One of the most consequential of the figures to hold the title of Commissioner of Baseball, "Happy" Chandler assumed the role in 1945 and held it until 1951. It was during Chandler's tenure that the color barrier was broken in the major leagues, as he authorized Jackie Robinson's contract. The successor to Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Chandler is also credited with establishing a pension fund for retired players, which was funded by media contracts he negotiated, and which earned him the title "The Players' Commissioner."
Presented here is a document of extreme historical significance: a fully-executed copy of Chandler's first contract, signed by Chandler along with 18 team and league officials. The contract is an elaborate 11-page document with a front and back cover, dated May 1, 1945 and spelling out the terms of the agreement between Chandler, the league offices and 16 baseball clubs. The signatures inside have been extremely well-preserved, a total of 19 fountain pen signatures applied in blue or black ink by the signatories, and including many of the most important names in the history of the game, including Chandler (HOF) along with Donald Barnes, William Benswanger, Alva Bradley, Sam Breadon, R.R.M. Carpenter, Eddie Collins (HOF), Grace Comiskey, Ford Frick (HOF), Warren Giles (HOF), Clark Griffith (HOF), William Harridge (HOF), Connie Mack (HOF), Larry Mac Phail (HOF), Lou Perini, Branch Rickey (HOF), Horace Stoneham, Phil Wrigley, and John Zeller.
An instrumental figure in the integration of baseball, Chandler not only approved Robinson's contract but threatened disciplinary action against Phillies manager Ben Chapman for his racially insensitive taunts against Robinson, and also supported Ford Frick's plan to indefinitely suspend Cardinals players who threatened to sit out games against the Dodgers. Chandler's tough hand helped guide the game through the difficult early days of integration. Of Chandler, Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe said "Some of the things he did for Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and me when he was commissioner of baseball - those are the kinds of things we never forget." It is of extreme significance that this document contains the signatures of both Chandler and Branch Rickey, the two executives most responsible for clearing the way for integrating the game, shortly after this contract was signed.
The contract is in excellent condition, the signatures flawless and clean. Some mild age-related wear is evident, mostly in the form of tiny tearing at the spine, some looseness among the pages and some very moderate toning. The agreement is accompanied by a letter to Larry Mac Phail from Baseball Secretary/Treasurer Walter Mulbry, indicating that this contract was Mac Phail's copy.
The contract was a 7-year agreement that gave Chandler the ability to renew his contract at will, provided he had the support of 12 owners. Upon expressing his desire to renew in 1951, Chandler received only 11 votes, ending his term. He subsequently went on to win a second term as governor of Kentucky, during which time he enforced the racial integration of the state's public schools.
An extraordinary document of extreme historical importance, containing the signatures of the President of each ball club, the respective League Offices, and the new Commissioner himself. Given the events that would transpire in baseball shortly after this agreement was signed, the presence of Chandler and Rickey on this contract makes it one of the most significant pieces we have handled. Absolutely a museum-quality piece, certainly the centerpiece to any advanced collection. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.