Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

Nov. 30, 2010

PBS Antiques Roadshow appraiser Mike Gutierrez (Photo Courtesy of PBS)

 

Over the past two decades prominent sports auction houses have regularly offered items both stolen and suspected to have been stolen from the collections housed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  Rare photographs, correspondence and documents chronicling the history of the National Pastime were long rumored to have been contraband and have recently been confirmed as purloined items as a result of Haulsofshame.com’s investigative reporting over the past year.

In the past six months, Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, Texas, has offered and removed several documents believed to have been stolen from the National Baseball Library’s famous “August Herrmann Papers”collection.  On several occasions we’ve informed Heritage that letters written by Hall of Famers Joe Tinker, Fred Clarke, Kenesaw Mountain Landis and others written by White Sox owner Charles Comiskey appeared to have originated from the Hall’s Herrmann Papers archive.  Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions, Chris Ivy, was able to view PDF files from the Hall of Fame containing the specific files supporting claims that Heritage auction lots were believed to have originated from the “Herrmann Papers.”   In each instance, Ivy removed the letters from the Heritage sales.

Just two weeks ago, Heritage sold another letter written by American League President Ban Johnson to August Herrmann on October 2, 1913.  Haulsofshame.com learned about the sale of the Johnson letter after the auction ended and was unable to inform Heritage the letter likely originated from the Hall of Fame’s collection.

The “Herrmann Papers” collection was donated to the Hall of Fame in 1960 by Major League owner Powel Crosley Jr. and included all of the correspondence of the Cincinnati Reds and their owner August “Garry” Herrmann spanning from 1902 to 1927.”  The collection is considered by historians as the most important and valuable archive of baseball documents in the world.  Historian Dorothy Seymour Mills knows, first hand, how important the archive is.  Says Seymour Mills, “The materials in those boxes are priceless for historians, as August Herrmann was also the head of Baseball’s National Commission and presided over business in both leagues.”  Her late husband, Dr. Harold Seymour, called the collection, “The most important unpublished material used in (his) research.”

The appearance at public auction of items wrongfully removed from this great collection went relatively unnoticed for decades, but the recent cataloguing and conservation of the archive by the National Baseball Library staff has provided key information in uncovering the long-time mystery of the sales of correspondence addressed to Reds owner August Herrmann, League Presidents and the National Commission.

Now, nearly two decades since the alleged thefts occurred, our exclusive interview with a former Hall of Fame employee confirms that the prime suspect in a late 1980’s FBI investigation of theft at the Cooperstown shrine was Antiques Roadshow appraiser and Heritage Galleries consignment director, Mike Gutierrez.  Gutierrez’ employer, Heritage, is also currently auctioning yet another two rare documents that originated from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers archive.  One is a 1914 letter to Herrmann from Hall of Famer Ed Barrow (part of Lot 41100), and the other is a 1914 letter to Herrmann from American League President Ban Johnson (Lot 41101).  Both letters were written to thank Herrmann for sending a complimentary season pass for Red’s games for that season.   Both letters originate from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann files located in “Folder 8, Box 3.”  That same folder is designated as including letters regarding: ”Season Pass-Thank You (various major League teams) 1914″.  The Hall of Fame’s Herrmann archive includes over 25 folders full of hundreds of letters from Johnson to Herrmann spanning from 1902 to 1926.  Folder 2 of Box 52 features correspondence from Johnson to Herrmann spanning from 1911 to 1917, which also includes season-pass related correspondence. Click here for: PDF file of, “Folder 2, Box 52, from the Hall of Fame.

(Left) Lot 41101 in Heritage's December 5th auction, a 1914 letter to August Herrmann from Ban Johnson. (Right) Lot 41100 is also a 1914 letter to August Herrmann from Hall of Famer Ed Barrow.

The letters addressed to Herrmann first began showing up in public auctions in the early 1990s.  One of the first letters to surface was a 1912 letter from Ban Johnson to August Herrmann that appeared in a 1992 sale conducted by Superior Auctions of Beverly Hills, California, an auction house that Mike Gutierrez was affiliated with at that time as a consultant.  In that letter, Lot 998,  Johnson thanks Herrmann for sending a Reds season pass to a friend named “Frank Teagardin.”  Further proof that this letter was stolen from the Hall of Fame files still exists in “Folder 7, Box 3″ of the Herrmann Papers, which still includes the actual letter Johnson sent requesting the pass for just three days earlier.  Johnson wrote, “Can you favor me with a pass for Frank Teagardin, to the Cincinnati Ball Park this summer?”  In the 1992 Superior Auction letter Johnson writes, “I am in receipt of a pass for Frank Teagardin.”  File folder 7 of Box 3 in the Herrmann Papers collection is designated ”Season Pass- Thank You” for 1912.

(Left) Lot 998 in Superior Auctions' 1992 sale, a March 11, 1912 Ban Johnson letter to August Herrmann, thanking him for a season pass for Frank Teagardin. (Right) The Baseball Hall of Fame's March 8, 1912 Ban Johnson letter asking Herrmann for a season pass for Frank Teagardin.

Gutierrez also offered another Ban Johnson letter to August Hermann in his own “Mike Gutierrez Auctions” sale in December of 2003.  In that April 5, 1905 letter sent to Herrmann, Johnson includes an American League season pass for the Reds owner.  Haulsofshame.com has also viewed a copy of a receipt for a direct sale Gutierrez made to a private collector of another Ban Johnson letter addressed to August Herrmann.

Gutierrez’ history at the Baseball Hall of Fame dates back to the mid 1980s.  In the summer of 1986 hobby veteran Lew Lipset reported in his newsletter, The Old Judge, that Gutierrez was compiling an “autograph price survey” for items signed by Baseball Hall of Famers.  Lipset referenced Gutierrez’ visits to Cooperstown stating, “Mike has spent many hours at the Baseball Hall of Fame documenting autographs.”

According to an ex-Hall of Fame employee, Gutierrez’ last of several trips to Cooperstown appears to have occurred in the Fall of 1987 or 1988.  Bill Deane, who held the post as the National Baseball Library’s Senior Research Associate from 1986 to 1994, recalls the week long visit Gutierrez made to the library that year.  Deane remembers, “He was there for a week or so with another guy and when he first got there it was clear he had been there before, but not since I started at the Hall in 1986.  He was acting like he was everybody’s best friend.”  Deane states that Gutierrez had propositioned Hall of Fame officials asking if they would send out inquiries to survivors of deceased players on his behalf to purchase baseball artifacts.  Deane recalls Gutierrez’ offer to the Hall was that, in return,  he would ”donate a portion of the items he acquired to the Museum.”  But that deal never happened.

Deane remembers Gutierrez handling many files of photographs in the library and described the area in which he viewed the materials.  “There was a set of tables in the middle of the room where researchers were set up and we’d pull files for them or in some cases, people would pull their own files.”  Deane described a very casual environment with virtually no controls in regards to the security of the items researchers were viewing.  Deane recalls, “At that time there was no security at the Hall and there were times when there would have been no employees in sight.” That being said, Gutierrez left the library at the end of his stay without much notice.

It wasn’t until months later that the Hall of Fame got a call from New York City dealer and auctioneer Josh Evans who stated that he’d purchased an autographed photo of Babe Ruth from Gutierrez and noticed something whited out on the reverse of the photo.  Deane recalls, “He had noticed the Wite-Out and scraped it off and he recognized under  it one of our accession numbers which starts with ‘BL.’  Deane says head librarian Tom Heitz asked Evans to send the photo to Cooperstown and then Deane says,  “Tom brought it to the attention of the Hall of Fame brass and then they were launching this big investigation.”  The big question at that point Deane says was, “How many other photos could have possibly been stolen from the Hall of Fame by Gutierrez or by anyone else?”  Looking back Deane thinks it would have been very easy for someone intent on stealing Hall of Fame property to, “Just slide something into their notebook or briefcase.”

After the revelation of the stolen Babe Ruth photo and its sale by Gutierrez, the library assigned two employees to look for all autographed photos listed in the original Hall of Fame accession ledger books (dating back to 1939) and see if any others were missing.   Deane confirms that, “They identified a lot of items that they couldn’t locate.”  Deane also confirmed that an FBI investigation was commenced in regard to the stolen photo and after Hall of Fame officials learned about Gutierrez’ alleged involvement, Deane added, “They said he wasn’t allowed here, he was blacklisted from the National Baseball Library.”

This past May, another stolen photograph of Hall of Famer “Smilin” Mickey Welch was featured in Robert Edward Auctions’ Spring 2010 sale.  The 1891 cabinet card had tell tale Hall of Fame ownership marks and also had the library accession number defaced.  The card was removed from the auction and sources indicate that it has been returned to Cooperstown. 

Another cabinet photo of Christy Mathewson, also stolen from Cooperstown, was posted in September on collector message board Net54.  The photo had HOF ownership marks and was confirmed as stolen from the Hall of Fame.  The Mathewson photo, which sold for over $12,000 in a 2008 MastroNet auction, also had its National Baseball Library accession number covered with Wite-Out, just like the Ruth photo from 1988.  The Mathewson photo did quite a bit of traveling since its theft from from Cooperstown, as it was purchased from a Chicago-based auction by a collector named David McDonald, who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.  At the time it was exposed as a stolen item this past September, McDonald posted on Net54, “This is a serious matter.  It will be dealt with.”  Net54 moderator Leon Luckey also commented on the situation stating, “The HOF and lawyers have been notified…(David) is also a very stand up guy and is doing the right thing.”  Another board member, Richard Simon, added, “Some people know who the theif is.” 

The back of this Mathewson photo shows the museum's accession numbers have been covered with "white-out." This card sold for over $12,000 in a 2008 MastroNet auction.

Bill Deane’s recollections of Mike Gutierrez’ 1988 visit to Cooperstown and the ensuing FBI investigation into the theft of the Babe Ruth photo and other items has also been confirmed by another ex-Hall of Fame official who spoke with us under the condition of anonymity. The source confirmed that Gutierrez was, in fact, “banned from entering the National Baseball Library.”  Said the ex-Cooperstown official, “The FBI investigated this guy (Gutierrez) pretty thoroughly and nothing was done about it because the federal prosecutor in Syracuse declined to do anything.  It’s on the Hall of Fame to re-open it and initiate it.” 

The ex-official also indicated that, “Stealing one photograph was all we were talking about at the time.”  He continued, “The FBI spoke to the guy who came with Gutierrez and he was ready to turn to implicate Gutierrez,” and, “One of the things he told the FBI was that Gutierrez had threatened him and, so, the FBI was ready to charge him with importuning a witness, and that’s a more serious offense, actually.”

The same ex-Hall of Fame official also confirmed that Gutierrez was one of the few people to ever have access to the “Herrmann Papers” archive in the 1980s.  The first persons with such access to the archive appear to be Dr. Harold Seymour and his wife Dorothy Seymour Mills, who utilized the collection as a source for their classic book, Baseball: The Golden Age (Oxford Press, 1971).  The source also confirmed that Gutierrez had access to the Herrmann Papers prior to his last trip to the library in 1988.

Mike Gutierrez offered other letters addressed to Herrmann from Ban Johnson and Kenesaw Mountain Landis in his December, 2003 MGA Auctions sale.

The ex-Hall official also stated that back when the FBI was investigating the 1988 theft, the Herrmann Papers had not been catalogued or inventoried.  “We had no way to know exactly what was missing from the Herrmann boxes back then.”  Now that the collection is secure, and half of the files have been microfilmed, thanks to a grant from the YawkeyFoundation, that’s no longer the case.  It’s rather easy to match up letters appearing in auctions with the contents of specific files still located at the National Baseball Library.

Cornell University’s Rare and Manuscript Division houses the original research notes that Dr. Seymour and his wife took at Cooperstown in the 1960s.  These original documents, which were both hand and type-written, quote directly from thousands of Herrmann documents that the couple utilized on their visit to the National Baseball Library.  The Cornell Seymour Papers archive will, no doubt, aid future investigations into the thefts at the Hall of Fame.  

Similar research notes taken by the Seymour’s at the New York Public Library have already aided the FBI in their investigation into stolen letters  from NYPL’s Harry Wright Correspondence Collection.  Many letters addressed to Harry Wright, slated for auction in 2009, were confirmed as stolen thanks to the original Seymour research notes.  By comparing Cornell’s Seymour notes to the actual surviving Herrmann files at the National Baseball Library, investigators will be able to identitify more documents missing from the collection. 

This original research note was typed by Dorothy Seymour Mills during her research with the Herrmann Papers at the HOF in the 1960s. The note identifies another letter from Ban Johnson to Herrmann on July 5, 1912. The Herrmann files include scores of letters from Johnson related to personal, Reds, American League and National Commission issues. This note is now part of Cornell's "Seymour Papers" archive. (Courtesy Rare and Manuscript Division, Cornell University)

Dorothy Seymour Mills fondly recalls how Hall of Fame historian Lee Allen first made the Herrmann archive available to her in Cooperstown during the 1960s.  “Harold Seymour and I examined thousands of original documents in the 72 boxes on the shelf in the room Lee Allen used as a writing room.  There was no security at all, or the need for such protection,” said Seymour Mills.

The only other public mention of the issue of the Hall of Fame thefts, besides a 2000 article in the New York Daily News that mentioned Gutierrez’ sale of the stolen Ruth photo, was in the hobby newsletter, The Sweet Spot, in 1998.  The article published by Charles Kaufman and titled, “Baseball HOF closes holes in library; ‘88 theft recalled,” described much of the same detail that was offered to us in our interview with ex-HOF employee, Bill Deane, but never mentioned the name of the suspect in the thefts.  The article referred to the suspect as  “a dealer (who) remains active in the hobby” and “persona non grata at the Hall of Fame Library.”

But The Sweet Spot claimed to have another eyewitness to the thefts who accompanied the suspect and spoke with The Sweet Spot under the condition of anonymity.  This wittness gave detailed testimony, which was reported in the newsletter:

“During the ‘88 visit, the documents were lifted from the file of August Herrmann, owner of the Cincinnati Red Legs in the early 1900’s.  Our source remembers the dealer sifting through piles of documents out of the Hall of Fame Library’s orange file boxes.  During that day, the dealer perhaps went through 100 such boxes.  The contents were remarkable, with letters to Lajoie and Ty Cobb.  The dealer had permission to make copies of the documents.  “He would go to the photocopy machine, make copies of some of the documents; he made neat stacks of copies,” the witness said.  “For every 10 items he’d take to the machine, however, nine originals would return to the file.  One original would be mixed in with the copies and they would go directly into his briefcase.  That briefcase would never leave his side.”

This 1913 Charles Comiskey letter to August Herrmann was sold in a 2007 Heritage sale. Not only was it a letter stolen from the Hall of Fame files, it was also a letter which was signed secreterially for the White Sox owner. Authenticators for Heritage wrongfully stated that the letter bore an authentic signature of Comiskey.

The 1998 article in The Sweet Spot referred to the Hall of Fame thefts as a “secret” for “a small circle of influential hobby members.”  One long-time dealer and autograph authenticator from New York City, Richard Simon, has even included information regarding the alleged 1988 thefts on his website.  Simon states, “I have talked to an eyewitness to the theft and three other individuals who purchased photos from this very well known dealer.”  Simon also adds, “The Hall of Fame covered up the incident because they did not want adverse publicity and the dealer, of course, denies any involvement.  But I know of an eyewitness to this theft, and I know of three buyers of these photos who have seen the whiteout on the back of the photo.”

In the 2000 New York Daily News article Mike Gutierrez responded to the allegations about his sale of the stolen Ruth photo saying, “If I got a photo with a Hall of Fame stamp, I got it through sale or trade.”

We contacted Gutierrez at his office at Heritage Galleries in Dallas and asked if he was aware that Chris Ivy had pulled several letters addressed to or relating to August Herrmann from prior Heritage sales and was offering others in their current auction.  Said, Gutierrez, “He (Ivy) might have said something, but I don’t know.”  When asked about the allegations that he had been banned from the National Baseball Library, Gutierrez declined any further comment.

From 1990 through 2000 Gutierrez was also a partner with collector Doug Averitt and operated the company MVP Autographs of Woodland Hills, CA.  Recently Averitt presented a copy of a letter featuring the rare signature of Hall of Famer John M. Ward for inclusion as an exemplar in Ron Keurajian’s upcoming book Signatures From Cooperstown.  The letter from February 15, 1905, is addressed to “The National Commission” by Ward who is writing as an attorney on behalf of his client, player Jack Taylor.  Taylor was accused in a gambling scandal in 1904 and Ward’s letter regards Taylor making himself available to give testimony to August Herrmann’s National Commission. 

The original copy of this letter is believed to originate from the Hall of Fame’s collection, as the Herrmann Papers archive features the “Jack Taylor Gambling Case” in folder 6 of Box 46.  This folder specifically includes correspondence written about the case in February of 1905.  We called Doug Averitt at MVP Autographs to ask where he acquired his copy of the suspect John Ward letter, but Averitt did not respond to our inquiry.  Industry experts estimate that the same 1905 John M.Ward letter would fetch anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 at public auction.

Over the last two decades, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of documents that originated from the Hall of Fame’s “Herrmann Papers,” have been bought and sold in private sales and at public auction.  Rare signatures of Baseball Hall of Famers featured on letters addressed to Herrmann; League Presidents; and the National Commission (which Herrmann headed) are highly covered by collectors.  Rare documents signed by George Davis, James “Orator” O’Rourke, John M. Ward, Henry Chadwick,  Hughie Jennings, Christy Mathewson, John J. McGraw, Miller Huggins, Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, Barney Dreyfus and a host of others are missing from the Hall of Fame files.  A letter written by O’Rourke to Herrmann in 1916, estimated at a value of $10-15,000, was offered in a 1992 sale at Richard Wolfers Auctions in San Francisco.  In the letter O’Rourke thanked Herrmann for sending tickets to the 1916 World Series.  Still in the Hall of Fame “Herrmann Papers” files is the letter that preceded it, when O’Rourke first asked Herrmann for the tickets.

(Left) Sept. 22, 1916 James O'Rourke letter to August Herrmann asking for 1916 World Series Tickets. This letter was sold at a San Francisco auction in the early 1990s (Right) Sept. 27, 1916 James O'Rourke letter to August Herrmann thanking him for sending him requested tickets to the 1916 World Series. This letter resides in the Hall of Fame's "Herrmann Papers" archive.

Hall of Fame spokesperson Brad Horn declined comment on the Gutierrez banishment from the NBL, and he also declined comment as to why the 1988 FBI investigation was halted.  Since our first reports earlier this year about the thefts from the National Baseball Library, Hall of Fame officials have declined to make any public statement.

Recently, the Hall of Fame has also been dealing with controversies involving their display of fake artifacts.  In August Haulsofshame.com published a report that claimed an alleged 1919 jersey of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was not authentic.  In October, the Hall of Fame confirmed that report admitting to the New York Post and Chicago Sun Times that the jersey, purchased from collector Barry Halper, was a fake.  Many other items purchased from Halper are believed to be fakes as well, including Joe Jackson’s “Black Betsy” bat and a 1951 Mickey Mantle rookie jersey.  

Many in the baseball research community feel that the scandals involving the thefts from the Hall of Fame collections and the display of fakes are not being handled properly by Hall of Fame officials, but were unwilling to make public statements.  One unnamed individual even stated that the Society for American Baseball Research was reluctant to criticize the Hall’s leadership. 

PBS’ Antiques Roadshow website features a profile of Gutierrez as one of their featured “guest appraisers” and “one of the foremost sports autograph authenticators in the sports memorabilia business.” PBS gives high praise to Gutierrez for his work in an “industry (that) has been plagued by FBI investigations of fraud.”  Antiques Roadshow’s website also states: “Mike is one of the most respected repositories of trust in the business.”  PBS also claims that Gutierrez, “authenticated all the autograph material from the Barry Halper Collection sold at Sotheby’s in 1999.”  The Halper sale at Sotheby’s featured many suspect letters written to August Herrmann by Hall of Famers like Christy Mathewson and Hughie Jennings.

Gutierrez is also considered one of the major authenticators in the baseball collectibles field having worked for PSA/DNA and other outfits.  He is also currently listed as an authenticator for James Spence Authentication (JSA).  For years, James Spence and Mike Gutierrez have been authenticating suspect letters addressed to August Herrmann, without ever noting the controversy over the provenance of the documents.  Sources indicate Spence has been well aware of the controversy over the Herrmann letters, but has accepted payment for his authentications of the contraband materials nonetheless.  Both letters addressed to Herrmann in the current December 5th Heritage Galleries sale are accompanied by letters of authenticity from James Spence Authentication (JSA).  James Spence made no attempt to report the appearences of the suspect letters to the auctioneer or the proper authorities. 

Another authenticator for PSA/DNA, Kevin Keating, is currently offering yet another Ban Johnson letter addressed to August Herrmann on his “Quality Autographs” website.  Keating’s offering is a January 10, 1922 letter informing Herrmann that his Reds open the 1922 season in Chicago.  The letter, originating from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers archive, can be had for $750.   In the past Keating has also offered other letters addressed to Herrmann from Baseball Hall of Famers including Miller Huggins and Clark Griffith.  The Huggins letter appeared in a March, 2000, issue of Sports Collectors Digest for a price of $9,950. 

(Left) This Jan. 10, 1917 letter by Christy Mathewson to Aug. Herrmann sold at Sotheby's Barry Halper Auction for $9,775. (Right) Letterheads of four letters from Christy Mathewson to Aug. Herrmann from January 5th, 6th, 10th and 25th of 1917. All of these letters reside in the Baseball Hall of Fame's "Herrmann Papers" collection.

In Boston, at the headquarters of PBS and WGBH, Antiques Roadshow spokesperson, Judy Matthews, said that the network had no knowledge of Gutierrez’ banishment from the National Baseball Library in the 1980s.  “We’ve never heard of anything of that nature,” stated Matthews.  PBS declined to make any further comment.  In addition to PBS’ website listing Gutierrez as one of their guest appraisers, the network also features him prominently in television commercials for the show.

When informed of the allegations against Gutierrez and his banishment from the Hall of Fame’s library his employer, Heritage Auctions, declined comment.  Calls to Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions, Chris Ivy, were not returned.  Heritage also declined to respond to an inquiry about their continued sale of suspect Herrmann correspondence.

Having been one of the first historians to benefit from the wealth of information found in the Herrmann Papers archive, Dorothy Seymour Mills has strong opinions about Herrmann’s correspondence showing up in auctions for public sale.  Says Mills, “Stealing from this archive, especially to make money, is reprehensible and should be punished.”


By Peter J. Nash

Nov. 18, 2010

 

An FBI investigation has linked deceased collector Barry Halper to stolen items from the NYPL.

It all started a little over a year ago when this writer alerted the New York Public Library, the FBI and The New York Times that the Major League Baseball 2009 All-Star FanFest Auction included a “cache of rare 19th century letters” that had been stolen from the New York Public Library’s A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection. After New York Times reporter Jack Curry published three articles chronicling the prevailing suspicions and presenting proof that at least one of the letters was, indeed, stolen from the library’s Harry Wright Correspondence Collection, Hunt Auctions decided to remove the approximately fifty rare letters from the All-Star Game auction in St. Louis.

The New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation instituted a probe into the thefts and shortly thereafter took the purloined letters into their possession. Since the probe commenced in July of 2009, all the FBI and the New York Public Library have said publicly is that the investigation is “on-going.”

 The focus of the investigation is how three large scrapbook volumes, including close to two thousand 19th century documents and letters, disappeared from the NYPL in the years before 1983. The NYPL discovered that the three volumes were missing in 1983 when the Spalding Collection manuscript holdings were slated to be microfilmed. Only one scrapbook of the four-volume set, spanning the years 1878 to 1884, was found and microfilmed. Since 1983, Volume 1 (1865-77), Volume 3 (1884-89) and Volume 4 (1889-94), have all been designated by the library as “missing.”  Industry experts estimate that the value of the missing scrapbooks, containing letters written by baseball immortals, is well in excess of one million dollars.

In July of 2009, historian Dorothy Seymour Mills provided the FBI with key information in regard to specific letters in the MLB All-Star FanFest Auction. When she read Jack Curry’s on-line version of his New York Times article, she recognized one of the letters illustrated on her computer screen. It was a letter written to Harry Wright by banished ballplayer Jim Devlin, who was involved in one of the game’s first gambling scandals. Seymour-Mills and her husband Harold Seymour had utilized the NYPL collection for research in the 1950s. She identified the letter as the exact same one she had cited in her husband’s 1956 Cornell dissertation on early baseball history. It was a smoking gun, so to speak. 

 This past September, Seymour-Mills recounted her sleuthing in a radio interview on NPR.  Said Seymour-Mills, “At the FBI’s request I helped identify those items as the New York Public Library’s documents.  I was able to show that they were part of the library collection in the 1950s.  It felt nice to be able to help the FBI.”

At the time of the 2009 MLB auction, Seymour-Mills also informed Haulsofshame.com that the research notes she and her husband took at the NYPL were housed at Cornell University’s Rare and Manuscript Division as the “Seymour Papers Collection.” In August of 2009, Haulsofshame.com examined the Seymour Papers and found several vintage 1950s notes written by the Seymour’s that quoted verbatim passages from Wright letters featured in the 2009 MLB auction. The detailed notes even indicated which pages of the scrapbooks the letters were located. Lot 553,the Nov. 2, 1877 Jim Devlin letter, was once located in “Wright Corrres. 1 p.p. 44 and 45; Lot 262, the Dec. 25, 1877 letter from Pop Snyder, was once located in “Wright Corres. 1, p.57; and Lot 263, the Dec. 24, 1877 letter by Nick Young was found in volume 1 “Wright p.56,” etc. etc.

Notes, however, were also discovered that quoted other passages found on documents sold as part of the Barry Halper Collection at Sotheby’s in 1999. Sotheby’s Lot 206, an 1875 Morgan Bulkeley letter to Wright, was once found in “Wright Corres. 1 p.21”; and Lot 226 Ezra Sutton’s 1879/80 contract was once part of , “Wright Corres. 2, no pg.no.” (The Sutton contract appears to have been removed from the volume that the NYPL still retains.) In September of 2009, Haulsofshame.com submitted a detailed report including it’s findings to the New York office of the FBI. A source familiar with the FBI investigation has confirmed that in the course of the year-long probe into the Wright letters, “most everything seems to lead back to Barry Halper.”

(Left) Lot 206 in the 1999 Sotheby's Halper Auction was an 1875 letter written to Harry Wright by Morgan Bulkeley awarding the Boston BBC the championship pennant of 1875. The document is signed by Hall of Famers Wright and Bulkeley. (Right) Original research notes written by Dr. Harold Seymour in the 1950's that indicate Lot 206 in the Halper Auction was once part of the NYPL Wright Correspondence scrapbook Volume "1, p.21." The research note, now housed at Cornell University, directly quotes portions of the letter that appeared in the Sotheby's sale in 1999. (Courtesy Cornell University Rare and Manuscript Division)

In 1999, Barry Halper sold another 1877 letter addressed to Harry Wright from disgraced player Jim Devlin. It was one of 2,481 lots that generated over $21million in sales for the New York Yankee minority partner and super-collector. In addition to the Devlin letters there were others addressed to Harry Wright by baseball luminaries like A. G. Mills, A. J. Reach, Jim Mutrie and others. All of the documents bore evidence of having been removed from scrapbooks.

When the New York Times reported that the letters offered in the 2009 MLB Auction were alleged to have been removed from the NYPL scrapbooks, they noted that all of the letters and documents offered for sale were attached to scrapbook pages and fragments of scrapbook pages. All of the evidence suggested they had originated from the missing NYPL scrapbooks. The last time these scrapbooks were documented as being at the library was in 1972 when author Irving Leitner reproduced letters from the Wright Correspondence, volumes 1 and 2, in his book, Diamonds in The Rough. He sourced the Wright materials and noted nowhere in his footnotes that they were incomplete and he even reproduced a portion of one of Jim Devlin’s letters to Wright.

The infamous letters penned by Jim Devlin pleading to Harry Wright, for financial aid and reinstatement were documented and quoted in the 1960 book, Baseball: The Early Years (Oxford Univ. Press, 1960) by the Seymours, and in Diamonds in the Rough, by Irving Leitner in 1972. (In more recent times a Devlin letter to Wright was quoted in the PBS documentary film, Ken Burns: BASEBALL.)  But, perhaps, the most important Devlin letter reference in relation to the FBI investigation of the NYPL thefts came in July, 1977, when a Devlin letter was mentioned in a profile of Barry Halper on the pages of The Sporting News.

This Bill Madden column from The Sporting News verifies that collector Barry Halper owned items stolen from the NYPL's Spalding Collection as early as July of 1977.

On July 16, 1977, columnist Bill Madden wrote of his visit to the New Jersey home of Barry Halper. Madden dubbed it “Cooperstown South” recounting how his host, Halper, was “shipping out scrapbooks, stacks of cards, photographs and sundry other baseball relics.” Madden noted, “He (Halper) should have been a curator instead of a businessman.”

One group of items highlighted in the report was a grouping that Madden stated, “Would surely bring envy from the Hall of Fame historians.” It was Halper’s “collection of written correspondence by Harry Wright.” Madden mistakenly referred to the collection as letters written “by Wright,” but they were actually letters addressed to Wright as evidenced by his description of the items he held in his own hands. One of those items he described as “an authentic letter from (Jim) Devlin, pleading to be reinstated.” No further detail was given, but it is clear that the document Madden witnessed was either the Devlin letter Halper sold at Sotheby’s in 1999, or one of the two Devlin letters included in the 2009 MLB Auction.

Halper then told Madden as he was “flipping the plastic-covered pages of yet another scrapbook,” “I have another letter which is unique…It’s from Ed Delahanty’s father to Harry Wright.” Madden recounted the text of the letter in the article:

“Dear Mr. Wright,
Would you please write me as soon as possible as to the condition of my son Edward. His mother is very anxious for him.
Sincerely,
James Delahanty”

Madden stated that the letter from the father of Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty was from 1875, but he was mistaken, it was actually written in 1889. We know this because the Internet portion of the Halper Collection Auction at Sotheby’s in 2000 featured a lot with one letter written to Harry Wright in 1887 by player “Deacon” McGuire and the letter Madden quoted, written to Harry Wright by Delahanty’s father dating from 1889. Consistent with evidence showing the letter was removed from one of the NYPL scrapbooks, Sotheby’s described the Delahanty and McGuire letters as being “glued onto a paper backing,” with, “a Western Union telegram remnant adhered to the back.” Madden had only quoted one sentence from the letter in his 1977 article. The actual letter, dated April 9, 1889 reads:

“Will you kindly send me word, as soon as possible, by telegraph or mail, the condition of my son Edward, as his mother is anxious to hear of his condition as the papers in Cleve. say he is in danger of blood poisoning. Please advise as soon as possible and oblige his anxious father, James Delahanty.”

Dr. Jerrold Casway, Delahanty biographer and author of Ed Delahanty in the Emerald Age of Baseball, was stunned when he learned of the existence of the James Delahanty letter earlier this year.  Said Casway, “In the course of my research I’d looked everywhere for any document related to Delahanty’s father with no luck whatsoever. It would have been a great addition to my biography.  Who knows what other relevant Delahanty correspondence could have been in those missing scrapbooks.”

Sotheby's offered an 1887 letter written by James Delahanty to Harry Wright as part of their Barry Halper-Amazon.com internet auction. The letter was referenced in a 1977 Sporting News article and was originally part of the NYPL's Spalding Collection.

Halper apparently kept the Delahanty and McGuire letters in his sole possession from 1977 to 2000, when he sold them at Sotheby’s along with many other letters addressed to Harry Wright that appeared to have been removed from scrapbooks. Several of those Halper documents were also directly quoted in the 1950s research notes of Harold and Dorothy Seymour. What is most important about The Sporting News profile of Halper is that it establishes that the missing Harry Wright Correspondence collection (or a portion of it) was in his possession as early as July, 1977.

So, sometime between 1972, when Irving Leitner published letters from Volumes 1 and 2 of the Wright Scrapbooks, and July 1977, when Halper showed off his binders to Madden, some one walked out of the New York Public Library’s 42nd St. branch with three volumes of unparalleled baseball history.

Over the years, Halper sold off other letters written to Wright, one of which was written by Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty, himself, and offered for auction at Christies in 1992. Delahanty’s is one of the rarest Hall of Famer signatures sought by autograph collectors and a handwritten letter would be of the utmost rarity and value. In the past decade a controversial letter alleged to have been written by Delahanty was sold for over $30,000 by Hunt Auctions of Exton, PA. The letter had been authenticated by PSA/DNA and James Spence Authentication, but in one of the most embarrassing episodes of authentication incompetence the letter was exposed as a secretarial letter written by Delahanty’s manager Billy Shettsline. The name “Delahanty” was even misspelled as “D-e-l-e-h-a-n-t-y” on the $30,000 letter. The authenticators didn’t even note the misspelling in their letters of authenticity.

Halper’s Ed Delahanty letter, however, should be 100% authentic, because it originated from the NYPL’s Harry Wright Correspondence Collection Volume 4.  (It is possible that someone wrote this letter for him, too. There are very few known examples for comparison).  In the letter dated Feb. 20, 1889, Delahanty notifies his manager, Harry Wright, that he was available to report to spring training at, “any time or place.” Christies estimated the 1992 value of the letter between $12,000 and $13,000 and stated it was “an extremely rare letter in ink.” 

Industry experts estimate that a legitimate Delahanty letter would fetch upwards of $50,000 if offered for sale at auction today. In addition to Ed Delahanty, Harry Wright managed other Hall of Famers including John Clarkson, Old Hoss Radbourn, Sam Thompson and Roger Connor. Evidence found in the NYPL’s volumes of file copies of Wright’s outgoing correspondence suggests that letters from these legends may also have been included in the missing NYPL scrapbooks. Industry experts estimate the value of each of these letters in excess of $50,000 as well.

This rare 1889 letter written to Harry Wright by Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty appeared in a Christies Auction in 1992.

The puzzle the FBI is currently trying to solve requires answers to a few key questions:

-How did three large scrapbook volumes packed with thousands of documents find their way out of the NYPL’s doors sometime between 1972 and July, 1977?

-How did Barry Halper acquire his large cache of mangled letters and trimmed scrapbook pages placed in plastic sheets and binders, which were stored on the shelves of his suburban Livingston, New Jersey home?

-Were the three missing NYPL Wright Correspondence scrapbooks totally, or just partially, dismantled?

-What dealers specialized in supplying rare 19th century artifacts for Halper’s collection from 1973 to 1977?

-Where are the hundreds of other Wright documents that were originally pasted into the three missing NYPL scrapbook volumes?

-How did the 2009 MLB auction “cache” of fifty or so Wright letters get into the hands of the person who consigned them to the auction?

The FBI knows who the MLB/Hunt Auctions consignor is, but they will not reveal his identity. One thing they know for sure is that the consignor’s story to Hunt Auctions head David Hunt is highly suspicious.  Hunt told the New York Times that his consignor, “consigned the items, saying that the letters had come from a grandparent’s estate.” That would mean that the consignor’s grandparents could have stolen the letters from NYPL themselves or, perhaps, may have purchased them from Barry Halper or some other person. So who was the Hunt consignor, and what is his story now?

When contacted, David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, said he was, “not at liberty to discuss the identity of his consignor.”  Hunt also stated he has been cooperating with the FBI in the course of their year-long investigation.

In September of 2009, Haulsofshame.com presented the FBI with a report detailing the findings of our independent investigation into the missing Harry Wright Letters. The report included unimpeachable evidence unearthed in Cornell University’s “Seymour Papers,” which proved that many other letters in the 2009 MLB/Hunt Auction were, in fact, stolen from the NYPL’s Spalding Collection, as well as other letters sold by Barry Halper and Sotheby‘s in 1999. (See original report pages below.)

(Left) Page from report presented to FBI illustrating that Lot 262 in the 2009 MLB/Hunt Auction, a letter written by Nick Young to Harry Wright originated from the missing NYPL scrapbooks. Young wrote that player Pop Snyder, "has too much 'chin music' some times." Historian Harold Seymour quoted the same letter from "p. 57" of Wright Scrapbook Vol. 1. Seymour wrote, "he has too much 'chin music' at times." (Right) Another page from the report illustrating that Lot 263, a Pop Snyder contract, was originally located in Wright Scrapbook Vol. 1, "p.66."

In addition, the report also offered evidence that would aid the CSI-like angles of the Federal probe into the mystery of the stolen Harry Wright Letters. Haulsofshame.com was able to determine that all of Harry Wright’s Correspondence arrived as a donation to the NYPL in 1921, housed in envelopes as loose, unattached documents. Examination of the one remaining Harry Wright Correspondence Scrapbook, Volume 2, revealed dated NYPL stamps showing that the scrapbooks containing the Wright letters were constructed by the library in August of 1921.

Thus, forensic and chemical analysis of the MLB/Hunt Auction letters, the Halper/Sotheby’s Auction letters and all others that have surfaced in the marketplace should help prove that all of the Harry Wright letters originated from the same NYPL-constructed scrapbooks; with the same scrapbook paper backing and using the same adhesive materials. Shortly after the FBI commenced their investigation they came into possession of other Wright letters that had appeared in recent auctions. Letters from Al Reach and George Stallings, attached to similar scrapbook paper backings, have been available for forensic testing since last summer.  As evidenced by the 1977 Sporting News profile of Halper, it is believed that the three missing scrapbooks may have been totally dismantled.  It was well-known by collectors and dealers that Halper housed his correspondence and document collections in binders filled with plastic sheets.  Evidence suggests that Halper’s Wright Correspondence scrapbook pages were trimmed down to fit  in his plastic sheets.

Another common link between the documents still housed at NYPL and the lettters sold by Hunt in 2009 and by Sotheby’s in 1999, is evidence showing that each document has notations added in Harry Wright’s own handwriting (or his secretary’s) indicating an identification of each letter for filing purposes.  These notations designated the sender, date and other information distinguishing what type of document it was.  These filing notes were common in the 19th century and further suggest that all of the suspect Wright documents sold publicly were once part of the entire archive that Wright bequeathed to the National League in 1896, and ended up at the NYPL in 1921. 

(Left) This letter sold as Lot 7 in Sotheby's 1999 Halper Auction for over $5,000. It is a Feb. 26, 1884 letter written to Harry Wright by National League President A. G. Mills. The Sotheby's description notes, "some paper adhered to the reverse," indicating previous scrapbook removal. The removal of the scrapbook backing resulted in paper loss on the letters reverse. (Right) A Feb. 6, 1884 A. G. Mills letter to Harry Wright presently located in the NYPL Spalding Collection's Wright Correspondence Scrapbook, Vol. 2. The missing Wright Vol. 1 spanned from 1877-1884 and it is likely that the Sotheby's letter was wrongfully removed from that volume. The forensic testing of the paper and adhesive attached to the reverse of the document will help to establish the case that the letter was once part of Vol.1. (Courtesy, Spalding Collection, NYPL)

When reached at Sotheby’s NYC headquarters, Marsha Malinowski, Sotheby’s Senior VP of Collectibles and Manuscripts, said she was totally unaware of the Halper Collection Auction including stolen and suspected stolen items from the New York Public Library.  When asked if she was aware of Sotheby’s selling stolen items, and if the FBI had contacted Sotheby’s in regard to the sale of Halper lots alleged to belong to the NYPL, she responded, “No, and our legal department would have contacted me if they had received any information.”   Malinowski handled all of the manuscript materials in the Halper sale and added that in regard to authenticating Halper’s documents, “I did most of it myself, I’m a manuscript specialist.”  When asked if there were any problems with Halper’s manuscript materials Malinowski added, “We removed an enormous amount of it before the sale because it wasn’t right.”

Access to information about winning bidders of the problematic lots would no doubt help the recovery efforts of the New York Public Library and the FBI investigation.  When asked why the FBI had not contacted Sotheby’s in the course of their investigation,  Special Agent Jim Margolin of the New York City office of the FBI declined comment.  He did, however, stress that the investigation was “on-going.”

A year into the FBI investigation, the mystery of the missing Harry Wright Correspondence Scrapbooks endures.  America’s premier research library is still devoid of the untapped baseball lore that flowed through the pens of Baseball Hall of Famers like William Hulbert, Albert Spalding, Henry Chadwick and Ed Delahanty.  Delahanty’s biographer Dr. Jerrold Casway knows first hand what’s been lost.  “I can only hope the documentary resources that I was denied will be recovered for the benefit of future researchers.”

Click on this link for the original New York Times article from July 2, 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/03/sports/baseball/03auction.html


By Peter J. Nash

Nov. 12, 2010

Hall of Famer Henry Chadwick has long been known as "The Father of Baseball."

In our last ”Chin Music” column we published a letter written by MLB’s Commissioner, Bud Selig, which stated his belief that General Abner Doubleday is the “Father of Baseball.”  The column set off quite an Internet firestorm, thanks to Deadspin picking up the story, and surprisingly, the game’s alleged roots in Cooperstown are once more in the news.

Some readers have questioned whether the story itself  is one great big hoax; Keith Olbermann, on his MLB.com blog, has posted further inaccuracies about the  ”Doubleday Ball” and questioned the authenticity of Bud Selig’s letter; and another writer even posted a satirical, “Yes Ronald, There is an Abner Doubleday” letter.

What’s more, Bud and Abner are the unlikeliest of allies, being that the General’s descendant, Nelson Doubleday, former owner of the New York Mets, once accused Selig of cooking MLB’s books and being in “cahoots with Fred Wilpon,”  his former Met partner.

Now, Selig and Doubleday will forever be linked to one another.  MLB, too.  The Mills Commission lives on!  Albert Spalding got the last laugh.  Henry Chadwick is probably rolling over in his grave at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.  Selig also has some history with Doubleday at a cemetery.  In 2000, he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery and said, “It is a profound honor to be at this hallowed resting place to so many American heroes, including Baseball’s own Abner Doubleday.”

When Baseball Hall of Fame founder Stephen C. Clark and National League President Ford Frick first established the game’s shrine in the late 1930s it was part of a celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of  Doubleday’s alleged ”Invention” of the National Pastime on a cow pasture in the tiny village of Cooperstown.  The first item on display was a tattered ball purchased by Clark in the 1930s from someone who alleged the ball once belonged to the “Doubleday Myth’s” creator, Abner Graves.  Clark, an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune and the world’s most prolific collector of Van Goghs, Renoirs and Picassos decided, without any proof,  to portray the ball as the one Doubleday used in Cooperstown in 1839.

Abner Doubleday was not one of the original honorees bestowed with a bronze plaque representing what has become one of the most prestigious honors in American sport: Enshrinement in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  He was represented in the original Museum exhibit in Cooperstown with the inclusion of an artifact identified as ”Abner Doubleday’s shoulder straps.”    Two other baseball pioneers, however, were enshrined in 1938 and both have (for different reasons) been referred to as the “Father of Baseball.”

Henry Chadwick was honored for his contributions as the game’s first prolific sportswriter and as an innovator in record-keeping  and statistics.  Alexander J. Cartwright was honored for his contributions as a member of the pioneer New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in the 1840’s.  When Cartwright’s family protested the Doubleday story, alleging that Cartwright was the founder of the game, Clark & Co. got spooked and, in response, honored Cartwright with a plaque and his own “Cartwright Day” celebration.  Dodging that bullet, Doubleday’s standing as the game’s “Father” stood.

As the Baseball Hall of Fame collected donations of items related to its honorees in its fledgling days, artifacts with ties to both Chadwick and Cartwright made their way to Cooperstown.  Cincinnati Reds owner Powel Crosley Jr. donated letters written by Chadwick to Reds owner August Herrmann at the turn of the century and Cartwright’s grandson, Bruce, donated actual Knickerbocker Base Ball Club dinner receipts from the 1840s.

An on-going Haulsofshame.com investigation into the considerable thefts from the National Baseball Library has yielded numerous confirmations of rare documents and photographs stolen from Cooperstown.  The investigation has also revealed that at least one letter from Chadwick is missing and both Knickerbocker receipts donated by Cartwright’s family are missing, as well.

This letter from Henry Chadwick to August Herrmann was part of the HOF's "Herrmann Papers Collection." This letter was documented on a National Baseball Library photocopy found in Chadwick's file. The photocopy notes that the "original" is located in the "Herrmann File." Hall of Fame officials cannot locate the letter.

The letter written by Henry Chadwick in 1907 was part of the Hall’s famous “August Herrmann Papers Collection,” perhaps the most valuable archive of baseball documents ever assembled under one roof.  The existence of the Chadwick letter was documented by a Hall of Fame photocopy found in Chadwick’s general file.  The photocopy includes a Hall of Fame employees handwritten note stating, “Original in Herrmann Letter File.”

The entire Herrmann collection was recently catalogued and conserved thanks to a grant from the Yawkey Foundation, however, scores of letters originating from the collection have been documented as being sold in public auctions like Sotheby’s, Robert Edward Auctions, MastroNet Auctions, Heritage Auctions, Richard Wolfers Auctions, Mike Gutierrez Auctions, Superior Auctions, Christies, Lelands and others.  Hall of Fame officials were notified of the photocopy of the missing Chadwick letter several months ago and have been unable to locate the original document.

Before the official opening of the Hall of Fame in 1939, Alexander Cartwright’s grandson, Bruce Cartwright Jr.,  lobbied organized Baseball and Hall of Fame officials for his ancestor’s enshrinement as the game’s founding father, instead of Doubleday.  In 1936 Cartwright received a letter from the Hall’s Secretary, Alexander Cleland, stating that National League President Ford Frick said, “Your grandfather will be among the first to be represented by a plaque.”  By 1938, the Freeman’s Journal of Cooperstown reported, “Among the most interesting of the exhibits in the National Baseball Museum…is one presented by the Cartwright family of Hawaii.”  The report also stated that, included in the exhibit were, “ receipts for payments made for dinners by losing teams in matches at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, N.J., the home grounds of the Knickerbockers.”

The two receipts from Knick team functions in 1845 and 1847 were formally donated  to the Hall of Fame in the late 1930s, however, the Haulsofshame.com investigation into the thefts at the Hall has determined that both of these rare documents are missing from the Museum’s collection.  All that remains in the National Baseball Library’s files is a photocopy of the two receipts.  The Cartwright family retained a photocopy of the receipts as well, and theirs bears a type-written note stating: “Bruce C. Jr. sent these receipts to the Museum in Cooperstown in 1938-none of these receipts sent can(not) be found anymore.”

This rare receipt for a team dinner of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in 1847 is presently missing from the National Baseball Library. It was donated by the grandson of Hall of Famer Alexander J Cartwright Jr.

Cartwright’s biographer, Monica Nucciarone, is familiar with the documents.  In an interview, the author of Alexander Cartwright The Life Behind the Baseball Legend (Univ. of Nebraska Press) told us, “It is possible that the original receipts are misfiled somewhere inside the NBL. Yet, it is also possible that the original receipts ended up in a collectors hands.”When asked what the Cartwright descendants told her in the past, Nucciarone stated, “The family long ago believed that the Hall of Fame either lost the receipts or misplaced them, because the family has not had the originals as part of their collection since 1936.”

Historian John Thorn also worked with the Knick dinner receipts at the National Baseball Library in 1983.  Said Thorn, “The photocopies of these two receipts I was permitted to make were from photostats, not originals.  Library staff at that time stated that photostats were all they ever had.”

But Hall of Fame records reveal that Bruce Cartwright Jr. sent the documents to Cooperstown in May of 1936.  On December 4, 1935 Cartwright wrote the Museum and said, “I write to you regarding items I would like to donate to the National Baseball Museum in memory of my grandfather…the “Father of Organized Base Ball.”   Museum Secretary Alexander Cleland wrote Cartwright on May 29, 1936 and stated, “I want to thank you most heartily for the material you sent me for the Baseball Museum…The “Dinner Receipts” and the paper of 1902 are to be put in one case.”   The same Knickerbocker receipts were next documented on display at the Museum in August of 1938 as reported by Cooperstown’s Freeman’s Journal.

Haulsofshame.com notified the Hall of Fame that these documents were missing on several different occasions.  Brad Horn, the Hall of Fame’s spokesperson, responded to our inquiry stating, “If we have any information to provide, I will pass along to you.”

Chadwick and Cartwright are popular marks for thieves of historical baseball items.  A significant letter from 1865 penned by Cartwright to one of his old Knick teammates, Charles DeBost, has been stolen from the State Archives of Hawaii, and personal items that were part of Chadwick’s estate have been pilfered from the New York Public Library’s famous A.G. Spalding Baseball Collection.  (The Cartwright letter stolen from Hawaii’s Archive has been sold three times in excess of $20,000 by Lelands, Sotheby’s and Robert Edward Auctions).  Also stolen from the NYPL were the original score sheets from a Knickerbocker match played on June 19, 1846.  As we reported in our last column documents signed by Abner Doubleday have also disappeared from the New York State Archives.

While some may argue baseball’s paternal lineage, one thing is clear.  The “Father’s of Baseball,” both real and mythical, are “hot” commodities in the baseball marketplace.

For More Coverage of the Doubleday-Selig Controversy (first reported here) check out:

Autograph Alert
Keith Olbermann

NY Times

Deadspin

Yahoo Sports

NBC SPORTS

CBS Sports

The Mighty Quinn

ScratchBomb.com

Joe Posnanski


By Peter J. Nash

Nov. 8, 2010

This just in: Bud Selig thinks Abner Doubleday is the "Father of Baseball."

 

-Abner Doubleday never played a role in the development of  our ”National Pastime,” but thanks to A.G. Spalding and the Mills Commission of 1905, documents signed by him have been sought by baseball collectors for years.  His  ties to Cooperstown and the fraudulent “Doubleday Baseball“ as baseball’s mythical ”founding father” have made his signatures valuable to baseball collectors who have little interest in his career as a General in the Civil War.  

- Brittany Turner, a Project Assistant for the New York State Archives, informs us that many documents signed by Abner Doubleday in their collection are missing and presumed stolen.  Turner works with the State Archives  program, To Preserve and Protect:  Security Solutions for New York’s Historical Records, and is in the process of furnishing us with a list of Doubleday items to look out for.  One such letter is a February 16, 1865 letter written by Doubleday to the Adjunct General’s Office.  We will post the complete list of information when it becomes available.

-While MLB and Bud Selig have been tight-lipped on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Halper donation scandal, autograph expert Ron Keurajian showed us a prompt response he received last month from MLB’s Commissioner on another issue.  Ron is putting the finishing touches on his upcoming book about Baseball Hall of Famer autographs and was asking Selig what MLB’s stance was on the Mills Commission.  Although “some historians” may disagree with the commish, he’s sticking with Spalding, proclaiming:  “I really believe that Abner Doubleday is the “Father of Baseball.”  Bud has raised a few SABR eyebrows, to say the least.

-Interestingly enough, Ron Keurajian supports Selig’s views.  In his opinion, “A few “baseball historians” with way too much time on their hands have attempted to rewrite baseball history. The Mills Commission included the testimony of eye wittnesses to the events of 1839.  They ignore concrete evidence and wish to dethrone Doubleday as the game’s father. I suggest they find a new hobby, like bottle cap collecting.”

-All this Doubleday talk reminds us of a 1956 letter from Hall of Fame Vice-President Paul Kerr to Dr. Harold Seymour.  Kerr wrote, “We (the HOF) had no part in the findings of General Abner Doubleday discovering baseball…I think we can safely say that it is no longer important who discovered baseball.”

-Still no answers from the Baseball Hall of Fame to questions raised in our last report about the bogus 1951 Mickey Mantle road jersey from the Barry Halper Collection.  When was the jersey returned to Halper or his family, and what was the compensation to MLB and the HOF in relation to their $7 million purchase and donation?  Did the HOF ever inform MLB of the return of the Mantle jersey which was featured in the press and official Cooperstown brochures?  Inquiring minds want to know.

-Sources at the Boston Public Library indicate that they may be close to securing the return of one of “Nuf-Ced” McGreevy’s stolen baseball pictures.

-Turns out there’s more proof that the Mickey Mantle Kansas City jersey sold as a “replica” in the REA 2007 auction was also held out by Barry Halper as being the “real deal.”  The jersey was featured in the 1988 video of Halper’s collection as Mantle’s “Minor League Uniform.”  Just like Halper’s 1951 number “6″ Mantle jersey, the Kansas City jersey was accompanied by a note from Mantle authenticating the garment.

The same Mantle Kansas City jersey sold as a "replica" in the REA 2007 auction appeared in Barry Halper's 1988 film as Mantle's authentic "Minor League Uniform."

-One of our astute readers passed along a 1999 article from Sports Collectors Digest that reveals additional information on the Halper/Mantle jersey situation.  The article, written by Dan Schlossberg and published on July 23, 1999 states:

“Few of the 1,068 uniforms acquired by Halper remain.  The Hall of Fame , which plans to open a Barry Halper wing in September, got the No. 6 Yankee jersey Mantle wore as a rookie, but Halper still has the Kansas City uniform Mantle wore after the Yankees sent him out for more minor league seasoning during that same 1951 season.”

-Barry Halper told Dan Schlossberg more about his Kansas City Mantle jersey in the 1999 SCD article: 

“Mickey wrote a nice message about it.  It said, “This is the uniform I wore after they sent me down.”  I always had that done.  In fact, I coined the phrase Letter of Authenticity.”

  -The Halper video is now available on a DVD from Genius Entertainment under the title The Ultimate Baseball Collector’s Collection.  Should Genius be concerned that their video prominently features the following bogus items: Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle rookie jerseys; Ty Cobb’s Detroit jersey from Al Stump; Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Black Betsy Bat; and assorted Ty Cobb items from the Al Stump Collection???

-Stay tuned  for new updates on;  the stolen wills of Babe Ruth and George Wright’s wife; a possible stolen NYPL item offered on EBAY; the return of stolen items to the National Baseball Library; and the FBI’s  on-going investigation into the stolen Harry Wright Correspondence.

Ron Keurajian asked us to publish his response to members of the media who have commented on his letter from MLB’s Commissioner and his support of Bud Selig’s belief that Abner Doubleday is the “Father of Baseball”:

 

For many years there has been great debate as to the origins of baseball. For years Union General Abner Doubleday was the uncontested “Father” of the game having first organized the game way back in 1839 on farmer Phinney‘s cow pasture. Decades would pass without much controversy and Doubleday became a hallowed figure of the National Pastime, and rightly so. In 1905, Major League baseball executives, wanting to put the question to bed once and for all, organized the Mills Commission, its charge to determine who created the game of baseball. The Commission included many of the most prominent men of the game. After extensive research, plowing through ancient records, and interviewing an eye witness to the events of 1839, the Commission pronounced General Doubleday as the “Father of Baseball“.
For many years this was accepted as fact, a fact backed by concrete evidence unearth by the Mills Commission. Fast forward a few decades and suddenly a few, mind you just a few, baseball buffs, who called themselves “historians” challenged the long accepted fact of Doubleday and the birth of baseball. You know the type, those who try to make a name for themselves by trying to “upset the apple cart” merely to see what reaction they get. These are the people with too much time on their hands and like to cause trouble.
In any event, Doubleday came under attack by these historians (or more properly revisionists) far removed in time from the birth of the game. They really have no evidence to the contrary but what the hell never let facts get in the way of a good story.
The assault on Doubleday and his rightful placed in baseball history had commenced. They attacked Doubleday, the records, the testimony, and the Mills Commission because Doubleday didn’t fit in with their attempt to change baseball history. These amateur experts of the Grand Old Game needed to make a name for themselves and if the truth got crushed, so be it.
Lets look at the evidence between Doubleday vs. revisionists. The revisionists desperately needed a new hero of the game, a man they could call the “Father of Baseball“, some held out Alexander Cartwright, while other chose Henry Chadwick, or maybe it was Dr. Smith from Lost In Space. Who knows, who really cares. Their evidence nothing more than personal bias I suppose and a need to change the facts.
On the other hand there was the Mills Commission that was comprised of National League President Abraham Mills, National League President Morgan Bulkeley, National League President Nick Young, Washington Club President Art Gorman, In addition there was Alfred Reach, Baseball Hall of Famer George Wright, and James E. Sullivan, all elder statesmen of the game. The Commission did years of research, had the period records at hand and the eye witness testimony of noted mining engineer Abner Graves, who, under oath, testified that Doubleday gave birth to the game in 1839. So who carries more weight, the Mills Commission with its three N L Presidents and eyewitness testimony or the handful of “historians” of the 20th century who were born over 100 years after that first game was played so long ago – gheez who did they interview? Really what was their evidence that could trump the Mills Commission, maybe they were reading tea leaves or more properly…smoking them. It think its pretty clear which determination is based in fact and which is based on folly.
Let me digress a bit, humor me as I think this is a good point. A while back I was watching a program as to the origins of the Moon. A rouge centennial planet meandering through the solar system slammed into the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago and the ensuing debris field created the Moon. Oh Really?? How do they know this? Did they have detailed photographs of this event, maybe they had rare video footage of the collision. Or possibly they had an affidavit signed by Abner Graves attesting to the collision. Or maybe it is simply made up to give someone their 15 minutes of fame. Just as these baseball “historians” are looking for their moment in the sun, brief as it is.
I get so tired of those who have this uncontrollable need to distort facts in a weak attempt to change history. Doubleday is not the only target, not by far. Ty Cobb has come under attack in recent years. Some revisionists try to deduct two hits from Cobb’s lifetime record so they can proudly proclaim (at the top of their lungs) Cobb’s lifetime average is not the .367 as reported in the official records but it is in fact .366! So what? Nobody cares!
Whether it be Doubleday, Cobb, or some other player that falls in the cross hairs of the revisionists, the battle continues between the truth and the not-so-truth.
In a letter the Commissioner of baseball Bud Selig stated his belief that Doubleday was the Father of Baseball. I needed clarification for a book I am writing on baseball autographs. Great, most real students of the game hold that belief. Yet Selig is basically lynched by those who hold a different view. I hate to inform the revisionists but most fans consider Doubleday as the Father of Baseball. Its called Doubleday Field for a reason don’t you think.
 
In the end the revisionist’s efforts will prove futile and their “research” relegated to some forgotten obscurity. Doubleday is the Father of the National pastime and will remain such for centuries to come – Sorry that’s just the way it is. To this small handful of amateur baseball experts I suggest they concentrate of some other interest and stop trying to distort baseball history to satisfy some personal shortcomings.

Sincerely yours,

Ronald B. Keurajian

The letter that brought the Abner Doubleday "Baseball Creation Myth" back to life

 

 

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