Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

July 28, 2011

As of Induction Day, 2011, the plaque honoring Barry Halper and designating the "Halper Gallery" on the first floor of the Baseball Hall of Fame has been replaced by a sign for the HOF's "Learning Center."

Baseball Digest writer Mark Healey wrote a column today attempting to discredit the story I co-wrote with Brad Hamilton for the New York Post about the Barry Halper memorabilia scandal. Healey begins his article with a reference to an on-going legal battle I’ve had with what he refers to as an “auction house that represented Barry Halper” and suggests that the existence of this litigation somehow taints the facts and allegations reported.  He also references an online article written on SI.com (not in Sports Illustrated) about my battle with this auction house, an article which was solicited to a freelance writer by my adversary, Rob Lifson, the person who heads the auction house I am involved in litigation with.   Without reporting the full story, he states that I “admitted in publicly-filed court papers to committing fraud against the very same auction house.”

In that case, which was decided by a stipulation of settlement, the court transcript  shows that the Judge and my attorney in the the case stated on the record that no fraud or the intent to defraud had been proven in the court proceedings.  Despite that fact, in order to settle the case, which involved promissory notes I had executed to the auction house in excess of $750,000, opposing counsel demanded that an admission to fraud be made in the stipulation of settlementso that it would not be possible for me to declare bankruptcy and avoid paying the judgment rendered.  The stipulation of settlement also stated that the auction house could sell my collateral consisting of baseball memorabilia to satisfy the judgement that that Mr. Healy reports as $760,000.  Soon after the judgement was entered that collection of material was sold by the same auction house for over $500,000, which paid down the judgment considerably.  It should also be noted that the same auction house made claims challenging the authenticity of items in that collection. Despite these claims, Rob Lifson sold the entire group of material to a collector who states that Lifson positively promoted the items and touted them as historically significant.  When asked by the buyer if there were any items he could point to that were deemed inauthentic, Lifson told him he was not aware of any.  The auction house also charged the buyer a premium of nearly $100,000 as a sellers fee, which was not credited against my judgement.

Healey also states that  I have an “outstanding warrant for (my) arrest related to the judgement” and he also included a misleading statement by Barry Halper’s son in which he refers to me as a “biased fugitive.”  The said warrant is a civil (not criminal) warrant only in Somerset County, NJ, and related only to discovery and document production in the case with the auction house and the collection of their judgement.

Based upon the existence of these issues, Mr. Healey states that in regard to the reporting about Barry Halper I am a “less credible journalist” and that, “There is not a single shred of evidence that exists that would allow anyone, least of all a journalist, make these accusations.  Each one is laughable.”

In his article Healey fails to mention the multiple investigative reports I have published on my website Haulsofshame.com and repeats false assertions in concert with statements he published from Halper’s son, Jason Halper.  While Mr. Healey makes the claim that the New York Post article is a “sloppily-put together expose,” he fails to mention the original long form version of the article on Haulsofshame.com and an excerpted version on Deadspin.  In fact, the New York Post contacted me with interest in the story after they read the article on Deadspin.

Healey takes issue with this quote from the New York Post article:

“The FBI already has carted away photos and documents from Halper’s collection that were allegedly swiped from the Boston Public Library, but not before some of the artifacts were auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1999 as part of a $30 million sale.”

Healey disputes the statement in the Post and claims,  ”No, they did not.”

To the contrary, after Barry Halper died and his widow consigned the remaining Halper Collection to Rob Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions in 2006, I was the one who spotted Halper’s consigned items that were stolen from the New York Public Library and Boston Public Library.  The items had visible library ownership marks that had been defaced.  I informed auctioneer Lifson that they were stolen items and proceeded to report the items to both libraries.  Subsequently, the New York office of the FBI took into their possesssion at least one NYPL item, a 19th century CDV photo  of sporting goods king Andrew Peck, and the Boston Public Library recovered their items directly from the auction house and the Halper Estate.  Despite that incident, the 2007 Halper auction at REA also included another stolen photo of Andrew Peck and at least another that fit the description of an item on NYPL’s “Missing List.”

Healey disputes that stolen items were included in the 1999 Halper sale at Sotheby’s, however, reports we have published in the past year show that many items confirmed to have been stolen from the New York Public Library and Boston Public Library were owned and sold by Halper.  These items included documents from the NYPL’s Harry Wright Correspondence scrapbooks, including an 1875 letter that awarded Boston the championship, and rare photographs of the 1889 and 1892 Boston teams that were stolen from the BPL’s famous M. T. McGreevy Collection of Baseball Pictures.   Many of these items are featured on our Halper Hot 100 List.

Barry Halper's stolen Andrew Peck CDV (left) bears the defaced NYPL ownership stamp. The photo was found in Halper's collection after he died and was consigned to REA by his estate and widow in 2006. The FBI recovered the photo and returned it to the NYPL. The Andrew Peck cabinet photo (center) and Tommy McCarthy signed tintype (right) were also stolen from the NYPL and once part of Halper's Collection.

Mr. Healey also declines to mention that in the SI.com article he references, Rob Lifson, of REA admits to having been apprehended while attempting to steal multiple rare photographs from the NYPL collection.  Mr. Lifson also confessed a decade ago to this writer but gave a conflicting story about attempting to steal only one ”CDV” photograph from the library.  Mr. Healey also fails to mention that Mr. Lifson was one of Barry Halper’s top sources for material and was Halper’s hand-picked consultant for the 1999 sale of his collection at Sotheby’s.  Lifson also was responsible for hiring authenticators for the Sotheby’s sale and claims to have written all of the lot descriptions (including the lots that included fake, stolen and misrepresented items.)  While Healey repeats the unsourced claim that I am the subject of an FBI investigation, it is Rob Lifson, along with Halper, who is another prime suspect in the FBI investigation into the thefts at the NYPL.

Mr. Healey, based on a statement made to him by Halper’s son, Jason, also gives credence to claims that an 1865 letter-press document written by Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. was not stolen from the State Archives of Hawaii.  Halper writes the false claim, “Those accusations are pure nonsense.”   Mr. Healey and Mr. Halper can contact the Archives in Hawaii to confirm the accurate and verifiable claim made in the New York Post.  A Haulsofshame.com article about the same missing letter was published in 2010.  Evidence of letters sent by the Archives of Hawaii proving that the letter was still in their collection as of 1989 have been documented and the State of Hawaii records indicate that the original 1865 letter Halper sold was never de-acquisitioned, as some have erroneously stated in the collecting community throughout the years.

Additionally, in the article from June 8, 2010 we reported:

Chief of the archives’ historical records branch, Luella Kurkjian, confirmed the theft and noted that the letter to DeBost was “removed quite expertly.” Six pages, numbered 26-31, were removed from the letter press volume in the archive, including the three page DeBost letter. Kurkjian indicated that the apparent theft was something that might fall under the jurisdiction of Hawaii’s Attorney General.

Healey also takes issue with this claim in the Post article:

“When tracking the stolen items, all roads seem to lead to Barry Halper,” said a source familiar with an ongoing FBI probe of the New York theft.”

In fact, this statement published in the Post was the product of conversations with an individual quite familiar with the status of the on-going FBI investigation.

While Jason Halper disputes these claims in the New York Post article, he fails to provide any explanations for the well documented public lies made by his father, Barry Halper, in regard to his acquisitions of rare baseball uniforms and jerseys.  In particular, the alleged 1919 “Shoeless” Joe Jackson jersey sold to MLB and the Hall of Fame for at least $1 million was alleged to have been purchased from Jackson’s widow in the 1950s.   When the New York Post reported last October that the Baseball Hall of Fame’s testing of the Halper jersey determined it was a forgery utilizing materials not developed until the 1940s, Jason Halper stated my claims that ten percent of his father’s collection was bogus were “baseless.”

Jason Halper states to Baseball Digest:

When certain items were said to be replicas and not originals, he either did not sell them or he expressly relabled them as replicas without dispute. This includes the Ty Cobb, Pud Galvin, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth uniforms referenced by Mr. Nash in his article.

Halper fails to note that these items were never created as ”replicas,” instead, they were forgeries held out for sale as genuine.  In fact, Barry Halper, publicly stated in The Sporting News and other publications his acquisition stories of these items from legendary figures like Yankee clubhouse man Pete Sheehy, the daughter of one of  Babe Ruth’s teammates and a man named Ollie O’Mara, whose son today claims that Halper never purchased any uniforms from him, let alone Pud Galvin’s.  The Ruth and Mantle jerseys referenced by Jason Halper were the centerpieces of the Halper Collection and featured prominently in the 1989 documentary film about Halper’s trove.  The Mickey Mantle rookie  jersey was part of MLB’s multi-million dollar purchase in 1998 and was featured prominently in their official press release and in the Hall of Fame’s brochure for the Halper Gallery.  Rob Lifson and REA sold the exact same jersey for Halper’s widow as a “replica” in 2007 after the Hall had returned it as a counterfeit, not a replica.

When Halper sold his collection at Sotheby’s in 1999 scores of counterfeit jerseys were sold as “authentic” for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  What’s Jason Halper’s response to the collectors who purchased the bogus jerseys of Hall of Famers including:  John McGraw, Jimmy Collins, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Buck Ewing, Joe McGinnity, Ed Delahanty, Mickey MantleStan Musial and others?

The Baseball Digest writer also challenges the truth of this Post claim:

“But Halper didn’t just buy fakes and pass them off as real. He allegedly paid people to back his lies about how he acquired some pieces, and he’s the primary suspect in a notorious heist of the New York Public Library’s Fifth Avenue branch, where $1 million worth of letters to baseball pioneer Harry Wright and other scrapbook entries vanished in the 1970s.”

Healey relies on repeating the false assertions of Barry Halper’s son to conclude he believes that the published statements are “laughable.”

Sadly, for Halper’s family, they are not.  This writer has conducted interviews for an upcoming book that reveal the most troubling aspects of the Halper memorabilia scandal, which Healey refutes above.

A descendant of a Baseball Hall of Famer has confirmed that Barry Halper did, in fact, pay one of his relatives to write a fraudulent letter of provenance for an item Halper, himself, manufactured.

In addition, in an interview with a former Halper customer with close ties to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was revealed that Barry Halper himself once bragged about being responsible for orchestrating the million-dollar thefts at the New York Public Library in the 1970’s.  In the late 1970’s Halper also told the Sporting News he owned the Harry Wright correspondence collection.

This plaque honoring Barry Halper no longer hangs in the Hall of Fame's vanished "Halper Gallery."

The numerous investigative reports published by Haulsofshame.com have been viewed by many in the baseball community who have come to their own conclusions.  One of them is ex-Commissioner and Honorary Director of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Fay Vincent, who was quoted in the Deadspin article, stating:

“Given the evidence that has come to light in the past several years, the Hall of Fame should immediately reconsider the naming of that gallery to honor Barry Halper. I do not think he deserves the honor.”

Vincent was referring to the Barry Halper Gallery space at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.   The Gallery was marked with a display plaque honoring Halper and his collection.  This writer visited the Hall of Fame this past Sunday on 2011 Induction Day and saw that the Barry Halper Gallery appears to have vanished.  The plaque that once hung on the wall outside the space has been replaced by a sign indicating it is now a “Learning Center” that was formerly located on the museum’s third floor.  The Halper Gallery was also removed from the new visitor floor plan brochure given to tourists.  The space that was listed as “Halper Gallery” on the most recent brochure is now listed as “Learning Center.”

Calls to Hall of Fame spokesperson Brad Horn regarding the disappearance of the Halper Gallery were not returned.

Pioneering baseball historian Dorothy Seymour Mills is quite familiar with the Halper saga and the thefts from the New York Public Library.  Mills helped the FBI establish the NYPL provenance of actual documents she worked with at the library in the 1950s- some of the same items that appeared and were sold by Barry Halper in his 1999 sale at Sotheby’s. Mills has reviewed much of the evidence regarding the Halper collection and its fraudulent and stolen items and has kept in touch with the FBI as their investigation into the NYPL thefts continues.

When we contacted Mills today and informed her of Jason Halper’s claims that allegations made against his father were false Mills responded, “The evidence against Halper seems overwhelming. Peter Nash’s persistence, together with the work of other investigators and the FBI, have made this a convincing story.”


By Peter J. Nash

July 6, 2011

 

Barry Halper even fooled "The Mick" with a forged #6 1951 Yankee rookie jersey. This photo and graphic appeared in the official Baseball Hall of Fame tourist brochure for the Barry Halper Gallery from 1999 to 2001.

 

Barry Halper sure could tell a story. Not only could he weave them, he collected them along with the artifacts that comprised what many considered the greatest baseball trove this side of Cooperstown.

What started as the innocent pastime of an eight-year-old autograph hound patrolling Ruppert Stadium in Newark, New Jersey, became a lifelong obsession for the man who would amass the world’s largest private baseball collection. Thirty years after he received his first souvenirs from the Newark Bears, Barry Halper even ended up fulfilling his childhood dream of owning a small piece of the New York Yankees as one of George Steinbrenner’s limited partners.

Long considered the founding father of baseball collecting, Halper played a key role in the growth of what’s become today’s billion-dollar sports memorabilia industry. So when Halper cashed in his chips in 1999 and liquidated his massive collection, Sotheby’s auction house forked over $30,000,000 to him, and Major League Baseball contributed another $7.5 million. The MLB purchase was made on behalf of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which would welcome approximately 200 choice artifacts from the famous Halper collection. Upon completion of the deal, Commissioner Bud Selig said in an MLB press release, “This important baseball collection belongs in the Hall of Fame and that is where it will be for all time.”

Halper died in 2005, and in a published memorial tribute his friend and baseball historian John Thorn recalled how the late Halper “left an enduring mark on the game he loved” and how, in the end, he had also laid “claim on a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.” In September of 1999, the Hall unveiled the “Barry Halper Gallery,” filled with his former treasures ranging from “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s jersey and “Black Betsy” bat to Ty Cobb’s diary and the paperwork that sent Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1920.  The Hall even got Mickey Mantle’s rare rookie Yankee jersey featuring the number 6. Then-Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey called Halper’s collection “So important to the Hall of Fame in perpetuity, because these artifacts are among the game’s greatest artifacts. They allow us to tell the story better, and they’ll go on forever.”

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson's alleged 1919 White Sox jersey was featured prominently in the 1999-2001 "Memories of a Lifetime" exhibition in the Baseball Hall of Fame's "Barry Halper Gallery."

And what a tale Halper’s own life story was, as well. With just a pushcart, his Russian immigrant grandfather founded a paper products company in 1910, and nearly a century later, his grandson, who carried on the family business, earned permanent recognition in Baseball’s Hall of Fame and part-ownership of one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. At the 1999 dedication of the Halper Gallery in Cooperstown, Halper noted, “I believe I made my most important contributions to the hobby in discovering rare examples of baseball materials that were, for all intents and purposes, forgotten.”

The “forgotten” rarities Halper claimed to have discovered were staggering in scope, and the stories of their acquisitions became legendary. He recalled for Sports Collectors Digest how he once drove to Greenville, South Carolina, from the University of Miami in the late 1950s to visit “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s widow and purchase the slugger’s 1919 Black Sox jersey and other relics. He told Mickey Mantle that Yankee clubhouse attendant Pete Sheehy once gifted him a bag containing the Mick’s 1951 rookie jersey.  He told Sports Illustrated he tracked down Ty Cobb’s biographer Al Stump and purchased Cobb’s own diary and the shotgun Cobb’s mother used to kill his father. He wrote an essay in Total Baseball revealing the story of his acquisitions of rare 19th century uniforms and Babe Ruth’s first Yankee jersey (autographed) from an old-time Brooklyn Dodger named Ollie O’Mara. He described to writer Peter Golenbock how he acquired the game’s oldest baseball from 1846 directly from the family of Hall of Famer Alexander J. Cartwright Jr. (with letters of provenance from Cartwright and his kin).  From a man in Iowa, he secured a lock of Babe Ruth’s hair with a letter of authenticity from the Bambino himself. Halper told the New York Times he got the Ruthian lock by trading him some of General George Custer’s hair.  He described for the New York Times how he traded Lou Gehrig’s widow six bottles of J&B Scotch in exchange for the uniform in which Gehrig made his ”Luckiest Man Speech.”  Halper even claimed to have acquired Gehrig’s last glove from his replacement, Babe Dahlgren.

Halper’s long-time friend and former Yankee publicist, Marty Appel, once told the Newark Star-Ledger, “(Barry) loved to tell the story of the acquisition.  I loved the tale as much as the piece itself.”

Halper made many of his acquisitions long before the baseball-collecting craze took hold of the nation.  He told Sports Illustrated in 1995, “My advantage was buying things years before they became real collectibles.  Rockefeller wouldn’t have had enough money to buy these things now.”  

With his unique profile as a Yankee limited partner and prolific collector, Halper was the darling of the national, New York and baseball presses.  An ex-Hall of Fame official described to us how, on a visit to Halper’s home in the late 1980s, Halper spent over an hour proudly showing him a huge scrapbook of press clippings he’d compiled about himself and his collection.  The New York Times called him a “One-man Smithsonian”; Sports Illustrated referred to him as “The Sultan of Swap”; and 60 Minutes called him the “ultimate collector.”   

Halper told USAToday that he’d honed his collecting skills as an eight-year-old, in 1948, when he jumped under a Yankee Stadium police barricade to get the autograph of an ailing Bambino on “Babe Ruth Day.”  Then, Halper claimed, he took that same sheet the Babe signed with him to college where his baseball coach at the University of Miami, Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx, also signed it along with Mel Ott who once visited with his coach.  The sheet then had the signatures of all three men who hit 500 home runs.  Halper served up stories like this one as if on cue, and the media ate them up accordingly.

Fueled by the cash generated by his family’s paper products business, Halper successfully wheeled and deal-ed his way into an other-worldly stratosphere of collecting.  By 1985 he claimed to have “more than a million cards, 864 uniforms, 3,265 autographed baseballs,” as well as boasting that he had the autographs of every single player ever enshrined at Cooperstown.  Halper’s friend, Bill Madden, of the New York Daily News and Sporting News, called Halper’s house “Cooperstown South,” and in no time comparisons and a friendly rivalry developed between the collector and the shrine. 

Hall of Fame president Ed Stack regularly stated how the Hall was not in competition with Halper, but would have loved to have his collection.  In 1987, Stack told USAToday, “We have a far superior collection.  We have the distinct advantage of being the official repository of baseball memorabilia.”  However, he added, “Some day we would like to have a Barry Halper Room or a Barry Halper Wing at the Hall of Fame.” 

Halper, conversely, told reporters he thought his collection was superior to that of Cooperstown, and that the Hall would have to pay big bucks if it wanted it.  Halper had other visions of his own museum in Hoboken, New Jersey, home of the former Elysian Fields, where the pioneer Knickerbocker Base Ball Club played its games as early as 1846.  Like most, Halper thought Cooperstown’s Abner Doubleday myth was a fraud, and considered Knickerbocker Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. the game’s true “father.”  Still, in spite of his Doubleday disagreement, Halper was generous enough to donate to the Hall a duplicate he had of the rare T-206 Honus Wagner tobacco card, which Cooperstown’s collection was lacking. 

Halper posed with his partner George Steinbrenner for this 1985 cover shot for The Sporting News featuring five bogus jerseys that he alleged were the gems of his collection.

But the Hall of Fame also owned something Halper didn’t have and coveted desperately: a particular uniform.  Archived on an actual dry-cleaner’s carousel in a secret compartment of his home, Halper claimed to have an example of a game-used uniform or jersey of every player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame, except for one of pitcher named Eppa Rixey.  The Hall of Fame actually had Rixey’s jersey.  Halper told Franz Lidz of Sports Illustrated he offered the Hall a Ty Cobb uniform for it and even offered to “throw in a Gehrig.”  When he heard the Museum could not legally make such a transaction, Halper told Lidz, “I’ll just have to go through life missing an Eppa Rixey.”  Halper was used to having it all.

It was Halper’s proclivity to “have it all,” though, that first raised some skeptical eyebrows in the high-end collecting world.  When Halper announced to Sports Illustrated’s Robert Creamer his 1982 acquisition of Tommy McCarthy’s last will and testament, he said it was the final item to complete his full set of Hall of Famer signatures.  If he ever found an Eppa Rixey uniform, his set of Hall of Famer uniforms would then be complete.  Halper looked at these amalgamations as if they were sets of baseball cards with a checklist.  The problem was that several insiders knew that attaining such complete runs of signatures and uniforms was virtually impossible.  Halper was defying the principles of logic.

When we asked the autograph expert Ron Keurajian what the likelihood was for Halper attaining every HOFer signature, he said, “It’s an impossibility, as too many are considered excessively rare and unique.  One would have a better chance finding a cure for cancer.”

Additionally, rumors had swirled about for years regarding Halper’s possession of rare photographs and documents stolen from institutional collections, including the New York Public Library and the Boston Public Library.  In the mid-to-late 1970s, the NYPL lost  hundreds of photos and thousands of documents from its famous “Spalding Baseball Collection.”  Likewise, the BPL lost close to thirty-percent of its famous “McGreevey Baseball Picture Collection.”  When Halper responded to an inquiry into the BPL thefts in the 1980’s, he categorically denied ever owning items from the library. 

The mystique afforded Halper by the hundreds of press clippings included in his scrapbook never hinted at the darker side of the Halper memorabilia empire.  Accordingly, it appears that Halper wielded his own influence in the industry to keep it that way.  Because he was a primary source of material for a host of prominent auctioneers and dealers, one hobby veteran told us, “No one wanted to rock the Halper boat with issues of title and authenticity.  The guy was like the golden goose.”  Halper’s items usually came with inscribed index cards from players or family members attesting to the items’ legitimacy.  Another prominent collector said, “Items that came from Halper had a special cache because he was so famous and a Yankee owner to boot.”  Halper himself even claimed to have originated the term “Letter of Authenticity” for the hobby.

Halper also made several television appearances as a hobby expert commenting on issues of fraud in the industry.  Appearing on ESPN’s Outside the Lines in 2000, Halper was asked by host Bob Ley what percentage of material on the market was bogus.  Halper answered, “It’s probably in excess of 50 percent that is not real.”  He also admitted he’d been victimized by forgeries adding, “I think every one in this hobby at some time or another has been duped.”  In Halper’s estimation, “Wheverer there is money to be made is the most thievery.”  When Halper appeared on 60 Minutes he told Morley Safer that most baseball dealers “would sell their own grandma.” Safer replied, “Especially if Grandma made the Hall of Fame.”

Halper was featured in this 1994 "Encyclopedia of Sports" magazine feature, "Barry Halper: Long Live the King." Halper is holding his alleged jersey of HOFer Cap Anson, which sold for $36,800 at Sotheby's in 1999.

By 1995, Halper’s plans for his own Hall of Fame or museum in Hoboken or New York City had failed and, having  suffered a heart attack in 1994, he focused on an exit strategy for his collection.  So Halper approached Christie’s Fine Art Auctioneers to formallly appraise his holdings. Then he retained the investment banking firm Lazard, Freres & Company to market his entire collection to willing buyers.  The item-by-item appraisal done by Christie’s put a value on the collection that exceeded $40 million. 

 To step up interest in his plans to sell, Halper made the rounds of the press, once again telling the New York Times, “It was time, you can’t hold onto it forever…It’s grown out of control.  It’s time to get it out to the public.”  Richard Sandomir of the Times described Halper’s gems, including “Shoeless” Joe’s 1919 uniform and Halper’s ”network of contacts” which included Yankee clubhouse man Pete Sheehy and ex-Brooklyn Dodger Ollie O’Mara.  Halper added that nothing was going to be donated to the Hall of Fame.  Said Halper, “I donated a Honus Wagner card to them, and that was without regrets, even if  its worth a few hundred thousand now.  I’ve tried to trade with them, but that’s not their policy.”

But in the three years following the Times announcement that Halper was selling, no one came to the  table at the $40 million asking price.  So Halper decided that the best outcome for the collection was to auction it all off at Sotheby’s.  In turn, dealers, collectors, and auctioneers in the industry looked forward to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stock up on the king’s ransom.  Even the Hall of Fame came to the table as Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark persuaded George Steinbrenner and his fellow  MLB owners to contribute to a $7.5 million fund to secure select items from Halper for the Hall, before the Sotheby’s sale.

The Hall was intent on filling certain “holes” in its own collection and sent curators to Halper’s home in Livingston, New Jersey, to select items to tell the stories of nineteenth-century baseball, the Negro Leagues and the Black Sox scandal, just to name a few.  Soon after the selection process was completed, Halper’s close friend, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, reported that the Hall had secured “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s “Black Betsy” bat and uniform from 1919, the sale papers that transferred Babe Ruth to the Yankees from the Red Sox, and Mickey Mantle’s 1951 Yankee rookie uniform.  Sports Collectors Digest also reported that, “The Hall of Fame will also recieve 85 uniforms from Halper’s legendary collection, including those of Satchel Paige, Tony Lazzeri and pre-1900 HOFers like Bobby Lowe, John Clarkson and Hoss Radbourn.”

At the National Sports Collectors Convention in the summer of 1999, the Hall of Fame set up an exhibition to display its new acquisitions from the Halper Collection.  It was there that the first real challenges surfaced regarding the legitimacy of  the artifacts the Hall of Fame had acquired from Halper.  Auctioneer Josh Evans, chairman of Lelands, saw the display and couldn’t believe his eyes.  Says Evans, “I was absolutely floored at how much of it was fake.  There were several early jerseys I saw and all of them were no good.”  Evans was so disturbed he called a member of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, Bill Gladstone, to inform him of what he witnessed.  Evans recalls being told that the problem would be dealt with and afterwards remembered, “I called again later to see what happened and Gladstone said they took care of it. I don’t know if they did.”

At the same time Sotheby’s was in the midst of cataloguing the rest of Halper’s trove, including many other rare and unique jerseys dating back to the nineteenth century.  In 2005, the New York Daily News reported that when MLB purchased from Halper in 1998, “the Hall of Fame passed on several jerseys because it deemed them fake.”  Subsequently, Sotheby’s and their consultant Rob Lifson hired authenticators Grey Flannel to examine all of the uniforms presented for the Halper sale.

At the time of  Sotheby’s sale, Josh Evans also confronted Halper about all of the other questionable  jerseys slated for inclusion in his auction.  Evans, a long-time Halper friend and business associate recalls, “I confronted him on authenticity.  I told him a lot of his jerseys were no good, that all of the 19th century stuff was fake.  He hated me for that and we never spoke again.”

The scrutiny brought about by Evans’s claims and the fact that the Hall of Fame allegedly passed on or returned numerous garments they had at first selected no doubt created challenges for the Sotheby’s staff and the consultants creating the auction catalogue.  Writer Peter Golenbock had written the introduction for the catalogue, marvelling at Halper’s acquisitions of early uniforms.  Golenbock described how Halper was introduced to an old ballplayer named Ollie O’Mara who “had a collection of turn-of-the-century items.”  Golenbock stated  that O’Mara was a major source for Halper, one that ”that never failed him.”  In talking to Halper, Golenbock learned and wrote that,   “Through the former Dodger, Barry acquired uniforms once worn by nineteenth century legends John Montgomery Ward, Cap Anson, Mike Kelly, Hoss Radbourn and Charlie Comiskey.”  But the talk among advanced collectors and dealers like Josh Evans was that the early Halper uniforms were to be avoided.  Although O’Mara’s name appeared in the introduction to the catalogue, none of the Halper lot descriptions mentioned an O’Mara provenance.

One collector from the Baltimore area didn’t get word about the controversy until he’d already purchased one of the suspect garments for more than $26,000.  Having purchased an alleged 1894 jersey of Baltimore Hall of Famer Wilbert Robinson, the attorney from Maryland wrote Sotheby’s and asked about the rumors and alleged problems with Halper’s nineteenth century materials acquired from Ollie O’Mara.  The Sotheby’s executive in charge of the Halper sale, Marsha Malinowski, replied to the winning bidder on November 5, 1999, stating that the garment was authenticated by Sotheby’s experts and that, “Mr. Halper did not purchase all, or even most, of his early uniforms from Mr. O’Meara [sic].  If you have any evidence regarding these two issues, I would be most happy to review it with you.”

Having no additional information about the jersey or O’Mara, for that matter, the winning bidder never pursued it further.  When we recently asked Malinowski if she had ever asked Halper directly whether he acquired the Wilbert Robinson jersey from Ollie O’Mara, she told us he flatly denied it.  Malinowski told us,   ”He said no.”  Unfortunately, the winning bidder was unaware of a 1993 essay Halper wrote with Bill Madden for the prominent baseball compendium, Total Baseball.  In the essay, Halper confirmed his claim that he had purchased the Robinson jersey directly from O’Mara.  Halper wrote, “Apparently O’Mara had maintained a close friendship with Robinson.  That is the only explanation I can offer for the fact that he had in his possession the 1894 Baltimore Orioles uniforms of Robinson, Joe Kelley, Wee Willie Keeler, Dan Brouthers and Hughie Jennings.  O’Mara never did tell me how he got the uniforms or why he had kept them all those  years in near-perfect condition.  In 1989 he went to his grave with that secret….”

Ironically, the man Halper wrote his Total Baseball essay with in 1993, Bill Madden, also wrote more recently in the New York Daily News that the Wilbert Robinson and Hughie Jennings jerseys were included in the group of uniforms that the Hall of Fame rejected as fakes in 1999. When the Sotheby’s winning bidder put his Robinson jersey up for auction in 2009, Legendary Auctions told him the jersey was not authentic, based on comparisons to another Baltimore jersey they sold as a consignment directly from the family of player Bill Hofer.  The Robinson jersey that sold for $26,000 at Sotheby’s didn’t even fetch $2,000 at Legendary.  

So why wasn’t such a great story of provenance included in the original Sotheby’s lot description of the Robinson jersey? And if there was controvery over the authenticity of the alleged O’Mara items, why was the jersey included in the sale?  Did Sotheby’s know that the jersey had been rejected by the Hall of Fame? 

 More important, why would Halper have lied about O’Mara to Sotheby’s head Marsha Malinowski?

The answer likely lies in the blockbuster announcement made by officials at the Baseball Hall of Fame this past October in regard to Halper’s donated “Shoeless” Joe Jackson jersey.  In response to a report published by this writer in August of 2010, claiming that the Jackson jersey was not authentic, Hall spokesman Brad Horn admitted to the New York Post that the jersey that Halper sold to MLB in 1999 was a fake.  Horn confirmed that tests conducted on the garment revealed that the White Sox logo affixed to the jersey ”contained  acrylic (coloring) that was first created in 1941.”  In addition, the Hall also confirmed that the fibers used to secure the logo to the garment were made of polyester, a material first introduced in the 1950s. 

The NY POST, on Oct. 4, 2010, (above) reported that the Hall of Fame admiitted their Joe Jackson jersey was fraudulent.

Considering the Hall of Fame’s findings, the story Halper had told MLB and the Hall about acquiring the jersey directly from Jackson’s widow in her home during the 1950s was impossible.   Furthermore, in 1985 Halper told yet a different story to Bill Madden of the Sporting News, stating that the jersey was a “recent acquisition,” purchased through the mail in a cash deal with Jackson relatives.

Since the Hall of Fame’s revelation in October, Halper’s collection has been scrutinized closely, only to reveal more troubling instances of items found to be inauthentic, fraudulent, or stolen.  Upon close examination, it appears that many of the signature items in the deceased Yankee partner’s collection, the ones written about extensively for years in the press, are not what Halper said they were.  Halper’s breathtaking items are turning out to be fakes that just bolstered the legitimate but less scarce items that constituted the bulk of his collection.

The revelations are piling up: 

The autograph Halper said he got from the Babe in 1948 has been deemed a forgery by experts; so has Ruth’s letter authenticating his alleged lock of hair (the hair is bogus, too). In 2009, Ernie Harwell reported, in the Detroit-Free Press, that the FBI determined Halper’s Ty Cobb’s diary was a forgery, and in 2010 expert Ron Keurajian determined it was likely forged by his biographer, Al Stump. SABR researcher Ron Cobb proved in an article he published last August that Cobb’s mother shot his  father with a pistol, not with Halper’s shotgun that was featured in SI.  Ollie O’Mara’s son claims that his father never sold Halper any uniforms and that his father was a fugitive from 1950 to 1966 and only saved a scrapbook from his playing days with the Dodgers. The Last Will of Tommy McCarthy, that rounded out Halper’s Hall of Famer autograph collection, has been confirmed as stolen from a Boston Probate Court.

 Even Halper’s claims of having played for Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx at the University of Miami turned out to be false.  Sheldon Dunkel, Foxx’s second baseman confirmed that Halper never played for the Miami team and that Foxx was no longer the coach when Halper first enrolled at the school in September of 1957.  Says Dunkel, “If Halper played on those Miami teams, he was a ghost.” 

A crown jewel of Halper’s collection and a key item for his plans to develop a museum in Hoboken , his alleged 1846 Knickerbocker baseball, was considered counterfeit by many advanced collectors who claimed the ball was the wrong size and construction for the period.  The 1865 letter that accompanied the ball in the Sotheby’s sale was confirmed as stolen from the Archives of Hawaii.  The letter was featured in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, BASEBALL.  The ball and letter sold for $139,000.

Perhaps the most stunning revelation was that Mickey Mantle’s 1951 rookie jersey, which MLB purchased from Halper in 1998, and featured in  Hall brochure, was returned to Halper by the museum as a forgery.  Hall of Fame officials denied even being donated the jersey when initially questioned, but a source at the New York Post says that the Hall of Fame confirmed the jersey was returned to Halper.  Hall representatives did not, however, reveal when it was returned.  In 1989, while filming a segment with Mantle for a commercially released documentary about his collection, Halper told Mantle how Yankee clubhouse manager Pete Sheehy gave him the jersey after Halper told him he had Babe Ruth’s rookie jersey (which has also been deemed a forgery).  Halper got Mantle to autograph the jersey on camera and also secured a signed index card from Mantle that read:  “To Barry, This is my rookie uniform.  I wore No. 6 for the first half of the season….”  In 2007, the jersey was consigned to auction by Halper’s widow and was sold as a “replica” of Mantle’s rookie jersey.  Nowhere did the auctioneer mention that the “replica” was the same jersey that was purchased by MLB as authentic, nor that it was returned to Halper under suspicion of being a forgery.

Another controversial Mantle item was one Billy Crystal paid $239,000 for, a glove advertised by Halper and Sotheby’s as Mantle’s Rawlings model from c. 1960.  In 2003, the New York Daily News reported that a glove designer from Rawlings, Bob Clevenhagen, said the glove was, “Made no earlier than 1964 and most likely used in 1966.”  Crystal did not respond to numerous calls from the News.

Even more embarassing was Halper’s sale of Lou Gehrig’s “last glove” at Sotheby’s for a record price of $387,500, when Gehrig’s authentic last mitt was on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame, a donation by Gehrig’s mother as part of her last will and testament. When Halper acquired the glove from ex-Yankee Babe Dahlgren in 1980 Dahlgren didn’t claim it was the Iron Horse’s last glove and said he was given the glove one year after Gehrig retired.  But Halper’s Sotheby’s description changed that story for potential bidders claiming Dahlgren got the glove from Yankee clubhouse man Pete Sheehy on the day of the Iron Horse’s last game.

In 1989 Halper told Smithsonian Magazine that his father originally gave him this 500 Home Run club sheet when it only featured Babe Ruth's alleged signature on it. But when Halper sold it for $50,000 at Sotheby's in 1999 he said he had the Bambino sign the sheet for him in person as a young child. Experts have determined the Ruth signature is an amateurish forgery.

Another striking  instance illustrating the magnitude of fakes in the Halper collection was memorialized on the cover of an issue of The Sporting News.  In 1985 Halper appeared on the cover with George Steinbrenner, Rickey Henderson, Yogi Berra, and other Yankees in handlebar moustaches and wearing Halper’s alleged uniforms of Ty Cobb, John J. McGraw, Cy Young, Joe Jackson and Pud Galvin.  But current investigations show that every one of the jerseys worn in the picture was a fake. Says uniform authenticator Dave Grob, “That picture is the Mount Rushmore of uniform fraud.”

With all of the fakes uncovered to date it must also be noted that Halper still had many legitimate items, too.  The Lou Gehrig jersey Halper got from Mrs. Gehrig for those six bottles of scotch, however, appears to have been the genuine article.  Halper had hundreds of other jerseys also assumed to be authentic, but questions now linger about virtually everything he had in the collection that was designated as ”game-used.”  

Sources estimate that at least $2 million worth of Halper items from the Sotheby’s auction in 1999 were either non-genuine or outright fraudulent.  The Hall of Fame’s donated items from the MLB purchase of 1998 include at least another $2 million in fakes, including Joe Jackson’s jersey, bat, glove, and pocket watch, as well as Mickey Mantle’s rookie jersey and Ty Cobb’s diary.

One internet collector discussion forum called Net 54 recently posted a thread entitled, “The Evidence Against Barry Halper is Mounting,” which featured spirited discussion about the Halper scandal.  One poster, a collector named Dan Bretta, commented, “I would not lie about how I obtained a high dollar piece of memorabilia that ends up in the Baseball Hall of Fame, especially if its a fraud.  You know, that might make it look like I knew all along that the item was fraudulent.”  Another collector whose handle is “Steve S.” mused, “I always wondered why people seemed to treat Halper like he was above reproach.”

Evidence does suggest that Halper knew all, or most, of the items he acquired from Ty Cobb’s biographer, Al Stump, were forgeries, including the alleged shotgun used to kill Cobb’s father and Cobb’s dentures.  Sotheby’s pulled the shotgun from the sale, but sold all of the other Cobb-Stump collection items.

In addition, it turns out that Halper’s Sotheby’s sale also included significant items confirmed by the FBI as stolen from the New York Public Library and others stolen from the Boston Public Library, the Archives of Hawaii, and the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown.  Sources indicate Sotheby’s sold a quarter-million dollars worth of items that had been stolen from institutional collections. 

When Halper died in 2005, his estate put up for auction the remaining items he retained in his personal collection.  Some of the items his widow found in their home featured ownership marks of the New York and Boston Public Libraries.  The FBI took possession of the New York Public Library items, and the others were returned to Boston. 

Halper’s documented ownership, as early as 1977, of the personal correspondence of baseball pioneer Harry Wright is also the subject of a current Federal investigation into the thefts from the New York Public Library’s famous Spalding Collection.  Wright’s letters, once featured prominently in Halper’s collection, originated from three large scrapbook volumes prepared by the New york Public Library in 1921.  The three scrapbook volumes, and the few thousand documents they held, mysteriously vanished from the Fifth Avenue Branch of the library in the 1970s.  The estimated value of the missing documents is at least $1 million, and several of those stolen documents were sold by Halper in the 1999 Sotheby’s sale.  A source familiar with the current FBI investigation into the thefts recently said, “When tracking the stolen items, all roads seem to lead to Barry Halper.”     

The baseball-collecting community is shocked and amazed by the swift and sudden turn of events that have sullied the reputation of the most celebrated collector of all time.  When the revelations were first made about the Joe Jackson jersey in the summer of 2010, former Halper friends, colleagues, and fellow collectors were willing to give the deceased collector the benefit of the doubt. Some speculated that Halper may have been the victim of a con and duped by unscrupulous dealers.  When the New York Post first  broke the story and reported that this writer had claimed that  “up to 10% of (Halper’s) collection was fake,”  Halper’s son Jason responded by saying the claim was ”baseless.”

 But as more details have emerged about Halper’s conflicting acquisition stories about the Jackson jersey and other items, it is clear that Halper knew that he was selling fraudulent and stolen materials. As new evidence surfaces, allegations are also being made that Halper was actually involved in the fabrication of fraudulent relics and that he orchestrated pay-offs to the relatives of a Baseball Hall of Famer for bogus letters of provenance to support those items.

Sources indicate that those closest to Halper while he was living feel betrayed.  With all of the accolades and praise showered on him by the press for decades, it is hard for some to come to grips with the magnitude of Halper’s probable fraud.  The record established in newspapers and books is now littered with false information and fraudulent artifacts.  Even Halper’s obituaries highlight fakes from the collection.

  In 2009, Halper’s old friend Bert Sugar devoted a full-page photo of Halper’s fake Jackson jersey in his coffee table book, Bert Sugar’s Baseball Hall of Fame,  but after the New York Post reports were first published Sugar said he was working with his publisher, Running Press, to correct future printings.

This plaque honoring Barry Halper still hangs in the Hall of Fame's "Halper Gallery."

In Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame’s Museum floor plans given out to visitors still feature the “Halper Gallery,” just a stones throw from the Hall’s gallery of bronze induction plaques.  The gallery now hosts temporary exhibitions in a space covering 1,100 square feet.  Funding for the construction of the space was furnished by a grant from the Yawkey Foundation II

Not too far from the bronze plaques in the main gallery another plaque hangs in the “Halper Gallery” recognizing Halper’s accomplishments. It reads, in part, “Because of Barry Halper’s dedication to preserving baseball history the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has named this changing exhibition space in his honor.”

Having the gallery named after him was quite an honor for a collector like Halper who never played in or managed a Major League game.  Halper did have his “cup of coffee” as an MLB exec in 1992 when he was appointed YankeeVP of Baseball Operations above, GM Gene “Stick” Michael during George Steinbrenner’s banishment from baseball.  At the time, some in the press, like Don Burke of the Bergen-Record, poked fun referring to him as, Barry “Can I Have That Uniform When You Retire?” Halper.  Burke joked that in trade talks Halper might propose trading a Yankee player for, “a 1919 White Sox uniform, a wedge of Leo Durocher’s tobacco from the 1951 National League playoffs, and a clump of Roger Maris’ hair.” 

The startling revelations about Halper’s collection have fueled additional discussion regarding the Hall of Fame’s responsibility related to the Halper scandal.  Baseball luminaries and historians alike have also wondered if the nondescript gallery should still bear Halper’s name?

Fay Vincent, Baseball’s former Commissioner and an Honarary Director of the Baseball Hall of Fame says, “Given the evidence that has come to light in the past several years, the Hall of Fame should immediately reconsider the naming of that gallery to honor Barry Halper. I do not think he deserves the honor.”  

Major League Baseball’s official historian, John Thorn doesn’t think there’s a need to rename the Halper Gallery.  Says Thorn, “Outside of the plaque gallery, the Hall of Fame honors all of baseball’’s greats, including Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.” 

Ron Cobb, a board member at the Ty Cobb Museum and author of last summer’s award-winning Society for American Baseball Research paper, Stumped by the Storyteller, that exposed the fraudelent Ty Cobb items in Halper’s collection, is disturbed by his post-mortem Cooperstown profile.  Says Cobb, “Halper used his position as the country’s pre-eminent collector to deceive his friends, the press and the Hall of Fame.  Through that deceit he enriched his reputation, his wallet and his own ego. He bought known fakes and created artifacts that would meet his needs.  There is no place for someone with a flaw like this in the Hall of Fame.” 

Despite having purchased perhaps millions of dollars in counterfeit artifacts from Halper, it appears that neither MLB nor the Hall of Fame are looking for reimbursement or restitution.  Halper’s son, Jason Halper, a New Jersey attorney recently told a Society for American Baseball Research committee, “My family has not recieved any communications from the Baseball Hall of Fame questioning the authentication of the Joe Jackson uniform jersey, or any other item that was formerly part of my father’s collection.”

Halper’s widow, Sharon Halper, inherited her husband’s two percent ownership interest in the New York Yankees limited partnership and is listed as a partner in the team’s current 2011 season yearbook.       

When asked if the Hall was considering removing Halper’s name from the exhibition space tied to MLB’s purchase from Halper in 1998, Hall spokesman Brad Horn declined comment. 

This 1999 HOF brochure featured a floor plan highlighting the McGwire-Sosa "Great American Home Run Chase" exhibition and the Halper "Memories of a Lifetime" exhibit in the Halper Gallery. The brochure features a picture of the Halper exhibit, including the counterfeit jersey of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson.

Perhaps the ultimate irony in the Halper-Hall of Fame saga is the involvement of Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark, the granddaughter of Hall founder Stephen C. Clark.  Clark, a world renowned art collector and philanthropist was responsible for displaying the museum’s first fraudulent artifact, the “Abner Doubleday baseball,” which was alleged to have been used by Doubleday and his classmate Abner Graves. 

Jane Forbes Clark, who called Halper the “Babe Ruth of collectors” was instrumental in convincing the MLB owners to contribute to the fund that enabled the Hall to purchase his alleged treasures.  In putting the deal together, she made it possible for Halper’s fake “Shoeless” Joe Jackson shirt to tour the nation as part of the Hall’s travelling exhibition “Baseball as America.”  It is ironic that Clark’s great-great-grandfather co-founded the Singer Sewing Machine Company, and that Clark is the sole heir to the Singer fortune, because  last October the Hall published their own article about the fraudulent Joe Jackson jersey and noted how the fake garment featured, “Jackson’s stitched name made of rayon.”  In the end, the Hall of Fame and Clark were defrauded by a forger’s handiwork with a common sewing machine.  The counterfeit Jackson jersey was displayed publicly by the Hall for over a decade.

Collector Chris Sullivan, of Duxbury, Massachusetts, considers himself one of Halper’s victims.  The Red Sox fan decided to purchase from the Yankee limited partner’s collection because of his reputation as the king of collectors.  Like many other aficionados, Sullivan was originally thrilled with his purchase of an alleged 1907 jersey of  Boston’s greatest third baseman, Jimmy Collins.  But twelve years after raising his paddle at Sotheby’s and paying more than $31,000 for the jersey, Sullivan was informed by uniform expert Dave Grob that his jersey is a fraud, showing evidence of foul-play and suspect tagging.  What’s more, the jersey features a red logo.  Jimmy Collins was traded away to Philadelphia in July of 1907, and the Red Sox didn’t actually wear ”red” until 1908. 

 Thanks to a Sotheby’s policy, which gives buyers a five-year window to return purchases due to authenticity issues, Sullivan isn’t confident the auction giant will make him whole.  Last year, he even tried to consign the jersey to Grey Flannel, the outfit who originally authenticated it for Sotheby’s and Halper.  But Grey Flannel rejected the jersey and sent it back to him with a letter stating that Halper’s “19th century jerseys (were) full of controversy.”

Halper collected close to $40 million from Sotheby’s and MLB when he unloaded his collection in 1999 and, when he died in 2005, his widow, Sharon, retained his valuable two percent interest in the limited partnership of the Yankees.  With all the millions out there, Sullivan’s just looking to recoup his hard earned 30-grand and says he’s considering filing suit against the Halper estate for reimbursement.  Says the die-hard Red Sox fan about the Yankee who sold him short,  “It seems like Barry Halper was the Madoff of memorabilia.”

(Click here for our article at Deadspin and here for our article in the New York Post)

The story of the Barry Halper memorabilia scandal made the front page of the New York Post on Induction Day, 2011.


By Peter J. Nash

July 1, 2011

The alleged Ty Cobb diary purchased by the Hall of Fame from Barry Halper.

 

Nearly two years ago, on July 5, 2009, late Detroit Tiger broadcaster Ernie Harwell was the first to report in the Detroit Free-Press the controversy about the Baseball Hall of Fame’s alleged Ty Cobb diary. After interviewing noted baseball autograph expert Ron Keurajian and Hall of Fame officials, Harwell revealed that the supposed 1946 handwritten Cobb diary, once displayed at the Hall of Fame, was a forgery. Harwell wrote, “The Cobb diary is a fake and will forever be relegated to the archival basement in Cooperstown.”

The diary was included in a group of items that were purchased from collector and New York Yankees minority owner Barry Halper by Major League Baseball. Reports in 1998 indicated that MLB purchased two hundred artifacts from Halper for approximately $7 million and subsequently donated all of those items to the museum in Cooperstown, including the bogus Cobb diary.

Ron Keurajian first notified the Hall of Fame of his concerns that the Cobb diary was a forgery in 2007 after the diary was featured in an article, Dear Diary: Ty Cobb’s Love Affair with Golf, which was published in the Hall’s Memories and Dreams magazine. When Keurajian asked the Hall for a copy of the diary he remembers being told it could not be photocopied because it was fragile and “priceless.”  Keurajian says he responded by indicating the diary was not priceless.  He told a Hall of Fame employee that the diary was, “Worthless because it is a forgery and an amateurish one at that.”  The Hall of Fame did not respond further to Keurajian and afterwards President Dale Petrosky also failed to return his phone calls.  Keurajian told Harwell in a letter dated May 31, 2009, that he felt he was ”persona-non-grata after (he) pronounced the diary as spurious.”

Early in 2009, Keurajian contacted the Hall of Fame again and asked head curator Ted Spencer to remove the diary from public display.  Keurajian told Harwell, “Spencer was much more receptive and stated he would send the diary to the FBI for analysis.”

In 2009, the Hall of Fame requested analysis of the alleged Cobb diary by the FBI's Questioned Documents Division.

On April 24, 2009, over a decade after the Cobb diary was purchased from Barry Halper, Spencer called an FBI agent in the Questioned Documents Unit and afterwards sent the FBI the diary and four photocopied genuine Cobb letters from their collection.  Spencer noted that the Hall was requesting a “non criminal review of the diary.”

Almost a month later, the FBI’s Questioned Document Unit in Quantico, Virginia, sent the Hall of Fame their report which supported Keurajian’s opinion that the entire diary was a forgery.  Haulsofshame.com recently obtained a copy of that FBI report.

The FBI issued this report to the Baseball Hall of Fame with their findings that Halper's alleged Cobb diary was not in his hand.

The documents show that investigators at the FBI laboratory determined that the handwritten entries in the 1946 diary were ”not consistent with the natural writing style of Tyrus R. Cobb.”

Harwell ended his 2009 article asking the questions, “Who was the forger?” and “How did he con Halper into buying the diary?”

Last August Ron Cobb wrote a stellar paper for the Society for American Baseball Research entitled, The Georgia Peach: Stumped by the Storyteller, which answered Harwell’s questions.  In his award-winning article Cobb’s investigation illustrated how several items Barry Halper had acquired from Cobb’s biographer, Al Stump, were forgeries.  The most blatant was a shotgun alleged to have been used by Cobb’s mother to shoot and kill his father.  Researching period police records, Ron Cobb proved that Ty Cobb’s father was actually shot with a pistol.

The shotgun was originally slated for sale at the 1999 Sotheby’s auction of the Halper Collection, but Ron Cobb was told by Sotheby’s lead consultant Rob Lifson that “it had been rejected because the only provenance was Al Stump’s statement.”  In addition, Ron wrote that Lifson told him, “All Stump items in the Halper Collection became suspect after it was proven that a Ty Cobb game-used bat that Stump supplied to Halper was not authentic.”

 However, although Sotheby’s and Halper had this advance knowledge of problems with Stump’s materials, they still chose to sell many of the items originally acquired from him.  Sotheby’s sold Ty Cobb’s alleged dentures, fishing hat, poker  chips, smoking jacket and other items in excess of $40,000, even though Ron Cobb states, “Of the large number of Ty Cobb documents from Stump that came to Sotheby’s, practically all were judged by Lifson to be fraudulent.” 

Ron Cobb also illustrated how both the FBI and Halper were aware of the problems with Stump’s materials years before the 1999 sale.  Based on an interview with Josh Evans, of Lelands, Cobb wrote, “Evans  was so distressed by the fake Stump material that (Mike) Gutierrez continued to sell, that he first told Barry Halper of his suspicions and then contacted the FBI in an attempt to get an official investigation of Al Stump started.”   Based upon the evidence he gathered, Ron Cobb determined that the forgeries were executed by Stump, himself.  In his 2010 article, Cobb called Stump a “proven liar” and a “proven forger.” 

When the Hall of Fame had first choice of approximately 200 artifacts to purchase from Halper before the Sotheby’s sale, the bogus 1946 Cobb diary was chosen by the curators and subsequently displayed prominently in the Hall’s “Barry Halper:  Memories of a Lifetime” exhibition.  The diary was replicated for visitors so they could turn the pages and read the forged entries, which included references to Cobb’s alcoholism, divorce and a disdain for Babe Ruth.

Following Harwell’s and Keurajian’s revelations about the counterfeit Cobb diary, Haulsofshame.com released a report in August of 2010 showing that another major item the Hall of Fame purchased from Halper was a forgery.  The report revealed that an alleged 1919 Black Sox jersey of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was the wrong uniform style and also made by the  wrong manufacturer.  Months later, the Hall of Fame confirmed for the New York Post that the garment  was constructed with materials that  were not in existence until the 1940s.  Halper told Hall of Fame officials that he had purchased the jersey from Jackson’s widow in her home in the 1950s.   Based on the jersey being a forgery, other Halper items attributed to Jackson in the sale, including his “Black Betsy” bat, 1919 World Series gold pocket-watch and glove, are also believed to be bogus.  Another big-ticket forgery the Hall purchased from Halper was Mickey Mantle’s alleged 1951 Yankee road jersey with the number “6.”  The jersey was featured in the Hall of Fame’s official brochure for the Halper exhibit and in MLB’s official press release.  But that same jersey somehow made its way into a 2007 auction featuring consignments from Halper’s widow.  The Yankee road jersey Halper held out as Mantle’s rookie was sold for a few thousand dollars as a “replica jersey.”

Several other items that were part of the Halper transaction are suspected to be problematic and are currently being investigated by Haulsofshame.com.  Suspect items include: Babe Ruth’s polo coat and 500th Home Run ball, Buck Leonard’s Homestead  Grays jersey, Cy Young’s 1908 Red Sox jersey and others.

Although it was announced by Major League Baseball that they had made the Halper purchase, it was actually the Baseball Hall of Fame that cut the check with funds contributed to the museum by MLB.  The Hall of Fame’s 1998 tax return includes an entry noting payment to Barry Halper Enterprises and a fair market value of the collection at $7,068,888.

This page from the Baseball Hall of Fame's 1998 tax return states that their purchased Barry Halper Collection had a "fair market value" of $7,068,888.

Although Hall of Fame officials told the FBI they “for years (had) suspicions that the Ty Cobb diary it own(ed) might be partially or fully fraudulent,” they featured the manuscript in their own magazine as late as 2007.  When Harwell’s story broke, Hall of Fame spokesperson, Brad Horn, stated “the document has not been on display at the Museum since 2001, but will remain a part of our library collection.”

Horn gave no explanation as to why the Hall of Fame would  retain a counterfeit document in its collection.  In addition, despite the Hall of Fame’s new admissions that other Halper items are fraudulent, it appears that they have also made no attempts for restitution from the estate of the deceased Yankee partner.  Halper’s son, Jason Halper, recently told a SABR committee newsletter, ”My family has not received any communications from the Baseball Hall of Fame questioning the authentication of the Joe Jackson uniform jersey, or any other item that was formerly part of my father’s collection.”

Evidence regarding Halper’s sale to MLB and the Hall of Fame suggests that both parties were the victims of an elaborate fraud totalling over $1 million.  Why MLB and the Hall of Fame have not pursued restitution from the Halper estate are unknown.  Halper’s widow, Sharon Halper, inherited her husband’s 2% stake in the Yankee limited partnership upon his death in 2005.

Baseball Hall of Fame spokesperson, Brad Horn, did not return calls to his Cooperstown office for comment.

When asked what the Commisioners office stance was on the Hall of Fame’s apparent refusal to pursue reimbursement from the Halper estate, MLB spokesperson Matt Bourne declined comment.

The FBI report about the alleged Ty Cobb diary issued to the Hall of Fame in 2009 was obtained by Ron Cobb who filed a request to the FBI through the Freedom of Information Act.  Ron told Haulsofshame.com, “Readers might be interested to know that I was at first sent a canned package from the FBI file on Ty Cobb that contained nothing about the Hall of Fame so I had to appeal the case and after almost a year, I finally got the report.”

When he was told that the Hall of Fame has not pursued  Halper’s estate Cobb said, “It’s surprising that the Hall of Fame would not seek restitution for items they purchased  from Halper that were fake, particularly for those items where there is some evidence that Halper knew  the items were fake when he sold them.”

Cobb, the winner of a 2010 McFarland-SABR research award for his investigative article, is also disappointed that the Hall has kept the diary in their collection.  “That diary contains fabricated facts about Ty Cobb and fantasy ideas attributed to him, some of which have found their way into the history books.  The Hall would do a great service to baseball memorabilia collectors and baseball fans as well if they would do a prominent display of all the fake and forged stuff they have.  I find that most fans don’t know that the fakery is so prevalent.”