Philadelphia-based Bowman Gum would soon face stiff competition from an aggressive little gum maker in New York but life was good in the spring of 1951 when they snared the services of two of the game’s most talked about young players. The cost to get Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays under contract wasn’t much but those pacts are worth a lot more today.
Several months after Mantle’s original 1951 contract with Bowman sold for over $100,000 through Heritage Auctions, the company is about to put Mays’ first baseball card agreement on the auction block.
The two-page agreemtn, with two Mays signatures, will be one of the items in the August 29-30 Platinum Night catalog. Serendipitously, the contract was signed on May 28, 1951–the date Mays took Warren Spahn over the left field roof at the Polo Grounds for the first of his 660 career home runs.
Mays, who had just turned 20 on May 6 of that year, signed the 11 x 8 1/2″page in blue ink. The autograph of Bowman representative Jack Tanzer and the address of the Polo Grounds written in an unknown hand are also on the page. The two also signed the back to signify consent to a related covenant.
The deal also committed Mays to giving Bowman permission to print his cards again in 1952 and while it asked for exclusivity, he would also appear in the 1952 Topps set as well.
Bowman gave Mays a buck and the promise of a nice watch after the season.
The contract now at Heritage doesn’t include details that were included in Mantle’s pact indicating a $100 annual payment that was paid to most players who had signed with Bowman but it’s likely Mays would have been paid the same.
Interestingly, the document includes a stamp from U.S. District Court dated the following year when Bowman took Topps to court over what it claimed were exclusive rights. The Mays and Mantle contracts were both entered into evidence but apparently returned to the company after the conclusion of the court case.
Bidding for the Mays contract will take place at HA.com/sports beginning August 7.