By Peter J. Nash
Sept. 15, 2010
1985 cover of The Sporting News featuring bogus jerseys from the Barry Halper Collection.
Haulsofshame.com presents our monthly news and notes column, CHIN MUSIC:
-On the heels of our investigation into the Baseball Hall of Fame’s fake Joe Jackson jersey, look out for our Fall, 2010, 5-Part Investigative Series: The Halper Uniform Collection; A Well Orchestrated Fraud?Among other things, we’ll lay out our findings which have determined that, in addition to the Jackson jersey, all of the Halper Collection uniforms featured on the cover of The Sporting News in 1985 were also forgeries. Yogi in a fake Mugsy McGraw; Rickey being Rickey in a bogus Ty Cobb; etc. etc…. “What a Collection, indeed!”
-This Fall we will also be releasing our “Hot 100 List,” detailing the top one hundred Halper Collection items which were stolen from institutional collections.
-Related to the Barry Halper uniform collection, reports from the National in Baltimore indicated that the winner of Halper’s 19th century Hughie Jennings jersey, from the 1999 Sotheby’s sale, was quite distressed when he tried to consign his garment to some of the major auction houses. We hear it was rejected by all who examined it…
-Sources close to the New York City Judiciary confirmed that collector Mark Lewis had a day in court at 60 Center St. in late August in regard to his possession of Babe Ruth’s stolen last will and testament. The case is in front of Judge Doris-Ling Cohen (of the gay-marriage ruling fame). We hear it was just a conference….
-Speaking of stolen wills, dealer Kevin Keating of Alexandria, Virginia is reportedly cooperating with the Boston Police Department in their efforts to recover the desecrated will of Abby Wright, wife of Hall-of-Famer George Wright. He was offering a page wrongfully removed from her probate file and signed by her husband for $6,500 on his website. In late July, Detective Steven Blair of the BPD told the Boston Herald that they planned to ”pursue it criminally” if Keating, who is also an authenticator for PSA/DNA, “didn’t agree to give it back.” A call to BPD this week confirmed that, the Wright document hasn’t arrived back in Boston, yet.
- The recently announced partnership between PSA/DNA and the Baseball Hall of Fame gives new meaning to the term “strange bed-fellows.” Along with JSA/James Spence Authentication, PSA has authenticated and certified a record number of stolen items from the Hall of Fame’s collection. That’s not the type of record-breaking baseball fans expect at the Cooperstown shrine…
-Philadelphia Probate Court Deputy of Wills, Ralph Wynder, confirms that neither local law enforcement or the FBI has been in contact with him about the return of the stolen will of baseball pioneer Harry Wright. The present owner of the stolen document has also failed to contact Wynder and the court. Wright’s great-great granddaughter, Pam Guzzi, is not pleased.
-Haulsofshame.com has confirmed the thefts of two more Hall-of-Famer wills: Roger Connor’s is missing from the Connecticut State Archives and the last will and testament of Johnnie “The Crab” Evers is missing from the Albany, NY, probate court. Surprisingly, the last will and testament of “Buck” Ewing is ”safe at home” under lock and key in a Cincinnati courthouse.
The rarest of all Hall of Famer autographs is that of William "Buck" Ewing. This signature found on his last will and testament is safe from the "will thieves" in a Cincinnati city vault.
- Sources at the State Archives of Hawaii confirm that Hawaii’s Attorney General is looking into the theft of the famous 1865 Alexander Cartwright onion-skin letter written to Knickerbocker Charles DeBost. The letter was sold by Barry Halper in the 1999 Sotheby’s sale.
- Anne Cartwright, widow of Alexander Cartwright’s great-grandson, William, passed away last week in Hawaii. Most of the Cartwright related items in the baseball memorabilia world were sold to collectors and dealers by Anne and her husband in 1980s and 90s.
(Top) Cartwright Letter as it appeared at Sotheby's in 1999, with page number and Archive of Hawaii mark removed. (Bottom) The same letter as it appeared with stamp in the State of Hawaii Archives in 1989.
-In the wake of his groundbreaking investigative report on Al Stump’s shenanigans related to his Ty Cobb Collection, Dr. Ron Cobb is trying to track down the Georgia Peach’s dental records to confirm that the Cobb dentures sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby’s in 1999 were literally, “false teeth.”
-Ron Cobb has also confirmed that the will of Ty Cobb is safe and secure in the Habersham County Probate Court in Clarkesville, GA.
-Sadly, since the release of the Haulsofshame.com “10 Most Wanted Missing National Baseball Treasures List,” not one of the items has yet been recovered. However, we hear that the Boston Public Library is in hot pursuit of the #5 item on the list, the 1892 Photo of the Boston Beaneaters featuring “King Kelly.” The stolen photo was sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby’s in 1999.
HOT CORNER: Selections of Alleged Stolen Baseball Treasures in Recent Auctions:
-In one of their Sunday Internet Auction’s in August, Heritage Auctions offered this alleged stolen Kenesaw Mountain Landis letter from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s August Herrmann Papers Collection. The HOF library has a file (Box 35, File Folder 1) which contains Landis correspondence to Cincy Red executive Larry MacPhail spanning from “1934-35.” The Heritage letter is dated from Sept. 11, 1935. Heritage removed the letter from the auction after Chris Ivy was contacted by Haulsofshame.com. The FBI and the Baseball Hall of Fame were also notified of the letter’s inclusion in the sale. The MacPhail letter is latest in a series of letters offered and withdrawn by Heritage because of evidence suggesting they were stolen from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis letter suspected stolen from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, NY. Heritage Auctions removed the letter from their August sale after they were presented with evidence suggesting the letter originated from the Baseball Hall of Fame's "August Herrmann Papers."
-Special Agent Paul Holstein of the FBI’s Albany, NY office would neither confirm nor deny that the FBI has re-opened their late 1980’s investigation into thefts from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
-Legendary Auctions, in their August sale, sold an 1887 Imperial Cabinet Photo of the Lowell BBC featuring Hall-of-Famer Hugh Duffy. The photo is suspected to have been stolen from the Boston Public Library’s famous “M. T. McGreevy Baseball Picture Collection.“ The same photo was sold at Mastro Auctions’ November, 2000, sale along with another stolen BPL photo, which has since been recovered by the institution. The photo sold for close to $4,000 in the Legendary sale.
UPDATE: Legendary Auctions head Doug Allen contacted Haulsofshame.com after our item about the 1887 Lowell cabinet ran and expressed concern about the photo that had already been sent out to the winning bidder at the time our article was published. We had not called Allen about the Lowell photo before we released the information, but after reading our column Allen immediately contacted the winning bidder in an effort to see if the photograph and its mount had any identifying marks from the Boston Public Library. Upon inspection, out of its frame, the new owner reported to us that the albumen print and original mount had no visible marks that the BPL has historically placed on items in the “McGreevey Baseball Picture Collection.” (The BPL collection includes some photos that bear no ownership marks or stamps.)
The BPL “Missing List,” however, still features an entry marked, “Lowell Baseball Team, New England League.” So while this new information is by no means 100% definitive, it appears that this item is very likely not one of Nuf Ced’s missing treasures.
(Note: It appears that the same photo was offered in a Lew Lipset auction in 1991 and the description noted that the Chickering cabinet, “Appears to be (in) original frame.” The winning bidder says he’ll give Mr. Lipset a call to see if even more definitive information can add to this particular photo’s permanent removal from the “suspect” list. Collectors should keep their eyes peeled for other “Lowells” that fit the bill.
An Imperial cabinet photo of the 1887 Lowell Base Ball Club, similar to the one shown above, fits the description of a photo suspected to have been stolen from the Boston Public Library's "McGreevey Baseball Picture Collection." The missing photo of the Lowell BBC, featuring Hugh Duffy, once hung on the walls of McGreevy's famous "3rd Base Saloon."
HOT CORNER QUIZ:
Which one of these rare letters written by Baseball Hall of Famer James “Orator” O’Rourke is currently in the files of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s “August Herrmann Papers” Collection? Which letter was sold for big-bucks at auction in the early 1990’s?
In the letter addressed to August Herrmann on Sept. 22, 1916, O’Rourke asks for “fifteen (World) series tickets at Boston v. Brooklyn and 15 series (tickets) at Brooklyn.” In the letter addressed to Herrmann on Sept. 27, 1916, O’Rourke thanks Herrmann for sending him “five three game series tickets in each city.”
(Left) Sept. 22, 1916 James O'Rourke letter to August Herrmann asking for 1916 World Series Tickets. (Right) Sept. 27, 1916 James O'Rourke letter to August Herrmann thanking him for sending him requested tickets to the 1916 World Series.
ANSWER: The O’Rourke letter to the left appeared in Richard Wolfers Auctions’ 1992 sale as Lot 138 with an estimated value of “$10,000-12,500.” The O’Rourke letter to the right is still part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s “August Herrmann Papers” Collection and located in Folder 45 of ”Series XXIV. Minor Leagues and Teams 1902-1927.” Folder 45 is designated by the HOF as, “O’Rourke, James H. President (Season Pass) 1914-16.” The Herrmann Papers at the National Baseball Library include seven letters written by O’Rourke to Herrmann.
A recent "tip" to Haulsofshame.com unearthed this Horner cabinet photo of Nap Lajoie that was stolen from the Hall of Fame. The upper-right hand corner still shows remnants of "PD" written in red marker, designating the image as "public domain" for publication. The bottom shows damage from the removal of the HOF accession number. This Lajoie photo is one of many Hall of Fame treasures wrongfully removed from the National Baseball Library.
So, does a quiz question for the Baseball Hall of Fame seem appropriate? Close to twenty years after the O’Rourke letter was offered by the San Francisco auction house of Wolfers, why is this letter not back in Cooperstown? Has the Hall of Fame, under the leadership of Jane Forbes Clark, aggressively pursued recovery of their O’Rourke letter and scores of others suspected to have been stolen from the collection? Just this week three rare Hall of Famer cabinet photos and one W-600 Sporting Life cabinet, all bearing identifying marks of the HOF, came to our attention through our “Tips” line. The number of photos and cabinet cards flooding the black market is staggering.
The Hall of Fame and the FBI aren’t talking about dropping the ball on an investigation in the late 1980s. Will they drop the ball again? Inquiring minds want to know (not to mention both past and possible future Hall of Fame donors.) How long will it be before one of the Hall’s August Herrmann letters shows up on the PBS Antiques Road Show?
(This article was updated on Sept. 20th, with new information related to the Legendary Auction’s sale of an 1887 Lowell BBC Chickering cabinet photo)