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1946 Ralph Kiner Pittsburgh Pirates Rookie Contract
Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $3,525
Four-page fold-over contract, dated January 28, 1946, between Ralph Kiner and the Pittsburgh Athletic Company, Inc., signed in black fountain pen by both "Ralph M. Kiner" (grading "10") and "Ray L. Kennedy" ("9"), general manager of the club. The stamped facsimile signature of National League president Ford Frick also appears on the document. The one-year agreement for the 1946 season calls for Kiner to receive a salary of $600 per month. 1946 was Kiner's first season with Pittsburgh and he immediately paid dividends on his menial salary by leading the National League in home runs with 23 while driving in 81 runs. Despite his power totals, he still had a lot to learn about hitting, as evidenced by his .247 average and league-leading 109 strikeouts. Luckily, he had a resident hitting coach the following season in teammate Hank Greenberg. As Kiner recalls: "In 1946 I was afraid that when the pitcher got two strikes on me, the next pitch would come at me. I'd bite at the pitch and strikeout. With Hank's coaching, I learned to swing only when the ball was over the plate." Under Greenberg's tutelage Kiner quickly blossomed into the game's premier home-run hitter. Kiner led or tied the National League in home runs in each of his first seven seasons (the only player to ever accomplish that feat), including totals of 51 and 54 home runs, respectively, in 1947 and 1949. Although he only played ten seasons, Kiner retired with 369 home runs and 1,015 RBI. He also batted over .300 on three separate occasions and finished his career with a respectable .279 lifetime average. Today, Kiner's home-run ratio of 14.11 ranks fourth all time among retired players. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975. Baseball contracts of Hall of Fame players, especially those dating from their respective playing careers (let alone rookie seasons), are rare and the offered example is no exception. This is the first Kiner contract we have ever offered; decades ago we recall a number of Kiner contracts being traded to collectors by then Pirates General Manager Joe Brown (who was also a collector) and this Kiner rookie contract was naturally the prize of the group. The contract (8.5 x 11 inches) displays two horizontal folds and staple holes along each top corner; otherwise in Near Mint condition. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $300. Estimate $500/$1,000+. SOLD FOR $3,525
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