The Finest Hilton Smith Single Signed Ball in the Hobby
PSA Auto Grade 8
Registry set-worthy for certain, this newly sourced, fresh-to-the hobby single signed treasure came our way just recently and is a perfect fit for the collector who simply must have the finest known specimen in the hobby.
The pros at PSA have conservatively graded the autograph Near Mint to Mint "8". While we technically agree with that assessment of the large, blue point ink signature, we will add that the ball itself, an official International League model manufactured by the MacGregor Company in the 1960's, remains in its flawless Mint condition. Free of any imperfections and detracting marks, blemishes, scuffs or even slight toning. It is absolutely snow white in color and looks as if it was just removed from its box (if we only had that original box too!). Even the stamping of the league president, Thomas H. Richardson, remains in jet-black ink. Simply stated once again, a finer example could not possibly exist.
As to scarcity, we can safely say a single signed Hilton Smith baseball is extremely rare, with no more than five known in various conditions.
Known as the forgotten star of the Negro Leagues and pitching in the shadow of the flamboyant Satchel Paige for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1936 to 1948, Hilton Smith (1907-1983) was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001. His plaque reads in part, "A quiet but confident right-hander whose devastating fastball complemented what many regard as the best sweeping curveball in Negro League history". Hilton often relieved Satchel after just three innings to finish the remaining six. Noted Negro League historian, Bob Kendrick, has written "The old-timers would all say that if you were going to hit anything, you better hit it off Satchel because you weren't going to touch Hilton Smith". Writer and historian Bill James has called Hilton Smith the best Negro League player for the years 1939, 1941 and 1942 (he named Paige the best player only in 1936). The Monarchs would win five pennants in the six years the two played together.
Of note, during World War II Smith was a lieutenant in the Army and noticed a young ballplayer named Jackie Robinson, whereupon he contacted Monarch's owner, J.L. Wilkinson, and urged him to sign the player immediately. The rest, as they say, is history.
A college graduate who was very well educated, Smith would teach school after his baseball career ended and later became a scout (along with Buck O'Neil) for the Chicago Cubs. He passed away in 1983 in Kansas City, Missouri, long before it was fashionable to collect single signed baseballs. In fact, few thought it important to seek his autograph at all. It was not until a decade later that his importance (and greatness) became evident to the baseball community, thus making his signature rare on any medium.
An important single, incredibly scarce and in a prefect state of preservation…comes with a Graded Letter of Authenticity from PSA.
If you need this one for your collection, look no further. The Best of the Best and True Brigandi Quality