SANTA FE, NM, May 24, 2008 — Even though they were segregated, playing baseball in the Negro Leagues was a big deal for Black men in America after the Civil War. They loved the game and wanted a chance to play like everyone else.
The Negro Leagues were a way to make it happen.
Black leagues ran parallel to white leagues. They were traveling men who took to the road every spring going from town to town.
They laughed, joked and sang on the bus. They shook hands, smacked backs and signed autographs just like white players. They were also heroes to their fans.
Their salaries were lower than their white counterparts, but Negro League players still made more than most of the people who came and watched them play.
And when they beat white teams, which they almost always did, the victories were sweet.
Maybe they were banned from the major leagues, but they demonstrated day after day they belonged there.
None of it mattered. The gentleman’s agreement, the color line, kept them from playing for the most part from 1898 to 1946. They were separate and unequal.
Some said Blacks were banned from the white domain of Major League Baseball not so much because of color, but because they were better players.
The Negro Leagues peaked around 1946, the same year Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier.
Memorabilia from the Negro Leagues is understandably scarce. That’s why old photos, score cards, baseballs, programs and tickets command interest now.
On March 7, Hunt Auctions, in Exton, Pa., featured a selection of Negro League items in its Sports Memorabilia and Cards auction.
A Negro league baseball including the signatures of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, and Don Newcombe sold for $20,700.
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Rosemary has provided auction coverage and analysis on thousands-and-thousands of antiques and collectibles sold since the column started 16-years ago. She includes auction sale results to give readers a feel for what their treasures are worth because the power of auctions is simple.
When the bidding stops and the hammer falls, the value of an item is set. The buyer, not the seller, sets the price, and this simple distinction cuts through all the chitchat about what art, antiques and collectibles are really worth. The emphasis is on today’s values, not yesterday’s wishful thinking.
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Rosemary is the co-author of The Official Price Guide to Fine Art published by Random House and received her training in the trenches working as a professional appraiser and weekly columnist.