1946 Newark Eagles Negro League World Championship Commemorative Ring (Cecil Cole Family Provenance)
Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $1,763
1946 Newark Eagles World Championship commemorative ring originating directly from the wife of former Newark Eagles pitcher Cecil Cole. This ring was previously offered as Lot 1723 in Robert Edward Auctions' May 1, 2010, auction, where it realized a final sale price of $11,750. It was consigned to REA directly by Cecil Cole's widow who provided a signed letter of authenticity specifically stating that in 1946 the ring had been presented and issued to her husband as a member of the 1946 World Champion Newark Eagles and therefore was produced in 1946. A few months after the sale, the buyer of the ring notified us that while it was a very old ring, the date of the actual production of the ring was incorrect. According to his independent research, which we have since corroborated, the company that made this ring was founded in the mid 1950s and therefore the ring could not have been issued in 1946. Furthermore, while we have no conclusive evidence as to its exact date of manufacture, our best estimate is that it was produced sometime in the 1970s. We do not believe that Mrs. Cole, who is quite old, knowingly misdated the ring in her letter, but because this was a ring that was worn for many years by her husband and a family keepsake that had been saved for decades, she was not aware of the ring's precise history and date of manufacture. It was produced many decades ago as a 1946 Newark Eagles Negro League ring, it was a prize possession of her husband, 1946 pitching Newark Eagles pitching star Cecil Cole (we even have pictures of him wearing it), and even if it were produced as late as the 1970s, it's still close to forty years old. Nevertheless, since the date of manufacture is significant with reference to value and the original auction description was in error, we have refunded the buyer the full purchase price and are now offering it again, accurately described, with disclosure of the information we have received regarding the date of manufacture. We have elected to not insist that Mrs. Cole financially remedy this error. To the Cole family, this is the one and only 1946 Newark Eagles Championship ring, and the dating error is one that in retrospect we should have caught. It is still a great ring, and as close to a 1946 Newark Eagles Negro League Championship ring that could possibly exist, and may even be unique. We have relisted the ring here with a nominal minimum bid of $500. Whatever it sells for, it sells for. If the ring should sell for less than its previous sale price as expected, we will take the loss. If the ring should sell for more than its original sales price, the additional higher amount will go to the Cole family.
The elegantly designed gold-colored ring (we do not know the exact composition or carat of the metal) features an eagle clutching a solitary faux diamond on the top surrounded by the team name: "Newark Eagles." The left shank reads "Negro World Champs/1946," in a combination of relief and engraved letters. The right shank features an engraved illustration of a bat, ball, and glove, and includes both Cole's position and uniform number, "Pitcher" and "14," in relief. Red and yellow enamel accents are positioned, respectively, on either side of the number. The name "Cecil Cole" is engraved on the interior in block letters, as is the name of the manufacturer "R.Johns Sun-Lite." The ring displays light-to-moderate surface wear and the only flaw of note is a tiny chip on one side of the diamond. The ring is accompanied by signed letters of provenance from both Cecil Cole’s widow and grandson. Mrs. Cole's letter, handwritten on Pittsburgh Pirates stationery, reads "I am the wife of Cecil Cole. My husband played baseball for the Newark Eagles in 1946 and in that year they were World Champions. 1946 is the year this ring was made." Also included is a photo of Cole wearing the ring during his later years. As noted earlier, despite Mrs. Cole’s remembrance of the ring being issued to her husband in 1946, it was definitely produced some time later, most likely in the 1970s.
Cecil Cole only played one year in the Negro Leagues, but his debut could not have come at a more fortuitous time. The Newark Eagles captured their first and only World Championship in franchise history in 1946. Powered by a lineup that featured three future Hall of Fame players (Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, and Leon Day) as well as legendary veteran Biz Mackey, the Eagles won the Negro National League pennant and then defeated the Kansas City Monarchs (a powerhouse team that included Hall of Famers Willard Brown, Buck O'Neil, Hilton Smith, and Satchel Paige) in a dramatic seven-game series to claim the World Championship. Cole saw only limited action in his one and only season with the Eagles, finishing the season with a 2-2 record. Although his professional career as a player was brief, Cole was involved in organized baseball for forty years. After a five-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles as a scout, he enjoyed the same position with the Pittsburgh for thirty-five years. Based upon that information, it is most likely that the Pirates had this ring produced for Coles out of gratitude for his many years of service to the club. Despite its more recent vintage, it is still an impressive souvenir relating to the one of the last seasons of Negro League play.
With the signing of Jackie Robinson by Montreal in 1946, and his subsequent signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the modern age of professional baseball truly began, and with it came the demise of the Negro Leagues. The 1946 Negro League World series, which matched the Newark Eagles against the Kansas City Monarchs, marked the final World Championship in Negro League history before all of its top players were signed by Major League clubs. While the fight for integration in organized baseball was long and hard, once the battle was won, its implementation was quick. Within just two years the Negro Leagues lost nearly all of its best players to Major League clubs and although team owners attempted to keep the league afloat, most historians agree that its official history basically ended with the signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947.
Any and all material relating to the Negro Leagues is rare. The offered ring, albeit a special unique ring manufactured after the date of the season it commemorates, is still the only World Championship Negro League ring we have ever seen. The Negro Leagues were not nearly as financially sound as their Major League counterparts and individual player awards, because of the expense involved, were rarely presented. This ring, which appears to have been produced specially for Cecil Cole years later (as we have never seen another), represents both a rare and very significant Negro League souvenir commemorating the end of an era in professional baseball. Size: approximately 9.25. Reserve $500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,763