Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

Jan. 31, 2011

The Baseball Hall of Fame

The thefts occurred back in the mid-to-late 1980s, but the sale of documents stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s famous August “Garry” Herrmann Papers collection sadly continues today. In late December, Clean Sweep Auctions, of Carle Place, Long Island, posted a 1924 letter addressed to Cincinnati Reds owner August Herrmann on its website as part of their February sale of baseball collectibles. It’s been posted on the site since December and currently has a bid of $165. The letter was written by St. Louis Cardinals owner and president, Sam Breadon, who was asking Herrmann about a scheduling conflict for the 1924 National League season.  Breadon owned the Cardinals from 1917 to 1947 and was one of ten finalists nominated for induction to the Hall of Fame in 2010 by the Veterans Committee for executives and pioneers. 

Last year, several similar documents signed by baseball notables, suspected to have originated from the Hall of Fame’s collection, were offered for sale at Heritage Auction Galleries and Robert Edward Auctions. All of the documents were removed from those sales when auctioneers were informed that their auction lots were suspected to have been stolen from Cooperstown.

In addition, reports in 2010 by positively identified several rare photographs also stolen from the National Baseball Library.  One photo, a rare cabinet card of Hall of Famer Mickey Welch was removed from Robert Edward Auctions’ 2010 sale and two other photographs of Christy Mathewson and Jake Beckley were sold previously by MastroNet.  The stolen photograph of Christy Mathewson sold for over $12,000 at auction in 2008. sent Clean Sweep’s president, Steve Verkman, documents illustrating the likelihood that his offered lot originated from the Hall of Fame files, as well as additional information showing that his auction house had previously sold other letters stolen from the Herrmann Papers archive.  In 2009, Verkman sold two letters written to Herrmann from Boston Braves owner Emil Fuchs and National League President John Heydler.  While the letters offered by Clean Sweep are only worth a few hundred dollars, other documents removed from Cooperstown have commanded sales prices in excess of $10,000.  Sources indicate that  Herrmann letters featuring ultra-rare signatures of Hall of Famers like John M. Ward and James O’Rourke have sold on the black market for even more.

This rare letter sent to Herrmann by Hall of Famer James O'Rourke in 1916 was sold by Richard Wolfers Auctions in 1992. The pre-auction estimate valued the document at "$10,000-$12,500." The letter originates from the Herrmann Papers Archive and a file dedicated to all correspondence between O'Rourke and Herrmann. That file still retains at least seven letters from O'Rourke.

The Herrmann archive was donated to the Hall of Fame in 1960 by Cincinnati Reds owner Powel Crosley Jr. and includes over 45,000 documents related to the operations of the Cincinnati Reds and Baseball’s ruling body, the National Commission.  The majority of the documents are letters addressed to Herrmann and span from the years 1902 to 1928 during his career as Reds owner and Chairman of the National Commission.  In 2005, the Herrmann archive was conserved and catalogued by the Hall of Fame and it appears that the Breadon letter for sale was part of a larger group of correspondence to Herrmann from the St. Louis team.  The Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers guide shows that “Box 51, Folder 5″ includes all of the correspondence between Breadon and Herrmann between 1920 and 1926.  We requested a copy of this entire file when we contacted Hall of Fame spokesperson Brad Horn on January 7th, but we were informed that Horn was on vacation until January 24th.  In his absence, head librarian Jim Gates responded on behalf of Horn, stating that while he could not comment on the issue,  he would furnish us with a copy of that file.  That request, however, was still not fulfilled by the time this article was published.

This letter appearing in the current Clean Sweep Auction originated from the Hall of Fame's HerrmannPapers Archive. It appears to have been part of a series of letters now found in "Box 51, Folder 5" at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, New York.

Clean Sweep Auctions president, Steve Verkman, told us, “Clean Sweep Auctions is still researching this situation and has not been able to contact our consignor as they have been travelling extensively this month.” first informed Verkman and Clean Sweep of the situation on December 30, 2010.

We also informed the Hall of Fame on December 30th about the sale of the Herrmann letter at auction.  Sources indicate that the Hall of Fame has not contacted the auction house in regard to the Breadon letter or inquired about the Herrmann letters they sold in 2009.  When we asked Verkman to go on the record about any contact he had with the Hall of Fame, he declined to comment.  Records from the Hall of Fame also show that Clean Sweep sold a letter sent to Herrmann by Boston Braves president Emil Fuchs, which originated from a group of letters found in “Box 47, Folder 3″ of the Herrmann Papers archive. 

This is a page from a 2009 report submitted to the HOF illustrating the Herrmann documents stolen from their collection. The letter to the right, on the bottom row, was sold by Clean Sweep Auctions in 2009. All of the other illustrated letters were sent to Herrmann from Emil Fuchs (from 1923 to 1925) and are still housed at the National Baseball Library.

The Hall of Fame’s reluctance to acknowledge the thefts and their apparent refusal to actively pursue recovery of the items that were placed in trust and donated to the institution, is creating a dilemma for auctioneers like Verkman of Clean Sweep and others.  These documents have been sold at auction and on the black market for years, but the Hall of Fame has done nothing.  Until, the reporting of exposed how severe the problem was in published reports last year, the issue never garnered much attention.  A detailed report submitted to the Hall of Fame by this writer in 2009 shows that at least $1 million in documents and photographs have been wrongfully removed from the Hall of Fame collection.

The person who originally uncovered the Hall of Fame thefts was New York auctioneer Josh Evans.  Back in 1988, Evans purchased an autographed photo of Babe Ruth from dealer and authenticator Mike Gutierrez, only to find that the reverse of the photo featured the Baseball Hall of Fame’s library accession number covered with wite-out.  At the time, Evans reported and returned  the stolen item to head librarian Tom Heitz, but says, “from there it went nowhere.”  When we asked Evans why he thought the Hall of Fame has not actively pursued recovery of their items he replied, “They won’t unless they have to.  They don’t want their incompetence shown.  That was always the reason.”

The only public statements the Hall of Fame has made since news of the thefts were made public has been in regard to another problem on their hands involving the acquisition and display of non-genuine artifacts originating from the Barry Halper Collection.  This past October the Hall admitted to the New York Post that an alleged ”Shoeless Joe” Jackson jersey in their collection was not authentic.  The jersey was one of the premier items included in a $7 million deal Halper cut with the Hall of Fame, thanks to funds supplied by MLB.  The Hall of Fame has also declined comment on several other fake items they accepted from Halper, including Mickey Mantle’s alleged 1951 rookie jersey and “Shoeless Joe” Jackson’s “Black Betsy” bat.  Halper’s collection also featured many stolen Hall of Fame letters also addressed to August Herrmann by notables like Christy Mathewson, Miller Huggins and Hughie Jennings. 

To the left is a letter dated Feb. 10, 1925 to Herrmann from Emil Fuchs that is still present in the Hall of Fame's files. To the right is the Fuchs letter from July, 1926, that sold at Clean Sweep Auctions in 2009.

Hall of Fame spokesman, Brad Horn, failed to respond to phone and email inquiries regarding the Clean Sweep sale of the Breadon letter addressed to Herrmann.  The Hall of Fame has also failed to respond to several inquiries as to whether they have recovered any of the other Herrmann documents removed from auctions in 2010.

We also contacted the New York State Attorney General’s office dedicated to Charities and Public Trusts to inquire what responsibilities an institution like the Hall of Fame has when they are made aware that items from their collection have been stolen and sold.  As of the date of the publication of this article, we were unable to confirm what those responsibilities are.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a 501 (c) 3, independent, non-profit, educational institution.  All of the artifacts in the Museum’s collections are the product of generous donations made by players, executives and baseball fans alike.  The donated materials are not owned by the Baseball Hall of Fame, rather they have been placed in a public trust and owned by the people of the State of New York.

To date, the Albany, New York, office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, through their spokesperson, Special Agent Paul M. Holstein, has also declined to either confirm or deny that there is an open investigation into the Baseball Hall of Fame thefts.  Sources indicate they are doubtful that any such investigation has commenced.

One prominent autograph collector we interviewed about the sales of Herrmann-related documents responded to us bluntly.  He said, “I can’t see how anyone could sell or buy a Herrmann letter at this point with the information about the thefts out there.  My advice to fellow collectors is proceed with extreme caution when it comes to Herrmann letters.” 

Ironically, the Clean Sweep auction description of the purloined Sam Breadon letter sums it up best.  It states:  “Almost a HOF(er) on the last go round, this will be very pricey if this occurs.”  Of course, the auction house is alluding to Breadon’s possible induction into the Hall of Fame.  The letter that is currently priced at a meager $165 might skyrocket into the thousands if Breadon is ever inducted.  Regardless of his induction, one thing’s for sure: The 1924 letter from Sam Breadon to Garry Herrmann deserves to be back in Cooperstown, even if the man who wrote it may never make the cut.

The Sam Breadon letter is currently slated for sale in the Internet-only auction on February 2nd.  It has only recieved two bids, so far:

(UPDATE:  The Sam Breadon letter to August Herrmann sold in the Feb. 2nd Clean Sweep auction for a final bid of $360. will publish a follow-up article on this sale in our continuing coverage of the thefts from the Baseball Hall of Fame.)

This 1913 letter to August Herrmann from National League President John Heydler was sold by Clean Sweep Auctions in 2009. The letter originates from the HOF's Herrmann Papers and should be found in "Box 40, Folder 10." That file includes all correspondence between Heydler and Herrmann from 1910 to 1913.

By Peter J. Nash

Jan. 26, 2011

A rare, stolen photo of Al Reach is wanted by the FBI in conjunction with their investigation into thefts at the NYPL.


Baseball fans regularly argue who should be, and who shouldn’t be, enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Names like Gil Hodges, Ron Santo, Pete Rose and Marvin Miller usually pop up in the discourse, but very rarely do you hear the name of Al Reach in the discussion.  A true baseball pioneer, Al Reach, started his career as a player for the Brooklyn Eckford’s in the 1860s and soon after jumped to the Philadelphia Athletics.  Says, historian John Thorn, “Reach wasn’t the first professional player; several were paid under the table in the 1850s.  But when he moved from Brooklyn to Philadelphia in 1865, for no evident reason other than to play for the Athletics, the landscape of baseball changed.  For this alone Reach might claim a place in the Hall of Fame, but he was also a club owner, sporting goods magnate and an appointed member of the Mills Commission in 1905.” 

Now, thanks to unsolved crimes, including thefts at the New York Public Library in the 1970s, Reach is wanted by the FBI, not the Hall of Fame.  A rare cabinet photo of Reach, that is.

In 1921, a cabinet photo of Reach was donated to the New York Public Library by the widow of Hall of Famer Albert Spalding.  The photo was part of a huge archive owned by Spalding and now constitutes the library’s great “A.G Spalding Baseball Collection” housed at the main branch on 5th Avenue in New York City.

In 1987, the library did an inventory of the Spalding Collection’s photographic holdings and it was discovered that many of the photos in the collection were missing, including a cabinet photo of Reach taken by the photographer C. M. Gilbert of Philadelphia.  The library compiled a “Missing List” and that list included the entry, “Reach, Al. (C.M. Gilbert).”  The entry was based on the original 1922 inventory of the collection published in the New York Public Library Bulletin.  In 1911 A. G. Spalding used this same photograph in his book, America’s National Game.

In 1992, a photograph fitting this description was sold at auction in San Francisco by Richard Wolfers Auctions as: “A. J. Reach Autographed Cabinet Card….turn of the century Gilbert Cabinet Card and scarce portrait of one of baseball’s true pioneers.”  The auction estimate was $5,000-$6,000.

The NYPL's missing Reach cabinet photo appears to have been sold as Lot 132 in Wolfers' 1992 Treasures of the Game auction.

Luckily, the NYPL made their collection available to baseball publications like The Sporting News, who ordered a “photostat negative” of the original Reach photo at the library before it was stolen in the 1970s.  Recently the John Rogers Archive purchased the entire photographic files from the Sporting News and have been selling the original prints with several well-known baseball auctioneers.  In the current MEARS auction, lot 552 is the actual “photostat negative” ordered by TSN for publication.  The negative shows many of the imperfections visible on the original and appears to be the exact same photograph as the example offered at Wolfers Auctions in 1992.  The most telling sign is a distinctive blemish or mark on both the photograph and the negative, to the right of Reach’s head.

This TSN "photostat negative" of the original NYPL photo of Reach appears in the current MEARS online auction. The negative exhibits the same imperfections as the Reach photo sold at Wolfers Auction in 1992.

The back of the Sporting News photo ordered from the NYPL is stamped accordingly, “Photostat Negative Made By The New York Public Library.”

The reverse of the TSN photo reveals that it was ordered directly from the New York Public Library years before the original cabinet photo of Al Reach went missing.

The Gilbert photograph of Al Reach that was originally sold at Wolfers in 1992 has also appeared in subsequent auctions at Christies (as Lot 256) in 1994 and in a Mastro Fine Sports sale of 1999 (as Lot 1193).  The Reach cabinet also appears on the Hauls of Shame, “Halper Hot 100 List” as number 56:  The reverse of this cabinet card most likely exhibits surface paper loss or alterations that conceal the NYPL ownership stamps and markings. It is the only Gilbert portrait of Reach ever offered at a public sale and is believed to be the only known surviving example of this cabinet card.

(Top) The missing Reach cabinet as it appeared for sale at Christies Auction house in 1994. (Bottom) The Reach cabinet as it appeared for sale at Mastro Fine Sports in 1999.

If you own this photograph or have any information as to the current whereabouts of this stolen item from the NYPL’s Spalding Collection, please contact us at: or the New York office of the FBI at:

The auction lot featuring the “photostat negative” from the NYPL can be found on the MEARS site:

(Editor’s Note: After this story was published, one of our readers incquired about the marks in each of the four corners of the Sporting News’ ”photostat copy” of the NYPL’s original Al Reach photo.  We confirmed that those marks are pin holes on the TSN copy, not the original NYPL copy.  The pinhole marks can also be seen on the reverse of TSN’s “photostat copy” being offered in the MEARS auction.)

By Peter J. Nash

Jan. 18, 2011

Babe Ruth’s 1925 seperation agreement

Babe Ruth’s Separation Papers; 1865 Letter from Knickerbocker Pioneer; and Rare Hall of Famer Autographs Top List; Only Ten of the 100 Recovered

In 2009, submitted reports to the FBI, New York Public Library, Boston Public Library  and National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum detailing the black market sales of stolen and suspected stolen artifacts from each institution.  The reports included close to 1,000 pages of data and the following list is based upon the research found in those reports.  Many of the stolen items featured in the reports once spent time in the collection of Barry Halper.

For several decades, these artifacts have been sold at public auction and also privately on the black market.  The known total sales prices of items appearing on this list exceeds $500,000.  It is likely that the total revenue generated from the sale of these materials has exceeded $1,000,000.  Unfortunately, only ten of these 100 stolen items have been recovered and returned to their rightful owners.  The FBI, as a result of their investigation into the thefts at the NYPL, has information as to who the current owners of many of these items are.  However, since the FBI investigation commenced in 2009, none of these items appear to have been seized and returned to the NYPL.  

(Each item on the list includes: The institution/owner, and the auction that the last known sale of item occurred. The Boston Public Library and New York Public Library are denoted (BPL) and (NYPL); Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF); others are noted by name.  If known, the last public sale price is also included.)

 Here’s the “Halper HOT 100″:

1. 1925 Babe Ruth Separation Agreement from 1st Wife (NY Court) (Unknown)
2. 1875 Championship Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($14,950)

(Top) #3. The 1865 Cartwright Letter as it appeared at Sotheby's in 1999, with page number and Archives of Hawaii mark removed. (Bottom) The same letter as it appeared with stamp at the State of Hawaii Archives in 1989. The document has been trimmed to remove the ownership mark and the page number indicating its location in a bound volume at the Archives of Hawaii.

3. 1865 A.J. Cartwright Letter to C. DeBost (Archives of Hawaii) (Sotheby’s, 1999) (REA, 2001) ($129,000) 

(Left) #4. This 1874 signed Warren cabinet card of Harry Wright is on the NYPL's "Missing List" and was sold at public auction in 2000. (Right) This same photograph (with same tell-tale abrasion in lower left corner) was credited to the NYPL in Robert Smith's 1961 book, "Baseball in America."

4. 1874 Harry Wright Signed Warren Cabinet (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($10,582)
5. 1922 Last Will and Testament of Tommy McCarthy (Boston Court) (Unknown)
6. John Clarkson Signed Hastings Cabinet Photo (NYPL) (Private Sale) ($10,000)
7. 1889 Ed Delahanty Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Christies, 1993) ($13,000)
8. 1920 Court affidavit signed by Babe Ruth (NY Court)   (Legendary, 2009) ($4,800)
9. 1887 Tommy McCarthy Signed Tin-Type Photo (NYPL) (Lelands, 1996)
10. 1873 Andrew Peck Signed CDV Photo (NYPL) (Recovered by FBI)

(Left) #10. The reverse of the inscribed 1873 CDV of Andrew Peck. Found in Barry Halper's house after his death and consigned to REA by his widow in 2006. Reverse shows vandalized ownership stamp of NYPL. (Middle) #15. April 1, 1873 inscribed cabinet photo of Andrew Peck. Consigned to auction by Halper's widow and sold by REA in 2007. Photo is on NYPL's "Missing List." (Right) #9. Signed Tin Type photo of Hall of Famer Tommy McCarthy, sold at Lelands in 1996 and listed on NYPL's "Missing List."

11. 1882 Buffalo Baseball Club Cabinet Photo (BPL) (REA) (Recovered by BPL)
12. 1891 Boston Base Ball Club Oversized Cabinet Photo (BPL) (REA) (Recovered by BPL)
13. 1877 Harry Wright Signed Randall Cabinet Photo (NYPL) (REA, 2007)  ($21,150)
14. A.J. Cartwright Tabor Cabinet Photo (NYPL) (REA, 2007) ($4,993)
15. Andrew Peck Signed Photo (April 1/73) (NYPL) (REA, 2007) ($1,410)
16. 1884 A.G. Mills Base on Balls Rule Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($5,462)
17. 1859 Knick Challenge Letter (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,600)
18. Henry Chadwick  Photo by Pearsall (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,500)
19. 1888 Kid Gleason Gilbert & Bacon Cabinet Card (NYPL) (Recovered by FBI)
20. 1877 James Devlin Letter to H. Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($8,050)
21. 1879-80 Ezra Sutton Contract (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,312)
22. 1887 Harry Wright Signed Contract Amend. (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($9,487)
23. 1884 A.G. Mills Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,300)
24. 1889 Jim Mutrie Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,300)
25. 1887 Harry Wright Unsigned Draft of Letter (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,300)
26. A.J. Reach Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,875)
27. A.J. Reach Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,875)
28. Harry Wright CDV Photograph (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($5,000)
29. Harry Wright signed legal document (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($6,500)
30. 1889 Letter written by Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,312)
31. 1887 James Delahanty Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 2000)
32. 1910 Pitt. Pirates Composite Cabinet Photo by (Recovered by HOF) ($2,000)

(Clockwise) #34. 1882 Oversized Cabinet Photo of Boston BBC. Ownership mark of BPL was defaced, but recovered by library. #96. 1897 Chickering cabinet photo of "Chick Stahl." This image was from a contact sheet of a 1983 SABR photo shoot at Halper's home. The BPL ownership mark has been removed/defaced. #35. 1904 Photo of Jimmy Collins and John L. Sullivan. This image was captured by the BPL before the original photo was stolen. Barry Halper sold the stolen photo at Sotheby's. #36. 1901 Holsinger photo of the Boston Americans w/Jimmy Collins. The BPL marks were altered to conceal library ownership.

33. 1889 Boston BBC Display Photo (BPL) (Sotheby‘s, 1999) ($6,325)
34. 1892 Boston BBC Display Photo (BPL) (Sotheby‘s, 1999) ($2,300)
35. 1904 Jimmy Collins and John L. Sullivan Photo (BPL) (Sotheby’s, 2000) ($1,000)
36. 1901 Holsinger photo of Collins, Parent, Ferris and Freeman (BPL)   (Sotheby’s, 2000) (Lelands) (Recovered by BPL)
37. 1910 John McGraw Protest Letter  (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,312)
38. 1912 Fred Clarke Protest Letter (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($3,162)
39. 1917 Christy Mathewson Letter to Aug. Herrmann (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($9,775)

(Left) #39. Jan. 10, 1917 letter written by Christy Mathewson to Aug. Herrmann sold at Sotheby's Barry Halper Auction. (Right) Letterheads of four letters from Christy Mathewson to Aug. Herrmann from January 5th, 6th, 8th and 25th of 1917. All of these letters reside in the Baseball Hall of Fame's "Herrmann Papers" collection.

40. 1919 World Series Game 4 Official Statmts. (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,830)
41. 1916 Hugh Jennings Letter to Herrmann (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,600)
42. 1920 Cincinnati Reds Payroll Checks (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($3,737)
43. 1884 Letter to Al Reach from Joe Mulvey (NYPL) (Unknown)

44. 1923 Christy Mathewson Protest Letter (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($5,462)
45. Wilbert Robinson 1928 Protest Letter (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,875)
46. 1908 Affidavit signed by John Evers for Protest (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,000)
47. 1908 Affidavit by Joe Tinker for Protest (HOF) (Mastro, 2003) ($10,221)
48. 1877 Harry Wright Letter to St. George Cricket Club member (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,587)
49. 1920 Bill Klem Letter Re: Protested Game (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($1,000)
50. Napoleon Lajoie Legal Papers (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 2000) ($1,000)
51. 1912 John M. Ward Letter to T.J. Lynch (HOF) (Mastro, 2004) ($1,173)
52. 1877 AG Spalding Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (MGA Auctions, 2004)
53. Mort Rogers 1871 Scorecard with Harry Schafer (NYPL) (Lipset, 2000) ($3,000)
54. 1871 Letter to Harry Wright from the Kekionga Base Ball Club (NYPL) (Unknown)
55. 1924 Miller Huggins Letter to Aug. Herrmann (HOF) (Keating, 2000) ($9,950)
56. A. J. Reach Autographed Cabinet Card (NYPL) (Wolfers, 1992) ($5,000)
57. 1874 AG Spalding World Tour Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (REA, 2004) ($25,875)

(L to R) #8, #58 and #59 from the list. All three rare documents are "Challenge Letters" sent either to or from the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club. All three letters were removed with the aid of a sharp object (or razor) from the NYPL's Knick Correspondence Scrapbooks. Remnants from each stolen letter are still pasted to the NYPL scrapbook pages. The letter to the far right, is an 1856 "Challenge Letter" that is still found in the NYPL scrapbook. Barry Halper sold the 1859 letter to the far left at Sotheby's in 1999 and once owned the other two examples sold later at other auctions.

58. 1859 Star/Knick Challenge Letter (NYPL) (REA, 2004) ($6,325)
59. 1860 Hamilton/Knick Challenge Letter (NYPL) (REA, 2004) ($7,475)
60. 1859 Knickerbocker Challenge Letter (NYPL) (Sloate, 2000) ($4,000)
61. 1860 Knick -Excelsior Challenge Letter (NYPL) (Sloate, 2000) ($1,750)
62. 1868 Harry Wright CDV (NYPL) (Mastro, 2000) ($1,834)
63. 1884 A.G. Spalding Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Hunt, 2004) ($3,000)
64. 1874 CDV of Ross Barnes Autographed on Reverse (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($4,372)
65. 1875 Hartford Blue Stockings CDV (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($3,363)
66. 1874 CDV of George Wright Autographed on Reverse (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($2,717)
67. 1874 CDV of Cal McVey Autographed on Reverse (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($5,700)
68. 1877 Boston Team Cabinet (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($5,095)
69. 1887 Buffalo Bisons Cabinet with Frank Grant (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($2,296)
70. 1859 Knickerbocker- Excelsior Challenge Letter (NYPL) (REA, 2006) ($1,856)
71. 1882 Boston Base Ball Club Oversized Imperial Cabinet (BPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($1,150)
72. 1894 Henry Chadwick Season Pass to NY Giants (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($1,265)
73. A.G. Spalding Inscribed Book Page to Fred Thayer (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($1,265)
74. 1906 Chicago Cubs Oversized Photo (BPL) (Grey Flannel, 2005)
75. 1906 Chicago White Sox Oversized Photo (BPL) (Lelands, 2002)
76. 1884 Detroit Wolverine’s Oversized Cabinet Photo (BPL) (Recovered by BPL) ($966)
77. 1889 Geo. Stallings Letter to Harry Wright  (REA, 2009) (Recovered by FBI) ($2,938)

L. to R.) #78. Deacon White, Warren CDV; #64. 1872 Ross Barnes, Warren CDV; and, #80. 1872 John Ryan Warren CDV. All three of these rare photos were captured on contact sheets for a 1983 SABR photo shoot at the home of Barry Halper. All three are on the "NYPL Missing List" and confirmed stolen from the NYPL.

78. 1872 Deacon White Warren CDV Photo (NYPL) (Unknown)
79. 1879 Harry Wright Cabinet Photo by Balch (NYPL) (Unknown)
80. 1872 John Ryan Warren CDV Photo (NYPL) (Unknown)
81. 1897 Chickering Cabinet Photograph of Boston BBC and Rooters (Recovered by HOF) ($2,000)
82. 1876 Ross Barnes Cabinet Photo, Chicago (NYPL) (Unknown)
83. 1912 Photo of the Royal Rooters at World Series (BPL) (Unknown)
84. 1889 Harry Wright note on back of letter to AH Soden, (NYPL) (Heritage, 2006)
85. 1909 Clark Griffith Letter Re: Protest (HOF) (Keating, 2000) ($595)
86. 1873 Boston BBC Cabinet Photo by Richardson (NYPL) (Mastro, 2007) ($17,995)
87. 1863 Harry Wright Knickerbocker Resignation Letter (NYPL) (Unknown)
88. 1871 Chicago BBC CDV Photo (NYPL) (Unknown)
89. 1884 Handwritten Harry Wright telegram, marked “Copy.” (NYPL) (Mastro, 1999)
90. 1888 Cap Anson Cabinet Photo by Stevens (NYPL) (Private Sales)

(Left) #91. Harry Wright cabinet photo by Taylor. (Right) #92 Photo of James O'Rourke inscribed to Henry Chadwick on reverse. Both of these photos were once owned by Barry Halper and recently recovered for the NYPL by the FBI.

91. Harry Wright Cabinet by A&G Taylor (NYPL)  (Lipset, 2005) (Recovered by FBI) ($5,000)
92. James O’Rourke inscribed  photo to Henry Chadwick (NYPL) (Recovered by FBI)
93. 1888 Nick Young signed cabinet photo (NYPL) (Private Sale)
94. 1880’s Harry Wright Photo by Macintyre (NYPL) (REA, 2009) ($4,406)
95. 1889 Letter by Harry Wright (NYPL) (Mastro, 2001) ($6,250)
96. 1897 Chick Stahl Chickering Cabinet Photo (BPL) (Unknown)
97. 1866 Note re:Harry Wright’s expenses to Union Cricket Club (NYPL) (Unknown)
98. 1920 Babe Ruth Court Affidavit to Verify Complaint (NY Court) (Wolfers, 1993) ($3,500)
99. George Wright Cabinet Photo (NYPL) (Mastro, 2000) ($10,996)
100. 1889 Letter by Harry Wright to Jacksonville BBC. (NYPL) (Wolfers, 1992) ($10,000)

(If you are in possession of any of these items and would like more information about how these items made their way onto our list, please contact us at: . We are also available to assist collectors with issues of reimbursement and returns of property to rightful owners.)

(Left) #8. Dec. 1920 court affidavit signed by Babe Ruth. (Right) #98. Aug. 1920 court affidavit signed by Babe Ruth. Both documents were owned at one time by Barry Halper and both documents wrongfully removed from a NY courthouse.

(Clockwise L. to R.) #2. 1875 Championship Letter to Harry Wright; #52. AG Spalding letter to Harry Wright, 1877;#20. 1877 Jim Devlin Letter to Harry Wright; #23. 1884 AG Mills letter to Harry Wright; #57. 1874 AG Spalding letter to Harry Wright about World Tour; #21. 1879/80 Ezra Sutton Contract with Boston BBC.

By Peter J. Nash

Jan. 10, 2011

Yogi Berra models an alleged 1905 John McGraw jersey next to George Steinbrenner in a 1985 Sporting News feature story on Barry Halper's uniform collection. Jeff Torborg peers over Yogi's shoulder in a fake Joe Jackson jersey that Halper later sold to MLB.(Photo by Rich Pilling)


When Yogi Berra suited up in John J. McGraw’s alleged 1905 World Series jersey for a 1985 Sporting News photo shoot in the Yankee locker room, he was still manager of George Steinbrenner’s ballclub. Writer Bill Madden remembers it as a memorable photograph  in his 2010 biography, Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball, because, “it proved to be the last time Berra would have much interaction with Steinbrenner…” Sixteen games into the 1985 season The Yankee owner fired Yogi and replaced him with Billy Martin.

In memorabilia circles, however, the 1985 Sporting News photograph is now infamous for reasons other than Yogi’s firing by George.  Madden also recalls, in his  Steinbrenner biography, that Yogi and his players “donned period handlebar mustaches while wearing authentic uniforms of legendary, long ago Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Cy Young, John McGraw and Pud Galvin.”  But it just wasn’t so. 

 Uniform expert Dave Grob recently deemed the alleged Cy Young jersey worn by John Montefusco in the photo as a forgery and new research shows that the jersey Yogi wore was also bogus.  (Madden didn’t mention the Shoeless Joe” Jackson jersey worn in the photo by Yankee coach Jeff Torborg. This past October, the Hall of Fame admitted to the New York Post that the Jackson jersey was a million-dollar forgery, as well.)

In typical Halper fashion, the collector told Madden an incredible aquisition story for the 1985 Sporting News article about his uniform collection.  Madden wrote, “Another example of Halper’s determined detective work was his aquisition of the uniform worn by Hall of Famer John McGraw in the 1905 World Series….The uniform, made of heavy wool like all the uniforms of that era, is black with a white lettered ‘NY’ on the front.”  Halper told Madden, “In my readings of Giants history, I recalled how McGraw had been especially close to a black fellow named Macklin who he hired as the Giants’ (assistant) trainer…I traced Macklin’s relatives to Manitoba in Canada.  I had been told by this contact that they might have the McGraw uniform, and darned if he wasn’t right.”  Quite a detailed account coming from Halper,  the Yankee limited partner and world-famous collector, and another extraodinary acquisition story that was never questioned.  The tale rolled right off his tongue like the acquisition stories for his 1919 “Shoeless Joe” Jackson jersey and his 1914 Babe Ruth rookie jersey, which also went unquestioned.

In the course of examining Halper’s alleged 1905 New York Giants jersey, we found examples of these uniforms in period photographs that served as the basis for Mark Okkonen’s study of the garments worn by McGraw’s club in 1905 (and 1906).  Okkonen’s examples appear in his book , Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century, and on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Dressed to the Nines” online uniform database.

Mark Okkonen's research provides graphics for the Hall of Fame's "Dressed to the Nines" online uniform database. This illustration features the uniforms worn by the New York Giants in 1905.

In 1999, Halper included the same alleged 1905 McGraw jersey worn by Yogi as Lot 363 in Sotheby’s Halper Auction.  Sotheby’s offered the jersey as a ”1905 John McGraw Giants Player/Manager Jersey.”  Sotheby’s further described the garment as a “navy blue flannel collared pullover jersey (with) a four-button front…”McGraw” is stitched on the back left tail…The shirt dates from the days of McGraw’s great early Giants teams.”  Nowhere in the description did Sotheby’s mention Halper’s claim that he purchased the jersey from the family of “black fellow named Macklin,” who Halper said was McGraw’s assistant trainer.

When the gavel dropped at Sotheby’s in September of 1999, the winning bidder walked away with Halper’s McGraw jersey for $21,850.  The price reflected some of the skeptecism regarding Halper’s uniform collection even at that time.  An authentic McGraw 1905 World Series jersey would have been expected to sell in excess of $50,000 or, perhaps, even reach six-figures.  The Sotheby’s catalogue noted that, “Grey Flannel has authenticated all uniforms and apparel.”  In addition, the auction house also included in their acknowledgements a statement by Grey Flannel  thanking Mark Okkonen and the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Librarian, Jim Gates, “for their valuable time and effort assisting in our research as it proved to be invaluable.” 

Unfortunately, for the winning bidder of Halper’s alleged 1905 treasure, the truth regarding this McGraw jersey was in Cooperstown all along.

The Hall of Fame’s incredible collection of Major League garments includes an authentic 1905 Spalding World Series jersey once worn by Giants pitcher George “Hooks” Wiltse.  The jersey was featured prominently in John Thorn’s 1998 book, Treasures of the Baseball Hall of Fame, as a “black Giant jersey (that) was worn by Hooks Wiltse.”  Thorn explained that McGraw’s 1905 uniforms were the product of the manager’s own superstitions and his bitter rivalry with Connie Mack’s A’s of the American League.  Wrote Thorn, “When his (McGraw’s) opponent turned out to be Mack’s White Elephants, the superstitious McGraw decided he would take the upper hand by going black against white.”

An examination of Halper’s jersey (and the Sotheby’s catalogue description) reveals that his garment was colored “navy blue,” not black.  (No manufacturers tag was noted by Sotheby’s)  Additionally, compared to the Hall of Fame’s authentic Wiltse jersey, the “N. Y.” insignia sewn onto the chest area of Halper’s jersey shows contrasting letter alignment and construction.   The most damning characteristic, however, is that the letters sewn onto the alleged McGraw jersey are the wrong size.  They are not even close, as evidenced in a side-by-side comparison.

(Left) Hooks Wiltse's authentic 1905 NY Giant jersey from the collection of the Baseball Hall of Fame exhibits the proper color and sizing for the "NY" logo. (Right) Barry Halper's bogus 1905 McGraw jersey sold at Sotheby's in 1999, but is the wrong color and features an "NY" emblem that greatly contrasts the authentic HOF exemple from Wiltse.

In addition, the files at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown  include at least one photograph of John J. McGraw wearing his actual 1905 black jersey.  The photo shows that McGraw’s jersey matches Wiltse’s exactly in relation to letter placement and sizing.  Halper’s jersey, again, stands in stark contrast.

This photo from the National Baseball Library shows McGraw in his authentic 1905 Giants World Series jersey. The "NY" emblem matches the sizing on the HOF's authentic 1905 jersey of "Hooks" Wiltse.

We consulted with uniform expert Dave Grob for his take on the 1905 McGraw jersey and the Halper uniform sales.   Said Grob, “It is beyond obvious that the level of expertise and due diligence leveraged to evaluate the uniforn holdings in the Halper collection were severely lacking.  Once again it appears that mystique and not observable traits and metrics carried the day and carried off a great deal of cash as well.”

So where do buyers of bogus items from the Halper sale stand today, twelve years later?  According to Marsha Malinowski, Sotheby’s Manuscript specialist and the coordinator of the Halper Auction, their prospects don’t look good. Said Malinowski,  ”Our materials that we sell at auction are guaranteed for five years after the sale, and if there are any issues, we ask that they are brought to the floor before the five year authenticity (guarantee).”  So, it appears buyers of Halper’s bogus uniforms, including those of Hall of Famers Wilbert Robinson, Hughie Jennings, Jimmy Collins and Reggie Jackson (just to name a few) are out of luck. 

In 1999, Sotheby’s asked Yogi Berra to write a short testimonial to Halper for their auction catalogue.  In the catalogue Yogi wrote, “I only hope that the new buyers of these items are as dedicated to baseball and ballplayers as Barry has been, and that they are as generous with their collections as Barry always was with his.”  In retrospect, we figure these new revelations about Halper’s collection might have caused Yogi to write something like this:  “If you see one of  Barry Halper’s ”Mugsy” McGraw jerseys on the auction block….Don’t take it!”

Bill Madden alleges that Halper's Giant jersey, modeled by Yogi, was worn by John McGraw in the 1905 World Series. Madden also recounts the story of McGraw ordering the Giant uniforms for the 1905 Series.

UPDATE:  After the release of this article we were made aware of a few additional vintage photographs showing Hooks Wiltse and John J. McGraw in their authentic 1905 Giant World Series uniforms, courtesy of the John Rogers Archive’s Sporting News Collection and the Chicago Daily News:

Hooks Wiltse appears in his authentic 1905 Giant World Series uniform at a 1944 old-timers event. The Sporting News photo (Courtesy of is dated June 29, 1944 and indicated Roger Bresnahan is to Wiltse's right and "Moose" McCormick to his left.

And “Mugsy” McGraw c.1905:

John J. McGraw wears his black Giant uniform c.1905. (Courtesy Chicago Daily News)

And here’s one we forgot, but was brought to our attention by reader “jere”:  From the Boston Public Library’s “McGreevey Collection,” its a  photograph of McGraw making a presentation to Lave Cross at home plate of the Columbia Street Grounds, Philadelphia, during the World Series of 1905.  McGraw is wearing his black uniform made specially for the Series.

By Dave Grob

Jan. 2, 2011

This 1919 Boston Globe ad by Horace Partridge evidences the sale of authentic "on-the-field" gear to the general public.







Long before the internet and near-real time information streaming into our lives 24/7, we saw and understood the world via the newspaper. As a uniform collector and researcher, the daily edition remains an invaluable source of information and pleasure for me.


As part of researching another project that involves The Horace Partridge Company, I came across some absolute gems that I thought would be well worth sharing. I hope you find them as fascinating as I did.


PLATE I: In many ways, we use the style of a manufacturers label to date a jersey. Conversely, in many cases, we date the style of a manufacturers tag by style of the jersey it’s on. What is interesting and rare is when you can confirm the dating of a manufacturers label by period information. Here we can trace a company’s history by location as well as when we should, or should not, expect to see a style of tag and why.


PLATE II: We tend to think of our ability as fans to obtain a high quality jersey of our favorite team as something relatively new. This has been both a blessing for the fan and curse for the collector since the proliferation of professional quality product gives the collector reason to pause; questioning if what they are buying is really a “gamer.” Well, it seems that all of this just got a little more complicated since it appears that as early as 1919 you could have waltzed into 49 Franklin Street and purchased a professional quality duplicate of what Horace Partridge was making for the home town Red Sox. (And, yes, that is the Bambino who is featured swinging for the fences in the Partridge Globe advertisement.)

PLATE III: The Boston Red Sox began wearing numbers on the back of their uniforms during the 1931 season. It appears this may have been great for fans…not so much for the players or club house personnel. In order to keep everyone on the same sheet of music, or scorecard if you will, the 1932 Red Sox featured uniforms with detachable numbers. Even if the laundry came back late, Smead Jolly would still end up in left field or at the plate wearing #9, making everyone happy along the way. As a side note, this article confirms that both the Braves and Red Sox were outfitted by Horace Partridge for the 1932 season.

PLATE IV: When the Boston Braves ushered in Night Baseball at home in May of 1946, they did so in satin splendor. Contrary to what is often referenced in auction descriptions or on-line uniform data bases, the Braves began donning this garb in 1946, and not 1948 which is typically the date cited or referenced.

Maybe Will Rogers had the right idea when he said “All I know is what I read in the newspaper.” For a man known for spinning simple truths, he appeared to be spot on as it applies to knowing the value of the newspaper and the forgotten treasures about The Horace Partridge Company, and their role dressing up our national pastime.

As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.

Dave Grob

(For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at

Some more proof supporting the theory that MLB uniforms may have been sold to the general public as early as 1919: This nugget came courtesy of Mike Nola, the official Joe Jackson historian at It's an advertisement featured in the White Sox 1919 World Series program sold at Comiskey Park. The ad was placed by a Chicago retail sporting goods store named "The Fair," located on "State, Adams & Dearborn Streets." The advertisement prominently proclaims, "White Sox Uniforms Furnished by the Fair." It is well documented that Thos. Wilson and Co. outfitted the 1919 White Sox, so could this "Fair" gear take the prize for first MLB bootlegs?