Integration was four years away and none of them would profit from the fall of baseball’s color barrier but baseball historians agree the 1943 Homestead Grays were not only on par with any big league club—they might have been the best professional team of all-time.
A rare team photo of that star-studded squad, once owned by a former Grays player with his own hand-written identification notes on the front, is the RMY Auctions Photo of the Day.
The 8×10 image from photographer Wright and Riley originated in the estate of Wilmer Fields, who joined the Grays as a teenage pitcher in 1940. It’s the only team photo of the ’43 Grays auction officials say they have ever seen and the first time this image has ever been offered at public auction. Bidding closes Saturday, September 16.
Captured in the historic image are legendary catcher Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Jud Wilson and the rest of the team that participated in part of a run of ten Negro National League pennants and three Negro World Series titles. Fields used a pen to identify some of the notable players. A complete list is available inside the auction description.
Although Fields owned the photo being offered in the auction, he left the team in 1943 when called to duty in the U.S. Army. He returned in 1946 and continued to play in various leagues both in North America and elsewhere. He died in 2004 at age 81.
Fields was involved in the hobby late in life, organizing autograph shows and holding benefit auctions to raise money for former Negro League players.