ery often, as sports collectors, we gravitate towards the memorabilia of Hall of Fame players rather than contributors, managers, umpires and executives. To offer some equal time towards the latter, this month's subject will be long-time baseball administrator Ed Barrow.
Barrow was born on May 10, 1868 in Springfield, Illinois. Barrow's father was a Civil War veteran and christened his son, naming him after his father Edward and Grant after his hero, General and President Ulysses S. Grant. His introduction to a sports career came as a newspaperman for the Des Moines Leader, which led to a business relationship with concessionaire Harry M. Stevens in a deal to supply the Pirates ballpark with concessions near the end of the 1890's.
Barrow would then become a minor league general manager and president before managing the Tigers in 1903-04. After leaving baseball for a hotel business stint, he returned to the minor leagues and then became the Boston Red Sox Manager from 1918-1920. It was there that his eyes opened wide to the hitting talent of Babe Ruth.
The bushy-browed Barrow is credited for transforming Ruth from a pitcher into an everyday outfielder. At age 52, he followed Ruth and accepted a position as Yankee General Manager on October 29, 1920, which he would remain for 25 years thereafter. In 1939, upon the death of Colonel Ruppert, he assumed the duties of New York Yankee President. His tenure included 14 pennants and 10 World Championships.
Barrow was instrumental as a pioneer of night baseball, discoverer of Honus Wagner, the first to paint distances on the outfield fences and the first to place large numbers on the players' uniforms. More importantly, he developed the Yankee farm system, which help create the mightiest sports empire ever known.
Barrow retired in 1945 to his Westchester home in Rye, New York. He was forced by ill health to decline an offer to become MLB commissioner in the mid 1940's. His demeanor was summed up by Joe DiMaggio as "a nice guy, but one tough cookie." He has been described as being forceful, outspoken, afraid of no one and he never backed down from a fistfight. He died at the age of 85, too ill to attend his HOF induction just months prior.
Barrow's legible signature resembled his forceful personality. His penmanship was flawless and heavy handed with a sharp acute slanted angle. He would often sign with his overpowering ornate initial that dwarfed the balance of his signature. As an administrator, much correspondence exists in the form of contracts ($400) documents, letters ($350), and business personal checks ($150). In contrast, there are few signed photographs, government postcards or index cards.
Although accessible by mail and a willing signer in person, Barrow was infrequently asked for his autograph by hobbyists. He is, however, forged frequently citing the many existing signatures in the market today. The Hall of Fame gift shop did not have the black and white Artvue HOF plaques printed until the following year (1954) making it impossible for Barrow to have signed any. Signed bats in team form are rare along with single-signed baseballs. His Perez-Steele Card (1980-Third Series Card #63) is obviously impossible to have been autographed.
Interestingly, I recently noticed the Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert signatures, on many Yankee Contracts of the 1920's & 1930's, had a strong resemblance to that of Barrow. Well, he did indeed take the liberty of signing for his boss in his absence. His version was a larger and more flamboyant style.
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