanted to change that. After sending scouts to observe several of the established Negro League stars, Rickey focused on Jackie Robinson. His college education, experience on integrated sports teams and army officer background made him an ideal candidate in Rickey’s eyes. Several positive scouting reports convinced Rickey to invite Jackie to his Brooklyn office, and on August 28, 1945, the two men met. During the three-hour meeting Rickey hurled racial slurs and scenarios at Robinson, all to gauge his reaction. Finally, Robinson asked Rickey “Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” to which the Dodgers president replied, “I am looking for a Negro player with guts enough not to fight back.” By the end of the three hours Rickey knew he had found his man. Two months later Robinson signed a contract to play the 1946 season with the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers top farm club. After an incredible season in which Jackie led the Royals to the Little World Series Championship, he returned to Brooklyn where he and Rickey made history once again. With a portrait of Abraham Lincoln peering down at them, Robinson and Rickey put their signatures on the contract which shattered baseball’s half-century old color barrier. With the stroke of a pen, Jackie Robinson began the long road of not only integrating baseball, but changing the course of a nation.


These are those two historic contracts!


The Montreal Royals contract is a standard National Association Class AA Player’s Contract. Thousands have signed a document exactly as this, yet none have meant so much. The 4 page 8 1/2” x 11” contract begins with the typewritten declaration “The Montreal Baseball Club Inc. herein called the Club and Jack Roosevelt Robinson of 121 Pepper St. Pasadena, Calif. herein called the Player. The contract calls for a salary of “$600 monthly” and is dated the 23rd day of October, 1945. The bottom part of the contract features additional amendments to the standard contract including a $3500 signing bonus and the breakdown of Canadian and American currency he was to receive on his paydays. The document has been signed twice by both the Montreal Royals’ President, Hector Racine, and Jackie Robinson. While Racine’s signature is fluid and relaxed, Robinson’s is hesitant yet bold, as if foreshadowing the long road he was about to embark upon. The contract is a working document and shows appropriate wear. The edges show toning and the typewriter ink has lightly bled into the fabric of the paper over time. Overall, the document has a golden tone about it. As the contract was meant to be folded, two horizontal folds are present. Robinson’s signatures have been remarkably preserved due to the contract’s storage throughout the decades. A tremendously important document whose importance is amplified through its stark ordinariness.

Robinson’s Brooklyn contract signed a little over a year later is a standard Uniform Player’s Contract. Jackie’s address is listed as “1588 W. 36th Pl. Los Angeles, Calif.” and his salary is entered as “Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) for the season”. The last page is signed by both Robinson and Rickey in black fountain pen. Unlike the Montreal contract, Robinson’s signature on this document is more formal and thought out. He signed his full name, Jack Roosevelt Robinson in a bold, small script as if to silently state “I am but one man, but I am here to stay.” The typewritten date reads “11th Day of April, 1947”. Below Robinson and Rickey’s signatures is the signed approval of National League president Ford Frick (which was signed secretarially), added three days after the initial signing. The right side margin of the third page of the contract has been signed “Jack Roosevelt Robinson” in pencil. As a working document, the contract shows the expected wear, and the pages have an overall golden tone, especially around its edges. The contract was meant to be folded, and this piece shows the two horizontal folds. Both Robinson and Rickey’s signatures have been preserved within its folded pages.


Historical Significance


While the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “all men are created equal," these two Jackie Robinson contracts are the actual embodiment of that sentiment, put into action more than 170 years after Thomas Jefferson penned those words.  The 1947 contract represents not only the very beginning of baseball’s transformation, but the starting point of America’s transformation into a more inclusive and just society as well. As far as putting a price or perspective on a group of documents that had such a tremendous impact on our nation’s history, renowned historical document expert Seth Kaller looked at a few key pieces of American history and their price history. In 2012 a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation bearing Abraham Lincoln’s signature brought $2,085,000. This was not the original proclamation (that had been destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871), but a copy signed a year after the 1863 original. What’s more, Lincoln signed a total of 48 copies of this historic document. The Robinson contracts not only date from the original event, but were limited to a total of two copies, of which the others are lost. When it comes to significant Civil Rights documents, the Martin Luther King, Jr archive that was put up for auction by the King family at Sotheby's in 2006 provides a great case study. A consortium of Atlanta institutions was so intent on winning, it pre-empted the auction by offering $32,000,000 in advance. The archive’s display and exhibition options were limited by the copyright owned by the King family on its contents. The Robinson contract has no such copyright constraints and the owner may display or reproduce the documents as they see fit. And, as the King archive contains a multitude of components that pertain to many different aspects of the Civil Rights Movement, the Robinson contracts both relate to a single, tremendously important event in history. And a third historical artifact that has played as significant a part in our nation’s history as the Robinson contracts is the Declaration of Independence. The original, displayed in Washington, DC, will, of course, never be made available at auction, but contemporary copies have survived, and do come up for sale occasionally. John Dunlop printed 200 or more copies for distribution by the Continental Congress on July 4 to 5th, 1776. Of those 200 unsigned copies, 28 are currently known. A copy of the Dunlap printing was sold by Sotheby’s in 2000 for $8,140,000. 11 years and a half later, during which time the document travelled to all 50 states in a much-publicized tour, the piece was reportedly re-sold by Sotheby’s in a private sale for a reported price of $23,000,000. 




The two contracts are currently appraised and insured by CHUBB, the world’s leading property insurance company, for $36 million.  Once again, it must be reiterated that the Robinson contracts are not only the primary document and signed by the participants, but are one of only two copies, the other one having been lost. The contracts have been inspected and authenticated by every major authentication company in the business and come with letters of authenticity from PSA/DNA, JSA, Beckett Authentication and SGC Authentic. 

This lot has a Reserve Price that has not been met.
Current Bidding (Reserve Not Met)
Minimum Bid: $15,000,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $0.00
Number Bids: 1
Auction closed on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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