One of the best minor league hitters ever was also a collector of baseball memorabilia.
Earl Wellington Rapp, who had a 20-year career as a player (1940-1959) and then spent 30 more as a scout, passed away in 1992 and accumulated a sizable collection of memorabilia. New Jersey dealer Joe North Jr. is helping the family sell Rapp’s collection through Hunt Auction’s current Internet and Phone Auction.
Rapp was a hot teenage prospect when World War II began and he served his country in combat at the Battle of the Bulge. He earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart before being discharged.
Rapp played for several Hall of Famers and renowned big leaguers during his minor league career including Gabby Hartnett, Charlie Dressen, Red Rolfe, Mel Ott, Leo Durocher, Lefty O’Doul, Dick Sisler, and Rogers Hornsby.
Rapp hit .347 with 145 runs batted in, and 24 homers during his best season with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in 1950. After returning to the minors for good, Rapp continued to hit. He batted .311 with 24 home runs and 108 RBI for the San Diego Padres of the PCL in 1953 and followed that with a .337/24/111 season in ’54.
There are 30 lots from his collection including a ball signed by members of the famous New York Giants 1951 pennant winning team including rookie Willie Mays and playoff hero Bobby Thomson
“But it could be more. It took me three weeks to go through everything,” North told Bob Shyrock of the South Jersey Times. “I was surprised by the diversity of his collection.”
There are vintage signed balls from Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Billy Martin and one signed by both Mantle and Martin, contracts, scorecards, letters and even Christmas cards signed by former baseball greats.
North said Rapp was “an astute collector. He was ahead of his time.”
Rapp was signed first by the Phillies, but after his sensational 1950 season, his contract was purchased by the New York Giants as insurance for the slumping Don Mueller. Rapp served as a pinch hitter and delivered a game-winning hit off the bench but hit just .091 and was waived. Although the St. Louis Browns signed him for the final month of the 1951 season and hit .327, he missed out on the Giants’ heroic comeback to overtake the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He had 39 big league at-bats in all, hitting .262 with two homers. One of the pitchers he batted against was Satchel Paige. Rapp tripled and joked for years about hitting 1.000 against the Hall of Fame hurler.
You can see the items in the collection and the rest of the items in the auction here.