Chicago Black Sox Archive to Be Auctioned
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Sports memorabilia auctions are as common these days as a New England Patriots win. But MastroAuctions in Burr Ridge, Illinois thinks it has a collection that will really turn heads. It's an archive of documents that may shed light on one of the greatest scandals in sports history - the Chicago Black Sox and the throwing of the 1919 World Series. The collection includes letters written by then-Sox owner Charles Comiskey, a transcript of Shoeless Joe Jackson's court testimony and cancelled players' paychecks.
For more, we've called Brian Marren. He's vice president of acquisitions at MastroAuctions. Thanks for being with us.
Mr. BRIAN MARREN (Vice President of Acquisitions, MastroAuctions.com): Oh, thanks for having me.
BLOCK: And Mr. Marren, what would you say are some of the highlights of this collection?
Mr. MARREN: Oh, I think the payroll checks for Lefty Williams and Cicotte are really significant items. Those are probably worth alone over $10,000 to $15,000.
BLOCK: These were two pitchers on that notorious Black Sox team.
Mr. MARREN: They were two of the main culprits in the scandal. They actually threw a couple games in the World Series. So they have their paychecks from that year, it's pretty significant.
BLOCK: And for people who are really looking for something that might shed new light on what happened in that 1919 World Series, what do you think they might find in this collection that would really turn them off?
Mr. MARREN: Well, there's actual statements here from the trial from 1921 that Lefty Williams made specifically and names players and tells exactly how it took place and how - who got what money. And that's pretty significant because, to my knowledge, there's not another hardcopy information left from that period.
BLOCK: This was a criminal trial. And all eight of the players were eventually banned from the game, but they were acquitted at trial.
Mr. MARREN: They were acquitted of the charges, but Comiskey was not happy with his players being banned for life. In fact, one of the documents here is a suspension letter sent to Joe Jackson's home, a copy of it that says, you will be reinstated if you're proved innocent, which obviously he never was. It's another interesting archive that's in here.
BLOCK: What do you think these papers show, if anything, that's new about Shoeless Joe Jackson himself?
Mr. MARREN: Well, I think it really confirms that he was involved. But it's interesting to note that his involvement really was through Lefty Williams. Williams' statement makes it clear that Jackson did not participate in the meetings, but he did give Jackson the $5,000 to fix the series. So I think it's interesting to note that Buck Weaver also was named, appears pretty guilty in most of the documents here. And he's always proclaimed his innocence until he died.
BLOCK: Now, I gather that when that criminal trial of the players happened in 1921, there were documents that were missing. And those were the confessions of some of the players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson. I guess what you would really want to be able to offer people in this auction would be those missing confessions that have disappeared.
Mr. MARREN: Right. And they are not in here, obviously. But those would be really significant documents if they ever showed up. They have not yet, to my knowledge, shown up.
BLOCK: How much could you get for those?
Mr. MARREN: I think those would be six figures. If you had a confession signed by Joe Jackson, easily into the six figures, and maybe several times that.
BLOCK: And how many pages of documents do you have in this collection?
Mr. MARREN: Hundreds. There are letters, handwritten letters from officials in the league. There are attorneys' letters, notes, like I said two payroll checks, telegrams, hundreds and hundreds of documents in the archive.
BLOCK: What do you estimating you'll be getting at auction for this?
Mr. MARREN: Well, we started the stuff generally pretty reasonably. We start it $5,000 this morning. It's already got a bid. We expect, you know, high five figures on the collection itself.
BLOCK: You know, in the world of auctioneering, providence is everything, where things came from. And so far, you've not revealed where you got this stuff. Why not?
Mr. MARREN: We have a concern he does not want publicity on it. He consigned(ph) it to the auction house. That's pretty standard at most auction houses. They did find it in the middle of nowhere in a garage sale. One of those things they find - a needle in a haystack, a treasure. So it's - stuff is out there. Just keep looking.
BLOCK: Well, Mr. Marren, it's good to talk to you. Thanks very much.
Mr. MARREN: And take care.
BLOCK: Brian Marren is vice president of acquisitions for MastroAuctions in Burr Ridge, Illinois. Bidding on the Chicago Black Sox archive began today and closes Thursday, December 13th.
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