Lot # 1506: 1929 Hank Greenberg Detroit Tigers Contract - First Professional Contract with Handwritten Bonus Receipt - Only Known Greenberg Player's Contract!

Starting Bid: $10,000.00

Bids: 4 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "REA Fall 2017",
which ran from 10/6/2017 2:00 PM to
10/29/2017 12:00 PM

One-page contract, dated September 19, 1929, between Hank Greenberg, David Greenberg (father), and Sarah Greenberg (mother), and the Detroit Baseball Company. This is not only Hank Greenberg's first professional contract, signed when he was just eighteen and a freshman at NYU, but, to the best of our knowledge, it is the only Hank Greenberg player's contract that has ever surfaced, as we have never seen or heard of another example. The contract has been signed in blue fountain pen by "Henry Greenberg" (grading "9") and "Frank Navin" (grading "10"), president of the club, and in black fountain pen by "David Greenberg" and "Sarah Greenberg." The agreement calls for Greenberg to receive a $6,000 bonus at signing, plus an additional $3,000 following his graduation from college or at any time that he reports to the Tigers for the start of his baseball career. Furthermore, the Tigers agree not to send Greenberg to any minor league club with a classification lower than Double A. After Greenberg signed the contract, he provided the club with a one-page handwritten receipt, dated "Sept. 19, 1929," that is included here. The receipt reads in full: "Received from Mr. Jean Dubuc, agent for the Detroit Baseball Club the sum of 6,000 as first payment in the Henry Greenberg agreement on this 19th day of September. Henry Greenberg." Both the text and signature have been scripted in blue fountain pen and grade "9/10."

Greenberg, who lived in the Bronx, New York, was being heavily courted by the New York Yankees at the time he signed this agreement. In his autobiography Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life (Ivan R. Dee, reprint edition, 2009), Greenberg recalls the story of how Yankee scout Paul Krichell took him to Yankee Stadium to watch a game in 1929, with the hopes of convincing him to sign with the "Bombers." Krichell was the scout who had signed Lou Gehrig, but when Gehrig came to the plate, Krichell whispered in Greenberg's ear “He’s all washed up. In a few years, you’ll be the Yankee first baseman.” Luckily for Greenberg, he was smart enough to see that Gehrig still had a lot of good years left in him, and that there was no future for a first baseman in the Yankees' organization. Greenberg knew then and there that the Tigers were the better option, plus, he liked Jean Dubuc, the Tigers scout. According to Greenberg, the original Detroit offer was $3,000 at signing, and then $6,000 when we reported to play. However, after Dubuc learned that the Yankees were offering a $10,000 signing bonus, he changed to the terms to $6,000 at signing and $3,000 later, which, as we see here, closed the deal. In addition to his skill on the diamond, Greenberg was also one of the best high school basketball players in New York during his senior year, but the fact that there was little money in professional basketball at the time made his decision to sign with Detroit an easy one. (In his book, Greenberg writes that had the money been comparable, he would have chosen basketball over baseball.) Interestingly, the fifth and final clause in Greenberg's 1929 contract offered here specifically addresses the possibility of his pursuing either a basketball or football career: "The guardians furthermore, do not wish to be held responsible in the event that said Henry Greenberg plays football or basketball but do agree to do all in their power to prevent him doing so."

"Hammerin'" Hank Greenberg, who led the American League in home runs on four separate occasions, was one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history. In 1938 he seriously challenged Ruth's single-season home run record, only to fall short by two, with 58. The previous year he drove in 183 runs, the second-best mark in American League history and third best all-time behind Gehrig (184) and Hack Wilson (190). In his six full seasons from 1934 through 1940 (he was hurt in 1936 and lost nearly five full seasons due to military service from 1941 to 1945) Greenberg averaged 39 home runs and 150 RBI. To put his RBI numbers in proper perspective, whereas Greenberg averaged 150 RBI a season over that period, other prominent Hall of Fame sluggers such as Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron never even once recorded 150 RBI in a single season. Following his playing days, Greenberg enjoyed another successful career as a general manager with both the Indians and White Sox. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956. Both the contract (on onion skin) and receipt (on a sheet of lined paper), which measure 8.5 x 11 inches, display two horizontal folds and a paperclip impression along the top border. The receipt also displays a few tiny edge tears and three notebook holes along the left border. In Excellent condition overall. Full LOAs from PSA/DNA, James Spence/JSA, Steve Grad and Brian Sobrero/Beckett Authentication, and SGC Authentic. Opening Bid $10,000. Estimate $20,000/$30,000+.

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