Some autograph requests are just that—a simple request for a signature. Others, as was the case here, invite the signer to get more personal with a question or prompt that might bring out an interesting story.
Monte Irvin recounts a lengthy story of a "Heart-Breaking Defeat" for his Newark Eagles at the hands of the Homestead Grays, mentioning Willie Wells, Leon Day and Josh Gibson, whom Irvin describes as "Babe Ruth of the Negro League." He writes, "Josh Gibson, the Babe Ruth of the Negro League, was the next hitter. Our manager went to the mound and decided to bring in our ace Right hander Leon Day to pitch to right handed hitting, Josh Gibson! He got 2 quick strikes on Josh and instead of wasting a couple of pitchers tried to sneak a fast ball by Josh who hit the pitch into the center field stands for a 3-2 lead. Leon retired the next hitter but we did not score in the bottom of the 9th for a devastating loss. The crowd was crushed and sadly filed out of the ball park. After the game our owner said to Josh: You should be ashamed of yourself for spoiling the fun for so many wonderful fans. Josh said: You shouldn't have been surprised. I do it all the time."
Sewell—who has the all-time lowest strikeout rate in major league history and once went 115 straight games without a strikeout!—offers this advice: "You have to work at anything you can do well. I had no problem hitting a ball, as when I was a boy in grammar school I cannot remember when I could throw up a rock or a Coca Cola top and hit it with a stick or a broomstick handle as I always had my pockets filled with them, and on the way to school I would practice hitting the rock or Coca Cola top, not realizing at the time what I was doing, but I was developing my reflexes, my coordination, and my concentration, and when I got in pro ball I had no problem hitting, as you have got to look at the rock or Coca Cola top if you don't you will not hit it, so I was watching the ball soon as it left the pitcher's hand until it left my bat. Don't look at the pitcher, look at the ball. First learn the strike zone, get you a comfortable stance where you can hit any pitch in the strike zone and hit the ball out front not behind you."
Both missives appear on yellow lined paper, with all handwriting and signatures rating "10" strength. Accompanied by an Irvin signed postcard-sized photo. Auction LOA from JSA.