Perusing her late husband's scrapbook of black-and-white-photos of Cleveland baseball players from the early 1900s turned out to be a surprisingly fruitful endeavor for Sharon Bowen: it contained what could be the only autographed photo of Shoeless Joe Jackson.
The former member of the Chicago White Sox was banned from baseball after throwing the 1919 World Series as part of the infamous "Black Sox Scandal." Considering he was illiterate and rarely signed anything but paychecks and legal documents, his autographs are among the rarest in sports.
Bowen's husband, Bill, first came across the scrapbook approximately 10 years ago.
[The scrapbook] was stored in a barn near Cleveland and belonged to a couple whose family was friends with Frank W. Smith, a photographer with The Plain Dealer newspaper. He shot the photo of Jackson along with those of Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Napoleon Lajoie during spring training in 1911.
The family offered to sell the scrapbook five years ago to Bowen's husband because they knew how much he treasured the 60 photos. The price tag: $15,000.
''I told him `absolutely not,''' Bowen said. ''Luckily for me, I lost that argument.''
Bill died last April at age 67, and the family has decided to sell the signed photos of Jackson and other members of the Cleveland Naps -- the team that later became the Indians -- in New York City on Feb. 21. The autographed Jackson photo had an online bid of $42,000 as of last week, reports the Associated Press.
The Jackson photo was taken in 1911, the year he became the only rookie in baseball history to hit over .400.
A baseball signed by Jackson sold for $78,000 in 2011, and a piece of paper with his signature went for $23,100 almost 25 years ago.
- Mike Fiammetta