Most collectors know Hall of Famer Hank Aaron as the legendary slugger for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. But before playing there, Aaron actually spent a winter in Puerto Rico playing ball for a short time. While not many collectibles were created featuring Aaron with his Puerto Rican team, a few do exist.
RMY Auctions has an incredibly rare item up for bid from his Puerto Rico days. The auction house boasts one of the earliest known images of Hank Aaron as he was featured on a composite titled, ‘Equipo de Puerto Rico.’ Translated from Spanish, that means ‘Team of Puerto Rico’ or ‘Puerto Rico Team’. The photograph also provides the date, signifying its origins from 1953-54. Most of the players (including Aaron) shown are believed to have been part of the Caguas team, a city in Puerto Rico.
Hank Aaron began his career in the Negro Leagues in 1951 and was soon signed by the Braves in 1952. He played in their minor league system and played in Puerto Rico in the winter of 1953, thus appearing on this photo, before joining the Braves’ major league team in 1954.
Aaron is one of more than 40 players pictured on the photograph that is approximately 8″ x 9 3/4″. All pictures are headshots of players with the exception of a few in the center of the photograph, which feature some action/full shots. Pictures of the players are set against a gray background and the back, save for a certifying stamp and some writing in Spanish, is blank.
As is the case with several older international issues, grammatical issues exist. The spelling of Aaron’s name was a significant gaffe as he is called ‘Aroon’ on the photograph. Even with the typographical error, there is no doubt that Aaron is the player featured. Other issues with the names exist as well. While most players have their last names used, one is mysteriously called Jim R., presumably because his last name was not known at the time of production. A few other players are unnamed. Despite that, the photograph is a remarkable piece that pre-dates Hank Aaron’s 1954 Topps rookie card.
Where the auction ends is anybody’s guess. However, a very similar photograph sold in a 2013 auction for just over $700. While they appear to be identical, the photos are slightly different. The primary difference on the 2013 photograph is that it is titled, “Campeones de Puerto Rico” (Champions of Puerto Rico).
The auction for the photograph has begun and will end on April 14 – you can bid here.