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By Peter J. Nash

April 29, 2011

One of Lou Gehrig’s 1938 jerseys for sale at REA

When it started its journey back in 1938, baseball fans could hardly have imagined that a grey flannel made for Lou Gehrig would some day sell at auction in excess of $200,000.  Since 1938, that same garment has likely passed through the hands of Gehrig, Yankee clubhouse men, at least four auction houses and a handful of wealthy collectors.  

 Robert Edward Auctions is selling that  Gehrig 1938 Yankee road jersey in their Spring 2011 auction and the offering has stirred up some controversy in the high-end uniform world.  Last month, REA president, Rob Lifson, claimed to have a photo match of Gehrig in the exact same jersey during the 1938 World Series, but REA’s authenticator of the jersey, Dave Grob, of MEARS, disputed Lifson’s claim and explained why in a column first published on the MEARS website. Grob claimed that Lifson and REA were inflating and exaggerating the merits of what was already determined to have been an authentic garment likely to have been worn by the “Iron Horse.” 

There was no photo match and Gehrig never wore the offered jersey in the 1938 World Series, as REA claimed.  REA had also claimed that the jersey could have been the last one ever worn by Gehrig in a World Series during games three and four at Chicago.  However, games three and four of the 1938 World Series were played at Yankee Stadium and Gehrig would have worn pinstripes in his last Series games.

Said Grob, “REA’s comments about being able to make a definitive claim based off imagery analysis are severely inflated and without merit.”

Lifson and REA responded to Grob on their blog and blamed their errors and exaggerations on the authenticator, MEARS, stating,  “We went out of our way to specifically ask Troy Kinunen, the signer of the MEARS letter, if the description was clear in his opinion as to the distinction of what the MEARS letter was saying and what REA was saying.  He responded in the affirmative.”

Grob wrote a follow-up article describing the ins-and-outs of imagery analysis and the pitfalls of claiming “photo matches,” while REA followed up with their own claim of yet another new ”photo match” alleging that Gehrig is wearing the same jersey in spring training.

Now that the arguments about the Gehrig flannel have been laid to rest, judgement on this jersey lies in the hands of the collectors willing to pay for it.    

In consideration of the attempts made to authenticate and ”photo match” this garment, we thought we’d also point out the past history and provenance of the jersey, including some information the auction house doesn’t reference in their lot description.

LOU GEHRIG 1938 YANKEE ROAD JERSEY TIMELINE

1938- The Gehrig jersey’s journey begins when its delivered to the Yankees sometime before or during the 1938 American League campaign.  REA claimed that Lou Gehrig was wearing this jersey in the World Series during October, but authenticator Dave Grob, refuted this claim stating Gehrig could have worn this jersey and others sometime during the 1938 season.  REA claimed the number “4″ on the back of the jersey was distinctive to 1938, but Grob showed that the font of the Yankee number “4″ during those years was found on jerseys from several years of play.  Grob believes all he can truthfully say is that the jersey is authentic and that Gehrig likely wore the jersey sometime during the 1938 season.  Hauls of Shame  found photos of Gehrig wearing three different road jerseys during 1938 and one of them, from April of 1938, appears as if it could be the jersey being offered at REA. 

REA claims to have a photo match of Gehrig in this jersey, but that photo is nowhere to be found.

1991- Without any mention of where it had been since 1938, the Gehrig road jersey was offered for sale at San Francisco’s Richard Wolfers Auction House as part of their September ”Treasures of the Game” auction.  The auction house noted the jersey was consigned by Sports Heroes Inc.  On Sept. 6, 1991 The Los Angeles Times reports that the jersey sold for $220,000 to Mark Friedland of Aspen, Colo.  A spokesman for Wolfers told the Times, “the final price made the jersey…the most expensive non-card sports memorabilia item ever sold.”  Friedland told the Chicago Tribune that the jersey was “a cultural icon.”

Mark Friedland poses with his 1991 auction prize, the 1938 Gehrig road jersey. His purchase for $220,000 was considered a world-record at the time.

At the time it sold in 1991, reports indicated the $220,000 sale price of the 1938 Gehrig jersey represented a “World Record.”

The 1938 Gehrig jersey was offered in San Francisco at auction with an estimate of $150,000-$175,000.

1994-  The 1938 Gehrig jersey was featured in a New York Daily News special report on fraud in the memorabilia industry written by Bill Madden.  The 1938 Gehrig jersey was pictured in the article along with forgeries and questioned items sold by Richard Wolfers Auctions and Sports Heroes Inc.  In the report, Madden also recounts the history of what he calls a “1937 road uniform” of Gehrig and its owners, including, Andy Imperato, of Grey Flannel, Barry Halper and New Jersey opthalmologist Richard Angrist

 Madden reported that the jersey was consigned to an Oct. 17, 1993, Christies auction and that it failed to sell due to doubts about its authenticity.  However, Christies never sold a Gehrig jersey at their baseball sale, which actually occurred on Oct. 2, 1993.  Madden was possibly referring to the September, 1991, sale at Richard Wolfers, which featured the jersey pictured in his special report.  But Madden could also have been referring to another Gehrig road jersey (an alleged ”1937-39″ example) that was offered at a Wolfers auction on June 2, 1993.  The Wolfers catalogue description from 1991 stated that the Gehrig jersey was “made available through Sports Heroes Inc.” 

Displayed next to the 1938 Gehrig jersey in the Daily News report was an alleged 1941 Hank Greenberg jersey, also from the Wolfers 1991 auction. Madden reported, “A 1941 Hank Greenberg Detroit Tigers home uniform, which knowledgeable collectors have said is a fake, was once sold at auction by Wolfers for $85,000.”

Madden’s report from May of 1994 implicated Wolfers Auctions’ principal Duane Garrett for selling bogus uniforms and autographed baseball gloves. On July 26, 1995, Garrett committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

This 1994 Daily News special report on fraud in the memorabilia industry featured the 1938 Gehrig jersey and questioned its authenticity.

1999- The 1938 Gehrig jersey was offered for sale in Chicago by Mastro Fine Sports Auctions.  The auction house noted a tear on the jerseys shoulder and mentioned that ”The buttons have been replaced.”  New York dealer John Brigandi wins the jersey for a price of $60,486, a far cry from its sale price of $220.000 in 1991.  Collectors we interviewed believe the jersey’s ties to Duane Garrett, Wolfers Auctions and Sports Heroes Inc. contributed to the jersey’s poor showing at auction.

A decade after it was sold in San Francisco, the 1938 Gehrig jersey is sold in Chicago by Mastro Fine Sports.

2008- Mastro Auctions offered the 1938 Gehrig road jersey again as lot 1044 in their August sale.  They noted, “the jersey has undergone professional reinforcement within the shoulders.”  The description also states that there were no “remnants or stitching from a (Worlds Fair) patch.”   The jersey was graded “A-9″ by MEARS.  The jersey sold for $240,000.

Mastro Auctions offered the 1938 Gehrig jersey for the second time in 2008. The lot description includes the MEARS evaluation of A-9 (top) and notes considerable conservation work done to the shoulder area of the garment.

 

 2011- The purchaser of the Gehrig jersey in the 2008 Mastro auction consigns it to REA. The auction house is currently offering the 1938 Gehrig road jersey as lot 7 in their annual spring sale.  The current bid on the jersey is $85,000.  Bidding on the jersey will have to be brisk in order to reach the level of the 1991 and 2008 sales, which exceeded $200,000.

Bidding for the Gehrig jersey ends on May 7th.

REA's current Gehrig jersey as it appeared in the 1991 catalogue of Richard Wolfers Auctions and sold for $220,000.


By Peter J. Nash

April 26, 2011

The rare 1867 "Base Ball Polka" sheet music.

 

Robert Edward Auctions says its one of the rarest items of its kind; The Base Ball Polka sheet music, composed in 1867 by James M. Goodman.  The auction house contends that in their forty years of dealing in baseball artifacts its the first one they’ve ever handled. It’s clear that not many copies of the Base Ball Polka are known to have survived since the musical score was first published by C. F. Escher of Philadelphia in 1867. 

The sheet music is currently displayed on REA’s 2011 online auction and identified as Lot 1188, the ”Extraordinary 1867 Base Ball Polka Sheet Music.” 

In their lot description, REA also says the piece is so rare that even the “famed Barry Halper collection” never boasted of having one.  REA claims that Halper “had one of the most comprehensive baseball sheet music collections ever assembled.”  REA also says, “looking through our library resources, we were able to find only one other example ever offered, at Sotheby’s almost twenty years ago.”

In 1983, John Thorn and Mark Rucker compiled and edited a 19th century review of baseball images for the Spring, 1984, edition of The National Pastime, published by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). In the course of creating the publication, they conducted a photo shoot at the New York Public Library featuring items from the A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection, and one of the items they captured on a Kodak film contact sheet was, none other than, the ultra-rare 1867 Base Ball Polka

This copy of the rare 1867 "Baseball Polka" was captured on film in a 1983 SABR photo shoot at the NYPL.

John Thorn, author of Baseball in the Garden of Eden and the newly appointed official historian of Major League Baseball, confirmed for us that his original contact sheet marked “NYPL 7″ was shot at the New York Public Library in 1983.

In addition to the Base Ball Polka being documented as NYPL property in the 1983 SABR photo shoot, it was also documented in a 1975 book, The Illustrated Book of Baseball Folklore, written by Tristram Coffin.  In the book, Coffin pictures a tinted black and white image of the Base Ball Polka, which he credited to the NYPL.

The NYPL's missing copy of the "Base Ball Polka" was also documented as their property when it was illustrated in a 1975 book by Tristram Coffin.

In his 1975 book author Tristram Coffin also reproduced another rare piece of baseball sheet music from the NYPL collection known as the Live Oak Polka from 1860.  An example of the  Live Oak Polka appears on the current NYPL website as part of its digital collection and it also has an official entry in its catalogue as part of the “Performing Arts Research Collections.”

In order to verify that the NYPL’s Base Ball Polka was still in its possession, we searched the library’s online digital collection and main catalogue, but were unsuccessful.  However, when we inquired through NYPL staff, they were able to locate a copy of the rare sheet music in the “Performing Arts Research Collection” at the Lincoln Center library branch.

The copy of the "Base Ball Polka" currently in the NYPL collection appears to be a different than the copy photographed at the library in 1983. The copy currently at the NYPL features a distinctive circular brown stain or mark above the composers name, "Goodman."

But surprisingly, under close examination, the copy found by NYPL staff differed from the example credited to the library in Coffin’s 1975 book and photographed by SABR in 1983.  In addition to appearing in better condition than the missing copy, the example the library found featured a distinctive brown oval stain or mark above the second letter “O” in the composer’s last name, “Goodman.”

The NYPL copy of the "Base Ball Polka" from 1975 does not match the copy recently located in their collection, which features an oval stain above the name "Goodman.".

The 1983 SABR photo shoot at the library was strong evidence that a second copy of the Base Ball Polka was part of its collection, so we reported our concerns to both the NYPL and FBI.  Could it have been misplaced in the library after all these years, or had it been victimized by theft like many other baseball relics that have since vanished from the library and are part of an on-going Federal investigation?  Considering the great rarity of the Base Ball Polka, could one of the copies in private hands belong to the NYPL? 

This copy of the "Live Oak Polka" from 1860 was credited to the NYPL along with the "Base Ball Polka" in a 1975 book by Tristram Coffin. The "Live Oak Polka" appears on the current NYPL website as part of their collection. (Courtesy of NYPL)

   REA says their auction copy of the Base Ball Polka originates from the “legendary collection of Frank and Peggy Steele, where it has been on display at their home for many decades.”

In 1979, the Steele’s co-founded one of the hobby’s most successful companies known as Perez-Steele Galleries.  The Steele’s were also prominent collectors and in 1996, they donated their sizeable baseball sheet music collection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  The Hall of Fame’s Steele Sheet Music Collection description states that the couple “started collecting baseball memorabilia in 1975,” and that their sheet music collection gave them a “well deserved national recognition among sports memorabilia collectors.”  Their donated collection spans the years 1885 to 1992 and includes hundreds of pieces of sheet music. 

The Steele’s, however, did not donate their prized copy of the Baseball Polka to the Hall in 1996.  Frank Steele passed away in 2000 and his widow, Peggy, consigned their copy of the Base Ball Polka to REA’s current 2011 sale.

We asked Peggy Steele when and how she and her late husband acquired their copy of the Base Ball Polka sheet music?  ”I can tell you approximately when it was framed, but so far I havn’t found the piece that tells me when we got it.  It was before 1984 because the Polka was on a batch of framing bills.  Late 1983, somewhere in there.   I remember it coming from a picker who would bring us things.  I don’t recall his name but I remember he died young in an auto accident in the late 1980s,” Steele said.  When asked if she thought her Base Ball Polka could be the missing NYPL copy Steele responded, “Absolutely not, my husband Frank was very careful about who he purchased things from.”

Based upon her recollection that her copy of the Base Ball Polka was framed before 1984 it was quite possible that the Steele’s may have acquired their copy before the 1983 SABR photo shoot even took place at the New York Public Library.  Said Steele, “I don’t know how long we would have had it before then, but we didn’t frame everything immediately.  We could have had it for a while before it was framed.”

Additionally, the Steele’s copy being sold at auction appears to have two prominent stains located on the upper right border and in the left-field area of the illustration.  Both of these imperfections suggest that the Steele copy is not the NYPL’s second copy of the Polka.  

REA claims the only other copy of the Base Ball Polka ever sold at auction was at Sotheby’s “over twenty years ago,” however, the only confirmed sale we could verify was a September, 1997, Christie’s auction where an example sold for $9,200.  Christie’s called it, “The most important piece of baseball sheet music ever to be offered at public auction.”  

With the current REA lot and the 1993 Christies offering believed to be the only known copies in private hands, (and the REA lot already ruled out as the missing relic) it was the task of our investigation to determine if the copy from the 1983 photo shoot had been wrongfully removed from the library.  Likewise, it was equally important to expand the search within the NYPL collection to determine if this rarity was still located somewhere within the Fifth Avenue branch  . 

Additional research also documented that there were at least three more known copies of the Base Ball Polka found in the institutional collections of the Library of Congress, the Baseball Hall of Fame and Johns Hopkins University.  The Johns Hopkins copy appeared in the 1992 book The Old Ball Game by Mark Alvarez and was credited to their “Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection.”

As for any others in private hands, three long-time industry executives, Josh Evans, of Lelands, David Hunt, of Hunt Auctions, and Doug Allen, of Legendary Auctions, all confirmed that in their hobby careers they had never handled a copy of the elusive Base Ball Polka.

When Christies sold this rare copy of the "Base Ball Polka" in 1993, they called it, "The most important piece of baseball sheet music ever to be offered at public auction." The sheet music sold for $9,200.

If the Base Ball Polka was actually missing, it would likely become the focus of the on-going probe conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into thefts from the NYPL’s Spalding Collection in the 1970s.  Newly discovered evidence of items missing from the 1983 contact sheets would have to be added to an already sizable list of stolen artifacts.

Missing from the NYPL collection are thousands of rare 19th century documents once owned by baseball pioneer Harry Wright; scrapbooks compiled by Albert Spalding; a score-book owned by Henry Chadwick; correspondence and score sheets from the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club; and a few hundred rare photographs and pamphlets catalogued in the 1922 inventory compiled by the library when the collection was donated by the widow of Hall of Famer Albert G. Spalding.

Now, thanks to SABR and John Thorn, who held onto the original 1983 NYPL photo shoot contact sheets for several decades, items like the Base Ball Polka, which appear to have never showed up on the original NYPL inventories, were visually documented as having been part of its collection.

In addition, the SABR contact sheets documented other baseball rarities including a 19th century advertising poster issued in 1884 by the Lorillard Company for Climax Tobacco.  When we attempted to locate the poster, which is twenty-one inches by twenty-seven inches, it was also nowhere to be found in the Spalding Collection at NYPL’s Fifth Avenue branch.  All we had was the 1983 image capturing the poster on the contact sheet that even showed NYPL library books on the shelves in the background.

This rare 19th century Climax Tobacco advertising poster features the portraits of baseball pioneers A. G. Spalding and Harry Wright. The poster was documented on this contact sheet from a 1983 photo shoot at the NYPL.

 The Climax Tobacco poster featuring the portraits of baseball pioneers Harry Wright, A. G. Spalding and “Cap” Anson is also a rarity.  Only a dozen or so are known to exist and its estimated value is between $10,000 to $20,000.  A copy of the 1867 Base Ball Polka is estimated to be valued in the same price range.  For comparison, in 1999, Barry Halper sold his copy of the less scarce Live Oak Polka for $25,300. 

In addition to the famous Spalding Collection, NYPL also houses the impressive Goulston and Swales Baseball Collections.  Historian John Thorn also shared with us a copy of  his own notes from 1983 showing that he had examined both the Goulston and Swales holdings and confirmed that items in the 1983 shoot could have come from either of the lesser known collections.

Armed with the information from Thorn’s notes we also re-examined the research notes taken at the NYPL in the 1950s by historian Dorothy Seymour Mills.  Upon examination of those documents, we then discovered she had written a fairly detailed inventory of the Goulston Baseball Collection.  She noted that the Goulston Collection included ”250 Old Judge photographs” on cabinet cards and “550 Sweet Caporal” tobacco cards (which included a copy of the famous T-206 Honus Wagner card),  but she also observed that the collection included sheet music which she identified as: “Polkas and Duets to honor b.b.”  Her original notes taken at NYPL are now part of Cornell University’s Seymour Papers Collection and were used to compile the bibliography for the groundbreaking book, Baseball: The Early Years (Oxford, 1960).

The last line of this original research note written by Dorothy Seymour Mills at the NYPL in the 1950s shows that the Goulston Baseball Collection also included "Polkas and Duets to honor" baseball. (Courtesy Rare and Manuscript Collection, Cornell Univ.)

With the knowledge that “Polkas” existed in the collection in the 1950s, we searched the current NYPL catologue of Goulston contents, and found that “box 9″ contained “sheet music” and that “box 7″ contained “large prints.”  We informed NYPL staff and the FBI that the Base Ball Polka and the 1884 Climax Tobacco poster might be found in those boxes of the Goulston Collection. 

Soon after we informed the library and the FBI of our discovery it was confirmed that both items were, in fact, in those same boxes.  Not only did the NYPL have one copy of the Base Ball Polka, the recent research conducted to locate the items in the 1983 photo shoot confirmed that they actually have two copies of the rare sheet music.  The NYPL examples now appear to be two of only seven copies known to exist.

So, the FBI can now cross the Base Ball Polka off of their list of potential missing items from the NYPL collection.  Their probe into the library thefts kicked off in July of 2009 when documents stolen from the library appeared for sale at Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game auction in St. Louis.  Sources indicate that they have recently stepped up their recovery efforts, but the New York office of the FBI has not yet released any details of  recoveries made since their investigation commenced.

Upon learning of the NYPL locating the items once featured on his 1983 SABR contact sheet John Thorn fittingly summed up the “Case of the Missing Base Ball Polka.”  Thorn said, “I am delighted that some seemingly lost treasures have been unearthed just where they ought to have been all along.”

The Johns Hopkins copy of the "Base Ball Polka" (above) was pictured in the 1992 book, "The Old Ball Game" by Mark Alvarez.


By Peter J. Nash

April 19, 2011

Bill Klem's HOF Plaque

 

Last week a protested game letter written by Boston Braves manager George Stallings in 1916 was withdrawn from Robert Edward Auctions’ 2011 Spring sale under suspicion that it originated from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s famous ”August Herrmann Papers” archive.  On their website REA states the letter was, “Withdrawn from auction due to possible title issue.”  This week, two more letters suspected stolen from the Hall of Fame have also been identified in REA’s current auction and on EBAY.

Lot 1027 in REA’s 2011 Spring sale is a protested game letter written by Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem to National League President John Heydler on June 22, 1920.  In January, this same letter was identified as item 49 on Haulsofshame.com’s Halper Hot 100 List,” featuring stolen items which once resided in the collection of deceased New York Yankees partner Barry Halper

 On EBAY, seller “jerryjersey” is offering another protested game letter written by Bill Klem to National League President T. J. Lynch on May 30, 1911. The seller claims that the EBAY Klem letter is the “earliest known” letter written by the Hall of Fame umpire. 

The protest letter being offered on EBAY, for an opening bid of $1,250, was written by Klem in regard to a game played between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs on May 30, 1911.  The Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers archive includes an entire file dedicated to the protest of that particular game and is found in “Box 44, Folder 13″ of the collection.  That file is marked, “Pittsburg-Chicago, May 30, 1911.”

The National Baseball Library file for that game currently includes additional protest letters from the Chicago and Pittsburgh teams including documents executed by parties involved in that protested contest.  The “Protested Games” files of the Herrmann archive include the testimony of players, managers, spectators and umpires which were presented by the National League to August Herrmann, the Chairman of Baseball’s National Commission, for rulings on the protested games.

This May 30, 1911 protest letter written by Umpire Bill Klem is being sold on EBAY but appears to have originated from the Hall of Fame's collection.

Research of the Hall of Fame’s “Herrmann Papers” archive also reveals that the Klem letter being offered for sale by Robert Edward Auctions was related to a protested game between the Boston Braves and the Chicago Cubs on June 14th, 1920.  A letter still in the Hall’s archive written by Boston manager George Stallings on June 15th, 1920, indicates the protest was related to the determination of an umpire named Harrison “disallow(ing) (a) put-out on the grounds that the ball went into the players’ bench.”

In the REA letter, Klem writes, “I informed Capt. Maranville that it was practically the same thing as a ball hit outside of grounds and hit a house (which is in sight) and came back in…”

REA’s lot description also notes that the Klem letter written to NL President John Heydler “offers support for a fellow umpire” and in the letter Klem states, “I learned today Harrison was absolutely correct.”  Both the Hall of Fame’s letter and the REA letter indicate that Boston player Rabbit Maranville was involved in the protested play.  The Hall of Fame letter written by Stalling’s states, “The decision made by Umpire Harrison and as a result of which Captain Maranville immediately and formally notified Umpire Harrison that his club would play out the game under protest.”

The Hall of Fame’s protested game files in the Herrmann archive also include another letter written by Stallings to Heydler about the protested game on June 14th against the Cubs.  In the letter dated June 17th, 1920, Stallings writes, “The ball is in play excepting when it goes INTO the players’ bench.”  President Heydler wrote on his original copy of the letter, “Make copy of this and send to Mr. Harrison.”

Not included in the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann files, however, is the current REA auction letter written by Hall of Famer Bill Klem.  This letter would likely have been included in the Herrmann archive in ”Box 44, Folder 24,” which is dedicated to “Additional Protested Games.”

This 1920 protested game letter written by umpire Bill Klem originated from the HOFs "Herrmann Papers" archive.

Additional letters written by Klem to NL Presidents regarding protested games have appeared for sale at auction over the past few decades.  None of the auction offerings have ever identified the origin or provenance of the Klem letters.  The most recent appearance was of a 1911 letter from Klem to NL President T.J. Lynch that was offered for sale by Coach’s Corner Auctions last month.  The letter was dated May 30, 1911 and pertained to a protested game between the Pirates and Cubs played on that day.  The “Herrmann Papers” archive at the National Baseball Library contains a file of documents dedicated to this game located in “Folder 13″ of “Box 44.”  Klem’s letter appears to be missing from that file.

This letter written by Bill Klem and recently offered by "Coach's Corner" appears to have originated from the HOF's August Herrmann Protested Game files.

The current REA Bill Klem letter offering was previously sold in 1999 by Sotheby’s on Amazon.com as part of the Internet portion of the sale of the Barry Halper Collection.  The 1999 Halper sale featured several other letters that originated from the Herrmann archive including examples written by Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson, Hughie Jennings, John McGraw and Fred Clarke.  REA’s president, Rob Lifson, was Sotheby’s head consultant for the live and Internet auctions of Halper’s collection and this is the second time he’s handled the suspect Klem letter.

The 1920 Klem protest letter currently in the REA 2011 sale was previously sold as part of the Barry Halper collection by Sotheby's in 1999.

Another Klem protest letter was offered by Mastro Auctions in 2006.  Dated July 22, 1912, the letter describes a protested game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals played on July 17, 1912.  The Hall of Fame’s Herrmann protest files do not include a separate file for this game, but if the Klem letter from July 22, 1912 were still in the collection it would likely be found in “Folder 24,” under the heading: “Additional Protested Games 1902-1926.”  (This same Klem letter also appeared in Lelands’ December, 2004, auction as lot 926.)

This Klem protest letter appeared in Mastro Auctions' 2006 sale.

In 1998, Mastro Fine Sports sold another Bill Klem protest letter related to a game played between the New York Giants and Boston Braves on July 7, 1910.  This Klem letter should be included in the “Herrmann Papers” archive files for protested games.  The letter is missing from “Box 44, Folder12,” which is dedicated to that particular protested game.

This Bill Klem protest letter should be in the HOFs file for a protested game between New York and Boston on July 7, 1910. The letter, addressed to NL President T. J. Lynch, was sold at auction in 1998.

So, how could there be so many Bill Klem protest letters being offered at public auction, while there are so many more still found in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Herrmann files dedicated to “Protested Games?”

Despite the confirmations that many items have been stolen from the National Baseball Library and their awareness of the missing protested game letters, the Baseball Hall of Fame has neither investigated nor established a legitimate source for these protest documents which have been offered for public sale.

The Hall of Fame is still in possession of many of Bill Klem’s protested game letters in the Herrmann Papers archive.  This example (below) addressed to NL President Harry Pulliam is from July 11, 1909, and is found in the Herrmann Papers archive, “Box44, Folders 8 & 9,” which are dedicated to a game between the Dodgers and Reds on July 8, 1909.  The Hall of Fame’s Guide to the Herrmann Papers notes that the file includes, “Umpire Klem’s decision.”

This Bill Klem letter is still located in the HOFs Herrmann archive.

Another Klem protest letter currently in the Hall of Fame’s collection is addressed to NL President John Heydler and dated April 26, 1909. The letter deals with a protested game played on April 23rd between the Pirates and Reds and is currently found in “Folder 6, Box 44″ of the Herrmann Papers archive.

This Klem protest letter is presently found in "Box 44, Folder 6" of the Herrmann archive.

Another Klem letter (below) from May 1, 1909, is currently found at the National Baseball Library in “Box 44, Folder 6,” in a file dedicated to a protested game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati on April 23, 1909.

In September of 2009, the Baseball Hall of Fame was presented with a lengthy report prepared  by this writer illustrating how documents likely removed from their Herrmann archive were being sold in the collecting marketplace.

Most recently letters addressed to August Herrmann have been sold by Clean Sweep Auctions and EBAY, while another protested game letter was sold by Coach’s Corner.

To date, Hall of Fame officials have not issued a public statement regarding the thefts and the sales of suspect documents.  They have also not issued a formal statement as to what action they are taking to investigate and recover items offered for sale.

If the Bill Klem letters currently being offered for sale are withdrawn from the REA and EBAY auctions, they will be the latest two of thirteen items to have been identified and pulled from auctions in the past year.  Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, Texas, withdrew letters written by Hall of Famers Fred Clarke, Joe Tinker, Charles Comiskey, Ban Johnson and Ed Barrow, while REA withdrew sworn affidavits related to a protested game in 1908 played by the Chicago Cubs.

Although these documents were withdrawn from auction, sources indicate that none of them have actually been returned to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Hall officials have declined to comment on the withdrawals and have not responded to questions as to whether a late 1980s FBI investigation into the Cooperstown thefts has been re-opened.

One owner of a consigned lot suspected to have originated from Cooperstown’s collection told us his lot was returned to him but he’s never been contacted by the Hall of Fame or law enforcement.  “These kinds of items have a black mark attached to them now and if you own them, you’re stuck with them.  I can’t believe the Hall wouldn’t do all they could to get these items back.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame declined comment for this article.

UPDATE:  On April 19th, REA removed the 1920 Bill Klem Letter from their current sale stating, “Withdrawn from auction due to possible title issue.  As of that time the 1911 Klem letter appearing on EBAY was still available for sale.”

UPDATE: The 1911 Bill Klem letter offered on EBAY failed to sell and has now been relisted at a discounted price.


By Peter J. Nash

April 14, 2011

1916 George Stallings protest letter. 

In what they call their “time honored tradition,” Robert Edward Auctions put the first catalogue for their 2011 sale in the mail this week and addressed it to Cooperstown.  In a recent press release REA stated, “As always the first copy off the presses will be presented to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, for their library.”

Last year, when the Hall of Fame received their REA catalogue, it was soon after determined that the New Jersey auction house was selling a rare cabinet photo of Hall of Famer Mickey Welch that had been stolen from the Hall’s National Baseball Library.  REA withdrew the Welch photo, which had Hall of Fame ownership marks on its reverse, and also withdrew several other documents suspected to have been wrongfully removed from the Hall of Fame collection.

This year, when the Hall of Fame receives their REA catalogue in the mail,  they will see yet another item suspected to have been stolen from their National Baseball Library; a dead-ball era letter written to protest a game between the Boston Braves and Chicago Cubs.

REA is offering a handwritten letter by Boston Braves manager George Stallings regarding a protested National League regular season game in 1916.  The letter is similar to several other Stallings letters currently found in the “Protested Games” files at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown and is suspected to be one of the many items that were part of an alleged multi-million dollar heist of rare baseball materials from the library in the mid-to-late 1980s.  In addition, the Hall of Fame files currently include the Boston Braves’ letter which withdrew Stallings’ protest made on May 12, 1916.

The current REA offering focuses heightened scrutiny on the developing controversy at the Baseball Hall of Fame related to the alleged thefts of documents from their famous “August ‘Garry’ Herrmann Papers”collection.  Hall of Fame officials appear to have never properly investigated the alleged thefts from the 1980s and appear to have been negligent in pursuing the recovery of documents suspected to have been removed from their Herrmann files.

In February, another document suspected to have originated from the Hall’s Herrmann archive appeared for sale by Steve Verkman in his Clean Sweep Auction.  The auction lot was a 1924 letter addressed to August Herrmann by St. Louis Cardinal owner Sam  Breadon and appeared to have originated from a group of correspondence between Breadon and Herrmann spanning the years 1920 to 1926.  Currently the Hall of Fame stores those letters in “Box 51, Folder 5″ of their Herrmann Papers archive.

Auctioneer Verkman, when made aware of the likelihood that the letter originated from the Hall of Fame files, contacted Cooperstown officials for their input.  Verkman said he was told by Hall of Fame spokesperson, Brad Horn, “There (was) insufficient information for us to unequivocally state that these were stolen from the Hall of Fame.”  According to Verkman, the Hall of Fame did not even inquire how his consignor acquired the letter, nor did they inquire about several other letters to Herrmann that Verkman had sold in his previous auctions. When asked, Steve Verkman declined to reveal any details related to his consignor or the provenance of the Breadon letter.  With the Hall of Fame failing to conduct their own investigation or stop the sale, the letter sold for $360.

The lack of due diligence conducted by the Hall of Fame regarding the Breadon letter and the Hall’s failure to pursue recovery led auctioneer Josh Evans, of Lelands, to comment on the Hall’s response to Clean Sweep. “Now they are complicit in their own degradation,” Evans said. 

The 1916 George Stallings letter currently being sold by REA appears to be one of many suspected to have been removed from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann archive and, in particular, from the files regarding National League “Protested Games” spanning from 1902 to 1926.

The massive Herrmann archive, featuring over 45,000 documents, was donated to the Hall of Fame by Cincinnati Reds owner Powel Crosley Jr. in 1960.  The archive included the personal and business papers of Reds owner August Herrmann spanning from 1902 to 1930, as well as the papers of Baseball’s National Commission, the game’s ruling body before the office of “Baseball Commissioner” was instituted for Kenesaw Mountain Landis in 1920.  Herrmann was the National Commission’s Chairman and he acted as baseball’s final authority in deciding matters including issues regarding protested games.

After sitting in boxes at the Hall of Fame since 1960, the entire collection was conserved and catalogued by librarians at the National Baseball Library in 2005.  Only half of the collection has been microfimed.  A finding aid was created by the library showing that ”Box 44″ of the collection features files from “Protested Games, 1902-1926.”  File folders numbered four through twenty-four include correspondence, affidavits and other documents related to ‘Protested Games” that were reviewed by Herrmann’s National Commission.  Each protested contest file, and a seperate file designated “Additional Protested Games,” include official protest letters to League Presidents as well as statements made by players, umpires, managers and even spectators.  The largest file in the collection is from the baseball’s most controversial protest of the infamous “Fred Merkle” game of 1908.

Page 48 of the HOFs "Herrmann Papers Finding Aid" denotes the inclusion of "Protested Games" files and documents spanning from 1902 to 1926

REA’s auction lot number 1034 features a handwritten letter by Boston manager George Stallings to National League President John Tener on May 12, 1916, officially protesting a game.  In their lot description REA claims that in the letter, “Stallings presents the facts regarding a protest he filed in the May 11th game between his Boston Braves and the Chicago Cubs.”

Lot 1034 in REA's spring auction is a letter written by George Stallings protesting a game played by his Braves on May 11, 1916. The letter, addressed to NL President John Tener is similar to many written by Stallings which still reside in the HOFs Herrmann Papers archive.

The letter that Stallings wrote on May 12th to President Tener, was followed up by another letter written by Boston Braves team President, Percy D. Haughton, on June 3rd, 1916.  In that letter, also addressed to NL President John Tener, Haughton writes, “I would state that the Boston Club desires to withdraw the protest which manager Stallings made on May 12th in connection with a game against Chicago.”  The letter of protest he refers to is the exact same letter being offered by REA.  The letter written by Haughton is currently located in “Box 44, Folder 24″ of the Herrmann Papers archive at the National Baseball Library.

The HOFs files still retain this letter written to NL President John Tener, nullifying the protest requested by the letter being sold as Lot 1034 in REA's spring auction.

The Hall of Fame’s Herrmann archive includes several similar protest letters executed by Boston manager George Stallings.  Here is a sampling from their “Herrmann Papers” files:

This letter (above) written by George Stallings to NL President John Tener protests a game played against Pittsburgh on May 19, 1914.  It is currently located in the Herrman Papers’ “Additional Protested Games” file.

This letter (above) in the HOF’s Herrmann archive was also written by George Stallings to NL President John Tener on June 1, 1914 in regard to the protested game on May 19, 1914.  It is currently found in the HOF’s collection in “Box 44, Folder 24″ of their Herrmann archive.

This protest letter (above) is currently located in the Hall of Fame’s ”Additional Protested Games” file and was written by Stallings to NL President John Heydler on June 15, 1920. 

The Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Archive has another Stallings protest letter (above) in “Box 44,” which is also from the 1920 season. Handwritten at the bottom of the letter is a note by Stallings instructing a Braves representative to make a copy of the letter and “send to Mr. Herrmann.” (Correction: This note is actually written by NL Pres. John Heydler and states, “send to Mr. Harrison,” the umpire in the protested game.)

How could the 1916 Stallings letter, so closely related to similar documents that are currently part of the Hall of Fame’s holdings in their Herrmann archive, be in private hands and offered for sale at auction?

In their auction lot description for the 1916 Stallings letter, REA refers to the rarity of handwritten letters by George Stallings stating, “Handwritten letters (by Stallings) are even more elusive and this example represents only the second we have ever offered or seen.”

The other Stallings letter sold by REA in 2009, was stolen from the New York Public Library and their famous A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection.  The 1889 Stallings letter sold by REA was once part of a scrapbook of correspondence addressed to baseball pioneer Harry Wright.  The REA letter sold in 2009 is currently in the possession of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as evidence in their on-going probe into the consideranble thefts of baseball artifacts from the NYPL’s Spalding Collection.  The Stallings letter sold by REA in 2009 was affixed to scrapbook paper believed to be from the NYPL’s Harry Wright Correspondence Scrapbooks.  Sources close to the FBI investigation indicate that forensic testing of the scrapbook paper will further link the REA letter to the stolen NYPL scrapbooks.

The confirmation that the 1889 Stallings letter and scores of other NYPL letters cited in works written by historians Harold Seymour and Dorothy Seymour Mills were stolen from the Spalding Collection illustrates how rare baseball documents in institutional collections have been targeted by thieves for many decades.

This 1889 George Stallings letter written to Harry Wright appeared in REA's 2009 auction. It was stolen from the NYPL's famous Spalding Collection and is currently in the possession of the FBI.

Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame, the New York Public Library has been proactive in their efforts to recover items stolen from their collection.  When letters stolen from their Harry Wright Correspondence Collection appeared for sale at Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game auction in 2009, the NYPL enlisted the assistance of the FBI to spearhead the recovery of their materials.

In 1988, New York auctioneer Josh Evans alerted the Hall of Fame that he had purchased a signed photograph of Babe Ruth that had the museum’s accession number on the back covered with wite-out.  Evans revealed that he he had purchased the photograph from California dealer Mike Gutierrez

Ex-National Baseball Library employee Bill Deane recently stated in previous reports that after Evans’ 1988 revelation, the Hall of Fame enlisted the help of the FBI and an investigation was launched with Gutierrez as its main focus.

Josh Evans also claims that he had spoken to an eyewittness to the Hall of Fame thefts who told him he saw Gutierrez, “steal a Nap Lajoie letter from the August Herrmann archive.”  An ex-Hall of Fame official confirms that Gutierrez was one of the few researchers ever to have access the Herrmann Papers archive prior to 1990.

But Evans, who was interviewed by the FBI back in 1988, says the investigation went nowhere because the Hall of Fame did not “want their incompetence shown.”  An ex-Hall of Fame official, who requested anonymity, told us that the Hall of Fame failed to presecute and pursue the recovery of stolen items in order to “avoid negative publicity and the effects it might have on past and future donations to the museum.”

The reality of the thefts from Cooperstown, however, has been documented in the recent identification and return of items which were stolen in the 1980s. The recent returns of these items to the Hall of Fame also illustrates how the thefts from the NBL  were never properly investigated.  Unlike the documents from the Herrmann archive, many rare photographs stolen from the National Baseball Library bear identifying ownership marks which have helped facilitate their identification and return. 

Last year, Robert Edward Auctions withdrew the rare nineteenth century photo of Mickey Welch from their annual sale after Haulsofshame.com informed the auction house that the photo had Hall of Fame ownership marks and was confirmed as having been stolen from the National Baseball Library.  Sources indicate that the rare Welch card has been returned to the Cooperstown institution that has been victimized by the alleged thefts of hundreds of items exceeding a million dollars in value.  In that same 2010 sale, REA also withdrew another auction lot of sworn affidavits suspected to have originated from the Herrmann “Protested Games” files.  Sources indicate that those documents have not been returned to the National Baseball Library.

  As a result of reports published by Haulsofshame.com, other items stolen from the Hall of Fame’s collection have also been returned including a rare cabinet photo of Christy Mathwewson and a W-600 cabinet card of Ed Abbaticcio.  The Mathewson cabinet card sold for $12,000 at auction in 2008.

We asked Hall of Fame spokesperson Brad Horn and head librarian Jim Gates  if they had any explanation as to how REA’s 1916 Stallings protest letter to President John Tener was seperated from the follow-up letter written by the Braves team president to Tener withdrawing that same protest?  We also asked them how REA’s Stallings letter was in private hands, when it appears that so many of Stallings’ protest letters are currently located in the Herrmann Papers files?  Horn and Gates did not respond to our inquiry.

We also asked Hall officials if they had enlisted the assistance of the FBI to investigate the regular appearances at public auction of items suspected to have originated from their Herrmann archive?  The Hall of Fame failed to respond to our inquiry.

A source close to the FBI investigation of the thefts from the New York Public Library confirmed that unless the Baseball Hall of Fame formally engages the FBI, they cannot investigate the matter on their own.

REA’s 1916 George Stallings protest letter appears in their catalogue with an estimated value of $1,200.  It has not yet received its required opening bid of $400.  The letter can be viewed at this link:http://bid.robertedwardauctions.com/bidplace.aspx?itemid=19313

UPDATE: (April 14, 2011)  REA has withdrawn the 1916 George Stallings letter from their 2011 sale citing a “Possible Title Issue.”


By Peter J. Nash

April 5, 2011

Rare James Creighton Photo (NYPL-Spalding Collection)

 

The New York Public Library’s famous A.G. Spalding Baseball Collection houses some of the rarest documents and images from the history of our National Pastime. Compiled by baseball pioneers A.G. Spalding, Harry Wright and Henry Chadwick, the collection boasts the most comprehensive archive of early nineteenth century artifacts including the original club books of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club and unique photographs of some of the earliest baseball teams and figures.

The collection was donated to the library in 1921 by the widow of A.G. Spalding and in 1922 a detailed inventory of the collection was published in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library. The inventory listed each individual photograph in the collection as well as every book, pamphlet, scrapbook and score-book, however, it was nearly impossible to inventory all of the treasures tucked away and pasted onto the pages of the many scrapbooks and score-books in the collection.

In 1983, historian John Thorn spearheaded an effort to microfilm most all of the fragile scrapbooks and score-books found in the Spalding Collection. Thanks to that endeavor, baseball researchers have since had unfettered access to the valuable information found in the Spalding scrapbooks, Knickerbocker Club-Books and other treasures.

Most of the gems in the collection at that time were captured on microfilm, however, at some point, the library put aside various loose pages from the scrapbooks and score-books that featured photographic materials affixed to them.  Those pages and images were never documented on the microfilm.  One such page, features the rarest and most important image of nineteenth century baseball photography, a carte-de-visite size albumen photograph of Brooklyn Excelsior pitcher, James Creighton.

Creighton was a revered and revolutionary player in his era.  John Thorn goes as far to say in his new book, Baseball in the Garden of Eden, that he was “the game’s first hero” and “the most important player not inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.” 

Creighton’s legend grew when he died tragically at the age of twenty-one in 1862.  Reports stated that he injured himself after hitting a home run and that he soon after passed away due to what the New York Times reported were “internal injuries sustained while playing in a match.”  Thorn notes the true cause of his death was a “ruptured inguinal hernia,” but also that Creighton’s mystique was augmented by a “final epic blast that Roy Hobbs might have envied.”   

I first became aware of the NYPL’s Creighton image almost a decade ago when I saw a photocopy of the image in a box along with other items in the Spalding photograph collection.  But it wasn’t until last year that I discovered the original, thanks to NYPL’s Manuscript Head William Stingone and his colleague Thomas Lannon.  Stashed away in an archival storage box were several loose pages from a c.1870 score-book of baseball pioneer Henry Chadwick, and one of those pages featured the rare image of Creighton.

Page from Henry Chadwick's c. 1870 score book featuring rare photos of Jim Creighton and the 1870 Philadelphia Athletics. (NYPL-Spalding Collection)

In the course of his own research at the NYPL, Thorn had never come across this particular image of Creighton, but in 1983, the same year he orchestrated the NYPL microfilm initiative, he and collector Mark Rucker discovered another image of Creighton while researching in the Culver Pictures photo archive.  Thorn recounts the discovery in Baseball in the Garden of Eden:

“Creighton posed for a photographer in the backswing of his underhand motion;  the image is preserved as the front of a carte-de-visite issued after his death.  Glued to the back of the card was a tattered and torn biographical note, the source of the Pete O’Brien quotation cited.  Mark Rucker and I found his card in the archives of Culver Pictures in 1983.”

Last week, Thorn’s recollection from his new book became the topic of discussion on the internet collector forum, Net54, as the current owner of the “Culver Creighton” and other members tried to determine what year the card was created and whether the card was originally produced as a trade card for the nineteenth century sporting goods outfit, Peck & Snyder. The company issued trade cards featuring advertisements and photographs of teams including the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics and the 1870 New York Mutuals.

Corey Shanus, the owner of the card, first posted information stating his belief that the biographical information on the back of the card was part of the original card’s backing, but other collectors questioned whether it was pasted or glued onto the reverse.  Shanus posted a black and white scan from a photocopy of the back for discussion on the forum.

The "Culver Creighton" was pictured in the 2005 book "Smithsonian Baseball" (left). The reverse scan of the card from 1983 (courtesy of John Thorn) exhibits damage and paper loss. It also bears the inscription, "Return to Culver Service-Valuable Print."

As to the date of the card, collector Jay Miller theorized it was from after 1870, since the address of Peck & Snyder on the reverse of the card bore the address of “126 Nassau St.”  Miller stated that the company moved to that address in 1870.

Dealer Barry Sloate added that he’d spoken with Mark Rucker who “said he was certain that the biography on the back (was) not pasted on, but (was) part of the original card as issued.”  Sloate said Rucker told him, “John (Thorn) was in error.”

Responding to Sloate, another collector named Gary Passamonte posted, “I contacted John Thorn today and he said the reverse of the Creighton was in tatters and that Mark and he struggled to read the biography.  He said the back looked like it had been removed from a scrapbook.”  He added Thorn thought the bio was pasted on, but having seen it so long ago in 1983, “he couldn’t be sure.”

John Thorn’s observation that the card appeared to have been removed from a scrapbook adds another layer of mystery to the “Culver Creighton.”  Last year, a Culver representative, Eva Tucholka, revealed to us that in the past Culver Pictures regularly received photos on loan from the New York Public Library.  Tucholka also confirmed that it was possible some loaned photos from the NYPL were never returned.  Likewise, she also confirmed instances where Culver loaned photos to the NYPL and that some of those were never returned to Culver either.

At the time I witnessed the NYPL’s Creighton image from the Chadwick score-book, I also discovered that one of Chadwick’s period scrapbooks, featuring a page with a large wood-cut of Creighton and the Excelsiors, showed evidence of the removal of a section of that scrapbook page appearing to be the same size as the “Creighton Culver” card.  The wood-cut image of Creighton and the team on that page was published by the New York Clipper in September of 1875, a few months before the Excelsior’s twenty-first anniversary dinner.

This page of Henry Chadwick's original scrapbook at the NYPL shows evidence of paper loss and the removal of an item once pasted to a page next to an image of the 1860 Excelsior team, featuring Jim Creighton. The section cut from the page appears to be the same size as the "Creighton Culver" card. (NYPL-Spalding Collection)

The scrapbooks at the NYPL show additional evidence of thefts and removals and three large scrapbook volumes featuring the incoming correspondence of pioneer Harry Wright actually went missing from the library sometime in the mid-1970s.  Those thefts, and the disappearance of hundreds of photographs from the Spalding Collection are currently the subject of an on-going FBI investigation.  The value of the missing items is well in excess of $2 million.  

Corey Shanus, the current owner of the “Culver Creighton,” has been linked to the FBI probe of the NYPL thefts as a result of his ownership and public display of several items confirmed stolen from the Spalding Collection.  In the 2005 book, Smithsonian Baseball, Shanus displayed two rare nineteenth century ”Challange Letters” sent to the pioneer Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, that have both been confirmed as stolen from the NYPL’s Knickerbocker Club Scrapbooks (which were never microfilmed.)  One letter Shanus displayed in the Smithsonian book was written by Brooklyn’s Star Base Ball Club in 1860, and another was written by Creighton’s Excelsiors in 1860, as well. 

Both letters in Shanus’ collection have been sliced out of the NYPL scrapbooks with a sharp object, however, in both instances, part of each letter, with identifying marks and notations, were left pasted onto the NYPL scrapbook pages.   Shanus’ collection also features score-sheets which have been stolen from Henry Chadwick’s score-book volume from 1858-59.  It is not known if the stolen NYPL items in the Shanus collection have been seized by the FBI as a result of their on-going investigation.

We showed Net54 member and nineteenth century photo aficionado, Jimmy Leiderman, Chadwick’s scrapbook showing the vandalized page for his observations.  Leiderman told us. “It’s a pretty disturbing scene.  In my opinion, its quite possible one of the Creighton’s now in private hands was at some point part of the scrapbook.  Forensic analysis on any of these photographs might provide matching results.”  

Leiderman has been following the FBI’s on-going investigation into the NYPL thefts, but is skeptical about the results.  “I’m not holding my breath waiting for the NYPL and the FBI to take action on this matter.  Hope they prove me wrong and do what is right this time around,” said Leiderman.

The “Culver Creighton” was never documented on the original 1922 inventory of the Spalding Collection published by the NYPL, but neither was the other photo of Creighton discovered pasted in Chadwick’s scrapbook.

Adding to the intrigue is another mystery regarding a team photo of the 1860 Brooklyn Excelsiors, featuring Creighton.  That rare and valuable photo was listed on the NYPL’s original inventory and is currently missing.  The inventory lists two Excelsior team photos in the collection, but only one over-sized, mammoth, salt-print has survived. 

The NYPL's surviving mammoth salt-print of the 1860 Excelsiors was illustrated in the 1960 book, "Baseball: The Early Years."

The mammoth-plate photograph of the 1860 Excelsiors was featured in Harold Seymour and Dorothy Seymour Mills’ ground-breaking book,  Baseball: The Early Years, published in 1960.  (When that version of the 1860 photo was reproduced, considerable wear and tear and foxing was visible.  The photo has since had restoration work done by the NYPL.)

The second copy of the 1860 Brooklyn Excelsiors appeared in a 1920s book series called the "Pageant of America," with a credit to the Spalding Collection of the NYPL.

Luckily, in the 1920’s, the missing Excelsior photo was photographed for use in a book series called the Pageant of America, and a silver gelatin print of the original (retouched with wash)  is still located at the NYPL to document its inclusion in the collection.  This same picture appears to have also been reproduced  in A.G. Spalding’s 1911 book America’s National Game.

This photo of the 1860 Excelsiors with Creighton (third from left) was once part of the NYPL's Spalding Collection but is missing. This silver-gelatin print of the original was taken at the NYPL in the 1920s and documents their ownership of it. The same photo appeared in a book by Robert Smith with a credit to Culver Pictures.

It appears that this same photo (possibly re-touched with wash) was reproduced in Robert Smith’s 1973 book, The Illustrated History of Baseball with a credit to Culver Pictures.

Culver is credited with several other photographs in Smith’s book that appear on the NYPL’s “Missing List” including: an 1859 photo of the Knickerbocker and Excelsior Ball Clubs; an 1882 photo of the Providence BBC; and an 1889 photo of the Chicago and All-American teams.

Could the “Culver Creighton” have once been part of the Spalding Collection and once removed from Henry Chadwick’s scrapbook?

If it was stolen, short of an actual confession from the thief, we may never know where the Creighton card originated from.

The recently discovered copy at the NYPL was owned by Chadwick and a third known existing copy of the Creighton photo also belonged to Chadwick at one time.  That copy, featuring Chadwick’s handwriting on the photograph identifying Creighton, was found among the belongings of baseball writer and historian Charles W. Mears

The third known copy of the Creighton photo was found amongst the belongings of baseball historian Charles Mears after his death. His card is inscribed in the hand of Henry Chadwick as was another card he retained featuring the 1868 Atlantic team.

Mears worked with the Spalding Collection as a volunteer cataloguing the collection and designating photographs in numbered boxes for storage.  He even documented for NYPL overlooked items not included on their original 1922 inventory.  Mears, a prolific collector himself, for years tried unsuccessfully to sell his own collection of 463 volumes and 800 photographs to the New York and Cleveland Public Libraries.  In a Nov. 12, 1923 article in Time Magazine Mears  was quoted as saying, “I have the largest collection of baseball statistical literature extant, surpassing even the Spalding collection in the Astor Library.”

 Two years after his death in 1944, his collection was donated to the Cleveland Public Library but, for unknown reasons, held back were the Creighton photo; an 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics photo (also inscribed by Chadwick) and an 1869 Peck and Snyder trade card of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. 

In 2009, Mears’ grandaughter, Charlotte Walbert, wrote into the ScrippsNews memorabilia column, “Ask Babe,” to find out the value of Mears’ 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics photo and his 1869 Peck & Snyder card of the Cincinnati Red Stockings.  Walbert did not mention the Creighton card in that column. 

In 2010, the Creighton card was consigned to Robert Edward Auctions by Mears’ descendants and sold for over $18,000.

The Mears copy of the Creighton photo is also the only example known to have ever been reproduced in a period publication.  A scrapbook of Brooklyn Atlantics player Jack Chapman, at the Baseball Hall of Fame, features a clipped black and white news image of the Mears copy featuring Chadwick’s handwriting.  It appears the image may have been reproduced in a magazine or supplement of the Brookyln Eagle at the turn-of-the-century.

The "Mears Creighton" was reproduced in a publication sometime at the turn-of-the-century and was cut and pasted into Jack Chapman's scrapbook, which was donated to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. (National Baseball Library)

The three known cards of baseball’s first star provide great fodder for speculation and many unanswered questions:

How did Mears acquire his copy of the Creighton photo and why wasn’t it included in his collection that ended up in the Cleveland Public Library? 

Why is the “Culver Creighton” mounted on what appears to be a trade card with graphics identifying the great Creighton?  Could that photo have been an early product of Peck & Snyder and what year was it produced? Could it have once been mounted in Chadwick’s scrapbook at the NYPL?

How did Henry Chadwick come across his unmounted Creighton (cdv-sized) photo to paste in his score-book?

And where did the NYPL’s photograph of the 1860 Excelsiors and Creighton disappear to?

 Net54 member Barry Sloate, perhaps, summed it up best on the Creighton discussion thread when he said, “More mysteries abound.”

Shrouded in considerable intrigue, one thing is for sure regarding the three surviving Creighton images; Jim Creighton’s untimely and tragic death solidified his legend in baseball lore and the rare cards featuring the frozen image of his underhanded delivery will, no doubt, remain a great hobby mystery for the ages.


By Dave Grob

April 4, 2011

 

This piece is offered as follow-up to my previous article and commentary on the nature and quality of the work offered by Rob Lifson and REA on the 1938 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Road jersey that I evaluated. Today I want to focus on process and product without the unnecessary background noise that comes with REA’s involvement in the research and evaluation of this jersey. I am going to take you through the essential relationship that exists between exclusionary and imagery analysis as it pertains to definitive photographic attribution (“Photo Matching”). “Photo Matching” is a phrase I have come to detest and I hope by the end of this article, you will see why. Additionally, I also want you use this jersey as an instructional vehicle on process, and by taking you through this process in what I feel is a responsible manner, also help you to see this product (1938 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Road Jersey) in a more informed light; nothing more and nothing less.

SUBJECT: 1938 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Road Jersey Imagery & Exclusionary Analysis of PLATES A-I

My previous related research efforts on Yankee uniforms from this time frame indicate that the likely annual population of uniforms potentially available for each player would in the range of 3-5. This is based on an ordering/inventory pattern of:

1-carried over from previous season
2-ordered for the season
1-2 for World Series

Notice I did not say 5 uniforms were ordered for each player each season. What I am saying is that you have to have some idea of how many uniforms are in play before you start playing around with your “photo matching”. It has been my experience that most folks find something specific they are looking for and stop their research when they have convinced themselves they have found it. If this is your “photo matching process”, then as a trained analyst, I have problems with this and I think you will see why in short order.

In looking at various images, I have identified what I feel are at least three (3) separate Lou Gehrig road jerseys from 1938. This is based off a combination of characteristics including:

-Sleeve length
-Font spacing
-Lettering alignment with the button line
-Presence of the World’s Fair Patch

It is important to understand upfront that that sleeve length is only a distinctive characteristic under certain circumstances. Sleeve length can be changed or altered once a jersey has been produced; but the sleeve will only get shorter and not longer. In looking at the aspect of sleeve length and other characteristics over time, it is possible to use it as a way to distinguish one jersey from another, thus permitting the establishment of a known or likely population of jerseys for a particular player in a particular season. This becomes important since when you have a fairly well defined and accountable population of jerseys for a particular player in a particular year, claims of direct photographic attribution (“photo match”) can enhanced or refuted by being able to identify, account for and exclude other possibilities. This is referred to as exclusionary analysis. The logic trail for the relationship between exclusionary and imagery analysis as it relates to direct photographic attribution (“photo matching”) runs along these generic lines. By way of illustrative example, let’s say that:

-Elmer Fudd likely had 3-5 jerseys available for wear throughout the entirety of the 1956 season based on what we know or believe about ordering/inventory patterns.

-Through imagery analysis, we have identified and accounted for at least 3 separate jerseys worn by Elmer Fudd in 1956.

-Imagery analysis has permitted us to exclude 2 of the 3 jersey worn by Fudd from being the one offered for consideration.

-The one remaining jersey is consistent with images available of Elmer Fudd from 1956.

-While the probability might be high that the offered jersey is the one Fudd is wearing in photographs from 1956, no definitive claim of direct photographic attribution is made because there are other possibilities that have not been accounted for an excluded.

I take the time to lay all of this out as a both an educational and cautionary message to this hobby/industry because before someone runs off and claims a “photo match”, it is essential that they first identify what they know about the known or likely population and then physically demonstrate how these various jerseys have been identified and distinguished from one another, and then “excluded” from consideration. When this is not done, any claims of direct photographic attribution (“photo matching”) are not objectively or statistically defensible.

What follows is a combination of imagery and exclusionary analysis as it relates to the 1938 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees road jersey being offered by Rob Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions (REA). I think it very important to note that this work includes analysis of images I did not have or had not seen at the time my original opinion was provided. The overwhelming majority were located and provided to me by Mr. Peter Nash and for that I am extremely grateful.

Jersey #1: This jersey is identified as being separate from Jersey #2 based on the lettering alignment with the button line. Jersey #1 also cannot be Jersey #3 because of the sleeve length. Although sleeves can be shortened, the images of Jersey #1 predate those of Jersey #3. The jerseys shown in PLATES A & B are considered the same jersey at this time as I can find no readily apparent dis-qualifiers. It should be noted that while PLATE B bears a date of 9/26/1938, this is not the date of the photograph. Rather it is date the image was provided for use with the caption and credits. I confirmed this by looking at the 1938 New York Yankees schedule for the period in question:

September 7-8: Boston
September 9-11: Washington
September 13: Cleveland
September 15-17: Detroit
September 18-19: St. Louis
September 20-22: Chicago
September 24-26: Home against Boston

In my opinion, it is not unreasonable to presume this image is from one of the previous road games (although it could be from any time prior to the 23rd of September as well). This jersey is also consistent with the image from April 16th of 1938, so I do not disqualify them from being the same jersey. You will also notice that this jersey does not feature the World Fair Patch worn by the New York Yankees, New York Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938.

Jersey #2: This jersey is excluded from being the offered jersey based on the button alignment. Although this observable characteristic may appear to artificially vary in images based on angle of photograph and fabric folds/body position, the image angle and rather upright body position of Gehrig in the photograph in question seem to negate any appreciable impact those factors might have on this characteristic. Since Jersey #2 is neither Jersey #1 nor Jersey #3 based on sleeve length/lettering alignment, it will not be discussed further in any material manner. (PLATE C)

Jersey #3: Jersey #3 refers to those images that I either believe to be or can be shown to be from the 1938 World Series. I attribute the 1938 team photo to the World Series based on the fact that the Yankees are appearing in road uniforms and the 1938 World Series opened in Chicago. This would not be an uncommon event for a team to pose for such a picture. The composite details (both physical and those affected by angle of image) of the jersey identified as Jersey # 3 are such that I cannot exclude them from being the same jersey.

 Additional images of the team photo from different points of reference confirm that the sleeves Gehrig is wearing in this picture are elbow length, which is not consistent with Jersey #1 or Jersey #2.

Longer sleeve length appears consistent with the other images that can be placed to the 1938 World Series. (PLATES D thru G)

In addition, and upon closer comparison, Jersey #3 is excluded from being the offered jersey based on the spacing between the letters “E” & “W” in NEW YORK. While the general alignment with the button line is consistent, it does appear to feature a spacing between the letters “E” & “W” in NEW YORK that is clearly less than one button width. This relies on the assumption that the jersey in the team photographs is the same one as the ones from the World Series. (PLATES H, I)

I also exclude Jersey #3 or any other jersey with long sleeves and the World’s Fair Patch from being the same jersey as Jersey #1 or the offered jersey. The fabric cuts that I found on the offered jersey are in a location that would limit the application of that patch to have being placed on a jersey of longer sleeve length since the World’s Fair Patch was sewn to the bottom of the sleeve.

Based on the fact that I have not been able to account for other possible jerseys, and then exclude them, I offer no definitive claim of photographic attribution that the offered jersey is the same as Jersey #1. What I feel this imagery analysis in the PLATES does show is that:

-Both the offered jersey and Jersey #1 share a common sleeve length.
-Sleeve length is a discriminator based on the chronology of the photographs.
-Both the offered jersey and Jersey #1 can be seen without the 1939 World’s Fair Patch.
-Both the offered jersey and Jersey #1 share common and consistent font alignment with respect to the button line and consistent spacing between the letters “E” & “W.”

What a combination of imagery and exclusionary analysis indicates to me is that the offered jersey could be Jersey #1. In addition, since we now have images of Gehrig wearing a jersey without the World’s Fair Patch, it is quite conceivable that no patch was ever applied to the jersey and that the location of the fabric cuts is a coincidence. This would not have any appreciable impact on my overall opinion of the jersey and would only affect the overall grade assigned MEARS by +.5 since the A9 opinion provided by Dave Bushing did not deduct points for this. In my opinion (A5), I deducted -1 for the patch. Thus a revised grade of A6 from me would leave the aggregate grade at A7.5 (average A6 & A9) as opposed to A7.

This article has been about two separate but related issues; process and product. My hope is that the hobby/industry now has a better understanding of the essential relationship between imagery and exclusionary analysis when it comes to supporting a position of direct photographic attribution (“photo matching”). When the collecting community or auction houses conduct or subsidize substandard work, process, and analysis, then we should not be surprised when it results in “photo match” claims that are not objectively or statistically defensible. Please know for my work in this area, I leverage no special tools or technology. If you are looking at the images on a computer screen and care to invest about $1.00 in a clear ruler you can lay on the screen, then you are armed with the same tools as me. This only leaves differences in experience, training, and process.

This article has also been about a product or the ability for the collector to see and know as much as possible about a particular jersey. In the case of this 1938 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Road Jersey, I maintain my original position that “based on my physical examination of this jersey and supporting data, it is my opinion that this jersey posses all of the characteristics you would expect to find in a 1938 New York Yankees road uniform supplied by Spalding for use and wear by Lou Gehrig during this period”.

This is an opinion based on:

-Imagery analysis.

-Comparative trend analysis with other Lou Gehrig and period New York Yankee jerseys I have examined.

-Comparative fabric analysis with other period and year specific Spalding major league grade/quality uniform products.

-Exclusionary analysis to determine a likely population and offering data to support either the possibility of exclusion or inclusion with respect to the issue of direct photographic attribution.

-A physical examination of the jersey utilizing UV lighting, a light table, illuminated magnification, and the use of a digital microscope.

I also maintain my previous position of 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 to 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”.

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


By Will Rankin

April 1, 2011

Barry Bonds

 

New York- With the Barry Bonds perjury trial in full-swing, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig revealed today, in a press release issued by spokesperson, Pat Courtney, a plan to address the possible Cooperstown inductions of tainted steroid-era stars like Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire.

The plan, drafted by Selig with input from Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson and Chairman Jane Forbes Clark, revolves around putting all players from the steroid-era on a separate ballot that will be sent each year to all BBWAA members with Hall of Fame voting privileges. The voting process will be identical to the one in place for the traditional ballot that BBWAA writers already receive annually. In essence, Selig proposes that the two-ballot system will help distinguish the steroid-era stars from the Hall-of-Famers considered “clean” by all standards.

In the spirit of still honoring their play, but keeping the likes of widely acknowledged cheaters like Bonds, Clemens and others further separate from the already enshrined Cooperstown immortals, Selig also proposes that the bronze plaques of inducted steroid-era stars not hang in the main gallery. The plaques of Barry Bonds and others would be featured in the near-by “Halper Gallery.”

That gallery, dedicated in 1998 to famous collector Barry Halper, is located a few hundred feet from the museum’s main gallery featuring the plaques of Hall of Famers. Although the Halper Gallery will still be easily accessible to visitors, it will also help maintain an appropriate distance between the disgraced stars and legitimate HOFers.

Selig’s announcement also addresses recent controversies over MLB’s purchases of fake memorabilia and artifacts from Halper, the deceased New York Yankees partner. In 1998, MLB and the Hall of Fame paid Halper close to $8 million for nearly 200 items from his now infamous collection. But last year, items from that purchase, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s 1919 jersey and “Black Betsy” bat, turned out to be fakes. Other fakes included Mickey Mantle’s rookie Yankee jersey and Ty Cobb’s personal diary, which the FBI and expert Ron Keurajian determined was a forgery originating from the collection of  Cobb biographer Al Stump.

Selig said, “Since Barry Halper sold us those artifacts and we donated them to the Hall, we’ve been looking to put those counterfeit items to good use. Now, in honoring players who are thought to have put up fake numbers in the game, their Hall of Fame plaques can hang next to exhibits of some of the greatest fake artifacts of all-time. Additionally, we won’t have to remove the name of our old friend Barry Halper from the gallery the Hall named for him.

Hall President Jeff Idelson said that Halper’s fake memorabilia would not be the only artifacts exhibited in the gallery. Idelson also announced the museum would bring back the popular 1999 exhibition “The Great American Home Run Chase,” which honored sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for saving the game via their home-run exploits after the 1994 strike.

The Hall of Fame's 1998-9 exhibitions featuring the "March on Maris" (above) and the "Great American Home Run Chase" will be re-instituted in the museum with the first induction of steroid-era stars.

Equipment used by Sosa and McGwire (including a corked Sosa bat) will be brought up from the Hall’s basement to join Barry Bonds’ record-breaking home run ball, which was donated by clothing designer Mark Ekko.  Hall spokesperson Brad Horn said Cooperstown officials are also in negotiations with Clemens’ ex-trainer, Brian McNamee, for a donation of the needles and syringes that are entered into evidence in the upcoming Clemens perjury trial. Horn confirmed that Barry Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson, did not return calls to honor a similar request.

Hall Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark, who originally talked the MLB owners into buying Halper’s items, said, “We had Barry Halper’s fake “Shoeless Joe” jersey on display for baseball fans for nearly a decade before we were told it was bogus. The players who chose to take performance enhancing drugs also fooled baseball fans for over a decade. Now we can tell the story of both situations with both fake artifacts and artifacts tied to what many consider fake statistics in the record books.” Clark also added, “My grandfather founded the Hall of Fame with a fake artifact as the central item in the collection, the Abner Doubleday baseball. Mr. Selig’s plan continues this important tradition here in Cooperstown.”

A mock-Barry Bonds HOF plaque, created by ESPN.com, is flanked by many of the famous fakes in the HOF collections. In 1998, MLB spent well over $1 million for fakes from the Barry Halper Collection.

Selig, who last year made public his belief that Abner Doubleday invented baseball, confirmed that the Doubleday Ball will also be displayed in the Halper Gallery along with the bronze plaques. “When I stated that Doubleday invented baseball last year, commentator Keith Olbermann said the Hall of Fame should wish the Doubleday Ball into a corn-field. Now he can wish it into the Halper Gallery,” said Selig.

The Commissioner also added that he could envision the plaques of Clemens, McGwire and Sosa hanging in the gallery someday. “Sammy, Mark and Rocket did so much for the game during my tenure, they deserve recognition in Cooperstown for their efforts. This new plan we are instituting with the Hall of Fame will make this recognition a reality.” Selig is also giving a special dispensation for the two players in the era who did not take PED’s, Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter. “I’m pretty sure they’re clean. So, Jeter and Griffey will be on the traditional ballot when they are eligible,” said Selig.

Selig did not mention or address the possibility of voiding the banishment’s of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson or Pete Rose for enshrinement in the Halper Gallery. Selig did mention, however, that Jackson’s fake “Black Sox” jersey will be displayed with a ball inscribed by Pete Rose to Barry Halper which reads: “I’m sorry I bet on baseball.”

Selig also announced that MLB executives from the steroid-era, including himself will also be featured on the ballot for Halper Gallery plaques. Selig said, “If I should be lucky enough to be honored with a plaque like the great Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, I’d be proud to hang mine in the Halper Gallery with the players I helped develop and nurture during my tenure as Commissioner.”

The HOF will revive their "Great American Home Run Chase" exhibit, which was featured in an Oct. 8, 1999 issue of SCD (above).

In addition, MLB said that, aside from Howard Bryant, all baseball writers covering the game during the steroid-era would not be eligible for a J.G. Taylor Spink Award. Instead, a new award for those writers would be instituted by the new year. Selig said a blue- ribbon panel headed by Bob Costas and Bill Madden would determine who to name the award for. Sources indicate the award will likely be named for Jay Mariotti.

Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark revealed one other plan for the inductions of steroid-era stars. “The announcement of the second-ballot inductions will be revealed the first week in January on Deadspin  and the ceremonies for the players’ enshrinement in the Halper Gallery will follow in February during the Village of Cooperstown’s Winter Carnival festival. Upper Deck has agreed to sponsor a life size ice-sculpture of each inductee. These inductions will surely draw a crowd in our off-season and give the winter tourism business in Cooperstown a real shot in the ass,” Clark said.

April Fools!

This sign currently hangs in the "Halper Gallery" honoring collector Barry Halper for his "dedication to preserving baseball history."

The current floor plan for the HOF shows how close the Halper Gallery is to the main gallery featuring the plaques of inducted Hall of Famers.