Jake Beckley handwritten letter and cut signature example dating from circa 1912. Jake Beckley's signature is one of the rarest of all Hall of Famers. This is the first Beckley signature we have ever offered and there are probably fewer than five known examples. The rarity of Beckley's signature is twofold. During his active playing career (1888-1907), autograph collectors were few and far between. Also, although Beckley was an an outstanding hitter, he played in relative obscurity. He never played on a pennant-winning team and only once did one of his club's finish as high as second place. Most important; however, is the fact that Beckley died in 1918 at age 50, but wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame until 1971, so few, if any, collectors sought his signature during that 53-year span. The offered piece is unique in that consists of a single page of a multipage Beckley handwritten letter to which a cut signature has been affixed along the base. Affixed to both the cut and letter are clipped periodical portrait images of Beckley, a periodical clipping showing Beckley as the career leader in put outs at first base, and a Beckley T206 tobacco card, all of which obscure portions of the text. The letter has been affixed to a cardboard backing that displays both paper residue and paper loss on the reverse, indicating that it was removed from a scrapbook.
The undated letter page, written on a sheet of lined paper, features baseball content, as Beckley appears to be touting a prospect. Because portions of the text are obscured by the attachments and some of Beckley's handwriting is difficult to make out, only a partial transcription is possible:
Geo. Huff scout for the Cubs has seen him work and ask me to give Charley Murphy a chance at him also Bob ____ scout for Detroit has seen him work and for me to give Jennings a chance. You can ask any manager in this league what they think of Walsh. Bob ____ has been with me for a week or more he left for Salt Lake City this evening. Comiskey. . . .friend to take Walsh and ___ ____ you will never regret. . . .
All of the text is boldly scripted in black fountain pen and grades "9/10." Affixed to the base of the letter is a cut portion of "The Mark Twain" hotel stationery (Hannibal, Missouri) that features the signature of "J P Beckley" and the date (the year is clearly 1912, but the day or month that precedes it is difficult to make out; possibly "2" or "9"). Beckley's signature has been beautifully rendered in black fountain pen and grades "9." (It must be noted that PSA/DNA, JSA, and Beckett have each examined this piece and all three authentication companies are in agreement that the text of the letter is entirely in Beckley's hand; however, PSA/DNA cannot authenticate the signature example and because it is attached to the letter, it therefore declined to provide an LOA for the piece.)
Beckley was born in Hannibal, Missouri, and lived there for much of his life before moving to Kansas City in 1912. Following his retirement from professional baseball, Beckley remained active in the game, playing both in the minors and for semi-pro and amateur clubs almost to the time of his death. He also coached at William Jewell College and umpired for the independent Federal League in 1913. Beckley, known during his playing days as “Eagle Eye,” was one of many players whose career bridged two centuries. He began his Major League career in 1888 as a member of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and ended it twenty years later, in 1907, with the St. Louis Cardinals. During that span he batted over .300 on thirteen separate occasions and finished his career with a .308 lifetime average. He held the record for games played at first base (2,377) for decades until it was eclipsed by Eddie Murray, but still holds the top mark for putouts by a first baseman (23,709). The letter (6 x 6.75 inches; visibile dimensions) displays a few small edge tears and is otherwise in apparent Excellent condition. The cut (6 x 1.75 inches) is in apparent Excellent to Mint condition. The Beckley T206 tobacco card is in apparent Fair condition. Encapsulated by James Spence/SGC, with the text and signature certified as "Authentic." Full LOAs from James Spence/JSA, and Steve Grad and Brian Sobrero/Beckett Authentication Services. Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open).