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'Shoeless Joe' Jackson signed photo, stored in bedroom trunk, brings $179,250 at auction
1911 "Shoeless Joe" Jackson Signed Photograph from The Frank W. Smith Collection, PSA/DNA Mint 9.

NEW YORK, NY.- The only known "Shoeless Joe" Jackson signed photograph authenticated by modern grading-services, found in a photo book that sat in a trunk at the end of a bed in a Cleveland, OH house — and was originally compiled by Cleveland newspaper photographer Frank W. Smith in 1911 — sold for $179,250 in Heritage Auctions Saturday, Feb. 21 Platinum Night Sports Auction in New York, almost doubling its pre-auction estimate of $100,000+.

It sold to an anonymous collector who bought all four lots in the Frank W. Smith Collection in order to keep the entire collection together. The Frank W. Smith Collection, in total — including the Jackson photo, a signed Christy Matthewson photo ($92,613), a signed Napoleon Lajoie ($16,730) and the remaining 57 photographs from the collection ($13,145) — brought a total of $301,738.

"When you calculate the importance, rarity and condition of this piece, there's no hyperbole in the suggestion that this ranks among the finest sports autographs ever to be sold," said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. "'Shoeless Joe' continues to fascinate and intrigue sports fans and collectors. The superb price realized on this piece more than proves that."

It's widely known that Jackson was illiterate, a fact about which he was deeply embarrassed. He almost always avoided signing his name, except when absolutely necessary on official documents like bank documents and legal forms, which make up the bulk of the tiny known population of his extant signatures.

The photo and the scrapbook, which will be auctioned separately, have been consigned to auction by Sharon Bowen, the widow of William Bowen, of Cleveland, who purchased the scrapbook directly from the Smith family.

"Bill knew about it for years and finally procured it five years ago," said Mrs. Bowen. "He knew the family well and he was never pushy with them in any way at all. He knew it was a gem when he saw it and told the family, if and when the time came that they ever wanted to sell it, please contact him. He knew about all things sports, especially Cleveland and he really loved that book. We used to keep it in a trunk at the end of our bed so he could take it out and look at it whenever he wanted to."

"Shoeless Joe" Jackson was the most noteworthy casualty of the punishments following the 1919 Black Sox scandal that saw eight players banished from baseball for life following a conspiracy to throw the World Series at the direction of crooked gamblers. Compelling evidence of Jackson's innocence survives in his 1919 Series stat line, though the passage of 95 years has eliminated any hope for a definitive answer.

The photograph and signature were obtained by Cleveland Plain Dealer photographer Frank W. Smith, who snapped most of the Cleveland Indians at the team's 1911 spring training grounds in Alexandria, La. The photo book from which it came was a trove of never-before-seen original photos of that Indians team, as well as the mighty 1911 New York Giants. Also included in the newly discovered trove of 60 photographs —sold separately as special section in the auction — were prints autographed by baseball legends Napoleon Lajoie, Christy Mathewson and John McGraw.

"This book of photos, on its own, would represent a very significant find," said Ivy. "The fact that Smith took the time to ask each player to sign and date their photos makes this collection even more unique and vital, especially when you consider that it was all but forgotten until William Bowen rescued it from the dustbin of history."

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