Say it ain’t so: ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson autographed 1911 photo sells for $1.47M

NEW YORK — A photograph purportedly signed by disgraced baseball star “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in 1911 sold for a record $1.47 million, the most ever paid for an autographed sports photo.

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The picture, taken by Cleveland Plain Dealer photographer Frank W. Smith, was offered by Christie’s and Hunt Auctions. The item was sold in the auction Extra Innings: A Private Collection of Important Baseball Memorabilia, which ended Wednesday.

Jackson was in his second season with the Cleveland Naps (later called the Indians) when Smith snapped the photo of the outfielder in a follow-through. It is labeled March 1911 and is inscribed with a signature purportedly of Jackson and “Alexandria.”

The photograph includes a letter of authenticity from James Spence Authentication (JSA), according to the auction listing. The photo is graded PSA/DNA mint by Professional Sports Authenticator. The photograph is graded EX/Mint-near mint, while the signature is graded mint by the authentication company.

Autographs of Jackson are rare. Jackson, who was illiterate, was able to sign his name -- but signed items other than documents rarely exist.

Ron Keurajian, the author of two volumes of “Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide” that also include signature analyses of players from the 1919 Chicago White Sox, said that there are “no genuine signed images of Jackson in existence.”

In its auction listing, Christie’s said the Jackson autograph is “the lone surviving example of any type.”

Keurajian said he was skeptical about the photograph’s authenticity.

“Here’s a guy who was illiterate, but he can write ‘Alexandria’ on the photograph?” Keurajian told Cox Media Group via telephone on Thursday night. “And for those who believe Frank Smith wrote ‘Alexandria’ on the photo, so, he wrote it in the same hand as Jackson’s? That seems highly unlikely.”

In his book, Keurajian describes Jackson’s signature as “rudimentary” and “very easy to replicate.”

Heritage Auctions, which originally sold the photo in 2015, said the original consignor’s husband bought it, along with other baseball photos, from friends of the Smith family for $15,000 in 2010, Sports Collectors Daily reported.

The 246-lot auction also featured a Babe Ruth professional model baseball bat with eight home run notches that sold for $1.05 million, according to The Associated Press. Also sold was a 1925 Lou Gehrig autographed rookie exhibit postcard, which fetched $687,500, and a 1952 Joe DiMaggio autographed handwritten letter to Marilyn Monroe that brought $525,000, according to the AP.