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'Shoeless' Joe Jackson-signed baseball photo sells for a record $1.4 million

Joe Jackson is pictured when he played for the Cleveland Indians.
Sporting News Archive
Sporting News via Getty Images
Joe Jackson is pictured when he played for the Cleveland Indians.

A piece of baseball memorabilia sold for over $1 million this week, establishing a new record.

Christie's and Hunt Auctions sold an autographed photo of baseball player "Shoeless" Joe Jackson for $1,470,000 — the most anyone has every spent on a signed sports photograph at an auction, Christie's announced on Thursday. The photo was included in a Christie's and Hunt Auctions live auction called "Extra Innings: A Private Collection of Important Baseball Memorabilia." It was estimated to go for somewhere around $200,000 and $400,000, according to the listing.

As far as auctions go, it's no exaggeration to say that the Jackson card knocked it out of the park. But it's a sale of a magnitude that organizers were not expecting, according to Dave Hunt, the president of Hunt Auctions.

"We sort of thought that if it brought somewhere between $500,000 and a million, that would be a wild success and record-setting in and of itself," Hunt told The Washington Post. "But when it got to this level, I'm not going to say I'm shocked. That's not the right word. But, like, it is pretty stunning."

The auction house describes the card as "exceedingly scarce and important." The reason why is fairly simple. The photo, which shows Jackson mid-throw while practicing in Alexandria, La., in the spring of 1911, is the only authentic Jackson-autographed image in existence, according to the auction house. He was known to be illiterate.

Jackson, who began playing baseball at the early age of 13, enjoyed a career that turned him into a household name for decades to come. However, "Shoeless" Joe's legacy was not without controversy. He, along with several of his teammates, were accused of participating in a conspiracy to throw the 1919 World Series game for financial gain. It was a scandal that rocked the world of sports and saw Jackson, along with seven other Chicago White Sox players, banned permanently from the sport.

Many believe that Jackson, however, was not as involved as officials were initially led to believe. For his part, Jackson later claimed that a team lawyer had convinced him to sign a document he didn't understand that had him confess to the scheme. He tried, in vain, to be allowed back onto the field for years, according to a History.com story.

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Sharon Pruitt-Young