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1915 B. B. (Ford) Meadows New York Yankees Contract - The Player Who Was Almost Signed by Jack Dunn Instead of Babe Ruth!
Starting Bid - $200, Sold For - $711
The names Babe Ruth and B. B. "Ford" Meadows are rarely, if ever, mentioned together today, but they do share a common bond. Both players were scouted by Jack Dunn in 1914. Dunn desired to sign only one of these two local pitchers and was initially sold on Meadows. Had Dunn chosen Meadows over Ruth, the entire history of baseball may have taken an entirely different turn. Whereas Ruth went on to become the greatest player in baseball history, Meadows enjoyed a very short and undistinguished professional career, the highlight of which was his brief one-month stay with the New York Yankees in 1915. Even so, a search for Meadows' name in the major league record books will prove fruitless because he failed to make a regular-season appearance with the club. The only evidence we have today of Meadows' major league tenure is this offered piece: an official 1915 uniform player’s contract between B. B. (Ford) Meadows and the New York Yankees. The four-page contract, which is dated 8/26/15, is signed in black fountain pen (“9/10”) by American League President Ban Johnson, Jacob Ruppert, and Meadows. The contract calls for Meadows to receive $375 per month for the period beginning on or about September 1, 1915, and ending on or about October 14, 1915. Much of what we know about Meadows' professional career today is found in a lengthy article written by legendary baseball historian and SABR member Al Kermisch (http://research.sabr.org/journals/babe-ruth-beginning). As everyone knows, Babe Ruth was signed by Baltimore Orioles owner Jack Dunn while Ruth was attending St. Mary's Industrial School. According to Kermisch, Dunn had originally planned to sign Meadows (who was attending Mt. St. Joseph's, another local school) that spring, but had a change of mind after speaking to Brother Gilbert, the athletic director at Mt. St. Joseph's. In part:
There have been many versions of how Meadows fits into the picture, but one story I heard in Baltimore many years ago seems to have some merit. It concerns Brother Gilbert, who is often credited with the discovery of Ruth. Brother Gilbert was Director of Athletics at Mt. St. Joseph's at the time. He had an outstanding college baseball team. One of his new pitchers was Meadows, who had pitched for Rock Hill College in 1913. No doubt Dunn had Meadows scouted in 1913 and was interested in giving the youngster a chance with his team. Dunn used to pick up several youngsters a year from the local ball diamonds. Among those he had corralled that way up to that time included "Home Run" Baker, "Butcher Boy" Schmidt, Fritz Maisel, George Maisel, Lefty Russell and Allan Russell. As the story goes, Dunn approached Brother Gilbert about taking Meadows south with his club. Meadows was the only southpaw on the Mt. St. Joseph's roster and Brother Gilbert was counting on him for the coming season. Brother Gilbert decided to divert Dunn's attention away from Meadows by telling him about young Ruth down the road at St. Mary's Industrial School. Brother Gilbert had seen Ruth play several games and although he was impressed by his hitting and pitching he did not envision him as a big leaguer at that time. But he had heard his associates of the Xavieran Brotherhood rave about Ruth's playing at St. Mary's. So Brother Gilbert told Dunn that Ruth was really the one he wanted for his team. He told the Oriole magnate that besides being one of the speediest pitchers around, Ruth could play first base or the outfield as well as drive the ball a mile. That was apparently the way Brother Gilbert "discovered" Ruth while really saving Meadows for his own team.
Meadows had a promising arm, but was habitually wild, which ultimately doomed his professional career. He traveled to spring training with the Yankees in 1916 and appeared in one exhibition game before being cut. Dunn took him back with Baltimore that season, but he was ineffectual in his few appearances and was given his unconditional release on June 30th. He never played professionally again. The contract (8.5 x 14 inches, unfolded) displays a few minor tears along the edges of the fold lines and light border toning. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $200. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $711
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