A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hilton Smith

My wife and I watch a lot of shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers. Today, we were watching Auction Hunters, which is a lesser knock off show that seems to fill that desire for antiques and what the stuff in the basement is worth. Obviously, the History Channel shows are much better than Antiques Roadshow, which is dull and filled with characters that have none of the charm of Frank, Mike, or Chum Lee.
In the end, you either have star power, or you have the hope of people bringing in interesting merchandise.
Today, some guy brought in a collection of Negro Leagues merchandise complete with Jackie, Hank, + Satchel. My wife informed me that I would have been drooling if they brought them in for me to consign. She's right. When it was appraised, the Negro Leagues expert said that the Hilton Smith autograph would have fetched big cash - $400 - if they had someone who knew who he was, so in remembering him, but not really remembering him, I looked him up, and here's what the Major Leagues Hall of Famer did:
In 1941, he went 25-1 for the Kansas City Monarchs. In the words of Crash Davis, that's a career. Hell, in each of his 12 years with the Monarchs, he hit 20 games won. Granted, it's hard to figure out all of the stats from the days in the Negro Leagues due to poor transcribing and accumulation of said statistics, but with that alone, he's awesome. However, he played in the shadows of Satchel, and as we all know, Mr. Paige was larger than life and left quite a shadow.
Nevertheless, he pitched in 6 East - West All Star games and whiffed thirteen batters in these shows to show off his "swagger" as one of the greatest pitchers of his day.
Against the white teams that the Negro Leagues stars would play against to show how great they could have been had mixed competition been allowed, Smith went 6-1.
When it was all said and done, he was a scout for the Chicago Cubs. As a result, even though he never made it to the Major Leagues, he made sure other people did.
Even more importantly, he worked as a teacher, sharing his life with young people, who could benefit from his knowledge and experience.
Does that make his autograph worth $400? Considering it was packaged with other autographs, pennants, and memorabilia, I would say that the $175 it fetched at auction was quite nice and it made the gentleman who gave it up to earn money for a missionary trip to the Ivory Coast all the more happy when he got $1200 after the auctioneers took 20% off of the original $1500 paid for all of it.

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