Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

Oct. 31, 2011

Brad Horn of the Hall of Fame accepts David Freese's donation of his Game 6 jersey.

 

Baseball Hall of Fame President, Jeff Idelson, and Hall Communications Director, Brad Horn, spent the week at the World Series hoping to secure artifact donations from Cardinal and Ranger players and they ended up walking away with quite a haul. Both headed back to Cooperstown with the ultimate Series prize of David Freese’s shredded Cardinal jersey worn for his Game 6-winning home run. The Hall officials somehow tracked down pieces of the jersey that was torn by Freese’s teammates as he crossed home plate and, thanks to a generous donation by the Cardinal hero, its next destination is a display case in Cooperstown.

But just as one artifact is added to the Hall’s impressive collection, another is apparently hitting the auction block in the Texas Rangers’ own backyard, at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas.  Slated for sale in its November auction is yet another rare document that may have been stolen from the National Baseball Library as part of a massive theft in Cooperstown during the 1980s. 

Lot 80923 is a 1924 letter addressed to National League president John Heydler from Pittsburgh Pirate owner and Hall of Famer Barney Dreyfus and related to a questionable call by umpires in a protested game.  Dreyfus, who was forwarding the league the written statement of his manager, Bill McKechnie,wrote, “The failure of the two umpires to see where the ball went when the other 12,000 people in the park did is a disgrace.”  Authentic letters written by the Hall of Famer are scarce and have commanded sale prices topping $10,000.  Heritage currently has a bid on the letter for $1,912.

The letter is strikingly similar to several documents that have been offered at auction by Heritage, the auction house that employs Antiques Roadshow appraiser Mike Gutierrez as a consignment director.  Gutierrez was a prime suspect in a 1980s FBI investigation into thefts that occurred at the Hall of Fame.  Over the past two years Heritage has offered and withdrawn similar letters written by Hall of Famers Charles Comiskey, Ban Johnson, Joe Tinker, Fred Clarke, Ed Barrow and Kenesaw Mountain Landis that are believed to have originated from the Hall of Fame’s famous August Herrmann Papers archive, perhaps the largest single holding of baseball correspondence and documents known to exist.  The collection features the personal and business files of Reds owner August Herrmann who was also the head of Baseball’s ruling body, the National Commission, before the game had a Commissioner.  The archive was discovered by Reds owner Powell Crosley Jr. in a storage room at Crosley Field and was donated to the Hall in 1960.

This protest letter written by hall of famer Barney Dreyfus was likely stolen from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown.

This protest letter written by HOFer Barney Dreyfus is believed to have been stolen from the National Baseball Library.

The National Baseball Library was the final destination for Herrmann’s special case-files of documents related to protested games in the National League between 1902 to 1926.  Each protested contest case was decided by the National Commission and featured correspondence and affidavits from players, managers, umpires and ownership related to each game.  However, likely due to the thefts in the 1980s, many of the game files have incomplete records and others are missing.  It is believed that many of the valuable documents from this collection have made their way into some of the nation’s top private collections. 

The Heritage auction features Dreyfus’ letter to John Heydler and references his enclosing the statement of his manager, Bill McKechnie. 

This 1925 statement from Pirate manager Bill McKechnie to NL President John Heydler still resides in the HOFs Herrmann Papers "Protested Games" files.

However, other letters written by Dreyfus to Heydler and statements from McKechnie regarding protested contests still reside in Cooperstown as part of the Herrmann archive and its “Protested Games” section.  So why isn’t Heritage’s Dreyfus letter available for researchers at the Hall’s A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center along with the others he wrote to League presidents between 1902 and 1926?

These letters from Dreyfus to NL Presidents Heydler, Lynch and Tener are currently part of the HOFs Herrmann Papers archive at the NBL in Cooperstown.

Those letters Dreyfus penned to NL Presidents Heydler, John Tener and T. J. Lynch are still found in the Herrmann Papers archive at Cooperstown and serve as evidence illustrating how the National Baseball Library was the target of a large-scale theft of historic documents.  One such document that eluded thieves is another Dreyfus letter addressed to Heydler and is dated May 10, 1909.  It is still part of  Herrmann’s original treasure-trove.

This letter was written to John Heydler by Barney Dreyfus just two weeks before the Mastro Dreyfus letter was also written to NL President John Heydler. This letter from May 10, 1909 is still found in the HOFs Herrmann Papers archive.

Heritage’s current offering is not the first Dreyfus letter believed to have been stolen from the Hall of Fame or to appear at public auction.  In 2008, another example, also addressed to NL President John Heydler, sold for $9,000 at Mastro Auctions.  The letter is dated, May 25, 1909,  just two weeks after the letter that is still part of the Hall of Fame’s collection.

This 1909 letter written by Barney Dreyfus to NL President John Heydler sold for $9,000 in a 2008 Mastro auction.

Protested game letters believed to originate from the Hall of Fame’s collection have also appeared at other auctions including Clean Sweep, SportsCards Plus, Robert Edward Auctions, Lelands, Hunt Auctions, Christies, Mike Gutierrez Auctions, Richard Wolfers, Superior and the 1999 Sotheby’s sale of the Barry Halper Collection.

Many of the suspect documents trace back to the Halper Collection, which has been documented as including many items stolen  from the Hall of Fame, the New York Public Library and the Boston Public Library.  In particular, the 1999 Halper sale featured another protested game letter addressed to John Heydler in 1923 by Boston Braves President Christy Mathewson.

This letter from Christy Mathewson to John Heydler in 1923 was regarding a protested game by the Boston Braves. The letter was sold by Barry Halper in 1999 at Sotheby's for $5,462.

An examination of the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann archive shows that all of the valuable protest correspondence from Mathewson as the Reds manager and the Boston team president appears to have been removed from the files, while less valuable documents from utility players and officials remain in Cooperstown.  

This July 4, 1923 statement written by Braves manager Fred Mitchell is today found in the HOFs Herrmann archive at the NBL while a corresponding letter written by Braves president Christy Mathewson written on July 9, 1923 was sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby's in 1999.

For example, the Hall’s Herrmann Papers archive still includes the July 4, 1923 statement from Mathewson’s manager, Fred Mitchell, written just five days before Mathewson’s letter to Heydler.  Both letters focus on a play involving a Brave player named Fournier during the same protested game.  How could one letter still be at Cooperstown and the other have made its way into the Halper Collection?  (Another Mathewson protest letter written as the Reds manager in 1916 sold at an REA sale in 2000 for $3,701.)   

 A source who requested anonymity, told us that Halper acquired several of his National League ”protested game letters” and other correspondence addressed to August Herrmann directly from Mike Gutierrez .  Gutierrez also authenticated all of Halper’s “protest letters” and August Herrmann correspondence for the 1999 Halper sale as a Sotheby’s expert consultant for autographed materials. 

Gutierrez was a known supplier to Halper as evidenced in the 2010 SABR article, Stumped by the Storyteller, by Ron Cobb.  Cobb revealed in his article, “Al Stump, (who) was actively trying to sell Cobb memorabilia, worked with Mike Gutierrez on selling the Cobb items that Stump supplied.  Many of the items were sold to Barry Halper.”  Cobb also revealed that the items Gutierrez sold Halper were forgeries executed by Stump, himself.

Another collector, who also requested anonymity, revealed for us that he purchased other letters addressed to August Herrmann directly from Gutierrez.  In addition, the first suspected Herrmann letters appeared at public auction in the early 1990s at Superior Galleries in Beverly Hills, California.  At the time of those offerings Gutierrez was employed by Superior.

Box 44 of the Herrmann papers archive houses the National League Protest correspondence maintained by August Herrmann as the Chairman of the National Commission. The files include ptotested contests from 1902 to 1926.

The mystery surrounding the origins of the “protest letters” being offered for sale at auction has added to the Hall of Fame controversy.  None of the auction houses have answers as to the provenance of their offered documents and the Hall of Fame has failed to explain why the documents are no longer in their collection.

Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions, Chris Ivy, did not have any answers for us regarding the provenance of his offered Dreyfus “protest letter.”  All he could do was ask us, “If the letter originated from the HOF, then it will be removed from the auction. You write that it is believed to have originated from the HOF, what evidence to you have to support that claim?”

After receiving previous inquiries by Haulsofshame.com in the past two years Ivy, to his credit,  has removed several letters suspected to have been stolen from the Hall of Fame.  Some of those have been protest letters, one of which was another Pittsburgh Pirate statement issued by manager Fred Clarke.

Ivy also had no answers for us as to what has happened to the lots removed from prior Heritage auctions and whether the Hall of Fame has attempted to recover those suspected Herrmann items withdrawn from sales.

Likewise, Hall of Fame spokesperson Brad Horn and President Jeff Idelson did not respond to our inquiries about the Dreyfus “protest letter” or any of the prior items withdrawn from Heritage sales.  When the last suspected Herrmann item surfaced for sale at Clean Sweep Auctions this past February, the Hall failed to pursue recovery of the document as Horn told Clean Sweep’s Steve Verkman, “There is insufficient information for us to unequivocally state that these were stolen from the Hall of Fame.”  Sources indicate that Horn made that statement without the Hall having conducted their own investigation into the thefts.

In regard to selling the suspect letter, written by Cardinal owner Sam Breadon, Verkman also told us in February, “The Hall of Fame also distinctly did not ask for it back in any way, or for it to be removed from the auction, only that they welcome it, along with anything else of potential historic value as a donation as they are the main repository of baseball history in the U.S.”  In response to the Hall of Fame’s failure to pursue the items in Clean Sweep’s auction Lelands’ president Josh Evans told us, “ “Now they are complicit in their own degradation.”

Evans was the first person to link current Heritage employee Mike Gutierrez to the sale of an item stolen from the National Baseball Library in 1988 when he purchased a Babe Ruth signed photo from Gutierrez featuring a Hall of Fame library accession number covered by white-out.  According to an ex-Hall of Fame official, an investigation was then commenced by the FBI at the urging of head librarian Tom Heitz.  Evans was interviewed by FBI agents who came to his NYC office and Gutierrez was investigated as a suspect because of his sale of the Ruth photo. The FBI also learned that Gutierrez had spent considerable time researching in the National Baseball Library during the mid-1980s.

Mike Gutierrez is still the consignment director for Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, Texas. Heritage advertises "annual sales exceeding $500 million."

A friend who accompanied Gutierrez on a trip to the Hall of Fame’s library told the FBI he was an eyewitness to actual thefts. Josh Evans says the eyewitness also told him that he saw Gutierrez “steal a Nap Lajoie letter from the (August) Herrmann archive.” Evans told us earlier this year, “He told me how he did it, he (Gutierrez) would take ten original letters, photocopying them, returning nine originals and putting one original and nine photocopies in his briefcase.”  An ex-Hall of Fame official told us that Gutierrez was one of the only people to have unsupervised access to the Herrmann Papers archive in the 1980s.

Ex-Hall of Fame employee Bill Deane, who worked in the library at that time, also told us earlier this year “After Tom (Heitz) brought it to the attention of the brass, they said  (Gutierrez) is not allowed here.”  The ex-Hall of Fame official we spoke with stated that Gutierrez was banned from the National Baseball Library.  Although the case against Gutierrez appeared strong, (including a claim of witness tampering), the Hall of Fame refused to file charges or follow through with prosecution.  The ex-official we spoke with earlier this year told us, “They just didn’t want any negative p.r. to scare away past and potential donors.  The old leadership just wanted to run and hide.”

Twenty-three years later the current leadership at the Hall appears to be running and hiding as well, hoping that the memories of the 1980s heist will just fade away.  But with each auction offering of the suspected stolen documents, that memory is kept alive by outfits like Heritage and others who continue to ignore the tell-tale signs of Hall of Fame ownership and the non-existent provenance furnished by their consignors. 

What the Hall of Fame appears to fear most is that the admission of its failure to safeguard donated artifacts in the past will negatively effect their ability to secure donations in the future.  That the next World Series hero might think twice before handing over his championship treasures from the Fall Classic to Hall officials.

Considering the Hall of Fame may have lost well over $1 million in donated materials under their custodianship, those fears are surely warranted.

(UPDATE, Nov. 3, 2011:  Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage Auction Galleries, has informed us that the 1924 Protest Letter written by Hall of Famer Barney Dreyfus has been removed from their current November sale.  No further information was available in regard to the provenance of the document.  The Baseball Hall of Fame has yet to issue a statement or comment on the withdrawal.)


By Peter J. Nash

Oct.  26, 2011

This alleged Ty Cobb single signed ball was sold by Colossal Auctions in their last sale.

 

A new auction house appears to have entered the fray and their wares have caught the eye of many seasoned collectors who are calling out most of their vintage and rare autographed materials as outright forgeries.

 Colossal Auctions of Fairview, Michigan, operates a website that fails to list the names of the principals of the business, but offers items allegedly signed by big names like Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cap Anson and Eddie Plank.  The auction house is offering signed baseballs, letters, Christmas cards and cut signatures galore from Hall of Famers that would surely command big bucks if they were genuine.

 Close inspection of each of their offerings reveals that collectors are correct in deeming the lots included in this Coach’s Corner-esque sale as bonafide fakes. Here’s a sampling of the items we found most disturbing:

1. A letter alleged to have been written to August Herrmann by Christy Mathewson in 1916.  Not only is this letter a forgery, it is a forgery of a letter, that if genuine, would have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s famous August Herrmann Papers archive.  The HOF’s collection features all of the correspondence between Herrmann and Matty while he served as the Reds manager.  Looks like this forger hit into a double-play.

This forged Mathewson letter was being offered by Colossal Auctions. If it were genuine it would have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame's Herrmann Papers collection.

Here is a genuine Matty letter written to Herrmann that was stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s famous August Herrmann Papers archive housed at the National Baseball Library.  This authentic letter was sold by Barry Halper at his 1999 Sotheby’s sale and is currently the #9 entry on Haulsofshame.com’s10 Most Wanted Missing National Baseball Treasures List.”:

This is an authentic letter written by Christy Mathewson to August Herrmann that originates from the HOF's Herrmann archive.

2.  This forged Cap Anson letter also appeared on the current Colossal Auctions website:

This alleged Cap Anson letter appeared on the Colossal Auctions website.

Here is what an authentic Cap Anson letter actually looks like on Anson’s own letterhead :

This authentic letter was executed in the hand of Adrian C. "Cap" Anson.

3. This forged Ty Cobb letter appears in the current Colossal sale:

This Cobb forgery also appears in the current Colossal Auctions sale.

This is an authentic letter hand-written by Ty Cobb in his signature green ink:

This authentic letter written by Ty Cobb to HOF President Paul Kerr is suspected to have been wrongfully removed from the National Baseball Library.

While the major authentication companies would likely never certify these items and they would never make their way into one of the major auctions, Colossal does share at least one authentication with JSA and PSA.  Like Hunt Auctions and others, Colossal is offering a copy of Christy Mathewson’s Won in the Ninth as bearing an authentic Matty signature although it is believed to have been ghost-signed by someone other than Mathewson.

Colossal's auction also features a copy of Christy Mathewson's "Won in the Ninth" which is believed to have been ghost-signed.

The auction items pictured in this article were shown on the Colossal website earlier this week but it appears that, while most all lots are still open for bids, the images of the items have been removed from the site. It also appears that the Mathewson and Anson letters have vanished from the site.  The images of the items were saved from the Colossal website before they were removed.

In  regard to the authenticity of their items Colossal states on their website:

“We at Colossal Auctions strive to insure that all of the signed memorabilia we sell are genuine and meaningful, while keeping starting bids low for the average collector. Our Certificate of Authenticity (COA) will accompany all high-end autographs and offer a 100% lifetime money back guarantee. Many of the items we put up for auction already come with COA’s provided by our consignors as well.”

“Our own in-house examination starts out with a reference library of genuine quality exemplars as a basis for comparison. Then, under standard 600% magnification, we look for tell tale signs of stoppage of pen stroke, gaps, or uneven flow. We use standard examination criteria during the review. We have a strong reputation for identiying when something is not right. With our experience, expertise, and knowledge, we will render a fair, unbiased opinion. If we agree and concur that, in our opinion, the signature we examined is deemed authentic based on our parameters of acceptability, we will then offer that item for sale along with our COA. Our full refund guarantee and return policy for autographs purchased from us allows us to make genuine quality high-end autograph memorabilia available at reasonable prices  for collectors everywhere.”

Veteran dealer and authenticator Richard Simon summed up the appearance of Colossal Auctions best on Net54:

“This business and website is one of the stranger things in this hobby/business and that is saying something.”


By Peter J. Nash

Oct. 17, 2011

JSA authenticated this Mathewson secretarial signature as genuine for Hunt Auctions.

 

-James Spence Authentication (JSA) appears to have made another stunning blunder in authenticating yet another secretarial signature of Christy Mathewson as genuine. The signature is found on a presentational book plate for Mathewson’s 1911 book,Won in the Ninth, which currently appears as lot 163 in Hunt Auctions November auction at the Louisville Slugger Museum.  The book currently has a bid of $4,356.

-Christy Mathewson’s signature on these book plates has long been considered a secretarial example and has been withdrawn from other sales, including Sotheby’s in 2005.   

-Ron Keurajian was the first to state publicly his opinion that these Matty signatures are not genuine.  Keurajian wrote a revealing  article on the Matty secreterials in December of 2004 for Sports Collectors Digest where he stated:

 ”In my opinion, these plate signatures (at least the few I’ve seen) are ghost signed and not signed by Mathewson.  These signatures deviate too much from Mathewson’s hand.”

 - Hunt Auctions lists an estimate of $5,000-$10,000 for the book.  It appears that, although the authentication companies have been presented with evidence showing these are not genuine signatures, they have continued legitimizing them and collectors keep buying them.  One collector told us, “It just shows collectors don’t really care if items are real, just whether they have the JSA or PSA LOA so they can resell it.” 

-James Spence III (JSA) has authenticated other Matty secretarial for Goodwin & Co.  ( $9,345); REA ($7,050); Legendary ($10,200); Paragon ($8,639); Memory Lane ($12,529); REA ($8,050); REA ($9,987); Goodwin & Co. ($8,722); Mastro ($6,167);  Mastro ($7,464); Hunt ($3,800); Mile High ($11,894); Heritage ($10,157); Heritage ($10,755); eBay ($15,000  Buy it Now)

-PSA/DNA wrote LOA’s for these:  Legendary ($16,590); Legendary ($10,200); Heritage ($8,962)

This is an authentic signature of Christy Mathewson on a 1908 affidavit containing his statement as a wittness to the famous Merkle incident. The document is part of the Hall of Fame's August Herrmann Papers. Even a novice can tell that the "Won in the Ninth" signatures were not signed by the person who signed this one, Christy Mathewson.

-Sources indicate that authentications like these by JSA and PSA are far from “mistakes” and show that these companies continue to certify non-genuine items to avoid the refunds and returns that would be requested from their clients if, in fact, they were to correct their flawed opinions.  Another source told us he believes the Matty secreterial signatures will be probed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

-David Hunt, President of Hunt Auctions, declined comment.

-JSA also recently certified a magazine page with a facsimile signature of wrestler “Andre the Giant” as genuine.  Reports indicate JSA has also made similar egregious errors on Mike Tyson items. 

These five signatures of Mathewson are also authentic and from letters Matty wrote to August Herrmann. They all originate from the HOF's Herrmann Papers archive.

-The SABR Pictorial History Committee just published a fascinating case study regarding the c.1846 daguerreotype, which allegedly depicts Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. and some of his Knickerbocker teammates.  SABR members Mark Fimoff and Corey R. Shanus  present dueling experts to support their conflicting claims;  Shanus believes the image features Cartwright, Fimoff doesn’t.

The half-plate image was identified by historians as featuring Cartwright and the Knicks when reproduced everywhere from Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, BASEBALL, to a Smithsonian coffee table book. 

The SABR Pictorial Committe published a report questioning if this early image includes Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. and the Knickerbockers.

  -Corey R. Shanus owns the daguerreotype and states in his defense of the item that he conducted extensive due diligence at the time he acquired it.  However, it appears that Shanus failed to reveal (or locate) the daguerreotype’s hallmark. which would likely indicate the photographer and the date of production.  If the image were produced before Cartwright embarked upon his trip west, in March of 1849, it would support his argument.  

-Net54 hosted a discussion about the report and Shanus responded to questions about the hallmark issue stating: 

“To my knowledge there are no markings on the dag. However, based on the plain brass matting, it is consistent with dags produced in the mid 1840’s (the early stage of daguerreotypes). By the 1850’s, the matting become more ornate. This is a great point that Jimmy raises and one that 20 years ago when I purchased the dag I looked into closely.”

The Cartwright daguerreotype may feature a hallmark that can determine the maker and date of production. If Edward and Henry T. Anthony produced it, the hallmarks would look like these examples above.(From Floyd and Marion Rinhart's 'The American Daguerreotype')

-Edward Anthony and Henry T. Anthony,  Cartwright’s teammates, operated one of the most successful daguerreotype studios in New York City at that time.  It is possible (if not likely) that such an image of the Knickerbocker team would have been produced by the Anthonys.

 -Jimmy Leiderman, 19th century photo collector and historian, provided us with an example of the hallmarks used by the Anthony Studio at the time Cartwright was playing for the club.

-Stay Tuned for More…….

-Steve Verkman and Clean Sweep Auctions recently offered another document likely stolen from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown.  The 1901 promisory note signed by John T. Brush appears to have originated from the “August Herrmann Papers” archive.

-John T. Brush promissory notes tied to the Cincinnati Reds are presently in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s collection, however, several others have been sold at auction over the past few decades.  Verkman did not respond to inquiries about the document and whether the document had ties to other suspected stolen documents he has sold in the past.  Verkman offered the document looking for an opening bid of $250, but the item failed to receive any bids, likely because collectors were aware of the probability the document was stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Seth Swirsky's "Buckner Ball" came with a letter from Arthur Richman attesting to its authenticity.

Seth Swirsky, the west-coast collector and songwriter, is offering his “Buckner Ball” from the 1986 World Series for sale on eBay at a price of $1 million.  Bidding ends exactly on the anniversary of Buckner’s 1986 mishap.  Swirsky purchased the ball for $64,000 from actor Charlie Sheen in a 2000 Lelands auction.

-Seth Swirsky purchased an 1879 contract of Boston player Ezra Sutton from the 1999 Barry Halper sale at Sotheby’s, but in July of 2009 it was discovered that the contract, also signed by Harry Wright, had been stolen from the New York Public Library’s famous Spalding Collection and the Harry Wright Correspondence Scrapbooks.  In 2009, Haulsofshame.com informed Swirsky that the contract was stolen, but he’s apparently been sitting on it ever since.  If his Buckner Ball fails to sell, he can blame it on a new Boston hex: “The Curse of Ezra Sutton.”

-Dorothy Seymour Mills helped the FBI determine Swirsky’s contract was stolen as her original research notes, housed at Cornell University, show that the contract was originally located in “Volume 2″ of the Harry Wright scrapbooks.  The contract was also featured in newspaper articles when the Spalding Collection was exhibited for the public at the NYPL in 1922.  

This letter from NYPL in 1953 to Dr. Harold Seymour proves that Swirsky's 1879 Ezra Sutton contract was stolen from the Spalding Collection. Swirsky purchased the contract at Sotheby's in 1999. (Courtesy Cornell Univ. Seymour Papers)

-Charlie Sheen, according to rumors,  is getting back into the collecting game in a big way.  Maybe he’ll try to get his Buckner ball back from Swirsky and undo the “Curse of Ezra Sutton.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Readers have alerted us to several other sales of the Mathewson “Won in the Ninth” books with secretarial signatures that have been authenticated by JSA and PSA. We have added them to the list. If  you know of any others (or have any other information we might find of interest contact us at: Tips@haulsofshame.com )