Breaking News

By Dave Grob

March 29, 2011

 

Lou Gehrig related items seem to be a popular topic these days. One collector was curious if the various Lou Gehrig jerseys that I have examined and found to be problematic could have been wardrobe products from the film “The Pride of the Yankees” starring Gary Cooper. The short answer is no. I say this based on the nature of the problems and the fact that this is one of my favorite films; one I have looked at countless times. That being said, this does not mean this is not a topic worthy of a little discovery and discussion. With that being said, let’s get started.

While you will find images of Gehrig wearing jerseys with both Raglan and Set-In sleeves throughout his career, in 1939, you will find the Iron Horse wearing the Raglan style at home. What is interesting is that you will not find this as the standard sleeve style for all Yankee home jerseys that year. Another thing to consider is that in 1939, professional baseball clubs (Majors, Minors, & Negro Leagues) wore the Baseball Centennial patch. In the “Pride of the Yankees”, at least for Gehrig since the film does feature a number of actual players, the patch Gary Cooper is wearing is sewn to the shoulder and not the set-in sleeve of his jersey. Small point, but still one worth noting when comparing props and period products.

The NY Logo that appears on two of the three styles of home movie uniforms worn by Cooper is not too bad. The logo’s don’t look all that much out of place until you begin to compare them with actual uniforms from the period. Like I said, not bad but easily noticeable upon comparison. The NY logo can also be used to get an estimate on the number of home jerseys Gary Cooper wore in the film. For home uniforms, I would say 2-3.

This takes us quickly to the point where “Pride of the Yankees” turns into “Shame on You.” What I am referring to is the marketing and sale of jerseys purported to have been worn by Gary Cooper in the film. In 1992, Superior Galleries of Beverly Hills, CA offered as Lot #1156 the jersey they say was the  “uniform worn by Cooper when he recited Gehrig’s unforgettable “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech.

 

In the film, Gary Cooper only appears in one scene wearing a 1939 Yankees home jersey. In comparing images of Lot # 1156 to film actual film footage, I found three distinct and identifiable problematic areas that seem to exclude the offered jersey from being the one Cooper wore as claimed. Specifically:

1. Both the cut and placement of the NY logo on the left breast are not consistent between the offered jersey and the actual uniform in the scene.

2. The location of the 1939 Centennial patch is not consistent between the offered jersey and the actual uniform on film.

3. The numeric font style on the back of the jersey is not consistent between the offered jersey and the actual uniform on film.

As for road uniforms, I have knowledge of only one of these coming to auction. This was in American Memorabilia’s auction of March 2005. For the record, Gary Cooper only appears in a road uniform in three scenes in the movie.

 The first of which is on the road in Chicago at the start of his career. This uniform does not feature a number on the back.

The second time Cooper shows up in road jersey is in St. Louis (#4 on the back) when he hits two home runs for the hospital bound youth named Billy.

 The 3rd and final time Cooper appears as Gehrig in a road jersey is in Detroit (#4 on the back) as he takes himself out of the lineup.

What is interesting to note is that in all three of these scenes, the cut of letter “W” in NEW YORK on the Cooper/Gehrig jersey is not consistent with that of the one offered by American Memorabilia. Make of this what you will.

The “Pride of the Yankees” hit the big screen via in 1942. It had made its way into peoples home via VHS video in 1990 (Fox Video) and then via DVD release by HBO in 1999. I point this out to highlight that individual/personal level film reference and analysis would have been possible at both times that both of these Cooper/Gehrig jerseys came to auction. Based on what I saw when I looked at the movie, I have to seriously doubt this was done. With nothing offered by either auction house as to their process or methodology, I suspect that attribution was made based on the fact that Gary Cooper was sewn into the tail of each uniform. Maybe it just never occurred to the individual(s) who researched and offered the opinions on these uniforms, that this actor annotation in the tail is not a difficult thing to add to a jersey after the fact. Once again, make of any, all, or none of it as you will.

As an aside, if anyone out there would like a similar run down of “The Babe Ruth Story” (1948 starring William Bendix) please let me know. I truly enjoy watching these films and being able to tell Michelle, “I’d love to dear, but as you can see I’m working here…” Sadly enough, but there appear to be a couple of collectors out there who might be wishing right now that more people who offer opinions on uniforms watched movies, too. Hard to imagine that they now feel like the “luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

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

Dave Grob
For questions and comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at:  DaveGrob1@aol.com.


March 24, 2011
 

 Auction House Boasts of Three Photo Matches For 1938 Gehrig Road Jersey-But Images Don’t Support Claims

 

 (This article originally appeared on March 22, 2011 on the MEARS company website; www.mearsonline.com. It is reproduced here with the permission of the author, Dave Grob, who is a regular contributor toHaulsofshame.com. Look for additional coverage of the Gehrig jersey in the coming weeks. )

 

 

 By Dave Grob

In response to an e-mail I received that read:

“Dave- I have a client interested in the 38 road Gehrig jersey in the upcoming REA offering. I am confused…..are you stating that the Gehrig is a photo match? When I read the lot description, that is what I got from it. I spoke with Troy this morning and he says those are Robs words and not MEARS. I reread the description and still see no distinction between what is REA opinion and what is MEARS findings. Your clarification would help. Thank you-NAME REDACTED FOR PRINT”

This is the language written (provided below) by REA Auctions as it pertains to the 1938 Lou Gehrig road jersey that I evaluated.  REA’s claims about placing this jersey specifically to the images I provided of Lou Gehrig in the 1938 World Series are their comments and theirs alone.  Please know that when you see the use of the pronoun “we” by REA, I am not part of that grouping.

“We are quite certain that the photo of Gehrig at bat in the 1938 World Series pictures him wearing this very jersey. The cut of the number “4″ is unique to every Gehrig jersey. The number “4″ on this 1938 jersey is very distinctive. We have taken the time to carefully examine every image of Gehrig showing the number “4″ on his back that we have been able to locate, including images that we knew were from earlier years. The point of the exercise was not just to see if we could find an apparent match; in the alternative, the point was also to see if we could find an image of the number “4″ on Gehrig’s jersey from a different year that could possibly be mistaken for the number “4″ on this 1938 jersey. We could not. The number “4″ on all the other many images was easily identified as cut differently and clearly not a match. The only photo of Gehrig’s number “4″ that was consistent, or even close to our eye (let alone a perfect match) was the photo of Gehrig at bat in the 1938 World Series. This is not a coincidence”.

While I have no doubts about the authenticity of this jersey, it is my opinion that REA’s comments about being able to make a definitive claim based off imagery analysis are not objectively defensible, and as such are largely without merit.  Their stated assumption is that and I quote, “The cut of the number “4″ is unique to every Gehrig jersey. The number “4″ on this 1938 jersey is very distinctive”.

I posed my questions and concerns about this claim directly to Mr. Rob Lifson, specifically, I asked “What is so distinctive about the #4 on the back of this jersey?  What sets it apart from other jerseys and what images and analysis supports your position that they are in fact one in the same at the definitive exclusion of other possibilities?   Mr. Lifson replied  “With reference to the #4 on the back of the jersey, below is the logic (actually a cut-and-paste of previous communications) that is the basis for our belief that it is the same jersey (I could not begin to provide all the images reviewed – we looked for and at so many images for many weeks and many hours, reviewing all Gehrig images available to us).”

I found Mr. Lifson’s response interesting on a number of levels.  First of all, the only images they show or reference are the ones I provided as part of my work.  As a matter of fact, I was asked for them just a week before REA posted their analysis as part of their on line preview. This caused to me to ask myself where are the countless images REA reviewed to come to their stated conclusion that “The cut of the number “4″ is unique to every Gehrig jersey. The number “4″ on this 1938 jersey is very distinctive”. Maybe they have a much more robust reference library than I do.  Quite possible, I don’t know.  This then prompted me to consider what sort of sampling and supporting photographic evidence should be required to support this claim by REA. 

For the Gehrig era, the Yankees featured numbers on the back of the uniforms from 1929-1939.  Based on previous research involving Yankee uniforms of this period,  I would be very comfortable in saying that the yearly population of new jerseys would be four and the total would be six (one jersey each home/road carried forward from the previous season).  In any event, at four new uniforms per year over the period of 1929-1939, that would 44 different Gehrig jerseys.  As such, logic dictates per their theory/claim, that if I found images of any of these Gehrig jerseys from this time frame, I should expect to see 44 “unique” and “distinctive” examples of the #4.  According to REA, this survey of images should not have produced a single example that was “consistent” or “even close.”

Allow me to share some of the images I came across and then you can decide for yourself if in fact the “The cut of the number “4″ is unique to every Gehrig jersey. The number “4″ on this 1938 jersey is very distinctive.”  REA’s WORDS, NOT MINE.  While I have included images from easily accessible on-line sources, I have also included both print and film references from my library. I have no idea of the size, nature, and scope of the REA search, only that Rob Lifson conveyed to me that their search and research consumed “many weeks and many hours”.  For this exercise, my time on the clock was just over seven hours and that included making the PLATES and writing this article.

What I came away with is that the cut of the numeral 4 is fairly consistent and far from “unique” and distinctive” for “every Gehrig jersey”.  You may notice I also looked at and included images of home jerseys as well since what the REA theory purports is that there should be no qualifiers with respect to either home or road by way of their claim “The cut of the number “4″ is unique to every Gehrig jersey”.

  

Now that I have addressed the back of the jersey, let’s take a look at what REA had to say about the front (once again, I am not part of their “we”).  They have once again claimed a “photo match”, specifically “we not only have a photo match of Gehrig wearing this jersey in team picture early in the 1938 season, as well as in the dugout during the 1938 season…”  Here are the issues I have wit this statement.  First of all, I never claimed or even implied this in my evaluation as my letter on this jersey reads:

“The fonts and sizing both appear to be year appropriate as confirmed by images of Gehrig from 1938. While images of Gehrig dated to 1938 show some variation in the alignment of the lettering with respect to the button line, this alignment of the lettering is consistent with the jersey Gehrig is wearing in the 1938 Yankee team photograph (PLATE III) as opposed to the one shown in PLATE II.”

REA's claims of a photo match on the 1938 Gehrig jersey are contradicted by the photos they include in their own lot description.

Secondly, since I clearly identified them as different jerseys, then how could REA use both photographs to claim a “photo match.”  Maybe it’s just me, but how can REA definitively say a shirt is the same one in both pictures when the pictures show two different jerseys?  Once again, you will have to ask Mr. Lifson and REA as those are their words and not mine.

My message in all of this is that if you are serious buyer then take this jersey very seriously.  Although there are some condition issues, it is one of only a handful of legitimate Lou Gehrig jerseys out there and the likely population of good Gehrig jerseys can only get smaller.  This population has been cut down significantly as I have evaluated three others that were found to be problematic for any number of reasons.  If you are in the market, then buy the jersey for what it is based on what you can objectively see and know.  I think you’ll be thrilled and lucky to have it as the display appeal is incredible and the conservation work in the sleeves is museum quality.  With that said, I for one am not a “buyer” of the theory that “The cut of the number “4″ is unique to every Gehrig jersey. The number “4″ on this 1938 jersey is very distinctive” any more than I subscribe that you have a “photo match” to images of two different jerseys. What do I base my opinion of the REA theory off of?  The same methodology that REA purports to have used by examining the #4 on the back of Lou Gehrig jerseys and other associated images.  I guess another difference is that I have provided the body of work to the collecting public so you can reach your own informed opinion.  This too is something I feel is a more than reasonable expectation from any responsible auctioneer, MEARS Auctions not excluded from this requirement. 

If you have questions or concerns about REAs claim, supporting evidence or research methods associated with this 1938 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees road jersey, then you’ll have to take them up with Mr. Rob Lifson and REA.  Mr. Lifson has conveyed to me that “We have always made the authentication process a priority.”  As such, since REA has authenticated this jersey themselves with their “unique” and “distinctive” theory and imagery analysis expertise to being the jersey Gehrig is wearing in the 1938 World Series, then it reasonable to expect this definitive claim is supported by more than an auction description.  At the end of the day, it’s up to the collector to decide who and what they want to believe and why based on what they can see and evaluate for themselves…In my book, that’s the way it ought to be.

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 DaveGrob1@aol.com.

(To view Grob’s article in its entirety, with accompanying illustrations, go tohttp://www.mearsonline.com/news/newsDetail.asp?id=790 .  To view the REA preview and lot description of the Gehrig jersey click here:  http://www.robertedwardauctions.com/auction/2011_preview/3.html )

UPDATE: Saturday, March 26. You can follow the discussion between Dave Grob and Rob Lifson on the REA site:

 http://blog.robertedwardauctions.com/?p=360&preview=true

..and on the MEARS site:  

http://www.network54.com/Forum/427155/message/1300796665/Answering+Questions+on+the+1938+Gehrig+offered+by+REA

 
 

 


By Peter J. Nash

March 15, 2011

Michael O'Keeffe

 

The cozy relationship between Daily News reporter Michael O’Keeffe and Robert Edward Auctions head, Rob Lifson, appears to be as strong as ever as evidenced by the continued biased reporting against this writer by, O’Keeffe, the author of the poorly researched and flawed book, The Card.

Ever since Rob Lifson became O’Keeffe’s primary source for The Card, (co-authored by Daily News Sports Editor Teri Thompson) the reporter has done Lifson’s personal bidding on the pages of the Daily News and has conveniently let his buddy off the hook when it comes to disclosing Lifson’s dubious history as a confessed thief of institutional artifacts and as a close associate of fraudster Barry Halper.

It’s amusing that O’Keeffe would mention the thefts at the New York Public Library in his piece today about this writer, and also quote Rob Lifson in the very same article. That’s the same Rob Lifson who was apprehended for the theft of what Time Magazine called a “small fortune in baseball cards” and “a cache of smiling infielders” from the famous Spalding Collection at the NYPL in 1979. The same Rob Lifson who, according to the Time writer, was apprehended with $5,500 cash on his person at the time of the theft. The Time writer was told by NYPL officials that the culprit, a 19-year old college student, admitted the cash came from “selling baseball cards in one day.” Of course, when he was caught stealing, Lifson considered himself the top dealer of vintage materials in the country. His buddy O’Keeffe makes sure to label the crime a “youthful indiscretion.”

In August of 2009, Lifson told O’Keeffe, “I want to set the record straight regarding untrue accusations promoted (via rumor and innuendo) by a very few individuals who wish to attempt to hurt my reputation by suggesting that I am responsible in any way for the theft of any of the missing items that have been stolen over the years from the New York Public Library. It’s simply not true.”

Then in December of 2010, Lifson confessed to Sports Illustrated that he had stolen items from the New York Public Library and that he’d been caught. The article claimed that Lifson told SI, “Thirty two years ago, he (Lifson) says, he was a precocious minor with too much money and freedom; one day while doing research at the library, high on a mix of drugs and alcohol, he secreted two photographs under a piece of cardboard attached to the outside of his briefcase. He was caught before he could leave the room.” (Back in 1979, Time Magazine reported: “The baseball card thief was caught when a guard saw him slipping the cards into a bubble gum box taped to his briefcase.”) 

I guess Lifson forgot about another time he confessed to this writer that he had “palmed a CDV” when he got caught stealing at the NYPL. That’s three different stories that O’Keeffe has conveniently omitted in his reports.

Young Rob Lifson (top right) began supplying Barry Halper (top left) as a teenage dealer in the 1970s. Lifson, the self-proclaimed "top-dealer" of rare baseball materials in the US as a teen has been linked to the sales of many items confirmed as stolen from the New York Public Library. Lifson was apprehended stealing from the NYPL in the late 1970s.

And lest we forget the cozy relationship Barry Halper had with the Daily News during his lifetime. The Daily News and writer Bill Madden shilled for Halper shamelessly and promoted bogus items in his collection for years, including fake jerseys of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Mickey Mantle that Halper fraudulently sold to MLB and the Baseball Hall of Fame in a multi-million dollar deal in 1998.

It’s no surprise that the Daily News hasn’t covered any of the stories of Halper’s fraud or his victims.

Of course, Halper’s right hand man and supplier was O’Keefe’s pal, Rob Lifson, who remembers his buddy Halper this way:

Barry Halper has left an endless trail of happy faces and good will. Barry Halper’s emphasis on integrity and fair dealings sometimes gets overshadowed by his amazing collecting accomplishments.”

Ah, yes, The New York Daily News, the home of journalistic integrity (and cronyism, too.)

If you want to check out O’Keeffe’s work you can find it at this link from Lifson’s REA website: http://robertedwardauctions.com/links/index.html

Coach’s Corner, notorious for offering bogus items in their auctions is offering a REAL item in their current sale.  The problem is, the item, a letter written by Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem, is a protested game letter that appears to have originated from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s August Herrmann Papers archive: http://www.myccsa.com/Lot/217/bill-klem-hand-signedhand-written-letter.aspx

This letter written by Bill Klem appears to have originated from the HOF's August Herrmann Protested Game files.

Philip Weiss Auctions offered the handiwork of Ty Cobb biographer Al Stump in their recent sale.  When we sent the link to Ron Cobb, author of Stumped by the Storyteller, he confirmed it was a genuine “Stumpie.”

This Cobb forgery originated from the collection of Al Stump.

Despite expert opinions that called it a forgery, the infamous TOPPS Legendary Cuts card featuring the alleged sigs of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig is now part of the collection of MLB pitcher Chris Perez, the Cleveland Indians’ closer.

Although the Topps offering was authenticated by James Spence Authentication (JSA) and PSA/DNA, the foremost baseball autograph expert in the country, Ron Keurajian says, “In my opinion both the Ruth and Gehrig cut signatures included in that Topps card are forgeries.”

Topps Legendary Cuts card featuring alleged signatures of Ruth and Gehrig.

One of Barry Halper’s famous fakes, the 1936 Joe DiMaggio rookie jersey he held out as authentic with an accompanying LOA from the Yankee Clipper, himself, resurfaced in a recent Hunt Auctions sale as a “vintage Yankee jersey” that was autographed by DiMaggio.  The jersey was previously sold at REA’s 2007 Halper post-mortem sale as, “made to commemorate DiMaggio’s 1936 rookie season.”  REA also wrote that the jersey “would never fool an expert, any more than a modern day replica would, nor (is it) intended to.”  Well, that’s not what Barry Halper thought when he “fooled” the Yankee Clipper into believing it was his own rookie jersey.  Uniform expert Dave Grob told us, “It’s not a replica, it’s a forgery and should be identified as such.”

This DiMaggio forgery from the Halper Collection has been sold twice as a "vintage replica" jersey signed by the Yankee Clipper.

For any of our loyal readers who missed it, check out our recent article at Deadspin about the controversy over Charlie Sheen’s 1927 Babe Ruth World Series Ring:http://deadspin.com/#!5775565/the-messy-history-of-charlie-sheens-winning-ring


By Dave Grob

March 10, 2011

 

There is an old adage that “perceptions are reality.” I will go you one better and offer that perceptions are more important than reality since this is what people make decisions off of. People act off of perceptions either because they don’t know what the reality is or choose, consciously or sub-consciously, to not want to know. As an intelligence analyst, I have grown up and functioned in world where not knowing is not an option. As such, we employ a variety of tools and processes that enable us to assist those we work for in managing risk and making informed decisions. This article is about applying analytic tools and methodologies to seeing and understanding the nature of the risk involved with the purchase of certain items from the Barry Halper collection. It is also about the nature of the risk today for those that have retained those items.

Whether you are evaluating information/intelligence or looking at a piece of memorabilia, certain facets and processes are equally applicable. My intent is to show you this by walking you through a series of five charts.


CHART I: What you see depicted here is a generic model for evaluating the reliability of information as it pertains to a source. Notice the order in which I presented these. The source has no credibility until AFTER the information/intelligence/story/uniform is evaluated on its own merits. It is only over time and through a series of positive evaluations that the credence of the source takes on any significance. In this model we see five separate instances of information/intelligence/story/uniform, if you will. Over time evaluations are performed; credibility is established; and an assessment of risk and reliability can be made.


CHART II: This is nothing more than a graphic representation or plot of the data the analyst has gathered as it relates to our five notional reports/stories/uniforms. You will see that the chart is broken down and color-coded to help the decision maker see and assess both risk and reliability.

CHART III:At the time the Barry Halper collection came to auction, there was a perception that the offerings were of impeccable quality based on the source. Even without an objective evaluation of the stories behind the acquisition or a credible evaluation of the numerous artifacts and uniforms, the risk was presumed to be low to the prospective buyer. Objectively however, by placing the source first (Not evaluated at this time (X)) and recognizing that without evaluation and corroboration, at best we had stories and items that were “Possibly True: Not confirmed, reasonably logical in itself, or agrees with some other information on the subject,” (3).  The hobby/ industry failed to see the actual risk. This is what Chart III depicts. In other words, the actual difference and significance between perception and reality.

CHART IV: Chart IV depicts what happens to our perceptions and, to a larger degree, our sense of reality, when we evaluate a series of stories/uniforms and then apply what we know to evaluating the reliability of the source. As you can see, (CHART V), the risk related to these items is much closer to how the Halper collection should have been viewed if looked at in an objective manner according to our analytical model.

So what are the take-aways in all this? Firstly, is that this model can and should be applied to many facets of the sports memorabilia hobby/industry. It should be used to evaluate both the individual items and those organizations and individuals who offer, market, and evaluate them. Closer to the hearts of many reading this, it should serve as an indicator of the current financial risk you are exposed to if your Halper item’s value is tied to:

1. A substandard physical evaluation.
2. An unevaluated/researched story.

This article does not address the risks associated with the concept and premise of clear title. By this I am referring to items that may have been sold when the issue of clear title might be in dispute. In order to assess this, other analytic tools are probably of better value. That analytic effort would likely involve utilizing a series of tools known as event and association diagrams. This would involve taking an item or series of items and looking at times, transactions, and individuals associated with them in order to see if patterns begin to appear causing “clear title” to come into question…but all of that is another article for another day.

For those that might be thinking “Halper had lots of great stuff and you’re cooking the books with these cherry picked examples,” I will openly acknowledge that the Halper collection contained more than its fair share problem free and spectacular items. This article is not so much about the nature of the holdings, but rather how they were held or viewed in the eyes of the collecting community at the time they were offered. A premium was placed on these items (fiscal and psychological) based on the source. My purpose today was to show why that perceived value may have not likely been warranted when juxtaposed with a reality that can be seen through the application of analytical tools. No story or story teller can make something into something that is not. Either invest the required amount of effort on the front end, or accept the risk involved with making decisions based solely on perceptions. That’s reality.

Dave Grob

For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.