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1947 "Pee Wee" Reese Brooklyn Dodgers Contract
Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $2,233
Four-page fold-over contract, dated January 29, 1947, between Harold "Pee Wee" Reese and the Brooklyn National League Baseball Club, Inc., signed in black fountain pen by "Harold H. Reese" (grading "10") and in blue ink by "Branch Rickey" ("10"), president of the club. The one-year agreement for the 1947 season calls for Reese to receive a salary of $12,500. This is, in many respects, the most significant Pee Wee Reese contract in existence. 1947 marked not only Reese's finest all-around season, but it is even more significant as the historic year in which Jackie Robinson broke Baseball's long-standing "color barrier." Reese played a central role in Robinson's joining the Dodgers that spring. After returning from World War II military service in 1946, Reese quietly established himself as the team leader. Even before the season began, Reese refused to sign a petition that threatened a boycott if Robinson joined the team. When Robinson first arrived at training camp, Reese was the first to openly accept him. On the Dodgers first road trip, while Robinson was being heckled by fans in Cincinnati, during pre-game warmups Reese made it a point to be seen talking with Jackie Robinson, even going so far as to put his arm around Jackie's shoulders. That gesture, more than anything else, silenced the crowd, quickly quelled any thoughts of rebellion in the Dodgers clubhouse, and paved the way for the start of what would become the "Golden Age" of Brooklyn Dodgers baseball. Reese batted a career-high .284 with 12 home runs, 73 RBI, and a league-leading 104 bases on balls in 1947. Those numbers helped lead the Dodgers to the National League pennant. Reese continued to excel in the World Series, batting .304 with 4 RBI and 3 stolen bases in the club's seven-game defeat to the Yankees.
While 1947 was clearly a banner season for Reese and the Dodgers, the greater significance of this 1947 contract is the connection between Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. At Reese's funeral, Joe Black, another major league baseball black pioneer, perhaps best captured the enormous significance of Reese's role in Robinson's most turbulent early days of breaking the color barrier in the majors in 1947 when he said, "Pee Wee helped make my boyhood dream come true to play in the majors, the World Series. When Pee Wee reached out to Jackie, all of us in the Negro League smiled and said it was the first time that a white guy had accepted us. When I finally got up to Brooklyn, I went to Pee Wee and said, 'Black people love you. When you touched Jackie, you touched all of us.' With Pee Wee, it was No. 1 on his uniform and No. 1 in our hearts."
One of the top defensive shortstops of his era, Reese retired in 1958 with a .269 lifetime average and 2,170 hits. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. Baseball contracts of Hall of Fame players, especially those dating from their respective playing careers, are rare and the offered example is no exception. This is the first Reese contract we have ever offered and we can only recall having seen one other. The contract (8.5 x 11 inches) displays two horizontal folds and is in Excellent to Mint condition. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000/$2,000+. SOLD FOR $2,233
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