Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

April 23, 2010

“1891 Jos. Hall Cabinet Card of “Smiling” Mickey Welch”

Appearing as lot 100 in Robert Edward Auctions’ Spring sale of baseball cards and memorabilia was a rare baseball card of Hall-of-Famer “Smiling” Mickey Welch. Welch won 315 games between 1880 and 1892 and was known as one of the greatest right-hand-pitchers of the 19th century. His 1891 cabinet card, which was slated to be sold at auction on May 1st, was produced by Brooklyn photographer Joseph Hall and is encapsulated in a plastic case and graded “authentic” by card grading company SportsCard Guaranty (SGC). The auction house headed by Robert Lifson describes the card as “the first example we’ve ever seen” and notes that “the reverse displays tape remnants, surface paper loss, and handwritten notations, one of which (the name “Bob”) is in red marker.” The card is quite possibly unique and far rarer than the $2.8 million-dollar Honus Wagner card put on display at the Hall of Fame this past weekend as part of the collection of MLB owner Ken Kendrick- there are at least fifty T-206 Wagner cards known to exist. The problem is, the possibly one-of-a-kind card of “Smilin’ Mickey” that was on the auction block appears to be the property of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Evidence of the theft is revealed in the paper loss and apparent vandalism exhibited on the reverse of the Welch card. Both the auction house and the card grading company fail to disclose that the damage to the back clearly indicates  information previously written on the card has been removed. In addition, the reverse shows the name “BOB” written in red marker in the upper right hand corner but, upon closer examination, it appears to have originally been “PD.”  “PD” written in red marker on the reverse of a photo is a designation found on images that are “Public Domain” in the collection of the National Baseball Library at the Hall of Fame.  The altering of the “PD” to appear as “BOB” and the additional paper loss on the reverse illustrate a clear attempt to conceal tell-tale ownership marks.

The Welch card has been “slabbed” in an encapsulated holder that was originally developed for 20th century issues of traditional baseball cards, however, in recent years 19th century cabinet cards like the Welch have been graded in holders to enhance their value for collectors of graded material.  In the case of the Hall of Fame’s Welch card, SportsCard Guaranty’s encapsulation of the card didn’t enhance its value, rather it preserved a crime-scene for the authorities who will ultimately investigate the theft.  

Further investigation into the matter has revealed that in 1957 the Hall of Fame received a donation of a group of Joseph Hall cabinet cards featuring the 1891 New York Giant players, including Mickey Welch. Records also indicate that in 1967 the cabinet cards were photographed by the library and a set of negatives were preserved. The inscription which has been defaced and vandalized on the reverse of the card most likely   read: “Negatives 2/2/67.” That same inscription appears on another 1891 card in the Hall of Fame collection, referring to the set of negatives documenting the Joseph Hall cards in 1967. One of the negatives in the set is believed to bear the image of the exact same cabinet card of “Smilin’ Mickey” Welch being offered in the current Robert Edward Auctions sale. It’s solid proof  that the New Jersey auction house was selling the Baseball Hall of Fame’s donated property. The Hall of Fame declined to furnish copies of the negatives when requested for this story.

Sources indicate that Hall of Fame officials are currently conducting their own investigation into the matter. In regard to the issues related to the theft of the Welch card, Brad Horn, the museum’s senior director of communications, stated that the Baseball Hall of Fame would not comment on the situation.

Other reports from sources indicate that the FBI is also investigating the theft in conjunction with an existing Federal probe into other stolen items sold by Robert Edward Auctions in the past. In addition to offering the Hall of Fame’s Mickey Welch card, Robert Edward Auctions has previously sold and handled several other items documented as stolen from the New York Public Library’s A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection . REA head Robert Lifson has also made a recent public confession that he was once apprehended while attempting to steal baseball material from the New York Public Library collection. 

Lifson was also the special consultant to Sotheby’s for the 1999 sale of the “Barry Halper Collection,” which also included many items stolen and suspected stolen from institutional collections, including the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2007, Lifson sold the remaining collection of the deceased Yankee minority owner Barry Halper in a consignment from the Halper estate. That consignment from Halper’s widow, present Yankee minority owner Sharon Halper, included two stolen items from the Boston Public Library and at least one from the NYPL. The FBI and Boston Public Library confirmed that  Halper’s widow and Lifson were compelled to return those items.

Even more troubling than the theft and proposed sale of the Welch card is the possibility that other rare Joseph Hall cabinet cards of New York Giant players may also be missing from the Hall of Fame collection. In 1983, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) published an image of an 1891 Joseph Hall cabinet card of pitcher Tim Keefe and credited it to the Hall of Fame. The card appeared in a “Special Pictorial Issue” of baseball photography entitled, The National Pastime: A Review of Baseball History. Haulsofshame.com recently requested to view that 1891 cabinet card of Hall-of-Famer Tim Keefe as well as others featuring Hall-of-Famer’s Roger Connor and James O’Rourke.  The library staff, however, could only locate the O’Rourke card, which featured a “PD” designation on its back in red marker. Original contact sheets from SABR’s 1983 photo shoot at the Hall of Fame feature several images of  the 1891 Joseph Hall cabinets including Keefe, Connor and O’Rourke. The Hall of Fame declined to answer inquiries as to whether other 1891 cabinet cards were missing from the collection. 

Robert Edward Auctions was contacted for comment today but did not respond to the inquiry.  However, it appears that shortly after the inquiry was made alerting the auction house of the claims of Hall of Fame ownership, the Welch card was removed from the sale.  The auction house website states that the lot was withdrawn “due to an issue related to title.” 

Back of SGC Graded Welch Card With Hall of Fame Data Vandalized

(This article has been revised to include additional information that was presented after its original publication)

Although Robert Edward Auctions did not respond to haulsofshame.com’s original inquiry this past Friday, attorney Barry Kozyra, on their behalf, sent a letter late Friday including a claim that in regard to the withdrawal of Lot 100: “Removal and delisting were done as soon as Robert Edward Auctions LLC and Robert Lifson learned of the issue and before receipt of your email inquiry.” Haulsofshame.com sent an email inquiry to REA at 12:15 PM, Friday April 23rd. Kozyra and REA provided no additional information regarding the specific time of the delisting and removal.

After publishing this article on Friday April 23rd, haulsofshame.com also learned that Robert Edward Auctions removed and delisted two additional lots suspected to have originated from the collection of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY:

Rare Boston Baseball Documents Withdrawn From Robert Edward Auctions Sale With 1908 Chicago Cub Affidavits; Items May Be From Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown

April 30, 2010

Lot 1157, the 1876-1888 Boston Base Ball Association Stock Certificate Collection (43) was removed from the auction on Friday. Evidence at the National Baseball Library suggests that this group of documents may have originated from the files of the Frederick E. Long Papers Collection, which was donated to the Hall of Fame in 1983. Long was the Boston club’s treasurer (c1871-1888) and the Hall of Fame describes the collection as including “records and correspondence relating to the operation of of the baseball clubs, with the bulk of the material consisting of financial and administrative records.” The container list for the collection created by the National Baseball Library also describes folders which include, “Stockholder information 1876-1887.” The collection also features correspondence from Harry Wright to Long (approximately 35 letters) spanning from 1873 to 1884. Another item suspected to have originated from the Long archive is an 1879 letter from Wright to Long that was sold in Robert Edward Auctions’ 2006 auction as lot 469. The auctioned letter is dated July 29, 1879 and sent to Long from Syracuse, NY. The Hall of Fame collection has a similar letter from Wright to Long, dated July 25, 1879 and also sent from Syracuse, NY.

Robert Edward Auctions has also sold several Boston stock certificates over the past two decades and when offering an 1873 certificate in their 2007 auction they described the provenance of the certificates as follows:

“Decades ago several dozen 1870’s Boston stock certificates surfaced along with various papers related to the club. All 1870’s Boston stock certificates originate from this extraordinary find.”

In 2009, REA offered an 1872 Boston stock certificate and in their lot description wrote:
“Decades ago several dozen 1870’s Boston stock certificates surfaced along with various papers related to the club, possibly originating from the estate of Harry Wright.”

In the present 2010 auction, the withdrawn group of Boston stock certificates were described by REA as having “miraculously surfaced in the summer of 2008. Incredibly, they were found in an antique shop in Georgia where they had been sitting undisturbed for decades.” REA, in conjunction with their earlier descriptions of a group of stock certificates discovered in the 1970’s states: “The collection of 1876-1888 Boston National League stock certificates almost certainly relates to that find, long ago seperated from the late 1970’s find.”

Boston stock certificates appear to have first surfaced at public auction in the 1990 and 1991 baseball sales conducted by Guernsey’s and Sotheby’s. In 1999 Sotheby’s sold another certificate issued to Harry Wright as part of the Barry Halper Collection. Boston Base Ball Association certificate #32 issued to Wright in 1875 was sold as Lot 1318 which also included: “a power of attorney signed in ink by Harry Wright…and a stock transfer voucher issued to Wright for one share of capital stock in the Boston Club (VG with glue stains along the left border).”

Evidence suggests that earlier specimens of Boston stock certificates may have originated from the New York Public Library’s Harry Wright Correspondence Scrapbook, volume 1 (1865-1877). The scrapbook volume disappeared from the NYPL in the 1970’s with two other volumes containing Wright’s correspondence. One scrapbook volume of Wright’s papers remains in the NYPL collection and spans the years 1877 to 1884. Volume 2 includes several documents related to stockholder meetings and corporate business matters of the Boston Base Ball Association.

The FBI opened an investigation into the NYPL thefts last summer when a “cache of letters to Harry Wright” appeared in an auction sponsored by Major League Baseball at the 2009 All-Star Game. Sources indicate that the FBI is investigating whether the Boston stock certificates are part of the Hall of Fame and NYPL collections.

 

"Boston Stock Certificate issued to Harry Wright From Sotheby's 1999 Halper Sale. Stock is executed and signed by Frederick E. Long"

 

Lot 1212, the 1908 Chicago Cubs “Gill Game” Protest Affidavits related to “Merkle’s Boner,” was also removed from the REA sale Friday. Evidence at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown suggests that these documents may have originated from the August “Garry” Herrmann Papers archive. The Herrmann archive includes the National League’s protested games files spanning the years from 1902 to 1926. The files include documents from the Pittsburgh team including statements presented by Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss and his manager Fred Clarke in regard to the “Gill Game.” The statements submitted by the Chicago Cubs appear to be missing from the file. Last week Heritage Auctions in Dallas withdrew from their baseball auction a similar protest letter written by Pittsburgh manager Fred Clarke in 1909.

The withdrawals of lots from major auction houses REA and Heritage last week illustrate how serious the issue of theft from institutional collections is in the baseball memorabilia industry.  An investigation conducted by haulsofshame.com supports concern in the industry that the problem of theft from the Baseball Hall of Fame collection may be considerably greater than originally suspected.  Evidence uncovered in the haulsofshame.com investigation suggest that quite possibly every major auction house has offered items suspected to have originated from the Hall of Fame’s collections.

Further illustrating this point is the fact that over the past two decades Robert Edward Auctions and Robert Lifson alone have handled and sold several other items suspected to have originated from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers archive:

2008- Lot 915: 1902 Promissory Note signed by John T. Brush (Re: Cincinnati Reds)

2001- Lot 802: 1902 Check Issued for Sale of Cincinnati Reds.
          Lot 1204: 1900’s Historic Team Documents of Cincinnati Reds

2000- Lot 98: 1919 Official World Series Game Receipts
          Lot 567: 1913 Charles Ebbets Letter (Re: Protested Game)
          Lot 574: 1916 Christy Mathewson Letter (Re: Protested Game)

In 1999, REA’s Robert Lifson was hired by Sotheby’s as their Senior Consultant for the Barry Halper Collection auction. Lifson oversaw all aspects of the sale and chose authenticator Mike Gutierrez to examine all autographed items and documents slated for the sale. Several items included in the 1999 sale, approved by Lifson and authenticated by Gutierrez, appear to have originated from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers archive:

Lot 411: 1910 John J. McGraw Letter (Re: Protested Game)
Lot 456: 1912 Fred Clarke Letter (Re: Protested Game)
Lot 518: 1916 Hugh Jennings Letter to August Herrmann
Lot 526:  1917 Christy Mathewson Letter to August Herrmann
Lot 1283: 1923 Christy Mathewson Letter (Re: Protested Game)
Lot 1206B072498 1908 Sworn Affidavit by John Evers (Re: Protested Game)
Lot 1206F182649 1908 Sworn Affidavit by Joe Tinker (Re: Protested Game)
Lot 645464403P 1920 Bill Klem Letter (Re: Protested Game)

The Baseball Hall of Fame declined to comment on the withdrawals of the lots. Through their attorney in their letter of Friday April 23rd, Robert Edward Auctions expressed that, “Whenever questions of title or provenance have been raised about consigned items, Robert Edward Auctions, LLC and Mr. Lifson have done what is necessary to address the issues.”


By Peter J. Nash
April 21, 2010

 

“1908 Protest Letter By Fred Clarke
(National Baseball Library Collection)”

In the world of baseball memorabilia collecting, items related to members of the Baseball Hall of Fame always fetch a premium.  Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas is currently offering a wide array of Cooperstown-worthy treasures as part of  their April “Signature Sports Memorabilia” auction.  One of the Heritage offerings was a rare 1924 letter written by Chicago Cub legend Joe Tinker, of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance fame. Another gem was a compelling letter written in 1909 by Pittsburg Pirate manager Fred Clarke to National League President Harry Pulliam supporting an umpire’s call in a game protested by the St. Louis Cardinals.  Both Tinker and Clarke are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and documents in the files of the National Baseball Library suggest that the letters they once wrote may belong in the Hall of Fame as well.  This afternoon, Heritage withdrew both items from the sale. 

The Tinker letter that was scheduled for auction is addressed to former Cincinnati Reds owner August “Garry” Herrmann and discusses plans for a spring training facility in Florida.  For the past 50 years the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown has been in possession of the entire archive of Herrmann’s correspondence spanning the years 1902 to 1927.  The treasure trove of documents was donated in 1960 by Reds owner Powel Crosley who located the archive of over 40,000 documents stashed in an office over the grandstand at old Crosley Field.  Herrmann was a club owner but also the Chairman of the National Commission, the ruling body of baseball before there was a commissioner, so the archive not only contained club records, it held documents chronicling the day-to- day business ofbaseball games of the era.  This included affidavits of players involved in the famous “Merkle’s Boner” game of 1908 and telegrams documenting Babe Ruth’s rookie season with the Red Sox in 1914.  When the collection arrived in Cooperstown in 1960, Hall of Fame historian Lee Allen called it, “The most valuable accumulation of baseball lore ever assembled in one place.”

But for decades, the valuable collection remained boxed up in storage at Cooperstown waiting to be catalogued and arranged in what would be a monumental task for an understaffed library.  Historians like Harold Seymour and his wife Dorothy were granted access to the papers in 1960 and used them as a primary source for their classic, Baseball: The Golden Age (Oxford University Press, 1971).  Dorothy Jane Mills remembers analyzing Herrmann’s correspondence and writing detailed research notes, which are now part of the Rare and Manuscript Collection at Cornell University.  Mills recalls vividly working with the papers. “The letters telegrams, reports, and memos were stuffed into a series of more than seventy boxes, so we knew there must have been thousands of them.  Their value is incalculable.” 

Mills’ work with another baseball archive at the New York Public Library helped the FBI recover stolen letters up for auction last year at the 2009 MLB All-Star Game.   Mills’ citations of specific letters, as well as her copious research notes, quoted passages from suspected documents, were a great aid to the FBI in their recovery efforts, which are ongoing.  Commenting on the problems of theft from the great national baseball collections Mills said, “I am amazed to learn that robbers could be that bold.  It’s discouraging that collectors would even think of diminishing our national baseball history by taking pieces away and making money on them.”

 Forty years after the Seymours worked with the collection, the Hall finally received funding in 2004 from the Yawkey Foundation to catalogue and conserve the collection.   The grant facilitated the creation of a detailed “finding aid” available to researchers and fans interested in Herrmann’s treasure-trove of baseball history.  The 40,000-plus documents are now carefully arranged in 144 boxes of archival file folders which identify documents by both name and subject.   To date, close to half of the collection has also been microfilmed. 

Of particular interest is one of the Hall of Fame’s file folders designated “Joe Tinker-Spring Training-1920-1926” and another folder marked, “Protested Games Pittsburgh-St. Louis July 24, 1909.”  It appears that the Heritage Auction letters may have originated from these files. Heritage describes the Tinker document in its catalogue as “…a letter to Herrmann to provide updates on the construction of a baseball park in Orlando, Florida which would become the Cincinnati Reds’ new spring training home.”  In the letter written on Tinker’s company stationary, Tinker asks Herrmann for a new lawn mower.  The Hall of Fame’s Herrmann/Tinker file found in folder 40 of box 28 includes over 20 letters written by Tinker to Herrmann from 1920 to 1926.  The Heritage letter is dated Sept. 3, 1924 and, like the Hall of Fame letters, contains content related to spring training.

The Herrmann Papers archive also includes correspondence related to all protested games in the National League from 1902-1926.  Hermann and his fellow owners had the final say in regards to disputed games, so Herrmann as chairman of the National Commission retained the protest files in his Cincinnati office.  Lot 81842 in Heritage’s sale was a letter written by Fred Clarke regarding a game played on June 24, 1909.  The game played that day was protested by the St. Louis team and Herrmann’s office ultimately ended up with all of the protest documents needed to render the decision.  Box 44 of the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers archive includes an entire file dedicated to this specific protested game. File folder 8 includes original correspondence between Herrmann and fellow owners. as well as the transcript of their decision.  The transcript incorporates a copy of Fred Clarke’s letter to Harry Pulliam as well as other affidavits including one written by Hall-of-Famer Roger Bresnahan.  The original copies of the statements used in the transcript appear to be missing.  The “Protested Games” section of the Herrmann archive includes many other original statements and letters written by Fred Clarke to National League Presidents concerning other disputed contests. 

So how did letters regarding official baseball business written to “Garry” Herrmann and league presidents make their way to Dallas in a big-time Texas baseball auction?  The answers may lie in FBI files regarding an investigation into thefts that occurred in 1988 at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown.  A former Hall of Fame official confirmed that the FBI conducted an investigation into those thefts but the outcome of that investigation is not known.

The Hall of Fame has been subjected to thefts over its 71-year history.  In the 1970s several baseballs autographed by American presidents that were donated by the family of pitcher Walter Johnson were stolen from the Hall of Fame’s museum, and in 1983 an employee of MLB’s Commissioner’s office was found to have sold items on loan from the Hall to a Long Island memorabilia dealer.  The FBI returned the presidential baseballs  in 2001 and several World Series programs that were sold in 1983 by Bowie Kuhn’s aide, Joe Reichler, were replaced.  Nevertheless, each of these instances of theft contributed to negative publicity for the institution, which relies solely on donations to enrich its collections.

An investigation by haulsofshame.com indicates that the thefts from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers may extend well beyond the current Heritage Auction.  An examination of the other protested games files indicates that additional Fred Clarke letters may be missing from the Hall of Fame files.  A May 1, 1909 Fred Clarke protest letter sold as lot 114 in Mastro Fine Sports’ 1998 auction and an Oct. 12, 1912 Clarke protest letter sold for $3,162 at Sotheby’s in the 1999 auction of the Barry Halper Collection.  Sotheby’s also sold affidavits signed by Joe Tinker and his teammates for a protested game on Sept. 4, 1908.  It appears that the affidavits of Tinker and the other Cubs may also be missing from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann archive.

Heritage Auction Galleries was contacted by haulsofshame.com on April 20th in regard to the two suspect letters and Heritage was also presented with copies of similar documents that are part of the  Hall of Fame’s collection.   Heritage withdrew both of the items from the sale this afternoon and a notice on the Heritage website indicated that all bids already placed on the items were “cancelled.”  Although Heritage responded to haulsofshame.com inquiries, the auction house did not release a formal statement regarding either the letters or their withdrawal.

The Baseball Hall of Fame responded to inquiries but did not release any formal statement as of the time this story was published.  Sources indicate the Hall of Fame is conducting their own investigation into the matter and that, independently, the FBI has been presented with additional information regarding many other items believed to have originated from the August Herrmann papers archive.


By Peter J. Nash
April 19 , 2010

“Missing 1846 Knickerbocker Score Sheets”

For nearly a century, baseball history books have connected the genesis of the modern game with the date June 19th, 1846, the date of the supposed first match game ever played by the pioneer Knickerbockers against another club, known as the New Yorks. At the time of the game’s 100th anniversary in 1946, the state of New Jersey erected an official landmark plaque memorializing the original site declaring, “On June 19, 1846, the first match game of baseball was played here on the Elysian Fields….”

John Thorn, acclaimed historian and author of Total Baseball and many other titles including Treasures of the Baseball Hall of Fame, has probably contributed more than anyone to putting the Knickerbocker’s 1846 match into its proper perspective.  As the preeminent sleuth of the early game, he has documented baseball’s beginnings back to Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1791 and earlier.  His knowledge of the game and the institutional collections that have helped preserve its history are unmatched.  So are his discoveries.  

Since its donation to the New York Public Library in 1921, the A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection has played an important role in the establishment of baseball research as a scholarly endeavor.  Dr. Harold Seymour’s 1956 Cornell University dissertation on baseball history blazed the trail, citing the Spalding Collection as an invaluable resource.  Today, Thorn continues that tradition with his much-anticipated book on the game’s origins, Baseball in the Garden of Eden. 

In studying the history of the game, Seymour and Thorn have also helped to document the Spalding Collection itself.  Sadly, their important work has also revealed that the great collection featuring the archives of baseball’s first historians—-Henry Chadwick, Harry Wright  and Albert Spalding—has been victimized by considerable theft and vandalism.  Thorn was kind enough to grant us this exclusive interview to talk about the collection and his discovery that the score sheets from the historic match played by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in 1846 are missing.

HOS:     John, everyone in the baseball research community eagerly awaits your upcoming book Baseball in the Garden of Eden, and I’m sure you have many new discoveries to present in the ever-fluid arena of scholarship regarding the game’s origins. There was a time when the date of June 19, 1846 was considered ground zero in the evolution of organized baseball. Historians like Dr. Harold Seymour and John Durant included in their works images of the actual score sheets from that game, referring to them as the baseball’s “first score card” and “first box-score.” With all of the recent data uncovered in your research does the first match game of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club still carry the same significance as it did in the past?

JT:  No. I think the game of June 19, 1846 was an intramural affair of the sort the Knicks regularly played, and was inflated to a match game some years after the fact through the penned annotations of James Whyte Davis, who did not join the Knickerbockers until 1850. The first Knickerbocker match game truly (i.e., in a game against a distinctly separate club) came against the Washington, later renamed as the Gotham, on June 3, 1851. But the first match game of baseball did not involve the Knickerbockers at all–it took place on October 11, 1845, between the New York and Brooklyn clubs (reported in the press on October 13). Did they play by Knickerbocker rules? Probably, in that the Knick rules were hardly original with them, dating instead to William R. Wheaton of the Gothams in 1837.

 HOS:  Those score-pages originally appeared in books by Seymour and Durant courtesy of the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection.  Seymour and his wife Dorothy were researching in the collection as early as the 1950’s. When did you first utilize the Spalding Collection in your own work?
 
JT:  My first visit to the Spalding Collection came in 1983.

HOS:  As a resource, how important is the Spalding Collection to the baseball researcher?
 
JT:  Invaluable–for images, scrapbooks, diaries, game books, club books, and the allied NYPL collections of Bradshaw Hall Swales and Leopold Morse Goulston. Most of the images are online now, but the textual materials are accessible only through microfilm or an in-person visit.

HOS:  The collection includes the Game Books and Club Books of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club. Based upon your own research, how did these historic volumes make their way into NYPL’s possession?

JT:  The line of descent is pretty clear—from James Whyte Davis, who took possession of the Knickerbocker materials after they disbanded in 1882, to Henry Chadwick to Albert G. Spalding to the NYPL. Death was the transmission event in each instance.

HOS:  In 1983 the New York Times published an article about your spearheading an effort to microfilm and help preserve the majority of the manuscript holdings in the Spalding Collection? How did that come about? How successful was the project?

JT:  Upon my visit to the Spalding Collection and my expressed desire to view the Harry Wright diaries, I was informed that these volumes were no longer available to researchers because the ink had started to fade from occasional exposure to artificial light. I asked whether this material had been transcribed or microfilmed and was informed that the former was too labor intensive and the latter would be at least fifteen years in the offing, as other projects, evidently more worthy of preservation, were lined up ahead of the Spalding Collection materials. I asked if the Spalding materials would jump to the head of the line if they were funded by outside underwriting, and was told that there was a good chance. So I lined up four backers—the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Sporting News, SABR, and myself—-to pay the freight for microfilming the Knick books, the Wright diaries, the Chadwick and Spalding Scrapbooks. Each of the four underwriters obtained a full set of microfilm, which was great, but the true satisfaction lay in preserving these unique manuscripts and scrapbooks for future generations.

HOS:  Your work has yielded some of the most important discoveries ever made about the early game. However, there’s one discovery you probably wish you didn’t have to make. Tell us about how you first discovered that the original score pages from the historic June 19, 1846 match between the Knickerbockers and New Yorks were missing from the NYPL’s Knick Game Books?
 
JT:  On my original visit to the NYPL, I had paged through the Knickerbocker Game Books specifically to glean information about the players named, and the number of men to the side. When I went back to the microfilm I was surprised to find that the game of June 19, 1846 was not present, nor was the second game played that day, whose date had erroneously been “revised” to June 20. Inquiring of an NYPL staffer about this I was informed in writing that in the microfilming process the “second game” had been missed, and I was supplied with a clear photocopy. But there was no comment about the absence of the game of June 19. I returned to the NYPL in about 1987 to view the game books again, and saw clearly that the page on which the June 19, 1846 game would have been recorded had been excised by a razor blade or Exacto knife.

HOS:  Some might still consider those score-sheets the most significant baseball artifacts in existence? Based upon what you’ve seen other early documents of the game sell for, what would you consider the value of those missing score sheets?

JT:  Some years back, when there was universal support for this as the first match game, it would have been worth more than it is today. But one can’t place a price on this any more than one could have placed a price on the Mona Lisa after it was stolen from the Louvre back in 1911. The only person who would buy it would be one who could pay big bucks for an object he could never display to friends.

HOS:  What would you consider the value of those score-sheets to those studying the game in its infancy?

JT:  The Knickerbocker game books have not yet been plumbed for all their mysteries—much study remains to be done. And we have good copies available for the June 19, 1846 game, so from a scholarly standpoint, not much has been lost with this vandalism/theft.

HOS:  Did you report your discovery of the missing score pages to NYPL officials or employees?

JT:  Yes, on the spot. And I had previously reported in writing the absence from the microfilm of the June 19, 1846 games.

HOS:  In the decade after your discovery, were you aware of any investigations that the library conducted about the missing score-pages?
 
JT:  No.

HOS:   What role did the Spalding Collection play in the research for your soon-to-be- released book, Baseball in the Garden of Eden?
 
JT:  Huge—-the notes I had taken back in 1983 I subsequently typed into a word processor (Word Star!) and have converted and reviewed those documents many times over the years so that they represent a continuing source of good raw stuff. And my review of the Knickerbocker Club Books was wonderful for obtaining an understanding of how the number of innings came to be nine rather than the recommended seven, and why Louis F. Wadsworth was repeatedly in hot water with the Knicks.

HOS:   I know that you made another nice discovery when you examined a copy of the by-laws and rules of the 1852 “Eagle Ball Club.” At that time, the New York Public Library’s copy was missing.  How did you come to secure a copy of this pamphlet for your research?

JT:  I had long thought the NYPL holding of the seven-page Eagle pamphlet of 1852 to be the only one, and I despaired of it ever being retrieved following its disappearance in the early 1980s. I don’t know what prompted me to go to WorldCat and check for it recently, but I was shocked to find a copy at the Chicago History Museum. I made a direct inquiry and the good folks there not only confirmed they had it but provided me with a legible copy, and it proved a revelation, forcing me to rip up what I had already written for EDEN about the Eagle and Knick rules.

HOS:  In crafting your impressive body of work over the years, what has been your single most important research resource?

JT:  I think it must be the vastly expanded array of digitized newspapers, from ProQuest to Newspaperarchive to Readex to Gale, and more. While these are not exactly primary sources in terms of research, they are contemporaneous, or more nearly so, with the events described, unlike the work of even the most highly respected historians of the 20th century.

HOS:  In your opinion, what is the most historically significant item housed in the NYPL’s “Spalding Collection?”

JT:  If I had to choose one item, it would be the Knickerbocker Game Books and Club Books (OK, they’re technically two items).

HOS:  Many have had the pleasure of reading your recently published excerpts from Baseball in the Garden of Eden. When can we expect to see your much anticipated work in stores?
 
JT:  Spring 2011. Count on it. I’m 100,000 words in with three chapters to go.

 (When the Knick score pages from 1846 vanished from the NYPL, sometime before 1983, they were considered the most significant baseball artifacts in existence.  In the passing years their import has diminished, but the mystery surrounding their disappearance endures.  For decades these documents have been buried somewhere in obscurity, their whereabouts known, perhaps, only by the NYPL thief who originally sliced them from the gutter of the Knickerbocker Game Book.  In the hopes of recovering this document and others, Hauls of Shame will soon be releasing its, “10 Most Wanted:  Missing National Baseball Treasures List.”  The 1846 Knickerbocker Score Sheets will appear as the #1 artifact on the list.) 

If you have information related to the whereabouts of the 1846 Knickerbocker Score Sheets or any other items known missing from institutional collections please contact us at: tips@haulsofshame.com  or contact the New York office of the FBI at: john.iannuzzi@ic.fbi.gov