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By Dave Grob
May 30, 2012

This 1920 article written by Billy Evans evidences how prolific a signer the Bambino was even at the outset of his career as a Yankee.

A collector walks into a sports memorabilia shop and says to the proprietor, “Hey, I have something rare to show you. It’s a 1920s-1930s baseball signed by Babe Ruth.” The owner of the shop replies, “Very nice, very nice indeed…but here, take a look at this. This is something far rarer… it’s a 1920-1930s baseball that’s NOT signed by Babe Ruth.” Bad joke or apocryphal story, that’s for you to decide. What is not in doubt or dispute is that there has never been any real shortage of autographed Babe Ruth baseballs moving through the hobby.

I profess no level of expertise when it comes to evaluating the authenticity of autographs. I am not a collector of autographs and never have been. My decision not to collect them is not so much a commentary on my level of confidence in how these artifacts are authenticated as it is a personal collecting preference. Be that as it may, the recent series of articles provided by Hauls of Shame has at least aroused my curiosity with respect to gaining some insights into Babe Ruth; a man who can arguably be seen as one of, if not the most prolific inscriber of spheres in history. With each passing month and catalog or on-line auction offering, the question reverberates around the hobby; “where are all of these Ruth balls coming from?”

I decided to look for sources or data points outside of population reports that might offer insights into what might the population of Ruth signed baseballs actually be and why? Although it comes as no great surprise that Ruth signed thousands of baseballs over his lifetime, it might be surprising to some if I were to suggest that they number could very easily have been in the tens of thousands. I base this upon a survey of contemporary newspaper accounts that span from the early 1920s through the late 1940s. I will take a break while you read some of the examples I came across during the course of my research:

October 5th 1921; The Anniston Star: As part of the World Series coverage of the Yankees and the Giants it was noted that after the game, “Ruth disappeared into the club house, and came out a few minutes later with a handful of autographed baseballs for some charity workers.”

October 22nd 1923; The Olean Evening Herald: Ruth participates in a post season barnstorming game against the Buffalo Hewitts where “Hundreds of baseballs were autographed by the home-run king for the worshipping boys.”

December 11th 1924; The Ogden Standard: Article titled “When Not Hitting Home Runs, Ruth Throws Mean Signature” in which the author, Umpire Billy Evans, recounts that “Babe Ruth’s favorite diversion is autographing baseballs. A conservative estimate is ten thousand are given away each year as souvenirs.” Evans goes on to describe the appeal that Ruth has to fans all over the country. He even includes an account of what he witnessed on one occasions as being “One day last summer I went into the Yankee club house at New York to have Trainer Wood attend to a minor injury. It was an hour-before game time. Only Ruth and Wood were in the room at the time. The Babe was busy autographing balls as Wood removed them from the sealed boxes. Ruth was just finishing the last one of the six dozen. They were to be sent to charitable organizations all over the country.”

Babe Ruth signs several dozen baseballs in one sitting. It is interesting to note that he has not signed on the ball's "sweet spot."

June 15th 1925; The Oakland Tribune: “Envied of All Youths RAYMOND EVANS and his most-prized possession, a baseball autographed by Babe” Ruth. Raymond and his pal, HENRY SODERLUND, Alameda school boys, were awarded the prized balls for excellence in school sports”.

October 7th 1926; The Bridgeport Telegram: Headline reads “Sick Boy Improves When Baseballs Autographed By Ruth Come By Airplane.”

January 24th 1927; The San Antonio Light: Story from Long Beach, CA that states “Ruth has presented at his own expense, 200 dozen autographed baseballs to the boys since he started his vaudeville tour ten weeks ago.”

April 3rd 1928; The Decatur Daily Review: “A dozen baseballs, autographed by Babe Ruth, the home run king, will be among the hundreds of other prizes given by the Lions club in its annual Easter egg hunt to be staged Saturday in Fairview park.”

June 7th 1929; Jefferson City Post Tribune: Article recounts the story of 10 year old Billy Day, who while playing ball with friends, hit the ball across the alley into a neighbor’s yard. The neighbor, apparently tired of having to bother with the traffic and commotion of the boys playing, refused to give the ball back to Billy. Story was picked up by the wires and the Babe heard about it. End result was Ruth sent a dozen autographed baseballs to young Billy and his pals.

March 6th 1930; The Daily Herald; Biloxi and Gulfport Mississippi Coast: Article titled “Ruth Offers Help.” “Babe Ruth offered 1,000 autographed baseballs to sell or auction to aid in the rebuilding of Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home, a Catholic orphanage, of which was partially destroyed by fire Sunday with an attendant loss of approximately $75.000. Ruth, who rose from the playground of a similar home in Baltimore to the head of baseball’s swatters, wired the offer of assistance from St. Petersburg, Fla”.

December 1st 1930; The Hamilton Daily News: Short blurb type column titled “Candidate for Writer’s Cramp” cites Colliers Magazine as the source for the statement that “Babe Ruth signed 50,000 baseballs during the past year.”

Ruth signs dozens of balls for promotional purposes in 1929. (Photo Courtesy of Planet Giant)

June 19th 1931; Alton Evening Telegraph: As part of the coverage of the Browns-Yankees series in St. Louis “During the series with the Yankees the management of the Browns will give away 400 baseballs autographed by Babe Ruth. One hundred baseballs will be handed out to the fans each day the Yanks play in St. Louis”.

September 11th 1932; The Salt Lake Tribune: “Monsignor D. G. Hunt will present two Babe Ruth autographed baseballs to outstanding players, to be designated later, at the annual banquet in the fall.”

May 5th 1933; The Galveston Daily News: Story out of Detroit, Michigan bearing the headline “Ruth Sends Balls to Orphan Heroes.”  “In a Passaic. N. Y. orphanage live six boys who soon will add to their possession the priceless one of a league baseball autographed by Babe Ruth. The six baseballs were dispatched by the Bambino from Detroit today after the Yankees’ victory over the Tigers, when he heard the story of how the six boys flagged an express train yesterday near a track washout and prevented a wreck”.

January 8th 1934; The Daily Mail-Hagerstown, MD: Advertisement for the new Babe Ruth Boys Club sponsored by Esso. Lists the following items to be given away to the boys as 2600 autographed baseballs, 1300 Babe Ruth fielder’s gloves, and 50 vacation trips to Babe Ruth’s summer baseball camp.

June 27th 1934; The Evening Independent-Massillon, Ohio: Brief news blurb detailing Ruth’s pending appearance at an awards dinner for “newsies.” Ruth will be hand to present autographed baseballs to all the boys who were finalists in the circulation competition. August 6th 1934; The El Paso Herald-Post: “Babe Ruth autographed 10,000 baseballs, but it is hard to tell the difference between his autograph and that of Mr. Marshall Hunt, who often sat up with him all night helping him to sign bushels of balls for distribution to the souvenir hunters”.

June 4th 1935; The Paris News (Paris, TX): Baseballs autographed by Babe Ruth will be auctioned off after the Talihina Indians game with the proceeds going to benefit the local CCC Camp.

April 22nd 1937; Carthage Panola Watchman (Carthage, TX): Advertisement for the Babe Ruth radio show sponsored by Sinclair Oil. “Sinclair Refining Company, sponsors of the “Babe” Ruth microphone talks, also offers fans 522 prizes each week for the bust answers to a series of questions about baseball. Major prizes each week are two deluxe 1937 model Nash Ambassador Eight sedans and 20 RCA Victor Auto Radios. In addition, 500 Spalding Official National League baseballs “Babe Ruth autographed” will go to winners each week. Entry blanks in this Babe Ruth contest are being distributed without charge by Sinclair dealers in this community”.

June 19th 1939; The Hammond Times (Hammond, IN): Announcement is made that baseballs signed by Babe Ruth will be procured to give to fans as part of an old timer’s game.

July 11th 1940; The Ogden Standard Examiner: Coverage of baseball exhibition put on by Babe Ruth for area youth. Headline reads “One Time Batting Ace of Yankees Puts His Name To More Than 400 Baseballs, Cards and Programs At State Baseball Joust”.

May 5th 1947; Dunkirk Evening Observer (Dunkirk, NY): Story of Ruth entertaining 13 year old orphan Danny May in his Riverside Drive apartment. Danny May had won an essay contest of 100 words in length titled “Why I would like to meet Babe Ruth.” Ruth spoke at length with Danny, posed for pictures with him and autographed two balls for him.

Ruth autographs a ball in-person for a fan who visited his apartment on Riverside Dr. in 1945.

What impressed me most about what I found was not so much the potentially massive number, but the nature of these the accounts when viewed within a larger and more comprehensive personal context. We find Ruth autographed balls sent to help out or reward orphans in short order or on an impulse; some are tied to promotional purposes; and others may have been ghost signed by a man named Marshall Hunt (Sports Writer for the New York Daily News). What I think we see is that all of these sets of circumstances were consistent with the various facets of Ruth’s life; empathy for young children, a desire for monetary compensation, and the use of surrogates (similar to those who ghost wrote for the Babe). Interesting life parallels on a grand scale, but I guess that’s just how I see Ruth.

With respect to ghost or surrogate signers like Marshall Hunt, Hunt even admits to this in his passage from No Cheering in the Press Box (Jerome Holtzman, March 1995; page 22): The Babe had promised to autograph a couple of hundred baseballs. So he came down to my room and asked me to do him a favor. “What is it, Babe?” I asked him. “Well, there’s a bunch of baseballs on my bed. Will you autograph ‘em as fast as you can? And then just leave ‘em on the bed? I autographed about 250, and the Babe came back with Artie and knocked on my door. I was reading. He said, “I saw the baseballs and they’re good. Thank you a lot.” The next morning I was having breakfast and Babe came over to my table and said, “Say, kid, don’t get too good with that pen.”

Marshall Hunt's Sporting News obituary noted he covered the Yankees and was Ruth's "closest friend among the writers."

Getting back to thinking about the number of Ruth balls on the market, let’s consider what we could be dealing with if the total number signed was 100,000 and the survival rate was an anemic 20%. Mind you I consider both of these numbers to be extremely low (loved the Sandlot, but doubt that it happened with any great frequency), this would still leave us with 20,000 signed Ruth Baseballs. Why do I consider a top # of 100,000 and a surviving rate of 20,000 to be low? Let’s begin with the top number as seen within the context of span of time. For the sake of argument, let’s consider a 30 year span from 1916-1945. By 1916 Ruth was well established on the National stage, and by 1945 he would have just completed providing his public support in the form of appearances at War Bond drives and rallies. All in all, prime signing years as far as I’m concerned. Over this 30 year span, Ruth would have only needed to have averaged signing just over 3,300 balls a year to hit that 100,000 mark. Consider the figure thrown out by Colliers Magazine in 1930 of 50,000 baseballs. If the actual number was only half of that (25,000), Ruth would have reached the 100,000 mark be stringing together only four years like this during our 30 year span. My point being, even for allowing for inflated numbers and exaggeration, I just don’t see 100,000 baseballs over a 30 period as being anything but a conservative number. As far as what the survival rate might be, here too I have tried to work with a very conservative number of 20%. To hit that 20% number, it means that 4 out 5 of the recipients or families/descendants did not know enough or care enough about the ball to have saved it or passed it along.

In my mind, these are various factors that I think make the 20% survival rate a very low estimate. 1. The nature of the Ruth signature itself makes it very easy to recognize. By this I mean in just looking at it, it is very easy to read and identify the signature as being “Babe Ruth.” 2. Since we would have very little trouble looking at the ball and being able to say this was signed by someone named “Babe Ruth”, here is where the value of name recognition comes into play. With the exception of Scotty Smalls, I just have hard time believing that this name would not resonate with 4 out 5 people who saw it. All of that being considered, lets further assume that of that surviving 20%, half of those were ghost signed. This still would leave some 10,000 Ruth signed baseballs on the market. What does a 10,000 number mean? It means that 200 collectors in each of our 50 States could have a Babe Ruth baseball in their collections. Mind you, to this point, we have not even introduced any number of balls into this population that are outright forgeries. I will leave that estimate to others who follow this market and item far more closely than I do. In the end, is an unsigned 1920-1930s Ruth baseball rarer than a signed one? Of course it’s not. At the same time collectors of such items need to have some idea of the market factors, that to date, have not been qualified or quantified by industry experts or professionals in any real degree of specificity, or at least substantiated in a reasoned manner with respect to quantity. Might this be because the standards of expectation and work in this area are the same as they have been for uniforms for decades; that being “it’s good because I said so” and it “came from an impeccable source.” I think we all deserve better, but that’s just me.

The "Babe's Ghost" of "Ghost-Signed"?

As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect. But in my mind, the more you actually and objectively know about the items in your collection, the better off we all are.

Dave Grob


By Dave Grob

May 25, 2012

Microscopic analysis of Ruth's name stitched in the jersey's collar was a key to Grob's authentication process.

Much has been asked in recent days about the process of evaluating Babe Ruth’s 1920 New York Yankees road uniform that was sold last weekend by Sports Cards Plus for $4.4 million.   On Monday, the MEARS office received a call from New York radio station WFAN asking if we would consent to an interview about my authentication of the garment.  While on the air I was able to describe the evaluation process without the listeners having the ability to view the supporting images and other evidence found in the report I issued for SCP Auctions.  The purpose of this article is to present some of the imagery analysis found in that report and to shed some further light on what I looked for and how it was done.

To begin with, even before I took possession of the uniform, I asked that I be provided with images of the artifact. I did this so I could begin to gather references and information to support the larger effort. One of the first things I wanted to do was to try to establish when the uniform was from.
In looking at the images, I saw that the jersey was without any sort of supplemental tagging or identification used to denote the year of issuance. This is not atypical or unusual for uniforms of the period that I have researched and evaluated in the past. A combination of factors permitted a very general and initial time frame to be established and that was the period of 1920-1926.

(PLATE I)

Babe Ruth Yankees: 1920-1934
New York Front: 1920-1926; 1931-1934
Numbers on Back of Yankee Uniforms: 1929-1934 (No number on the back of this jersey)
Style of Spalding Manufacturers Tag: c 1915-1928

In looking at Yankee road uniforms that feature “NEW YORK” across the front chest, you will find the lettering placement (when viewed in relation to the button line/placket) is fairly consistent from year to year. This is not something unique or particular to the period in question. This uniform features the “Y” in “YORK” placed on the placket itself. In order to better approximate the date of this jersey, a survey of period images was conducted using a variety of photographic references that included but was not limited to:

Photographic References

Print; Team/Subject Specific
-New York Aces: The First 75 Years by Mark Rucker
-New York Yankees: The First 25 Years by Luisi
-New York Sluggers: The First 75 Years by Mark Rucker
-New York Yankees Seasons of Glory by Hageman & Wilbert
-The Babe: The Game that Ruth Built by Ritter & Rucker
-The New York Yankees: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig
-The New York Yankees 1901-1961 (from the sports pages collection of the Caren Archive)
-The Yankees: An Illustrated History by Sullivan & Powers
-Yankees Baseball: The Golden Age by Bak

Print; General:
-The Image of Their Greatness (An Illustrated History of Baseball from 1900-Present) by Ritter and Honig
-The Lively Ball: Baseball in the Roaring Twenties by Cox
-Baseball: The Illustrated History of America’s Game by Donald Honig
-The American League: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig
-The American league: A History by Zoss & Bowman
-The Story of Baseball: A Completely Illustrated and Exciting History of America’s National Game (Revised) by Rosenberg
-The Pictorial History of Baseball by Bowman & Zoss
-The Chronicle of Baseball: A Century of Major League Action by Mehno
-Baseball: A Celebration by Buckley & Gigliotti
-Baseball 100 Years of the Modern Era (1901-2000) by The Sporting News
-Baseball: An Illustrated History by Voight

Film:
BASEBALL by Ken Burns
Greatest Sports Legends: Babe Ruth

On-Line:
Getty Images
Corbis Images
Photographs of the Chicago Daily News (1902-1933)
Boston Public Library

Although Ruth was not acquired by the Yankees until January 3, 1920, I wanted to account for the possibility (in images) that Ruth could be found in a jersey carried over from a previous season. I did not suspect this offered jersey was a carryover from an earlier season (although this alignment is common to the 1918-1919 period as well) since Ruth’s name is found embroidered in the jersey. What is possible though is that photos of Ruth in 1920 may depict him a jersey produced in 1919 for another player. What I found is this alignment is most closely associated with the uniforms produced and worn during the 1920 season as it relates to this uniform. After 1920, the “Y” in “YORK” appears to be affixed to the left of the placket in various places and distances. (PLATES II-XXVII)

Once I felt comfortable with the dating of the uniform to 1920, I then began to consider what would an appropriate sized garment be for Ruth at this point in his career? The jersey was without any sort of supplemental tagging to denote the size. This too is not atypical or unusual for uniforms of the period that I have researched and evaluated in the past. Static references (those that don’t account for change over time) for Ruth indicate:

Baseball Reference.com: 6’2”; 215 lbs
Baseball Almanac.com: 6’2”; 215 lbs
The Baseball Encyclopedia: 6’2”; 215 lbs
Total Baseball: 6’2”; 215 lbs

Whenever possible, I like to work from sizing data that is taken from period or contemporary references. As for now, my library of Who’s Who in Baseball does not go back past 1927. I found that the superbly written and researched effort by Robert Creamer, Babe: The Legend Comes to Life, offered some valuable insights:

Year specific data for Ruth shows:
1914: 185 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
1917: 194 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
1919: 215 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
Spring Training 1920: 200 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
Post 1920 Season: 245 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
February 1922: 220 lbs (7 February Boston Daily Globe)
Opening Day 1923: 215 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
January 1925: 256 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
December 1925: 222 lbs (24 December Alton Evening Telegraph)
Spring Training 1926: 212 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)

Creamer recounts actual measurements for Ruth from the period 1925-1926; most notably a chest measurement of between 43” (normal) and 45” (expanded). Given the cut and fit of uniforms of the period, I should expect to find a jersey worn by Ruth during this period to be in the size 46-48 range.
The jerseys measured out to approximately a size 48 across the chest. This, too, is consistent with a citation in Creamer’s book where Ruth’s top size is identified as a size 48 (page 287).

At this point in time I was comfortable with the dating and the size, but these are only issues or data points that most would consider periphery at best; but what about the garment itself? There are various things I looked for. The first of which was to ensure we were dealing with a major league quality garment. Without getting too far off track, I will spend a bit of time on the issue of fabrics from the period. The typical major league quality garment of the period was constructed of an 8oz. wool flannel. What this weight refers to is the weight of one square yard of fabric. It is possible to determine the quality or grade of the fabric in an unobtrusive manner by examining the weave under a digital microscope and then conducting some comparative analysis of period products in various grades.

I am able to perform this type of analysis because I have invested in period fabric samples that come in form of manufacturers’ fabric sample catalogs and actual period uniforms. The comparative analysis was conducted using a digital microscope that allows me compare the weave. What I saw when performing this examination was that the weave or quality of the fabric was, in fact, consistent with what I would have expected to find in a period Major League offering manufactured by Spalding. (PLATE XXVIII)

Moving forward, this is where the value of the dating and performing imagery analysis come into play. In doing that body of work up front, it provided me with various physical characteristics I should have expected to find in this jersey. Those included but were not limited to:

-A particular orientation and alignment of the lettering of “NEW YORK” across the placket
-Font style used for the lettering.
-The presence of a “sun style” collar.
-The presence of Set-In Sleeve vs Raglan Sleeves
-Sleeve length and whether they were trimmed, and if so, where they left un-hemmed
-Style of buttons
-Style of underarm gusset

In short, what I am doing is creating both a physical and mental template of what “right should look like” and then I can see how the jersey in question stacks up.

What I found was that the jersey was, in fact, constructed of professional grade wool flannel that was consistent with period Major League Spalding exemplars. I also found no discriminators or discrepancies with the previous mentioned physical characteristics. One thing I did notice was that the sleeves had been cut and left un-hemmed. Because of the previous imagery analysis, I knew this was something that could be found for Ruth during the period of 1920-1922. I did not look for this much past 1922 since this was well beyond the dating of the jersey. (PLATES 29-37)

One area of the construction of the jersey that deserved special attention was the supplemental player identification of “Ruth G.H.” that was found chain stitched into the rear of the collar. This is the single most important physical characteristic of the garment that ties it to the player in question. The first thing I did was examine the collar area in great detail to ensure the various fabric panels had not been opened up, post manufacturer, to accommodate the application of this embroidery. This was done using UV lighting, a light table, as well as digital microscope and the results of my inspection showed this area to have been free of any alterations or signs of contrived application. The next thing I did was examine the color of the thread used for this player identification. To the naked eye, the thread appears faded to almost a pinkish color. What experience and reliance on period exemplars shows me is that even through the course of legitimate use, wear, and fading, the color of the thread where it enters and exits the body of the garment should remain darker as it has not been exposed to the elements in the same manner as the exposed thread. In the case of this jersey, I found what I should have expected to have found, darker thread and the point of entry and exit. (PLATE 38)

Because the lettering of the “New York” was affixed with a straight stitch, and some of these stitches had popped or pulled free from the wool felt fabric, I was also able to examine the fade of the underside of the felt using a digital microscope. This examination also showed that the color of the unexposed wool felt had retained its original navy blue color as opposed to the faded fabric that had been exposed to the elements. (PLATE 39)

I found all of this to have been consistent with the overall use and wear to the jersey, which was assessed as being heavy. The heavy and consistent use and wear was found in the surface condition of the body of the garment that included soiling and staining as well as a couple of fabric repairs; most notable of these areas of repair included a 25mm area in the right rear of the collar as well as a 20mm by 20mm repair in the lower left front tail. There is also separation in the anchor stitching used to affix the Spalding manufacturers label in the collar as well as a slight tear to tag itself. None of that calls into question the legitimacy of the Spalding tag as it remained firmly affixed otherwise. The interior finishing of the joining of the front and rear panels of the garment appeared very rough in cut and construction. To me, this possibly suggested the jersey may have been taken in at some point in time. This may have occurred during subsequent use by another player or done to facilitate the fluctuations of Ruth’s weight as depicted in Cramer’s work (The index of the book contains eight (8) separate references under the heading of “weight fluctuations” (page 440).

By this point in the process I had conducted imagery analysis, which supported dating and establishing of a template of what I should have expected to find. I had also conducted a detailed physical inspection of the garment that included comparative analysis in order to assess fabric quality. The physical inspection also focused on trying to locate and identify any signs of contrived use, wear, manufacturer, or alterations; of which I found none. It was with this body of work, information, and supporting data that I looked to form an opinion on what I thought this artifact was and why. For me, that resulted in the opinion that the jersey possessed all the characteristics that I would expect to see in a road uniform manufactured by Spalding 1920 for use and wear by Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees.

The final step of the process involved the grading of the jersey. The MEARS worksheet and grading criteria provides for 5 categories for which points may deducted
I found these reasons to deduct points:

Category 1: -.0 for cut/un-hemmed sleeves.
No points deducted for this because images conform Ruth wearing cut sleeves on his uniforms during the period of 1920-1922. As such, this is considered a player characteristic for Ruth during this time frame.
Category 5: -.5 x 2 for repairs to front and collar (total of -1)
-.5 for broken anchor stitching on collar/Spalding tag
-.5 for soiling staining and minor fabric holes

As such, the final grade for this jersey was that of an A8.

With all this information laid out, much has been said about the fact the history or provenance of the jersey has not been traced back to 1920 or even any date in that proximity. While this would have certainly been nice to have, I hope you can see that no story, no matter how compelling would have any appreciable effect on these observations and subsequent analysis. At the end of the day, the artifact is what it is and what I endeavor to do is to objectively research it and then provide a reasoned opinion based on a body of work that someone can consider for themselves. At that point in time they are free to draw their own conclusions as to what it is, or is not, and why they hold the opinion that they do.

As my WFAN interview with Mike Francesa closed, Mike asked me about the cost of the work on this jersey. I declined to provide that exact figure. What I did not get a chance to explain is that the fee charged for this work is set and provided up front. The fee is the same for an opinion that results in showing a jersey as being problematic. There is never any condition or stipulation that paying the fee gets you the opinion you had hoped for. Likewise, there is never any condition or stipulation that provides an incentive or bonus if the jersey sells for a record price as was the case here. In my mind, my loyalties are to the process and the artifact in question.

My hope is that this article has provided you with some insight into the process used to evaluate this uniform and how I formed my opinion.

Click Here For: Entire Imagery Analysis Report For The Babe Ruth Jersey (39 pages)

Dave Grob
Senior Baseball Uniform Researcher
MEARS


By Peter J. Nash

May 23, 2012

The chain stitched name of Ruth in the collar of the $4.4 mil jersey helped Dave Grob in the authentication process.

News of the record-breaking sale of Babe Ruth’s c.1920 Yankee jersey for $4.4 million spread like wildfire through the mainstream media this week. The most expensive baseball artifact of all-time, purchased by Lelands auction house, was a prime topic of conversation ranging from tweets by CNBCs Darren Rovell to a story in The New York Times by Richard Sandomir.  The jersey was even a talking point on sports-talk radio at WFAN and the YES Network in New York City.

WFAN/YES host, Mike Francesa, had the auctioneer who sold the jersey, David Kohler of SCP Auctions, on the air for a live interview that turned contentious as Kohler hung up on Francesa when he pressed him on how the jersey was authenticated. Francesa asked, “How can you guarantee that jersey was actually worn by Babe Ruth?” Francesa then invited MEARS authenticator (and Hauls of Shame contributor) Dave Grob on the air to explain the authentication process. Grob explained the work that went into his report authenticating the jersey for SCP and stated that he stood by his opinion when Francesa asked, “Would you put a gun to your head that that was a Ruth worn jersey?”

Francesa’s great skepticism is warranted and due, in part, to the historic frauds and fakes that have flooded the sports memorabilia market for decades. In the course of his interview Francesa asked Grob, “Barry Halper, the fabric and stuff, the fibers it turned out were not even made in the years that the jerseys were supposed to be.”  Francesa was alluding to the infamous “Shoeless Joe” Jackson jersey that collector Barry Halper had sold to Major League Baseball and the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and was later confirmed by Hall officials to be a forgery in October of 2010.  (Hauls of Shame was the first to call it a forgery in a report we released in August of that same year.)  Grob responded to Francesa saying, “I’ve looked at some of those (Halper) uniforms that have come up in dispute and you can typically find more than one thing wrong with a problematic uniform.”

Francesa also posed a few questions regarding the provenance of the record-breaking Ruth jersey that was sold asking Grob, “How do you trace where the uniform has been all these years?  Where was it in 1930, 1940, 1950, where was it?  SCP auctions offered no information about the provenance of the jersey other than the fact that it was once loaned to the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore, Md.  Sources indicate that the jersey was originally owned by a New York collector who loaned the jersey to the Ruth Museum.  The owner, we’re told, passed away while the jersey was still on loan and his heirs sold the jersey in a private sale for less than a million dollars to another collector who, in turn, consigned it to SCP Auctions.

Grob honestly answered Francesa regarding prior ownership, to his knowledge, saying, “I have no idea.”  Grob told Francesa that while he considered provenance a nice thing to consider it was actually the last thing he would look at.  Said Grob, “It can never make an item into something it is not.”

Francesa still pressed the point, “But if you can’t trace possession, doesn’t it scare you that it might not be authentic?”  Grob added that provenance could “only help an item.”  While Grob may hear about the history of a jersey, his past experience has shown him that many of those stories have been fabricated, just like the forged jerseys presented to him for examination.

But Francesa’a skepticism continued as he asked, “This is a business that is, that is rampant with fraud.  I mean, how much of Barry Halper’s stuff was fraudulent?  I mean, enormous amounts of it were fraudulent.”

Halper's alleged 1920 autographed Ruth jersey was featured in a 1989 feature article for Smithsonian Magazine.

Ironically, Francesa’s inclusion of Halper in this conversation was more fitting than he knew since it was Barry Halper who first claimed to possess Babe Ruth’s first Yankee uniform from 1920,  and it was the current buyer of the $4.4 million dollar jersey, Josh Evans and Lelands, that he made that claim to back in 1990. It was at the same time that  Halper showed off the garment in a Smithsonian Magazine feature article written by Ruth’s biographer Robert Creamer.

In his August, 1990, “Balls in the Attic” column in Sports Collectors Digest, Evans featured a “Barry’s Top Ten” list, which featured the Ruth jersey as the number two  artifact in the Halper Collection.  Noting that the jersey was signed in the collar Evans quoted Halper as saying, “This was the uniform that prompted me to have the other uniforms autographed in the neck.  The Babe has always been my favorite because of his charisma and the way he took the time to be with kids. ”

The jersey was one of the the crown jewels of the Halper collection as reported by Connoisseur Magazine in 1990: “Among the rarities…..Babe Ruth’s autographed uniform of 1920, his first year with the Yankees; and Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Chicago uniform of 1919….”  In conjunction with that 1990 article the Associated Press quoted Halper bragging, “Just in Babe Ruth uniforms, I’ve got a million dollars.”

Halper had first revealed his source of Ruth’s alleged first Yankee home jersey to his friend Bill Madden five years earlier in a feature story for The Sporting News.  Halper described to Madden his acquisitions of many rare 19th century jerseys from a retired Brooklyn Dodger named Ollie O’Mara.  Halper alleged that O’Mara had sold him jerseys of Hall of Famers like Wilbert Robinson and Hughie Jennings.  Halper told Madden, “He had all of them because he knew all of them!  A few months later he called me and matter-of-factly told me he had come across Babe Ruth’s first Yankee uniform, autographed!”

Halper claimed to have purchased many of his baseball uniform rarities from ex-Brooklyn Dodger Ollie O'Mara. However, Halper never revealed if he was aware of O'Mara's rap sheet as the "gambling kingpin of Kenosha, Wisconsin." O'Mara appeared (above) in the Milwaukee Journal of Dec. 21, 1950 along with his associate, Ralph Capone (brother of mobster Al Capone) as subjects in a 1950 Senate crime investigation in Chicago.

However, in the course of our 2010 investigation into Halper’s bogus 1919 Joe Jackson jersey, we uncovered new information when we contacted Ollie O’Mara’s son in Reno, Nevada, in regard to the Wilbert Robinson jersey that Halper sold at Sotheby’s in 1999.  The jersey was determined to be a counterfeit along with many others alleged to have originated with O’Mara.  Here is what we reported after O’Mara’s son informed us his father never had a baseball collection and was rendered penniless and a fugitive after being indicted in an organized crime investigation in Chicago in the 1950s:

“ Another jersey questioned was a purported 1894 Baltimore uniform of Hall-of-Famer Wilbert Robinson, which was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 for $27,600. The same jersey sold in Legendary Auctions’ March, 2010 sale for less than $2,000. Legendary’s lot description confirmed the jersey’s problems: “Our consignor paid over $25,000 for this garment as being a Wilbert Robinson Baltimore jersey…we were uniquely qualified to definitively confirm that this was not the case…” Legendary based its negative opinion on having handled an authentic 1895 uniform consigned by the family of Oriole Bill Hoffer in 2009. The Hoffer jersey confirmed that Halper’s Robinson was not authentic. The Hoffer garment was positively identified in original Baltimore team photos from 1895, while the Robinson jersey failed to match any documented uniforms in photos from the era. Legendary also stated that it had “destroy(ed) the paperwork that accompanied the jersey…” Those papers included letters of authenticity from Sotheby’s, Grey Flannel Authentication and Robert Lifson , a Halper associate who was lead consultant for the Sotheby’s sale.

So where did Halper’s Wilbert Robinson jersey come from? In a 1985 Sporting News profile of Halper’s uniform collection, the then New York Yankee minority owner stated that he’d acquired the Baltimore jersey from ex-Brooklyn Dodger Ollie O’Mara, who actually played for Wilbert Robinson in the 1916 World Series. O’Mara, who died in 1989 as the oldest living MLB player at 98, however, was also involved in the gaming business and was the subject of a major 1950 crime investigation along with gangster Al Capone’s brother, Ralph. In 1950, the Chicago Daily Tribune went as far to call him the “gambling king” of Kenosha, Wisconsin. O’Mara experienced an assortment of arrests through the 1940s and in 1950 he was indicted in Kenosha as part of the Kefauver crime investigation. According to reports in the Milwaukee Journal in 1966, O’Mara fled Kenosha in 1950 and was a fugitive from justice for fifteen years until he was located by a Milwaukee Journal reporter in Las Vegas.

O’Mara’s son, William, an attorney in Reno, Nevada, confirmed his father’s legal troubles, but noted that by 1968 ”those indictments were quashed in Kenosha.” When asked if his father ever had vintage uniforms he sold to Barry Halper, O’Mara replied, “No, as long as he was with me from 1968 until his death (in 1989) he never sold anything, because he never had anything. I’m not disputing that Mr. Halper had a jersey from Wilbert Robinson, but I doubt seriously if he got it from my dad during any period after 1950.” O’Mara also indicated that after the 1950 indictment in Kenosha his father ”became a very shy man.” When asked to comment further on Halper’s claims of purchases from his father O’Mara said, “It’s easy to indicate that you acquired these items from somebody that you know is not up front- I mean, there’s no way you could have found my dad during the period from 1950 to 1968.” In addition, O’Mara said his father “lost all of his money as a result of the Kefauver investigation in 1950.”

When Ollie O’Mara was interviewed in 1981 by The New York Times after throwing out the first pitch at a Dodger game, the only piece of memorabilia he referenced ever saving was his personal scrapbook from his Dodger days as a teammate of Casey Stengel. George Vecsey wrote how O’Mara had even lost that scrapbook. Ollie O’Mara told Vecsey, “A few years ago I took my scrapbook on a train, and the porter threw it out with the newspapers.”

In the 1991 edition of Total Baseball, Halper (with Bill Madden) wrote about his alleged acquisition of nineteenth century Baltimore Oriole uniforms from Ollie O’Mara. Halper stated, “Apparently O’Mara maintained a close friendship with (Wilbert) Robinson. That is the only explanation I can offer for the fact that he had in his possession the 1894 Baltimore Orioles uniforms…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, but baseball historians can be forever grateful that he preserved much of the game’s valuable past.”

No doubt, Halper’s alleged first Ruth Yankee jersey was a counterfiet featuring a forged signature of the Bambino and a fabricated provenance tale involving Ollie O’Mara.  The alleged jersey vanished from the Halper Collection sometime before the record-breaking Sotheby’s sale of his holdings in 1999, and its whereabouts are currently unknown.  Whether it was sold privately or found to be a forgery by authenticators prior to the Sotheby’s sale is not known.  ”Halper Stories” like this one are the reason why Dave Grob told Mike Francesa that he looks at the provenance of an item last.

Twenty-two years after he listed Halper’s bogus 1920 Ruth jersey as the number two item in the Halper Collection, Josh Evans and Mike Hefner of Lelands can rest assured the jersey they purchased at SCP for $4.4 million is authentic.  Dave Grob’s opinion, based upon his examination of the jersey, and the report issued for the highly acclaimed garment can attest to that.


By Peter J. Nash

May 17, 2012

David Wells dons his Babe Ruth hat for an interview promoting the current SCP auction.

Former Yankee pitcher David Wells once donned a game-used Babe Ruth hat on the mound when he faced the Cleveland Indians on June 27, 1998. Boomer says he paid $35,000 for the hat with “G. Ruth” stitched into the lid and that same hat has a bid of over $200,000 now that Wells has put it up for sale.  The auction house selling it notes there is a reserve on the hat which has not yet been met.

Sports Cards Plus’ current auction also features another relic related to Ruth not owned by Wells, his c.1920 Yankee jersey that has already attracted bids exceeding $1.6 million. The retired pitcher, who once pitched a perfect game for the Yanks, appears to have chosen the right time to sell his Ruth cap and could make quite a score if the bidding reaches his secret reserve.

In an industry riddled with fraud and deception, Wells can consider himself lucky to exit the hobby with a nice return on his investment for a hat that expert Dave Grob considers authentic. The only attribute of the hat that ties it to game use by Ruth is the chain-stitched name in the interior leather band. Examination of the stitching by an expert like Grob can make or break such an item that has no clear provenance or photographic documentation as having once been on the Bambino’s head. Grob examined the stitching and told us, “It is really the only thing you have to tie the hat to Ruth as a matter of practicality.” As for the hat Grob says, “I found no issues with it at all.  Very nice artifact.”

Wells, however, wasn’t as lucky with another artifact that was presented to him as being the last jersey the Babe ever wore as a major leaguer for the Boston Braves in 1935. This past summer, Wells appeared on FOX Sports’ television show, “Cheap Seats,” to showcase his collection/man-cave in his San Diego home and pointed to one display case with the alleged Ruth jersey. Wells told the audience, “Here’s my jerseys.  Babe Ruth’s last year as a Boston Brave.”  Wells pointed to the jersey he thought was Ruth’s last, relying on the representations made to him by the sellers and auctioneers who had handled the garment previously.

Unfortunately for Wells, the jersey was actually from 1934, not 1935, and was worn by Wally Berger, not Ruth.   Berger also wore number “3″ for the Braves from 1932 to 1934, before Ruth’s arrival.  SCP is selling the eight item stash known as “The David Wells Collection,” and Ruth’s alleged “last jersey” is now correctly being sold as a “1933-34 Wally Berger Boston Braves Game Worn Road Jersey.”  Based upon Dave Grob’s report, the auction house has also added to the lot title: “With Possible 1935 Attribution to Babe Ruth.”  SCP says Grob was unable to “attribute this jersey to Babe Ruth in any exclusive or definitive manner, though does allow for the possibility that Ruth could have worn it in Spring Training of 1935. In addition to their shared uniform number that was transferred to Ruth in 1935, Berger and Ruth were similar in stature.”  The jersey currently has a bid of $15,700.

The jersey was once authenticated by Grey Flannel and sold previously at Robert Edward Auctions in 1997 for $56,025. It was advertised as a “1935 Babe Ruth Boston Braves Jersey.”  The auction house said the jersey was accompanied by a letter from Wally Berger’s widow stating that the jersey was given to her husband by Ruth after his last game in 1935.  She wrote, “Wally, in admiration of the Babe asked if he could have his last shirt.  Babe responded, “Sure kid,” and gave Wally the shirt.”

REA sold the current jersey owned by David Wells as a Babe Ruth Boston Braves jersey game-used in 1935. The jersey was thought to be Ruth;s last based on an alleged letter from Wally Berger's widow. The jersey sold for over $50,000.

Dave Grob recently examined the Braves jersey for SCP and determined it was Berger’s jersey used in either 1933 or 1934.  The alleged Mrs. Berger story about Ruth’s last game appears to be an impossibility.  The auction house claims it could have been possible Ruth wore the jersey in spring training of 1935, but there’s no proof he ever did. The alleged LOA from Mrs. Berger was the jersey’s only tie to Ruth and is included with the lot at the SCP auction.  It has not definitively been proven that Berger’s widow actually wrote that letter, either.

SCP also does not include in its write-up the fact that when REA sold the jersey in 1997 its source was identified as dealer and collector Tony Cocchi. The letter allegedly written by Mrs. Wally Berger stated, “Wally kept the shirt in his baseball collection until his death (on) November 30, 1988.  I decided to part with the shirt and I am now happy it is in the collection of Tony Cocchi.”

Cocchi had supplied the top auctions and dealers with big-ticket items for decades but became a controversial figure in the memorabilia business with his 2006 indictment in Cobb County, Ga., when he was accused of selling collector Dr. Goodman Espy a bogus Ty Cobb jersey in 1991 for $85,000.  In 2007, a jury found Cocchi not guilty of charges of theft by deception in relation to the Cobb jersey.   Espy vowed to pursue Cocchi in civil litigation and at the time told the New York Daily News, “I may have lost the battle, but I will not lose the war.”

The misrepresentation at auction of the alleged Ruth/Berger jersey and the problems with the letter allegedly written by Wally Berger’s widow are compounded by Cocchi’s being the source of the garment.  Cocchi also furnished REA with a photo of Ruth signed to him by Berger’s widow stating, “Tony I am glad that you have this shirt.”  When REA sold the jersey in 1997 as Ruth’s own they also tied Cocchi to ownership of Babe Ruth’s alleged “last bat.”  REA wrote, “As a 20 year veteran collector Tony Cocchi notes in his accompanying letter detailing the Berger collection, this jersey and ball were originally accompanied by Babe Ruth’s last bat.  This bat was long ago traded away by Tony and now rests comfortably in the legendary and incomparable Barry Halper Collection.”

Babe Ruth's alleged last bat was sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby's in 1999 and at REA in 2001. In 1997 REA said it was acquired by Tony Cocchi from Wally Berger's widow.

When Barry Halper sold that alleged “last bat” of Ruth at Sotheby’s in 1999 it was accompanied by another similar letter alleged to have been written by Mrs. Wally Berger.  The Sotheby’s catalogue published an excerpt:  ”Wally asked Babe if he could have his last bat as a keepsake- Babe responded, “Sure kid” to Wally. Wally kept the bat in his collection until his death on November 30, 1998.”  Based upon the Berger provenance the bat sold for close to $80,000.  (REA sold the bat again in 2001 for $59,662.)  Although REA said Cocchi traded the bat to Halper, the Sotheby’s LOA allegedly written by Berger’s widow mentions her transfer of ownership of the bat to Halper, not Cocchi.

With Mrs. Berger’s alleged story of Wally’s acquisition of Ruth’s last jersey being disproved, how can her story about the bat still be believed?  The Ruth bat could likely join a host of other fraudulent and misrepresented items from the Halper Collection including:  “Shoeless Joe” Jackson’s 1919 jersey; Lou Gehrig’s Last Glove; The shotgun that Killed Ty Cobb’s father; Halper’s signed 500 HR Club sheet; a Lock of Babe Ruth’s hair; and a large group of other bogus jerseys attributed to Baseball Hall of Famers.

Wells’ Other Items in the SCP Auction include:

- An alleged single-signed baseball by Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson.  Another alleged Mathewson signed ball sold for over $110,000 at MLB’s All-Star Game auction in 2005.  But the ball being offered by Wells has red flags waving in SCP’s own auction description.  The auction house says the ball comes with a letter of authenticity from the company JSA (James Spence Authentication), but they also add:  ”This ball was submitted to PSA/DNA who rendered an opinion of Not Authentic.” So is it real or fake?  Most experts agree with PSA on this one and, as evidenced in one of our recent reports, both JSA and PSA have authenticated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bogus Mathewson balls.  One other Mathewson item Wells consigned to SCP is genuine.  It’s a WW I document actually signed by the “Christian Gentleman.”

SCP is offering David Wells' 1942 Negro League baseball allegedly signed by Josh Gibson and other stars.

-A Negro League baseball from 1942 allegedly signed by Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and a host of other obscure and rare legends from the Homestead Grays and K.C. Monarchs.   SCP states:  ”Our research indicates that this ball was most certainly game used from one of those teams classic battles during the 1942 season.”  But the ball is clearly not an official Negro League baseball from that time period and several experts we spoke with doubt the authenticity of all the signatures on the ball.  The signatures appear to be at odds with exemplars from a period document signed by Homestead Grays players that is part of the Newark Public Library’s “Effa Manley Collection.”

-A Derby Cap alleged to have been signed by Lou Gehrig in Columbus, Ohio, in 1928.  The cap was sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby’s in 1999 and is accompanied by a photo alleged to show Gehrig wearing the same hat.  An inscription appears on the interior silk lining of the cap: “”To Pops Lunken, The Al Smith of Dayton, Ohio, Most Sincerely from ‘Lou’ Gehrig.”

We couldn’t get any of the experts we asked to opine that this Gehrig signature was a forgery, however, we couldn’t get anyone to commit to an opinion that it was genuine either.

Phil Rizzuto's glove from his rookie season in 1941 is accompanied by an LOA from Rizzuto to Barry Halper.

-Rounding out SCP’s “David Wells Collection” are a few other items that appear to be genuine:  Thurman Munson’s shin guards and Phil Rizzuto’s glove from his rookie season in 1941.  The glove is accompanied by a LOA from Rizzuto to Halper stating:  “To Barry – this is the glove I used my rookie year and my first World Series, 1941 – P.S. take good care of it – it took good care of me – your friend – Phil Rizzuto.”

Looks like Wells went at least 4 for 8 with this group of baseball treasures. (5 for 8, if the Gehrig signature in the cap is genuine.)

UPDATE (May 18th): Discovery of Rare Negro-League Autograph and Baseball Expert Cast More Doubt on David Wells Ball- One of our readers sent us a newly discovered document from the Newark Public Library’s “Effa Manley Papers Collection” that casts further doubt on David Wells’ alleged 1942 Negro League signed baseball.  The document is a receipt for payments made to players for the 1944 Negro East-West all-star game. All of the players and coaches receiving payments for that game had to sign the document, including “Candy Jim” Taylor.

It is unclear what exemplars PSA/DNA used to authenticate the "Candy Jim" Taylor signature on David Wells' alleged signed Negro-League ball being offered by SCP. (Taylor signature from the "Effa Manley Papers"-Newark Public Library.)

Wells’ ball also features an alleged signature of  ”Candy Jim” Taylor, one of the rarest Negro League autographs in existence.  But the exemplar on the authentic team-signed document from the Newark Public Library differs significantly from what appears to be a partially printed signature on the ball being sold at SCP.  The Taylor exemplar used in Kevin Keating’s book also appears to be in the same hand as the example from the “Effa Manley Papers.”  Several authentic exemplars exist for Josh Gibson and other Negro-League rarities, but not Taylor.  The experts we spoke with are of the opinion the Wells ball does not include an authentic Taylor signature.  The exemplars PSA/DNA used to authenticate this rare signature are unknown.

In addition, baseball expert Brandon Grunbaum of “HistoryoftheBaseball.com,” confirmed that the Wells baseball was not an official Negro League ball that would have seen game use.

“It’s definitely not an Official Negro League Ball. They were made mainly by Wilson, and an American League by Rawlings. It does look like a Worth ball, or even just an “Official” brand,” Grunbaum said.

-


By Peter J. Nash

May 11, 2012

This Peck & Snyder trade card of the 1868 Atlantics was likely offered for sale in 1871, not 1868.

The 2012 Spring auction season is upon us and collectors have had thousands of lots to choose from in several sales. Anything and everything is up for grabs.  Here are some 19th-century rarities being offered in Robert Edward Auctions’ current sale that we can offer some additional information on:

1. REA, Lot 21: 1868 Atlantic BBC Peck & Snyder trade card-  The auction house describes this card as, “being one of the earliest-known baseball cards.”  However, research suggests that this card was produced by Peck & Snyder in 1871 (and perhaps as early as the later part of 1870). While the card features an albumen print of the 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics team, the ad featured on its reverse and a period advertisement from the New York Clipper suggest it was sold with other notable Peck & Snyder trade cards during the season of 1871. If there were an earlier version of the Atlantic card dating back to 1868 it would likely appear as a CDV and not in the larger trade card format.

The ads on all of the Atlantic trade cards known to exist feature the caricature of Andrew Peck bearing a “126  Nassau St.” address.  Although these known Atlantic cards are trimmed with the addresses removed, it is well established that every trade card featuring the Peck caricature denotes the “126 Nassau St.” address.  The ad also indicates that the trade cards for the 1869 Red Stockings and 1870 Mutuals were also available for sale in 1871.  The Mutual card is only known to have the “126 Nassau St.” address and caricature on its reverse. (Note: The other 1871 cards the Clipper advertised for sale were not photos of individual players, but rather team photos with composite portraits.  These cards are currently known to exist with a reverse advertisement for J. A. Pierce & Co. of Chicago.  It is not known if the cards offered in this 1871 P&S ad featured their own advertisement or whether Peck purchased the J. A. Pierce & Co. cards wholesale and subsequently resold them.  The P&S advertisements do offer a wholesale price, so it is possible other merchants could have resold the P&S cards and visa versa.)

This Peck & Snyder ad from the 1871 NY Clipper shows a 126 Nassau St. address and several trade cards that were thought to be issued in 1869.The ad supports the theory that the two existing styles of Red Stocking team trade cards were produced well after CDVs or "album sized" cards first appeared in advertisements from the 1869 New York Clipper.

This 1869 ad from the NY Clipper shows that "album size" CDV cards (sold by Peck & Snyder) pre-date the larger trade card version.

The “22 Ann St.” address featured in this advertisement appears to only have been utilized by P&S in 1869 and perhaps in early 1870.  The alleged 1868 P&S trade card of the Atlantics currently has a bid of $60,000 and the auction house says they know of only two other known images of the card.  There are actually five known versions including the one being sold. The others are: 1. Example featured in Mark Rucker’s book, Baseball Cartes, now owned by Corey Shanus; 2. Baseball Hall of Fame Collection; 3. The John Kashmanian Collection (featured in Kashmanian’s book); 4. Charles Mears’ copy, which appears to have had the original trade card’s albumen photo transfered to  CDV-like mount.  When REA’s Rob Lifson was interviewed about this card in 2009 for ScrippsNews he said he had only seen one other 1868 Atlantic card and that the back of the Mears example was “definitely different.”  The current REA lot description states that the fifth known example is “an essentially impossible-to-obtain “dream card.”

This CDV of the 1869 Red Stockings features a Peck & Snyder ad on the reverse with an address of "22 Ann St." This address suggests that the CDV style cards were issued before the larger trade card issue that was long believed to have been issued in 1869.

2. REA, Lot 23: 1869 Red Stockings CDV with Peck & Snyder Advertising Reverse.  This card features a “22 Ann St.” address for the P&S advertisement and further supports the contention that these CDV-sized or “album size” cards were the first 1869 Reds cards produced by the company.  The earliest trade card size issue featuring the 1869 Reds also bears a “22 Ann St.” address and an advertisement for Peck and Snyder ice skating products.  It is our opinion these cards are the earliest of the Red Stocking issue in the larger trade card format.  The majority of the trade cards featuring the Reds bear the “126 Nassau St.” address and were likely produced from late 1870 through 1871, as evidenced on the 1871 New York Clipper ad.  The current card offered by REA and the others bearing ads for Chadwick’s 1869 guide (as well as examples denoting “Sample Copy”) should be considered the earliest and only versions of the card verified as being produced during the season of 1869.

This copy of the 1860 Beadle Guide was owned by Henry Chadwick and donated to the NYPL by the widow of A.G. Spalding. It's currently missing from the famous Spalding Collection.

3. REA, LOT 968: 1860 Beadle’s Dime Base-Ball Player – Henry Chadwick’s personal copy! The auction house claims that this lot was Chadwick’s personal copy of the first Beadle Guide he ever edited, but the 1860 copy from the New York Public Library (appearing on microfilm above), which bears Chadwick’s handwritten inscription, “Beadle’s 1860 First Edition,” raises some questions.  The offered copy was first acquired in May of 1991 at DuMouchelle’s Auction House in Detroit, Michigan.  REA says the auction house, “presented an astounding collection of early baseball memorabilia that is talked about by advanced collectors to this day. It was not stated where the collection came from, but the sale included an extraordinary selection of books and memorabilia that obviously originated from someone involved in the game, possibly as a sportswriter.”  With no further provenance, the Beadle guide was accompanied by an alleged period letter of authenticity written by John Doyle attesting to the authenticity of Chadwick’s signature.  We’re not sure what exemplars JSA used to authenticate both signatures.  In addition, it appears that the authentic copy inscribed by Chadwick from the NYPL is currently missing from the library along with several other important publications including constitutions and by-laws from teams like the Knickerbockers and Excelsiors.  It appears that Chadwick passed along his entire run of his own Beadle Guides to Spalding and they were documented in the 1922 NYPL inventory as: “The Dime Base Ball Player. 1860-62, 1864, 1866-81. New York: Beadle  & Co.”  If the auction copy is authentic, it would be at best: “One of Chadwick’s personal copies of the 1860 Beadle Guide.”

This example of the 1870 Mutuals P&S was previously unknown. There could be as many as ten of these cards that have survived.

4. REA, Lot 25: 1870 Mutuals Peck & Syder Advertising Trade Card.  The auction house claims: “Prior to the discovery of this card, we knew of the existence of only four examples of the 1870 Mutuals Peck & Snyder trade cards, two of which were trimmed.”  They also add:  ”It should be pointed out that the two untrimmed examples of this card of which we are aware are not likely to ever be available: “The first example resides in the permanent collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown while the other is currently in an advanced private collection of nineteenth-century baseball memorabilia, where it will most likely remain for quite some time.”  Our research indicates that there are at least seven of these Mutual cards in existence (featuring the 126 Nassau St. including the one pictured above.)  Based upon the New York Clipper ads by Peck & Snyder, it is also more likely this card was issued in 1871 as the company was still using its “22 Ann St.” address on ads into 1870.  Historian John Thorn was nice enough to share with us Peck & Snyder’s addresses as they appeared in period New York Street directories:  ”1868 NYC Directory listing: 105 Nassau, Peck’s home in Jersey City at Erie near Fifth ; 1869: 105 Nassau, home Jersey City; 1870 NYC Directory listing: 105 Nassau; 1871: 126 Nassau; 1872: 126 Nassau; 1873: 126 Nassau;1874: 126 Nassau, Peck’s home at 313 West 24th.”  (The “22 Ann St.” address does not appear in the directories, only on advertisements and products).

This 1870 CDV of Spalding's Forest City team is described as a "newly discovered example by REA.

5. REA, Lot 28: 1870 Forest City BBC of Rockford CDV with Al Spalding.  REA states that this card along with all of the other CDV and trade card rarities in this current auction were, “recently discovered by our consignor among 135 CDVs and trade cards left to her by her parents, who purchased them over twenty years ago at an antiques shop. Remarkably, also included were two different 1869 Cincinnati Reds cards.”  REA specifically mentions how many cards they believe exist in regard to the Atlantic (“only two other examples”), Mutual (“only four examples”) Red Stocking (“fewer than ten”) and Chicago (“few others are known”)  trade cards.  However, in the description for the current Forest City CDV, there is curiously no mention of how many cards are known to exist.  In fact, REA fails to mention that this “newly discovered example” is only the fourth known copy of this card to ever surface.  The first appeared in Mark Rucker’s book with a credit to REA president, Rob Lifson; the second sold in the 1991 Sotheby’s Copeland Sale (later sold by MastroNet in 2001); and the third example sold at Sotheby’s in 1993 (and later at Oser/MastroNet in 2002).   When MastroNet sold the card in 2002 they revealed that the CDV was, “one of the rarest, with only three examples known to exist to date.”

The Forest City CDV is a controversial item on account of one documented example having been wrongfully removed from the NYPL’s Spalding Collection.  (In the past month Hauls of Shame has identified other stolen items from the NYPL and offered at auction.  Sources indicate these items will be recoverd by the NYPL as part of an on-going FBI investigation into the NYPL thefts.)

One of these three rare CDV’s of the 1870 Forest City BBC is believed to be the example missing from NYPLs Spalding Collection.

The group of “newly discovered” CDVs and trade cards featured in REA’s current auction represent fresh-to-the-hobby examples of some of the rarest baseball images known to exist.  If the Forest City CDV being offered is entirely legitimate, it would mean that one of the other three known examples is likely the missing Spalding Collection artifact.

Considering the staggering rarity of all of these cards, REAs current offerings are truly remarkable.


By Peter J. Nash
May 4, 2012

Did Cookie Lavagetto hit this ball to break up a No-Hitter in the 1947 World Series.

Collector Seth Swirsky is selling his collection of historic baseballs today, including the infamous “Buckner Ball” from the 1986 World Series. The provenance of the ball that rolled through Bill Buckner’s legs is rock-solid and well-documented by statements from all parties involved in its acquisition. It was one of dozens of official World Series balls issued by Major League Baseball and used in Game 6 at Shea Stadium. These specially made World Series balls used in post season play were introduced by MLB in 1978 for the 75th anniversary of the Fall Classic.`

Pre-1978, World Series games were played with official balls from both the National and American leagues dating back to the first Series in 1903. One of Swirsky’s other balls being sold as lot #80950 in Heritage Auction Galleries‘ Spring sale is also alleged to be a historic baseball and described as: 1947 World Series Game Four Last Baseball-Bevens Loses One Hitter! The ball is said to have been hit by “Cookie” Lavagetto off of Yankee pitcher Bill Bevens to break up his Game 4 no-hitter. But the provenance on this ball is far from air-tight coming with a 2003 letter of authenticity from Barry Halper claiming he acquired the ball directly from Bill Bevens, and another 2003 letter addressed to Halper from Yogi Berra who wrote, “After we lost, I gave him (Bevens) that ball.” Berra appears to have been only referring to the ball thrown to the plate by Tommy Henrich on that day in 1947, not specifically the ball that Halper once owned. Yogi says he gave the last ball in play to Bevens as a souvenir of the game, because “he deserved the ball.” In regard to the ball, Halper, in his letter to Seth Swirsky, wrote, “Yogi was really instrumental in connecting the dots.”

Heritage states in the lot description that the ball is an “Official AL Harridge” baseball. However, Game 4 of the 1947 World Series was played at Ebbets Field and per long-standing baseball traditions, a National League Ford Frick ball would have been furnished by the home club for use during Bevens’ almost-no-hitter.

So, how could this AL ball be the one that was crushed by Cookie Lavagetto on that fateful day in 1947?

The sphere is a vintage c.1947 American League Harridge ball and the inscription “World Series 1947″ appears to be written on the side panel as a period notation. However, it is alleged in the LOA from Barry Halper, provided with the item, that Bevens allegedly signed and added the “Oct. 3 Last ball hit” years later after Halper allegedly purchased the ball and jersey Bevens allegedly wore during Game 4 of the WS in 1947 (and also his 1947 WS ring). The “Last ball hit” inscription is clearly not period and also does not resemble Bevens’ handwriting. The ink even appears to be different and another color. Halper in his LOA describes how the ball was allegedly signed for ex-player Pete Ward, and not Halper himself, even though Halper claimed to have purchased the ball and Bevens’ Yankee jersey directly from Bevens. Halper wrote:

Many years ago I acquired from Bill Bevens (author of that near no hitter in the 1947 World Series) the uniform which he wore that day, his 1947 World Series ring as well as the ball from that last at bat which was a hit by Cookie Lavagetto. Years later, I had the opportunity to meet the former 3rd baseman, Pete Ward, for the Chicago White Sox and the Yankees who lived near Mr. Bevens. As a special favor to me, Pete Ward said that he would ask Mr. Bevens to sign the items…”

It is clearly visible that the three surviving notations on the ball are written in three different inks with three different pens. Adding to the confusion, Heritage, in their lot description, also reveals that, “Other earlier signatures have been professionally removed.”

The notation "1947 World Series" appears to be period, but the "Last out" notation was added in more recent times with Bevens' alleged signature.

Before we further examine the ball itself, we should note that Halper’s jersey, which sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 for $8,000 was also NOT Bevens’ jersey from the day he almost pitched a no-hitter. It is clearly shown in photographs taken on Oct. 3, 1947, that the button placement on Bevens’ jersey does not match that of the Halper jersey. Considering the numerous authenticity problems with Halper’s uniform holdings and the documented fraud involved in his issuing multiple and false provenance statements for other items (including a million-dollar “Shoeless” Joe Jackson jersey that was determined to be a fake after he sold it to the Baseball Hall of Fame), considerable doubt has been cast on on the legitimacy of the Bevens ball.

Uniform expert and historian, Dave Grob, also confirmed for us that the jersey Halper sold at Sotheby’s as Bevens’ 1947 Yankee road jersey was misrepresented as evidenced by the button placement. (REA sold the same jersey again in 2001 for $4,591 and Mastro sold it years later in 2006 for $3,361.) When REA offered the jersey in 2001 they described it as Bill Bevens’ 1947 World Series uniform and highlighted a letter of authenticity from Bevens, himself, stating that he wore the same jersey in game 4 at Ebbets Field. (The Bevens letter was also sold with the jersey at Sotheby’s in 1999.) But as Dave Grob illustrates in a photographic plate, the Halper jersey was most definitely not the genuine article it was advertised to be by Bill Bevens and the three auctioneers:

The alleged Bevens ball being offered by Heritage was also previously sold at auction. It was first offered by Lelands in May of 2002 as lot 1231 but did not sell with a reserve of $10,000. In December of 2002, Lelands auctioned it off again as Lot 769, where it sold this time for $6,111.88. Unlike the alleged 1947 jersey that sold at Sotheby’s in 1999, the ball was not accompanied with an LOA from Bevens. Lelands only stated that the ball was accompanied by an “LOA. Ex-Barry Halper Collection.” The Berra and Halper letters accompanying the current Heritage lot were written after the Lelands auction in January and March of 2003. Lelands didn’t mention the fact that Bevens’ alleged signature graced an official AL ball.

Our research has found that verifiable and important game-used World Series baseballs from the post-1920 period feature the league markings of the team that was hosting the World Series game.

In 1920, Baseball, added this language to the rules of the game:

“Ball -The President of the League of which the contesting clubs are members shall specify the number of baseballs which the home club must deliver to the umpire prior to the hour set for the commencement of a championship game, and all of such baseballs shall be of the regulation make adopted by the league.”

The evidence suggests that these rules were also used for the World Series, and there were no specific modifications made for post-season  play. David Nemec, historian and author of  The Rules of Baseball told us that since 1903 both leagues played by these same rules and that he had no knowledge of any such modifications. Nemec said, “Post-1920, I know of no formal rules issued that would have differed from the rule book both leagues then utilized.”

It is important to note that after the beaning death of Ray Chapman in 1920, Baseball instituted new policy regarding the number of baseballs furnished by the home club as a safety measure for players. No longer would dark and dirty baseballs be allowed to be pitched to batters who had considerable trouble seeing them. When balls were soiled, they were replaced with fresh ones. Before 1920 only a few balls were used per game and the NL and AL rules stated as early as 1904:

“Ball- Two regulation balls of the make adopted by the league of which the contesting clubs are members shall be delivered by the home club to the umpire at or before the hour for the commencement of a championship game.”

1977 was the last year both NL and AL balls were used in World Series play. Reggie Jackson hit this OAL ball for his third home run at Yankee Stadium.

Here are some historic baseballs with strong provenance that support the contention that the home club would furnish all of the baseballs for World Series games:

1977 World Series- Reggie Jackson’s 3rd HR ball from Yankee Stadium game, all Official AL balls (This ball is also in Heritage’s current auction).

1975 World Series- Carlton Fisk’s Game 6 HR ball at Fenway Park, Official AL ball (Sold at Lelands)

1969 World Series- Cleon Jones’ “Shoe Polish Ball” from Game 5 at Shea Stadium, Official NL ball.(Sold by Lelands, acquired originally from Jones)

1968 World Series- Bob Gibson’s Game One Victory ball at Busch Stadium, Official NL ball. (Sold at MastroNet by Bob Gibson)
1967 World Series- Bob Gibson’s Game One Victory Game Ball at Fenwas Park, Official AL ball (Sold at MastroNet by Bob Gibson)
1967 World Series- Bob Gibson’s Game Four Victory Game Ball at Busch Stadium, Official NL ball (Sold at MastroNet by Bob Gibson)
1967 World Series- Bob Gibson’s Game Seven Victory Game Ball at Fenway Park, Official AL ball (Sold at MastroNet by Bob Gibson)
1964 World Series- Bob Gibson’s Game Five Last Out Victory Ball at Yankee Stadium, Official AL ball. (Sold at MastroNet by Bob Gibson)
1963 World Series- Mickey Mantle’s 15th WS Home Run Ball at Dodger Stedium, Official NL ball. (Sold at Superior Galleries in 1993, alleged to have been caught by fan James J. Cullen, w/supporting LA Times article)
1962 World Series- Last Out Ball Game Seven, at Candelstick Park, Official NL ball.  (Baseball Hall of Fame Collection)
1961 World Series- First Pitch Baseballs (2) Thrown by Dummy Hoy and Bill Mckechnie, Game One at Crosley Field, Official NL balls. (Sold at Lelands in 2003)
1959 World Series- Ted Kluszewski’s “Game Five Last Out Baseball” at Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, Official NL ball (Sold by Lelands from Ted Kluszewski Collection)
1956 World Series- Don Larsen’s Perfect Game last out ball at Yankee Stadium, markings are not clear but appears to be Official AL ball.
1956 World Series- Don Larsen’s Perfect Game, game used ball at Yankee Stadium, Official AL ball. (Consigned to Christie’s in 1994 by NY Daily Mirror sportswriter Lawrence Lewin).
1953 World Series- Carl Erskine’s “11 Strike-Out Game 3 Ball,” at Ebbets Field, Official NL ball. (Museum of NYC Exhibition, loan from State Senator Edward Ford).
1951 World Series-Joe DiMaggio Home Run Ball, Game 4 at Polo Grounds, NY. Official NL ball. (Sold at Hunt Auctions in 2006, consigned by family of fan who caught ball w/documentation)
1945 World Series- Roy Hughes “Last Baseball Used in WS” Game Seven at Wrigley Field, Official NL ball (Sold at Lelands in 2002 “Obtained from Roy Hughes.” Also being sold in Heritage’s current auction)
1940 World Series- Bucky Walters’ Game Six ball at Cincinnati, Official NL ball (sold at Hunt Auctions by the Walters family)
1939 World Series- Frank Crosetti’s Game Four “Final Put-Out Ball (Last Out of Series)” at Cincinnati, Official NL ball (Sold at Superior Auctions in 1997 and later at Lelands. Ball was sold by Crosetti)
1938 World Series- Game Two-Last Out Ball at Wrigley Field, Official NL ball. (Baseball Hall of Fame, Gehrig Donation)
1927 World Series- Lou Gehrig’s “last ball of the 1st game of the World Series,” at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Official NL ball (Donated to HOF by Gehrig’s mother)
1926 World Series- Lou Gehrig’s “last ball of the 5th game of the World Series,” at Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis, Official NL ball (Donated to HOF by Gehrig’s mother)

Oddly enough, the only other reference we could find for an auctioneer claiming that a World Series game used ball from the opposite league was legitimate was for an alleged ball from Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956. Lelands offered an Official National League Warren Giles ball from “the collection of a family friend of the Yankees whose father entertained the Bronx Bombers for years.” Lelands said the man was “given this ball by Larsen on October 8, 1956.” In regard to the ball being an official NL ball instead of an official AL ball, Lelands claimed, “National League balls were sometimes used in AL parks in the World Series.”

We asked Mike Hefner of Lelands how they came to this conclusion and he said, “Over the years we have seen some balls from the opposite league that are marked as World Series game balls, including the two Larsen balls. Those had letters from Don Larsen saying they were used in the game.”  Hefner agreed that it was the norm for the home team to furnish balls in the World Series but added, “Who knows, maybe a few balls could have got mixed into play for a Yankee and Dodger series since there was no real team travel and the ballparks were so close to each other.”

Don Larsen signed these two National League balls for the recipients on the day of his perfect ga,me in 1956. Years later he claimed both were actually used in the game as well.

Lelands sold another ball alleged to be from Larsen’s perfect game which also was an official National League Warren Giles ball. That ball was sold in 2005 and was allegedly signed by Larsen and Sal Maglie “immediately after the game” for pro basketball player “Moose” Miller. The ball was accompanied by LOAs from Miller and Don Larsen. Miller said umpire Tom Gorman gave him the ball “minutes after” the game ended.

We also asked Chris Ivy, of Heritage Auctions, for an explanation of how an AL ball could have been used in Game Four of the 1947 World Series at Ebbets Field. Ivy told us, “While you’re correct that the conventional wisdom states that the home team supplied World Series baseballs, this was not a hard and fast rule, and we’ve encountered a number of well-documented exceptions. Most notably, we refer you to Lot 98 of the Sotheby’s/SCP June 2006 auction. It’s the final out ball from Game Five of the 1947 World Series, the game after the Bevens contest. It’s an American League ball from Ebbets Field, consigned by the family of Yankees catcher Aaron Robinson, who also supplied a period image of him posing with the ball.”  There is, however, no way to prove the ball in the photo is the same ball sold at auction.  Ivy also pointed to the Lelands’ offering of the alleged ball from Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 and an alleged 1931 World Series ball sold by MastroNet in 2001 that had no supporting provenance. (Heritage’s current auction also features another ball alleged to be the first home run hit in Game 1 of the 1924 World Series, played in Washington, D.C.  That ball is an official National League ball.)

Seth Swirsky posted this letter from Yogi Berra describing how he gave Bill Bevens the last out ball from Game Four of the 1947 World Series.

For the past decade this alleged 1947 World Series ball has been part of the collection of songwriter Seth Swirsky and was featured on his website, Seth.com along with the letter from Yogi Berra, with an earlier date from Feb. 21, 2000. When Lelands sold the ball in 2002 they made no mention of a Berra letter, only stating that there was an “LOA” and that the ball was, “Ex-Barry Halper Collection.”

Heritage’s current lot description states that, “Berra’s letter is addressed to famed collector Barry Halper.” It appears that in the letter Berra is just conveying his recollections of giving Bevens the last out ball and does not specifically mention Halper’s ball, which was claimed to have been acquired directly from Bevens. Despite that fact, Heritage Auctions describes Yogi’s correspondence as a “letter of provenance.” The Berra letter Swirsky posted on his website was dated February 21, 2000, but the letter that accompanies the Heritage ball is dated January 14, 2003. The bodies of both letters are identical, as are the Berra signature. Only the dates differ.

We contacted the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, New Jersey, to see what Berra and Museum representatives thought about Heritage’s characterization of his letter in their lot description of the alleged Bevens ball.  We also inquired whether the museum had any other World Series game balls from Yogi’s career.  Museum director David Kaplan responded, “Yogi didn’t keep or save any World Series balls.  The only one we have on display is a 1947 ball from a donor, but it doesn’t identify which game.”  Kaplan continued, “In fact, Yogi tells a story about bringing his 2,000 hit ball home, only to find later his kids had used it to play ball with.”  Kaplan directed us to Berra’s sons Tim and Dale for our inquiry about Yogi’s letter to Halper.  Dale Berra spoke with us, but declined comment.  Neither Dale nor Yogi Berra answered whether the Yankee legend recalled what types of balls were used in World Series play either.

To crack this mystery we thought it might help to ask an umpire who actually worked World Series games when both NL and AL balls were used in play and we were able to track down veteran MLB umpire Jim Evans at his umpiring school in Colorado.  Evans was on the field when Seth Swirsky’s 1986 World Series ball rolled through Bill Buckner’s legs and on the field when Reggie belted out three home runs in 1977.  It was in regard to that series of 1977 that Evans was able to shed some light on the protocol for baseballs used in the Fall Classic.

Evans said, “I was the plate umpire for game 5 in Los Angeles and before that game someone from the Dodgers brought in 9 dozen balls into our dressing room, they were all National League balls.  You see the teams had lots of balls left over from the season, so they used those in the series and it was the plate umpire’s job to rub them up properly with the mud.  Nowadays they tip clubhouse guys to rub them up, but back then us umpires did it ourselves. I wouldn’t trust anyone affiliated with one of the clubs to do it, it was my responsibility to get them rubbed right.  This type of thing went back many years when I was on umpire crews with guys like Nestor Chylak and John McSherry.  But 1977 was the first World Series I worked.”

We asked Evans if he thought an American League ball could make its way into play at a National League park like the alleged Bevens ball did.  Evans responded, “I don’t think so, all of the baseballs were supplied by the Dodgers in my series in ‘77.  It wasn’t until they started making those special World Series balls that someone from the Commissioner’s office would deliver the balls to us before the game.”  We asked him if a ball could get into play accidentally and he said, “I suppose so.  I could see if a ball or two were left over in my bag from the previous game at the other park.  It could be possible in that type of situation.”

We told Evans about the few National League balls alleged to have been used at Yankee Stadium in 1956 for Don Larsen’s perfect game and he added, “There’s about 200,000 people who say they were at that game, right?  I don’t know about the chain of ownership on those balls, all I can tell you about is about the Buckner Ball, I saw Ed Montague walk off the field with that one, I guess he gave it to a Mets official after.”

Collecting any game-used item involves a big leap of faith and the alleged Bevens ball still presents more questions than answers.  While its not impossible that the ball could have been accidentally put into play that day in 1947, the provenance issues presented by Barry Halper’s misrepresented Bevens jersey compound the doubts already realized due to the league affiliation of the ball.  The fact that Yogi Berra won’t answer whether his letter to Halper was an actual “letter of provenance,” as the auction house alleges, just adds more to the mystery.

If Yogi talks we’re figuring he might offer a Yogi-ism about his letter to Halper:  ”I didn’t really say everything I said.”

UPDATE: The Bevens Ball sold at Heritage for $5,676 and the “Buckner Ball” sold for $418,250.