Jim Bottomley, largely a forgotten man, was once one of the most respected and feared hitters in baseball. A Most Valuable Player and Hall of Famer, Bottomley retired nearly 80 years ago.
While fans’ memory of his great career has dulled, Bottomley is alive and well in the hearts and pocketbooks of collectors.
Bottomley’s two-year contract for the 1928 and 1929 seasons is available in a Robert Edward Auctions sale. The contract, signed by Bottomley and St. Louis VP Branch Rickey, calls for an $11,000 salary for 1928, his MVP season.
Bidding on the piece has already reached that figure with a little more than two days left on the auction. The collector who consigned it asked his name not be used in the article, but said he had mixed emotions about letting the piece go.
"It was a tough decision to put it up for sale," he said. "A contract of a Hall of Fame player in his MVP year is priceless. A document like this was part of the game and is rarely offered. It probably belongs in the Hall of Fame. My hope is it ends up with the St. Louis organization or in the hands of someone who gains as much enjoyment from having it as I did."
Inducted into Cooperstown in 1974, Bottomley found success early in his career and garnered MVP consideration in six different seasons.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ rise as a dominant team in the National League coincided with Bottomley’s development. Debuting in August, 1922, Bottomley established himself as an everyday first baseman the next season when he hit .371 and drove in 94 runs. By 1926, the Cardinals were World Champs with “Sunny Jim” leading the league in RBI and doubles.
The following year, Bottomley knocked in 124 to help St. Louis to a 92-win season.
In 1928, Bottomley had his MVP year, topping the senior circuit with 31 homers, 136 RBI, and 362 total bases, leading the team back to the World Series.
During his eight-year prime, Bottomley averaged more than 300 total bases and 118 runs batted in per season to go along with a .312 average. With Bottomley at first base, the Cardinals won four NL pennants and two World Championships.
Over the two seasons of this contract, St. Louis paid Bottomley $23,000. He rewarded them with 231 runs, 60 homers, 273 runs batted in, and 680 total bases.
Though that may be a bargain, the lucky collector who ends up as high bidder will get something more: A one-of-a-kind piece of baseball history.
For those wishing to bid on Jim Bottomley’s contract, click here.
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