Plucked by the Cleveland Browns in the opening round of the 1957 NFL Draft, Syracuse product Jim Brown made the most of a nine-year NFL career, retiring as the career leader in rushing touchdowns (106), career rushing yards (12,312) and single-season rushing yards (1863). While those standards have since been eclipsed as schedules have increased from 12 to 14 to 16 games, Brown remains the only player to average more than 100 yards per game for an entire career. So while the consensus echoes that Brown is the greatest player in NFL history, the offered document is arguably the most significant artifact in the circles of Jim Brown memorabilia. This is the actual contract that secured Brown’s services during his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns.
Equal parts historic and amazing, the crisp yellow page measures 8 x 19-5/8” with normal horizontal compacting folds. Entitled “NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE STANDARD PLAYERS CONTRACT,” the document features printed legal details and typewritten specifics whose bullet points include: “JIMMY BROWN,” “1957” and “CLEVELAND BROWNS INC.” A handwritten notation lists Brown’s “$12,000” annual stipend. At the conclusion, the assembly of endorsements takes your breath away. On the lower left, legendary NFL Commissioner Bert Bell (d.1959) has signed in blue ink (“9-10” strength). On the right side, both Cleveland Browns scout Richard Gallagher (“10” strength) and Jim Brown (“10” strength) have signed in blue ballpoint. Executed on lines reserved for “Witness,” there are two unidentified signatures. On the reverse, a handwritten legend reads: “In consideration for signing this contract the Cleveland Browns Inc., agree to pay Jim Brown $3000.00 (three thousand dollars) at his option (as a bonus for signing this contract). This addendum has been endorsed by both Gallagher (“10” strength) and Brown (“9” strength). Correct in their enthusiasm and anticipation of Brown’s exploits, the Browns were rewarded as their fullback paced the league in rushing yards (942), rushing touchdowns (9) and rushing yards per game (78.5) during his rookie season. Brown was to lead the league in rushing for his first five seasons and in eight of his nine seasons before retiring at the age of 29. Full photo LOA from JSA. This item has a reserve (estimated value: $15,000-$25,000).