View Full Version : Contest Entry - Negro League Collecting - How one thing led to another

08-15-2011, 09:19 AM
As many of you know, Iíve collected Negro League cards and memorabilia since the early 1990ís. I had collected cards since the mid-1970s when my Dad bought me my first pack of cards. The collection started when I learned that my great-uncle Henry Clay Wall played in the Negro Leagues. He wasnít a big name and he didnít play for any big teams.

Having loved baseball since I was little, I never took to the time to ask my Grandma who the picture was in her room. The picture was always there, but I always looked at it as a picture of family, not of a baseball player. Having thought about it, I later came to the conclusion that not having asked about it is wrong on so many levels. When we talked about it when I was older, I began to learn that he played for teams in Homestead and Detroit. I asked her if I could have the picture, as it was going to be the feature of my memorabilia room.

One of the reasons why I began focusing on Negro League items was that it was different from what everyone else was collecting. I had worked card shows for a local promoter and I saw how kids were after stars who later became less than stellar role models. I just didnít want to collect those types of players anymore. It was the perfect fit for me.

I was never the type of collector who used all his money for the collection. If I was able to find something, cool. If not, then Iíd go about my business. After a Colorado Rockies game, I found myself in a sports memorabilia shop in downtown Denver. I was talking with the owner and he showed me some replica jerseys that he had. Naturally, the Pittsburgh Crawford replica jersey caught my eye. ďHad to have itĒ, I thought. As I was purchasing the jersey, the owner and I got to talking about the Negro Leagues and he said that he wanted me to call this guy he knew. I took the information and went about my business.

A few days later, I called Jay Sanford. Jay is a local historian in Denver and he agreed to come to my place of business. Jay sat with me for 2 hours (a long lunch, again wrong on many levels). He showed me his portfolio of pictures, which was extensive and his stories were wonderful. He went around the world to ensure that former players had nice headstones on their graves on his own dime. I also learned that one of the things that Jay did was meet with a lot of former Negro League players. I showed him my picture of my great-uncle and he asked to make a copy of it and said that he would ask the former players he knew to see if any of them knew my great uncle (which none did). As I handed him my original copy, it didnít dawn on me that I was handing this guy the only copy that my family had and trusting him to bring it back to me in good condition (which he did).

When he returned, he thanked me for allowing him to copy my photo and he handed me a copy of Cool Papa Bell. The picture shows Bell sliding into 3rd base when he played in a Denver tournament. The 3rd baseman took exception to the slide and the two fought. It was reportedly the only fight that Bell was ever in. What a great gift for me, as I should have been the one giving Jay Sanford a gift for his time. I later learned that Jay was on the committee back in the day when they decided on which former Negro League players were worthy of the Hall of Fame. I didnít realize that his importance to the Negro Leagues.

One of the things that I found especially interesting from Jay was that when he returned from Kinkos, he asked me about the picture of my great-uncle. When he had the picture copied, he asked me about the moustache on the picture. When he showed me the picture, I could see that Henry Clay Wall only had half a moustache! I had only had the picture for about 8-10 years at that point, but I didnít remember there being a moustache at all. Jay told me that what probably occurred was that a lot of photos at that time were being colorized. Henry Clay Wall probably had a moustache at the time and they most likely went to add the moustache back into the picture, started it, but never finished it. I never noticed after all this time. Whatís funny is that I took the picture back to my Grandma and she never noticed it either (after having the picture for over 50 years)! I was fortunate enough to have the meeting with Jay when I did because my Grandma passed away a few years later. I might not have had the chance to ask her about the moustache had that meeting not taken place. Now when I look at the picture, the moustache is one of the first things I notice.

Having started this venture, Iíve had the opportunity to meet lots of people (former players, their families, other collectors, etc). Iíve gotten a few autographs, some memorabilia, and cards of former players. I never thought that it would have started by the picture in my Grandmaís room. You just never know where life is going to take you!

Happy Collecting Everyone!


08-18-2011, 08:01 PM
Another good one Guy! Published here: http://www.sportscardforum.com/articles/2011/08/negro-league-collecting-how-one-thing-led-to-another/

08-19-2011, 01:07 AM
That was a great read,good luck on furthering your collection,take care Steve

08-19-2011, 07:15 AM
Thanks Steve!