As some of you may know, the primary focus of my collection (ok, one of two primary focuses, along with lineup cards) is baseball's integration, and its central figures. Some of the major figures are Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe. Jackie obviously broke the color barrier, but all 3 played for the Dodgers, and all 3 were signed before the 1946 season (along with a couple of lesser players.) Jackie is obviously a legend and Hall-of-Famer. Newcombe was a great starter for the Dodgers for a period of time. Campanella won 3 MVP's and put together a HOF career before a horrific car accident left him in a wheelchair for life.
One of the central things that I try to capture in my collection is the complexity around these stories. Many people just see the sports world as "before Jackie Robinson" when everything wa segregated and racism was accepted, and "after Jackie Robinson" when there was integration. In reality though, Jackie Robinson himself played on integrated teams in High School, Junior College and College (as the yearbooks from when he attended John Muir High School, Pasadena Junior High and UCLA show.)
And once there was integration, it was not like the doos were just thrown wide open. Case in point Roy Campanella. In a story that is not particularly well known (Campanella gives just limited details in his autobiography "It's Good to be Alive") that Campanella originally signed on with the Danville Dodgers, a Minor League leam in Illinois. But after pushback (possibly from the league and possibly from the team) that they were not ready to integrate, Campanella signed a new contract with the Dodger's Minor League team in Nashua, where he ultimately spent the 1946 season.
It took a few months but old auction archives, a pointer from a kind individual on Net54 and a friend who back in the day used to ride the subway with Jackie Robinson came together to allow me to acquire these. I got the Danville one a couple of months back but knowing there was a chance I could get the Nashua one as well, I waited to share them here. Today, after spending an hour meeting and speaking to a friend I've made (who as I mentioned actually used to ride the subways with Jackie Robinson, and who has endless stories to share about Jackie and the Dodgers of that era) I was able to acquire the Nashua contract.
These are likely the centerpiece of my collection. Campanella was either the 3rd or 4th African-American player to sign with an affiliate of an MLB team, and his initial contract was signed before Jackie played his first game. To me, they capture the complexity and challenges of being a trailblazer. Campanalla had a different personality than Jackie (more naturally easygoing and positive) and at times I don't think he viewed himself as someone leading change, but in many ways he did. He was one of the first black players; he was a future HOF who won 3 MVP awards. After his injury, he became an inspiration to many through his perseverence and positivity.