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By Peter J. Nash

February 25, 2013

It appears ghost-like on an old Kodak contact sheet marked “HOF-9″ in orange grease-pencil alongside other donated relics from the world’s most spectacular collection of baseball artifacts in Cooperstown. Like everything else in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s collection, the 1870 CDV photograph of Al Reach and the Philadelphia Athletics was donated by someone. Long ago a librarian scribbled assorted numerals on its reverse preceded by a designation Hall curators know well as “BL” representing items in the Baseball Library, the National Baseball Library, that is. The Hall of Fame does not purchase artifacts and relies solely on the generous donations of the enshrined players immortalized with bronze plaques, their widows, their kids, their grand-kids and even everyday Joe’s who somehow came into possession of something truly Cooperstown-worthy.

Back in 1983, authors John Thorn and Mark Rucker set up a photo shoot in Cooperstown to capture many of these treasures on film for a retrospective of nineteenth-century baseball photography in a Society For American Baseball Research (SABR) publication called The National Pastime.  The publication was highly regarded in the baseball collecting community since it featured images of many rare and never before seen images depicting the early game.

Nearly a decade after that photo shoot took place at the Hall of Fame something strange appeared in a black and white auction catalog produced by auctioneer Rob Lifson, then of Hoboken, New Jersey.  It appeared to be the exact same CDV of Al Reach’s Philadelphia team that Thorn and Rucker had captured on film in 1983.  The auction catalog photograph was extremely small but visible was a tell-tale surface scratch on the vintage albumen photograph identical to the one found on the contact sheet from the Hall of Fame shoot.  In his lot description Lifson wrote, “Extremely small abrasion on reverse and a single insignificant scratch in brown background are the only imperfections that keep this card from being Mint.”

How Lifson and his auction house came into possession of the stolen card is a point of contention as Lifson, himself, is a self-confessed library thief who was apprehended in 1979 stealing similar rare CDV cards from the New York Public Library’s famous Spalding Baseball Collection.  A former Hall of Fame official who was aware of Lifson’s attempted theft at the NYPL has confirmed for that Lifson’s name appeared on a National Baseball Library list of individuals banned from utilizing the research facilities in Cooperstown.

The 1870 CDV stolen from the Hall of Fame (inset, on SABR contact sheet marked "HOF-9") first appeared for sale in a Rob Lifson auction as lot 95 in 1994. Lifson (right) was apprehended stealing CDV's at the New York Public Library in 1979 and was banned from the National Baseball Library after Hall officials learned of his apprehension.

It was originally thought that the CDV stolen from Cooperstown was in the possession of Mark Rucker after it appeared in his 1986 book, Base Ball Cartes, with a credit designating his ownership of the card.  However, Rucker recently confirmed that at the time he owned another 1870 A’s CDV he had acquired from Josh Evans of Lelands and that the attribution in the book was incorrect.  Rucker said the photo from the SABR contact sheet should have been credited to the National Baseball Library.  Luckily for the Hall, John Thorn had saved that original contact sheet in his voluminous baseball files for nearly thirty years and recently passed along those in his possession to SABR’s Pictorial Historic Committee.  When informed that the SABR photo shoot helped track down a lost relic SABR Vice President, Bill Nowlin, told us, “It is nice to see that work SABR members did so many years ago, as part of its ongoing effort to document baseball history, was able to play a role in identifying this missing treasure.”

Now, nineteen years after the card appeared in Lifson’s auction in 1994, it is appearing online at the auction house run by Lifson’s former partners who are under Federal indictment at Legendary Auctions. Currently, the Illinois auction house is offering the Dreier Collection compiled by Chad Dreier, former CEO of Fortune 500 company Ryland Homes.  Dreier amassed one of the most impressive collections in the hobby before he decided to liquidate it through Legendary last year.

The A's CDV and the CDV being offered in legendary's sale are the exact same photograph as illustrrated by the corresponding identical imperfections circled in red. The most definitive imperfection is the long scratch under the oval portraits that extends down to the Gihon mount.

The Legendary auction lot is described as having on its reverse, “A small abrasion (that) appears below the identity of the card’s printer-photographer.”  That abrasion covers the area which is the former location of the vandalized baseball library “BL” accession number denoting the year of donation and a number that identified the sequence of the items donation  (ie. the first donated item of any year would be #1).  The CDV was also sold previously in 2002 as lot 12 in David Kohler’s SCP Auctions Fall sale where it was described as having a “small spot of paper loss on the reverse.”  The Hall’s accession records that contain the pertinent data for the stolen card are housed in bound volumes where curators and librarians have documented possession of donated items as they were entered formally into the collection as property of the State of New York. notified Hall of Fame officials Brad Horn and Jim Gates nearly two years ago of this theft and sent them images of the 1983 SABR contact sheet photograph proving the CDV was stolen and missing from the collection.  To the best of our knowledge the Hall has failed to report the theft to the local Cooperstown Police, Otsego County Sherriff‘, New York State Police or the Albany office of the FBI.  Articles describing the stolen CDV have been published on this site and also at The Hall of Very Good in a tribute to Al Reach. Ironically, the current Legendary auction listing references the Hall of Fame and the chances of Al Reach being inducted next year by the Veterans Committee.

Cooperstown Police chief, Michael Covert, confirmed that the 1870 CDV had not been reported as stolen to his headquarters.  Covert said he called representatives from the Hall of Fame and the Leatherstocking Corporation to inform them of the current offering of the stolen property, which was first reported by this writer.  Said Covert, “The officials told me they will be looking into the situation.”

When told of the CDV’s dubious provenance on Saturday, Legendary Auctions President, Doug Allen, said he would cooperate with the Cooperstown Police or any other entity involved in a recovery effort.   The Hall of Fame’s failure to aggressively monitor the marketplace to recover stolen items has put auctioneers and dealers in a precarious situation.  The Hall of Fame’s failure to claim title to items believed stolen from the National Baseball Library has left many sellers unsure how to deal with consignors who own suspect materials.

The non-reporting of the theft of the current 1870 CDV is similar to the Hall’s reaction when they discovered that Presidential-signed baseballs donated by the family of HOFer Walter Johnson were stolen from the museum in 1972.  Museum officials only revealed the balls were stolen when Johnson’s grandson, Hank Thomas, visited the museum in 1977 and asked to see them.  According to a 2004 article in the Washington Post, Thomas met with Hall President Ed Stack and was told there was “no police investigation or official inquiry,” and also no search for the stolen items supported by a publicity effort to “inform the world that these historic artifacts were at large illegally.”

Stack told Thomas the Hall thought that announcing the theft would “only encourage further thievery and discourage donations of the memorabilia on which the Hall depended.”  Stack told the Washington Post, “It’s true we did nothing,” but added, “We were routinely out in the collectors’ market monitoring auction catalogs and material that was getting out into the marketplace. At the Hall we were privy to all that.”

When the 1870 CDV first appeared in the Legendary auction last week contacted Hall of Fame curator John Odell to request access to the Hall’s accession records in order to locate and identify who donated the 1870 CDV being offered for sale.  Odell referred us to museum Communications Director, Brad Horn, who did not respond to phone calls and emails.  We also called Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark for comment at her Rockefeller Center offices but she did not respond to our inquiry about the stolen artifact.  The response of Odell, Horn and Clark has created the impression that the Hall of Fame is now blocking access to its accession records which can help definitively confirm scores of thefts of New York State property.

This photo of Mickey Welch was stolen from the Hall of Fame and was offered for sale by Rob Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions in 2010. The reverse of the card shows the defaced acession number and the altering of a HOF mark that identifies photos as "public domain." The "PD" designation was changed to appear as "BOB."

Over the past few years has identified in reports several other rare and valuable photographs that have been stolen from the Hall of Fame and offered for sale at major sports auction houses, including photos valued at close to $20,000 each of Christy Mathewson, Nap Lajoie, Mickey Welch, Jake Beckley and the 1886 New York Giants team.   Due to’s reporting several of those photos have been recovered by the Hall, including an 1891 cabinet photo of Hall of Fame pitcher, “Smilin” Mickey Welch, which also appeared for sale in a Robert Edward Auction’s sale.  The photo exhibited evidence of a defaced accession number on its reverse as well as an altered mark that designated the photo as “public domain” by librarians.  The “PD” that appeared on the reverse was changed to appear as “BOB” in red marker.  Based on a report the item was withdrawn from the sale and sources at the Hall confirm that the photo has been returned.

This SABR contact sheet from the 1983 HOF photo shoot captures two more photos stolen from Cooperstown. A Jos. Hall cabinet photo of HOFer Roger Connor (top left) and another of Jake "Eagle Eye" Beckley (bottom right). The Beckley has appeared for sale in a Mastro auction in the late 1990s.

But while the Mickey Welch photo was returned, the SABR contact sheets from 1983 reveal even more thefts of the rare 1891 Jos. Hall studio cabinets of Welch’s teammates including; Roger Connor, Amos Rusie, Tim Keefe and others.  Those photos are missing from the Hall collection as well a Jos. Wood studios photo of the 1886 NY Giants, captured on the SABR contact sheets, that was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries for over $10,000 in 2008.  Heritage’s Chris Ivy has refused to comment as to whether that stolen photo has been returned to the Hall.  Ivy and Heritage also attempted to sell a $20,000 stolen photo of HOFer Nap Lajoie last year.

One of Ivy’s current employees and consignment director for Heritage, Mike Gutierrez, was the prime suspect in a late 1980s investigation into the thefts from the National Baseball Library.  The investigation commenced when, in 1988, Gutierrez sold New York auctioneer Josh Evans a signed photograph of Babe Ruth that had a Hall of Fame accession number on its reverse covered with white-out.  After Evans scraped off the white covering over the accession number and recognized the Hall provenance he contacted Hall officials and an FBI investigation ensued, with Gutierrez at the center of the probe.

But the Hall hierarchy chose not to pursue prosecution of  Gutierrez and made virtually no effort to track down what was stolen, including a large cache of historic documents from the Herrmann, Ford Frick, Frederick Long and internal Hall files.  The result is the current fiasco which finds property of New York State donated to the Hall of Fame coming up for sale in auction after auction with apparently no end in sight.

The Herrmann Papers archive at the NBL include's the National Commission's World Series files which include team check requests like the 1917 letter signed by "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and his teammates (left). The 1915 Red Sox request from Babe Ruth to the Commission (right) somehow ended up in Heritage's recent sale in NYC.

Documents alleged to have come from the Hall’s August Herrmann Papers archive have been surfacing and selling on the black market since the late 1980s in the form of letters addressed to Cincinnati Reds owner Herrmann and other baseball officials; protested game documents; player cases and transactions; financial instruments; and papers from the World Series.

Included in the current Heritage sale was the earliest known signed Babe Ruth letter from when he was with the Red Sox.  The 1915 letter is addressed to Herrmann’s National Commission and requests the Sox player shares  as World Series champions.  Like the other Herrmann related documents, the Heritage offering has no discernible provenance identified by the auction house. (The letter also sold at Mastro Auctions in 2001 for $10,000).  Meanwhile, the Herrmann files in Cooperstown today include other World Series check request letters including one sent to the Commission by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s 1917 White Sox, with Jackson’s authentic signature.

The Jackson and Ruth documents are two of the most valuable documents of their kind, but neither Heritage or the Hall of Fame can explain how the Red Sox request made its way to its second auction date.  Due to the Hall of Fame’s negligence, Heritage has been able to illegally convert assets of New York State and at the same time employ the prime suspect in the 1980s Hall thefts, Mike Gutierrez, as a consignment director.  On Saturday night the 1915 Red Sox letter received just one floor bid and sold for $59,750 to a Texas man and his son, named “Seven.”  Sources indicate that no attempt was made by the Hall of Fame to notify Heritage and claim title to the document.

Upon our second attempt to contact Jane Forbes Clark she declined comment failing to return several calls made to her Clark Estates office at Rockefeller Center in New York City.  After the police report was filed in Cooperstown last Thursday, a Hall of Fame security representative, Evan Chase, met with police Chief Michael Covert, as did Leatherstocking Corporation representative Bart Barown.  However, despite that meeting,  it appears the Hall took no action to stop the suspected 1915 Red Sox letter from being sold on Saturday evening in New York City.

Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark (left) will face scrutiny from the Charities Division of NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (right).

A source with close ties to the Hall of Fame told that the apparent wrongdoing and negligence in regard to the Hall of Fame thefts is not the fault of current Hall employees who he believes are hamstrung to do anything.  Says the source, “They are good people and would want to do the right thing, but Jane Clark runs the place in autocratic fashion and no one has the power to do anything without her OK, that includes President Jeff Idelson.”

In addition to the apparent cover-up of the massive Hall thefts, Clark’s tenure as Hall of Fame Chairman has also been marred by her decision to purchase several million dollars in fraudulent and bogus artifacts from the collection of deceased New York Yankee partner Barry Halper.  Clark accepted New York State funds from Gov. George Pataki to construct the Barry Halper Gallery in the museum to showcase the Hall’s acquisitions.  The gallery displayed fakes including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s 1919 jersey, pocket watch and glove, Ty Cobb’s forged diary, Mickey Mantle’s 1951 Yankee rookie jersey and  Buck Leonard’s Negro League Homestead Grays jersey.  Last year, the Halper Gallery space was quietly replaced with a “Learning Center” without a statement from the Hall. has learned that several formal complaints against the Baseball Hall of Fame alleging mismanagement and “improper actions (that) have resulted in a loss of charitable assets” are in the process of being prepared and filed with the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Office.

According to the Attorney General’s office, “Disclosure procedures generally prohibit the Attorney General from discussing pending investigations or indicating whether any specific action has or will be taken with respect to a particular organization. However, you may be assured that the Attorney General seeks to administer the laws regarding charities and charitable solicitation equitably and efficiently.”


Hall of Fame officials including Communications Director, Brad Horn, (left) and President Jeff Idelson (right) made no effort to recover the donated 1870 CDV of the Philadelphia A's.

When Legendary Auctions last offered a scarce 1870 CDV of the Philadelphia Athletics featuring Al Reach in 2010, it sold for $11,400.  Other copies have even changed hands at prices close to $20,000 in the past.  So, Legendary’s sale of the card last night for a unimpressive $1,600 (perhaps the lowest price in the last 20 years for this CDV)  says something positive about collectors who appear to want to steer clear of artifacts proven to be stolen from institutional collections like the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

Doug Allen, President of Legendary Auctions, decided to keep the card in his sale despite the evidence presented in the report published this week. Allen says that no one from the Hall or law enforcement contacted him to pull the CDV from the sale.  In response to the Hall’s inaction Allen made a statement directed at the leadership of the Baseball Hall of Fame saying, “The 1870 Gihon is being sold by an innocent seller and will be purchased by an innocent buyer.  The entity that was allegedly harmed has not stepped up to respond to the allegations.  If it is proven to be stolen and claimed, Legendary Auctions will work to retrieve and return it at no cost to our customers.”  Allen did not address the definitive nature of the photographic evidence showing that the CDV was unquestionably stolen from the Hall of Fame, but it appears Legendary bidders stayed away from the item in droves. Any educated bidder looking at this item knows for sure that it was stolen from the Hall, yet the CDV still received 23 bids.

Hall of Fame Communications director, Brad Horn, did not return emails and his office said he was in Taiwan.  Sources indicate that when the local Police were looking for Horn late last week to discuss the Police report filed in relation to the 1870 CDVs theft, Hall employees lied to police and told them Horn was out of town when, in fact, he was still in Cooperstown.  Horn’s co-worker, Craig Muder, did not return calls for comment.  Calls to Jane Clark’s New York office of the Clark Estates also were not returned to answer questions as to why the Hall of Fame was sitting back and letting its donated and stolen property be sold at auction.  The Hall of Fame is in possession of the images taken at the Hall by SABR in 1983 which definitively prove that the CDV is stolen property which belongs to New York State.

On Wednesday morning Cooperstown Police Chief, Michael Covert, said that Clark officials had informed him they would meet to discuss the card, but by the end of the day Wednesday nothing was confirmed. Calls to the office of the New York State Attorney General were returned by a press liaison, but no information was available by the end of the day as to what the AG’s involvement would be, if anything, in the return of the card to the Hall.

The sale of the 1870 CDV by Legendary is, perhaps, the tip of the iceberg in relation to the losses sustained by the Hall as a result of the 1980s looting of the National Baseball Library.  In the coming months will reveal additional confirmed losses discovered on the SABR contact sheets from 1983 and from other documents in the Hall’s collections.  Sources indicate that those verified losses will result in several formal complaints being filed against the Hall of Fame by donors and family members of actual Hall of Famers.

Staff Report
Feb. 21, 2013

Heritage's Platinum Night Auction features lots of "Fool's Gold."

Heritage Auction Galleries planned for it to be an extravaganza featuring stunning sports artifacts selling for record prices, but what its Platinum Night Auction in NYC has devolved into is a sad commentary on the apparent ineptitude of the Third-Party authenticators (TPAs) JSA and PSA and their head honchos James Spence Jr. and Steve Grad.

Two of the entries have already been withdrawn from the sale as chronicled by The New York Post and others may follow depending on the outcry from collectors and perhaps a visit to the Platinum event by the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  We haven’t seen this many problems on alleged top-flight items sold in New York City since the infamous Halper Sale at Sotheby’s in 1999.  Some of these Heritage lots could have competed on the Upper-East Side with Halper’s “Fake 500 HR Signed Sheet”; “Lou Gehrig’s Last Glove”; and the record-breaking and dubious single signed Babe Ruth portrait ball. took to the streets and tracked down several of the experts in the field who we rely upon and asked for their “considered opinions” on the current Heritage Platinum Night offerings. We’ve withheld the identities of the experts for fear of getting them banned from future Heritage extravaganzas and auction sales.

There are still lots of other impressive authentic items in the Heritage sale including Olympic memorabilia from Mike Eruzione, a collection of material being sold by Walter Johnson’s family, an authentic 1927-28 Lou Gehrig Yankee road jersey, an authentic Christy Mathewson letter, an authentic signed Babe Ruth Bat, a nice Gehrig signed portrait, Curt Schilling’s Bloody Sock” from 2004, a green jacket from The Masters and,  oh yeah, the earliest Red Sox letter with a signature of Babe Ruth that is believed to have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers Archive.  We’re sure that one is real, as is Heritage’s Mike Gutierrez, who authenticated many other Herrmann letters of Mathewson, Huggins, Jennings, Clarke, McGraw and others for the Sotheby’s Barry Halper Collection sale in 1999.  Heritage was sued this week in a Dallas, Texas, court by the Augusta National Golf Club, who claim the “Green Jacket” being offered was stolen property.  It appears the Masters has more respect for a piece of clothing than the Baseball Hall of Fame has for historic documents from the Herrmann Papers Collection, as Cooperstown has made no such effort to recover its property.

As for the ten lots chosen in this report, they represent an estimated low-end auction value determined by Heritage to be close to $500,000.


1. The Finest 1927 New York Yankees Team Signed Baseball on Earth (Sold For $149,375)

Heritage Estimated Value:  $200,000-and up

One expert said: “It’s a well executed forgery , but where they failed is that each signature is too uniform , disregard the same color ink. After almost 100 years the ink absorbed to leather should be more obvious , you can almost see it still laying on top.  The odds on all (players) signing with the same pen are almost non existent but assuming they did,  some would have signed with a lighter hand than others and there would be a degree of fading on certain signatures , there is none. Gehrig for one signed with a very light hand, especially for a big man, that is why on most of the real Gehrig signed balls his signature is almost always light (less ink to surface in original application) , not the case here. There are many other clues….”

Another said: “If Steve Grad signed off on this one, I could only imagine what’s in store for Rick and the boys on Pawn Stars.  Would Drew Max even authenticate this ball?  The amount of hesitation in the application of the signatures is amazing and gives the autographs an appearance of being “drawn,” not executed the way a person would sign normally with some reckless abandon.”

As well as: “All the writing seems to be the same size. It doesn’t make sense. Typically you have one or two players who will write larger or smaller. A forger however will typically try to mimic the signature and thus the writing all is the same size because it was done in the same hand.”

An offer for HA: “Maybe if Heritage pulls the ball they can send it to the FBI labs at Quantico. Virginia, for analysis, so they can definitively show them the ball is a forgery.  I could put them in touch with some one who should be able to help with that.  The FBI will tell them its a fake.”

We relayed that message to Chris Ivy and he responded with this:

Heritage is 100% confident in the authenticity of the 1927 Yankees team signed baseball or it would not be included in the auction. We are one of the very few auctioneers that employs not one, but both of the two most respected and trusted firms in the industry—PSA/DNA and James Spence Authentication. Both of these services have authenticated the autographs on this ball without reservation. The baseball derives from the personal collection of Earle Combs, the Hall of Fame center fielder for the 1927 New York Yankees and includes a letter from the close personal friend to whom the ball was given by Combs. As such, Heritage is completely comfortable with the authenticity of the baseball.

It was only in the past ten years or so that an exhaustive study of the minor variations in stamping styles on Official American and National League baseballs determined that the A.L. balls used in 1927 were a one-year style. In other words, American League baseballs made in 1926 and before, and 1928 and after, are physically different in their stamping styles from the 1927 model. The Combs team ball is the correct 1927 one-year style. So the suggestion that a supposed forger would have known this fact prior to the ball’s first public appearance in 1999, then could have tracked down a pristine example of that exceedingly rare style to use for his forgery, and lastly had the skill to perfectly execute these autographs to pass the finest authenticators in the industry is truly preposterous.

If the winning bidder would like to have the baseball sent to the FBI labs at Quantico, VA, then we would be pleased to work with them to help facilitate that process prior to the settlement of the auction and as long as the process did not damage the baseball in any manner. No reasonable person would believe that Heritage would risk a significant financial loss by marketing a piece in which we did not have complete faith, and we emphatically stand behind the authenticity of this baseball, as do the top experts in the autograph authentication profession.

2. The Only Known 1932 New York Yankees Team Signed Photograph (Sold For $33,460)

Heritage Estimated Value: $30,000-and up

One expert said: “They all appear to be very slowly written and if you compare signatures on multi- signed pieces it becomes pretty apparent that the same hand signed these.”

Another opinion: “This is probably the worst piece. I absolutely hate the Ruth signature. Notice the spacing alone between the “t” and “h” in the Ruth. Then look at the Gehrig. Good night. Each signature appears to have been signed extremely slowly. Just look at the Bill Dickey and Lefty Gomez. Just horrific! 100% fake in my opinion.”

3. Lou Gehrig Single Signed Baseball

Heritage Estimated Value: $30,000-$50,000 (Withdrawn)

One expert opined: “First off, the forger was attempting a Gehrig-style signature from earlier in the 1930s.  I’ve never seen anything close to that in 1939, but beyond that the signature itself isn’t even a credible attempt at the earlier version.  It is just not Gehrig’s hand.  His signature has a quick flourish and this one is slow and labored.”

This ball was featured in our last report which detailed the likelihood Gehrig could have even signed the 2-star style OAL Harridge baseball that bears his alleged signature.  Even after withdrawing the ball from the sale and seeing all of the evidence presented in our report related to the signature and the Reach baseball Chris Ivy told us this:

“PSA/DNA experts and James Spence Authentication experts reviewed the Gehrig ball in person and they stand behind their authentication of the piece.”

The two signatures on baseballs (to left) were signed in the same hand, but not Gehrig's. The two signatures on baseballs (to right) were signed by Gehrig.

A comparison of the two signatures on the current Heritage Auction ball and the 2008 Mastro ball (left, top and bottom) with the two signatures from the Lelands 1939 Yankee team ball and the 2013 REA Ruth and Gehrig ball (right, top and bottom) shows a striking disparity in similarities.  The Heritage and Mastro examples appear to be signed by the same hand (but not Gehrig’s) and the Lelands and REA examples are both signed by the same hand–Lou Gehrig’s.  Apparently Steve Grad (PSA) and Jimmy Spence (JSA) are still sticking with their original determination that the Heritage offering is authentic.  Every expert we consulted with disagrees and points to the visual evidence above.  The illustrations don’t lie.

The great irony (or tragedy) here is that while Grad and Spence stand behind authentications on the Heritage and Mastro Gehrig balls, they also authenticated the genuine ball which will appear in REA’s Spring sale.  Lelands didn’t need the combined expertise of Grad and Spence for their ball, they could figure out it was authentic all on their own.

4. Final Out Ball From the 1917 World Series From HOFer Red Faber

Heritage Estimated Value: $40,000-50,000 (Withdrawn)

“This ball is probably the greatest lesson not to take second-hand provenance as gospel.  Just because something came from a certain person who says the item is from a major event doesn’t necessarily mean it is true. Red Faber himself could have even got it wrong, let alone a forger who might attempt to create a game-used ball and provenance.”

As Ivy and Heritage extol the virtues of the alleged source of the 1927 Yankee team ball, they should look to this Faber ball for a reality check.  The 1927 Yankee ball originates from an alleged neighbor of Earl Combs and when asked several times to produce the said neighbor’s letter, Ivy has failed to produce it.  The bogus 1917 World Series’ “Final Out Ball” came with an affidavit from an actual family member let alone an alleged neighbor.

One expert said: “Neighbor, Garage sale, Grandpa, …..same old story, but even if the neighbor story was plausible at some point in the last 80 years,  the media starving for stories would have done a human interest piece on it and there might be accompanying evidence …again NONE. Its very simple using census records as a basic starter to even back track the “neighbor” story to arrive with a name,  and then instead of taking up multiple paragraphs telling us about the 1927 Yankees which we already know, use that space to illustrate the paper trail …Not done because there likely is none.”

If there is, Heritage won’t furnish it or make it public.  Why?

5.  Single Season Home Run Record Holders Multi-Signed Baseball (Sold For $8,962)

Heritage Estimated Value: $20,000-$30,000

Several experts said: “Tragic, Ruth way off”;  ”A disaster”; and “A train wreck.”

The experts reaction to this this melting pot of the Steroid-Era Sluggers and the “clean” Yankee legends was strong and the consensus was that the Ruth signature was definitely a forgery.  Attempts to reach Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire to ask if they actually signed the ball were unsuccessful, but an expert familiar with the signatures of both was highly critical of the signatures comparing them to many in-person examples he had obtained.

The ball was sold by Mastro for $32,766 in November of 2000.  One expert we spoke with speculated that the ball may be the same one identified in the book Operation Bullpen, which states, ”In his investigations FBI Special Agent Tim Fitzsimmons saw a Ruth ball with a price tag of $10,000. Then there was the Ruth-Roger Maris-Mark McGwire combo-signed ball that Fitzsimmons saw in 1999 after McGwire broke the single-season home run record. Its asking price was $500,000, and it almost certainly was a Greg Marino forgery.”  The passage appears to be referring to the Bonds and McGwire signatures, as one source told us, “That Ruth is no Marino.”
Another opinion: “It makes no sense, absolutely no sense why anyone would add Sharpie black signatures of Bonds and McGwire to a ball supposedly signed by Ruth & Maris. And then to make them look not even authentic is just plain bad.”
One expert opined: “The ink on the Ruth is applied unevenly and it even looks as if there were starts and stops in the course of applying the signature.  It looks more like it was “gone-over” in spots, rather than being a real Ruth.”

6. 1944-45 Babe Ruth Signed Albertype (Type I) Hall of Fame Plaque (Sold For $22,705)

Heritage Auction Estimate: $30,000-and up

Some experts wondered if this could be the work of the late Ron Dross, but additional information revealed that Dross’ specialty was “Artvue, not Albertype HOF plaques.”  Still JSA & PSA’s work authenticating Black & White HOF plaques is inadequate to say the least.

Authentications of player plaques of players like Jesse Burkett have cost collectors a fortune (as HOS will detail in upcoming reports).  Ron Keurajian believes the only authentic Ruth plaque to surface is the example sold at Philip Weiss Auctions in 2009 for over $60k.  Every expert we asked concurred with author Keurajian,  One said, “The signature shows hesitation and looks off, I’d stay away for sure.”  Another simply said, “It’s apocryphal.”

7. 1930’s Lou Gehrig & Tony Lazzeri Dual Signed Baseball (Sold For $9,261)

Heritage Estimated Value:  $10,000-and up

One expert opined: ” The Gehrig is particularly awful. That is new ink traced over. There is no possible way that ink is 73 years old at best. Just no way!”

Another expert said: “On the  Gehrig-Lazzeri ball , based on (the) scan, the ink could still be wet, obvious it was recently applied.”

Another said: “To see the wide ranges of different handwriting found on these Gehrig signed balls is scary.  The TPA’s are authenticating examples that are so far off from each other, its unbelievable.  Look at the stoppages, mistakes and the letter formation on this ball.  Simply not Lou Gehrig.”

8.  An Exquisite 1932 New York Yankees Team Signed Baseball (Sold For $35,850)

Heritage Estimated Value: $15,000- and up

“Its filled with labored signatures that give away the fact they were all created in the same unsteady hand.”

9. 1927 New York Yankees Pitching Staff Signed Photograph (Sold For $13,145)

Heritage Estimated Value:  $10,000-and up

These alleged autographs of the Yankee staff are signed on an authentic wire photo and most collectors might not question their authenticity.  One expert we spoke with, however, called the Yankee pitcher autographs “Garbage.”  He pointed to “slow and labored strokes of the pen” and was critical of letter formations and what he viewed as an assemblege he could not call genuine.

Another opinion: “This piece is insane. Just look at it. Was it signed last week? The ink is incredibly bold on some but then appears faded on others. Fading doesn’t discriminate. Notice how strong Dutch Ruether is but George Pipgras right next to Reuther’s signature is faded. It looks as if someone used new fountain pen ink to forge all the signatures and then used lemon juice or ammonia to fade some of the signatures. The ink on Reuther and the earlier signatures cannot be older than 10 years in my opinion.”

10. 1940’s Babe Ruth Single Signed Baseball (Sold For $35,850)

Heritage Estimated Value: $20,000- and up

One of the experts said: “Giant question !!!! if the scan is accurate why has the “branding” faded (on sweet spot) but not the signature ?”

Another said: “Like most forged Ruth balls this one is executed slowly and poorly with none of the bounce a real Ruth exhibits.”

In his book, Ron Keurajian points to Ruth forgeries being “signed in a methodic way” and lacking the “up and down and bouncy strokes.”  This ball is a good example of what he described in his book.

Another opinion: “It is another one of these high-grade Babe Ruth’s that is slowly executed and lacks the fluidity of an authentic Ruth signature.  It’s as if the forgeries have become the exemplars when it comes to Ruth balls.”

Chris Ivy (left) of Heritage banks on the opinions of Steve Grad of PSA (center) and Jimmy Spence of JSA (right).

This assemblage would not have been possible without the pairing of TPA’s Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence with auction executive Chris Ivy, son of Heritage Auction Galleries CEO, Steve Ivy.  We’re hoping this trio can learn from their mistakes and that future reports like this one will not be necessary.

But for now, one of the most prominent collectors in the hobby told us this:

“As a high-end collector who has purchased an unaltered Wagner, over a dozen Babe Ruth game bats, dozens of game used Hall of Famer flannels and some of the best babe Ruth autographs known to exist, I find it disturbing that so many items I planned on bidding on in the Heritage auction have been deemed stolen or fraudulent.”

UPDATE:  Alleged Fakes Sell At Platinum Night Event in NYC and #11 Jackie Robinson Single Joins Notorious Group (PSA Agrees???)

11.  Jackie Robinson Single Signed Baseball (Sold For $26,290) reader Brian West informed us that he noticed Heritage’s Jackie Robinson single offered in the Platinum Auction only had a JSA letter of authenticity, so, he inquired of PSA/DNA via their Quick Opinion service and received an answer.  West told us:  ”The ball was described in the catalog as authenticated by JSA. I used the PSA quick-opinion option on their website ($10) and they sent me an email with their “likely not genuine” opinion.”

After we got that news, Richard Simon sent us an unusual listing of a Jackie Robinson replica ball on eBay featuring what looks like the exact same autograph as the Heritage offering (above right).

When our experts viewed the Robinson single last week, the consensus was the ball was a forgery (We guess that PSA/DNA agreed?).  The ball allegedly sold this evening for over $26,000 with its JSA LOA.

We have a request going out to Heritage’s Chris Ivy for an explanation.

By Peter J. Nash

February 18, 2013

Could Lou Gehrig have signed this c1940 baseball being offered by Heritage Auction Galleries?

When Lou Gehrig was forced to retire due to the debilitating illness that robbed him of his baseball talents, the once muscular and feared slugger was reduced to a shadow of his former stature as baseball’s “Iron Horse.”   In his 2005 book, Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, Gehrig’s biographer, Jonathan Eig, describes his deteriorating physical health in detail drawing from the observations made by Gehrig’s own doctors at the time:

“On January 27, 1940, Gehrig visited a Manhattan doctor, Israel Wechsler. Wechsler wrote that “When first seen, [Gehrig] had marked spasticity in both lower extremities… generalized fibrillations, weakness of the shoulder and arm muscles, and almost complete paralysis of the hand muscles…”

By 1940, Gehrig had already come to grips with losing his picture-perfect swing,  but as an ailing sports legend he found  he couldn’t even sign an autograph for an adoring little kid or write a letter to a close friend. Gehrig had to use a stamp to sign his letters for his job at the New York Parole Board and his wife Eleanor would either ghost-sign his signature or use the same rubber stamp to honor autograph requests from his fans.

In his biography, Jonathan Eig  utilized correspondence between Gehrig and Dr. Paul O’Leary to further describe Gehrig’s physical condition.  The correspondence was originally purchased for $40,000 at a 1998 auction by collector Paul Ancel and ESPN’s Outside The Lines reproduced a selection of letters from the collection in a segment called “Sincerely, Lou” which aired in July of 2009.  One of the letters posted on the ESPN site was dated January 23, 1940, just four days before Gehrig’s Doctor diagnosed the paralysis in his hands.   In that letter to Dr. O’Leary, Gehrig admitted that his wife was already autographing photos on his behalf for friends and fans and stated that he was becoming “self conscious” about his “present penmanship.”

This letter signed "Lou" by Eleanor Gehrig on January 23, 1940, sheds light on Gehrig's ability to sign. Gehrig notes that his wife is already signing for him and states he is "self conscious" about his "current penmanship." (Rip Van Winkle Foundation and James Ancel Collection)

Based upon the Gehrig correspondence and other information he had gathered, Eig determined that by 1940 Gehrig could no longer sign his own name. Says Eig, “I’m fairly certain that Eleanor was signing everything for him by that time.”  In support of this determination, it appears that the last letter Gehrig signed “Lou” in the O’Leary correspondence collection bears a date of December 10,1939.  All of the handwritten notations on letters from Gehrig to O’Leary from that date until Gehrig’s death appear to have been signed and executed by Eleanor Gehrig.

This letter from Feb. 6,1940 is ghost-signed by Gehrig's wife and the post card (inset) bears a stamped signature created initially for Gehrig's use at his Parole Board job. The stamped signature is post-marked, July 12, 1940.

Additional evidence also supports Eig’s assertion, as all surviving signed items attributed to Gehrig post-January 1940 are also signed by Gehrig’s wife or are the product of the facsimile rubber stamp he used for the Parole Board.  In his new book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide, expert Ron Keurajian confirms the use of the rubber stamp and ghost-signing by Eleanor Gehrig.  As to the letters written by Gehrig in 1940 and 1941 Keurajian says, “Be warned Gehrig held this position in name only and, to my knowledge, never actually signed any of these letters.”

Although he suffered paralysis in his hands, Gehrig could still write, almost illegibly, as evidenced on legal documents he actually signed in 1940 and 1941.  His post-1940 signature was extremely shaky and almost illegible as compared to his signature before his illness took hold.  The best examples are signatures executed by Gehrig on settlement agreements dated December 19, 1940 with the New York Daily News, and March 26, 1941 with the New York Life Insurance Company.

Gehrig's debilitated signature appears on this settlement agreement with the New York Life Insurance Company executed on March 26, 1941. (National Baseball Library, Cooperstown NY)

Heritage Auction Galleries was planning on offering, in its February Platinum Night auction in NYC, what they described as a Lou Gehrig single-signed ball ” from the thin supply of known Gehrig singles.”  The bid stood at $33,460 last Friday when contacted the auction house and asked how Lou Gehrig could have signed a baseball that is believed to have been manufactured in 1940 when his hands were already diagnosed by his own Doctor as exhibiting “paralysis”? Not only were his hands paralyzed, but the process of signing a sphere would undoubtedly present him with additional challenges.  At first Chris Ivy of Heritage Auctions told us, ”

“Popular belief is that this style ball was manufactured circa 1940, but we have seen no definitive evidence suggesting an exact date. Obviously, both PSA/DNA and James Spence Authentication inspected this baseball in person and were comfortable with the signature.”

At the time Ivy gave that statement he was still inclined to include the ball as part of his February 23rd live auction event in New York City alleging it included a genuine Gehrig signature on the sweet-spot of the Official American League ball made by the Reach Company in 1940.  But we still asked, how could this be?

Baseball expert, Brandon Grunbaum, of, says he can tell that the ball in the Heritage auction was manufactured in 1940 based upon the existence of two stamped stars that appear to the left and right of the word “OFFICIAL.”  Additionally, aside from the stamping being incorrect for 1939 Grunbaum says, “The stitching on the baseball appears thicker than 1939 models I have examined, and shows a variation of thicker stitching that started to appear on 1940’s model Reach baseballs.”

This style Official American League Reach baseball was manufactured and used in play between 1940 and 1942 as evidenced by the two stars (circled in red) located to the left and right on the word "OFFICIAL."

The American League balls were produced in the off-season and introduced to Major League play for the first time each season during Spring Training.  Grunbaum has definitively dated the model of the Heritage Gehrig offering as being manufactured between 1940 and 1942.

This photo was taken at the Spalding factory in Chicopee, MA, showing the Reach baseball manufacturing line on April 4, 1939. An enlargement of the baseballs being made reveals that the balls have no stars on the sweet spot. It is further proof suggesting that the 2-star variety was only made in 1940 and would have been impossible for Gehrig to have signed (Photos Courtesy of

To further illustrate his point Grunbaum presented photographic evidence from 1939 and said, “This photograph was supplied by the Baltimore Sun, and was taken April 23, 1939 for a story titled: “Baseballs Are Carefully Made”. The photograph is the Packaging & Boxing department of the Reach Factory in Chicopee, Massachusetts. After magnified inspection of the baseballs in the racks, it is conclusive that all models pictured do not have the two stars added to either side of the “Official” stamping. These baseballs would have been supplied directly to the American  League Teams for use in Professional game play for the entire 1939 season.”

This 1939 style AL ball is devoid of the two stars on the sweet spot and bears an authentic signature of Lou Gehrig

The alleged Gehrig-signed baseball offered by Heritage appears to be a 1940-1942 Official American League Harridge baseball manufactured by Reach.

The Heritage ball, allegedly signed by Gehrig, appears to be a 1940 model with the two star placement  on the sweet spot, however, it is likely that the last baseballs Gehrig had the opportunity to sign before the paralysis of his hands were the 1939 AL model without the stars.  Researching this issue we found another Gehrig ball and it looked as if the  exact same baseball was sold for over $44,000 at Mastro Auctions in 2008.

The Gehrig ball offered by Mastro in 2008 (left) and the current Heritage ball (right) were signed on the same 2-star variation of an Official Harridge American League ball.

But upon closer examination it was determined to be an almost exact Gehrig signature on another OAL Harridge ball with the 2-star variation.  Mastro referenced the inclusion of the stars on this particular ball and its rarity based upon the date of Gehrig’s death:

“This ball, though, is of the “Harridge” variety bearing stars that flank the stamping “Official,” thereby isolating its vintage to the period 1940-45. The chemistry of all these variables, then, necessarily isolates this signing to that narrow window between Gehrig’s retirement and his passing (June 1941). In its composition—that is, a single signed, sweet spot Lou Gehrig autograph, placed on an official American League ball of this stamping configuration—this one may not be unique, but it is decidedly among the dear few ever to become available. LOA from Steve Grad & Zach Rullo/PSA DNA and LOA from James Spence Authentication.”

Neither Mastro nor Heritage made any reference to the stars appearing on the second OAL Harridge ball which Heritage now describes as:

“The solid red stitching of the Official American League (Harridge) sphere indicates post-1934 production, and thus the aftermath of the game’s most fruitful slugging partnership.”

The Heritage ball being offered for sale on February 23rd is authenticated by the same individuals and companies, James Spence of JSA and Steve Grad of PSA/DNA.

Mastro sold this 1939 Yankee team ball and noted that the key to determining its 1939 vintage was the signature of one-season Yankee Joe Gallagher (center). The ball's sweet spot is not of the star variation (left) and the authentic signature of Gehrig is found on the sweet spot (right).

Before any expert ever ventured to opine on this particular signed baseball, the issue of the manufacturing date of the ball itself should have been addressed first.  In fact, when it was examined by the same experts in 2008, the fact that the ball was an OAL Harridge ball manufactured between 1940 and 1945 was already established and disclosed to prospective bidders.  The experts were already aware of these facts and the inclusion of the two stars on the sweet spot of the ball.  Authentic 1939 Yankee team signed balls which include player Joe Gallagher, who only played one season with the Yankees (April 20-June 13),  appear on OAL Harridge balls with no stars.  When Mastro offered a 1939 Yankee ball in 2006 they specifically noted: ” The pivotal name on the ball, isolating its 1939 signing, is that of one-year Yankee Joe Gallagher”.

This 1939 Yankee team-signed ball sold by Lelands features an authentic signature of Gehrig on the low sweet spot. The ball does not feature Gallagher but is signed on an OAL Harridge ball, without stars.

Interestingly enough, authenticator James Spence also authenticated the same ball currently being offered by Heritage back in 2000 for MastroNet when it sold for a whopping $61,047.  In that lot description no reference was made to the two-star Harridge variation as MastroNet simply stated the ball was:

“A Near Mint creamy OAL (Harridge) baseball with a “9″ signature. LOAs from James Spence/PSA DNA and Mike Gutierrez/MastroNet.”

What due diligence was conducted by Spence, Grad and the two authentication companies is unknown.  What is known is that it was determined by someone in 2008 at Mastro Auctions that the alleged Gehrig signed ball was of the two-star variety and manufactured between 1940 and 1945.

According to ball expert Brandon Grunbaum, the particular ball being sold by Heritage was manufactured and used in Major League play between 1940 and 1942.

Contrary to Chris Ivy’s assertions, however, all of the evidence suggests that Lou Gehrig could not have signed the offered c 1940 Official American League ball manufactured between 1940 and 1942. Knowing that the 1940 Reach baseball in the Heritage sale could not have been signed by Gehrig, Ivy’s statement represents a blind faith in the skills of JSA and PSA/DNA that should scare collectors.  What is viewed as blind faith, however, could very well be viewed as organized crime when it comes to the cozy relationship between the auction house and authenticators.  It wasn’t until we informed Ivy that we had photographs of the Reach factory in 1939 that he withdrew the PSA/JSA certified ball from the sale.  Ivy acknowledged the information we shared with him related to the stamping on a 1939 ball and said, “Even though both of the third-party authenticators were comfortable with the Gehrig signature, we wanted to err on the side of caution, so we went ahead and made the decision to remove the Gehrig baseball from the auction. We will do some additional research on behalf of our consignor to see if we can get a more definitive time-frame for the stamping on the baseball.”

In 2012, Heritage sold another Gehrig ball (left) believed to be a forgery and signed in a style expert Ron Keurajian has warned collectors about. The signature on the current HA offering (center) bears little resemblance to an authentic Gehrig signature on a ball. Another questioned Gehrig ball (right) shows an inscribed signature on the side panel.

Earlier this year we published an article reporting the “ Worst Authentications of 2012” and included another alleged Lou Gehrig single signed baseball sold by Heritage for over $44,000.  In that post reported:

“Author and expert Ron Keurajian goes into detail about his opinion of Lou Gehrig balls signed on the sweet spots of period baseballs in his new autograph handbook. Keurajian notes in his Gehrig signature study: ”A common forged ball (of Gehrig) is signed on the sweet spot with an overly large signature. Gehrig signed in a confined hand. A genuine signature is small and takes up very little space on the sweet spot.” The Heritage ball had a big signature and fetched a big price of over $44,000. Keurajian adds, “The forged Gehrig signatures, on the other hand, take up the entire sweet spot and are twice as large as a genuine signature. If you examine one of these balls with a large signature on the sweet spot, study it carefully as it is likely a forgery. Most Gehrig single-signed balls are signed and inscribed on the side panel.”

Unlike that ball, the current offering by Heritage shows the size and placement of Gehrig’s signature more representative of an authentic autograph of the “Iron Horse.”  However, the signature itself is in conflict with the claims made by authenticators JSA and PSA/DNA in the LOA’s that accompany this very ball.  JSA says the ball is authentic because it exhibits the  ”slant, flow, pen pressure, letter size and formation and other characteristics typical of our extensive database of known exemplars we have examined throughout our hobby and professional careers.”

Heritage's Platunum Auction in NYC also features two other highly questionable baseballs alleged to have been signed by Lou Gehrig. Experts are of the opinion these signatures are forgeries.

What, might we ask, is included in JSAs database representing authentic Gehrig handwriting and signatures?

In addition to the questioned single-signed Gehrig ball, Heritage is also offering other dubious baseballs alleged to have been signed by the “Iron Horse.”  One is an unofficial ball allegedly signed by Gehrig and fellow HOFer Tony Lazzeri and the other is being billed by Heritage as, “The Finest 1927 New York Yankees Team Signed Baseball On Earth.”  It appears that the 1927 ball  came with a story that Earle Combs gave it to a neighbor, and that apparently was good enough for JSA and PSA.  Experts we spoke with have identified the ball as non-genuine.

Jimmy Spence of JSA (left) claims to be an expert consultant for the FBI, however, as his lack of skill in authenticating signatures like Lou Gehrig's are exposed, its clear that the FBI should be looking at how Spence is defrauding consumers with his LOA's that accompany Gehrig forgeries that have sold at Legendary and Heritage Auctions (right).

On his company website Jimmy Spence of JSA claims that, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of the Treasury (IRS) have depended on Spence as their sports authentication adviser and asked for his assistance during past investigations. Law enforcement and insurance carriers have placed their trust in Spence to assist in their analysis. Mr. Spence has successfully completed certification in Forensic Document Examination.”

Contrary to his claims, sources indicate that Spence is currently under investigation by the FBI and has misrepresented his credentials as evidenced in depositions related to litigation he has been party to.  The formal training in handwriting analysis Spence claims to have completed appears to be fabricated as a source who was familiar with PSA operations revealed to us last year information about Spence’s training and told us, ”He does not have a certificate in forensic document authentication. That is not correct. The certificate just says that he completed a correspondence course in document examination, which was offered by a man named Andrew Bradley, the same correspondence course that PSA authenticators were required to take.”

Before James Spence began authenticating $60,000 Lou Gehrig baseballs he worked as a fitness instructor at Club Med and for Cunard Cruise Lines, as a salesman for American Van Equipment and as a ladder salesman for the Lynn Ladder Company until he was fired from the Orwigsberg, PA, firm in 1991. Spence had no formal training that could qualify him as a handwriting expert and in PSA/DNA advertisements published as early as 2002, Spence and his then PSA counterpart, Steve Grad, boasted of having “40 years combined expertise in the industry.”

Despite all of those years of alleged “combined expertise” the work of both Spence and Grad on Lou Gehrig single signed baseballs speaks volumes.  They both are witnesses to a miracle:  Lou Gehrig signing a baseball in 1940.

(See additional coverage in the New York Post of Heritage’s withdrawal of the Gehrig ball from its Platinum Auction in NYC.)

By Peter J. Nash

February 16, 2013

Heritage is offering what they say is the "Last Out Ball" from the 1917 World Series.

UPDATE: More on the Heritage Auction in the New York Post

Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas made news recently when tipped off Deadspin that they were selling off Curt Schilling’s famous “Bloody Sock” at their February auction in New York City.  It’s not “that” bloody sock from the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, Schilling threw that one away.  Heritage’s offering is said to be Schilling’s bloody sock from the 2004 World Series against the Cardinals.  Schilling says its that sock, but back when he loaned it to the Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster Gary Thorne made waves when he alleged the sock was a fake. Hall President Jeff Idelson then came to Schilling’s defense and vouched for the bloody sock, stating that Schilling offered the sock to him in the locker room in St. Louis right after the Sox broke the long standing curse that had stood since 1918.

Heritage has another impressive relic from a Fall Classic that was played one year before that old Red Sox curse commenced back in 1918 and it comes with an affidavit from the son of Hall of Famer and White Sox pitcher Urban “Red” Faber, saying its the real deal. Urban Faber Jr. penned the inscription on the ball many years after it was tossed around on the Polo Grounds of John J. McGraw attesting to its import as the “Final Out Ball” from the 1917 World Series.

Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, Texas, adds this:

Down to his last out in the bottom of the ninth, legendary manager John McGraw sent back-up catcher Lew McCarty to the plate in place of pitcher Pol Perritt. With a man on second, McCarty represented the tying run, but Faber coaxed him into a slow grounder to second, where Hall of Famer Eddie Collins scooped up this baseball and flipped it to future Black Sox conspirator Chick Gandil to end the battle.

Eighty-eight years after Shoeless Joe and the gang celebrated in front of a dejected Polo Grounds crowd, this baseball entered the collecting hobby in a 2005 auction, consigned by Urban Faber, Jr., the son of the man who saved his last pitch ball for posterity. The elder Faber’s notation on the side panel of the Official National League (Tener) ball reports, “World Series 1917, White Sox 4, N.Y. Giants 2, Final game, Faber vs. Benton/Perritt.” It should be noted that the writing dates to decades after the game, applied after the original notation had faded beyond legibility.

The ball exhibits expected wear and age-toning, but the notation projects flawlessly. A signed affidavit from Urban Faber, Jr. attesting to the authenticity of the baseball is included, as is a signed 8×10″ of his father. Letter of provenance from Urban Faber, Jr.

It all sounds amazing and Hall of Fame worthy. A relic evoking the Black Sox before they went bad.  Back when “Shoeless Joe” and the boys were winners, not fixers (allegedly).  Like Schilling’s bloody sock it comes with a good story and an alleged provenance from the family of a Baseball Hall of Famer.  But just because a player or his family swears a ball or another piece of equipment was from a famous play or game, doesn’t necessarily mean it is authentic.

That being said, why is the last out ball of the 1917 Fall Classic signed on a “Cushioned Cork Center” Official National League Ball manufactured in 1926, almost a decade after Game 6 of the 1917 Series?

The alleged Last Out Ball from the World Series of 1917 (left) has the stamping of a "Cushioned Cork Center" ball first manufactured by Spalding in 1925 (right).

The ball is soiled but the Spalding stamps don’t lie.  It reads: “Official National League” with “Cushioned Cork Center” underneath.  Spalding’s “Cushioned Cork Center” was identified as such on a baseball for the first time in the Spring of 1926.  What’s more, genuine NL balls from 1917 had 112 red and black alternating stitches while the Heritage ball appears to have only 106 stitches.

The alleged 1917 WS ball clearly bears the stamping of a "Cushioned Cork Center" baseball that wasn't patented by Spalding until 1925.

An authentic National League ball from 1917 has the words “Cork” and “Center” placed diagonally as book ends to the word “Official” stamped on the sweet spot of the black and red stitched baseball.  The ball does not have any reference to a “Cushioned Cork Center” and identifies a 1909 patent.

We consulted with baseball expert, Brandon Grunbaum, of to confirm and verify our observations and he told us, “The 1917 ball is a Spalding Official National League Ball, but the model pictured wasn’t produced until 1926 at the earliest. That style ball, with the “Cushioned Cork Center” stamped on the sweetspot, was only stamped on two model National league Baseballs, the first being the 1926-1927 Pat’d Mar-17-25 Model, and the 1928-1933 Pat’d RE-17200 model. Both being Heydler era baseballs.”

Grunbaum also concurred that  the number of stitches found on the Heritage offering is problematic and said, “Yes, the 1917 National League Ball should have 116 stitches, compared to the 108 that the ball pictured has.”

In contrast to the alleged 1917 ball offered by Heritage, this authentic c.1917 NL ball displays the proper stamping denoting the ball's "Cork Center" diagonally to the left and right of the "Official" stamp.

Heritage was scheduled to auction the ball at its live Platinum Night event in New York City on February 23rd.

Of course, Heritage sold another ball they said could have been the last out of the same World Series back in May of 2012:

Heritage doesn't mention they sold this ball last May as possibly being the last out ball from the 1917 World Series.

1917 World Series Game Used Baseball–The Final Out? Ancient sphere was discovered at an estate auction near York, Pennsylvania, not far from the town of Reading where New York Giants player Lew McCarty lived and died. This fact becomes particularly intriguing when we consider that his name is penned on the opposing sweet spot from the bolder vintage application of the words “World’s Series Giants & White Sox.” Unfortunately the name is all we are able to make out on this area of the ball, but it’s clearly a period notation, which leads us to consider McCarty’s role in that early Fall Classic. Intriguingly, we find that, with two out in the bottom of ninth inning of the sixth and final game, McCarty was tapped to pinch hit for Giants pitcher Pol Perritt, grounding out to second to end the Series and establish “Shoeless Joe” Jackson’s White Sox as World Champions.

While we cannot definitively establish this as the last ball of that Series, the tradition of saving Championship-clinching balls was already well established at this juncture of baseball history, and this manner of notation is consistent with known examples from other years. Certainly it is at the very least a game used ball from that famous World Series, and the final out would seem to be the only incident from that October that would merit a mention of McCarty. Given the fact that the ball was discovered in McCarty’s backyard, the suggestion that he might have picked it up after the out was recorded is also a reasonable speculation. The ball exhibits heavy wear, clearly dating to both before and after the ancient notations, and while the ball’s stamping has been lost to the ages, the black and red stitching is correct for period ONL horsehide. A thrilling relic from the White Sox last Championship of the twentieth century.

After questioned Chris Ivy of Heritage Auctions regarding the stamping on a signed Lou Gehrig signed baseball, Ivy responded to us and said, “Even through the 1917 Red Faber World Series baseball has provenance directly from the Faber family, we felt that there may be some issue with the stamping, so we also removed that item from the auction so that we can do some additional research on the piece.”

By Peter J. Nash

February 15, 2013

Babe Ruth's autograph graces this 1915 WS check request made by the Boston Red Sox. It originated from the August Herrmann archive.

For Update Scroll to Bottom:

Once again, Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, Texas, is offering a rare document for sale believed to have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s famous August Herrmann Papers collection. Selling documents stolen from the Hall of Fame has become a regular occurrence at Heritage as has offering stolen photos as we exposed in an article we wrote for Deadspin last Spring.

The current questioned document is a 1915 check request sent by Babe Ruth and his Red Sox teammates to August Herrmann’s National Commission, the ruling body in Baseball before a Commissioners office was established. Dated October 8, 1915, the letter is addressed to Herrmann’s underling and Commission Secretary, John E. Bruce, and grants the permission from all the undersigned Red Sox that manager Bill Carrigan can accept a check on their behalf representing their players share for the 1915 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, Smoky Joe Wood and the entire Red Sox team signed the document which is now open for bidding on the auction house’s website and scheduled to be sold at Heritage’s live Platinum auction event in New York City on February 23rd. The National Baseball Library in Cooperstown houses the World Series papers of the National Commission, which includes comprehensive correspondence related to everything from ticket sales to awards to the travel expenses of umpires. The files still hold several World Series check request letters, however, the 1915 Red Sox request, among others, is curiously absent.  On Heritage’s website the document currently has a bid of $38,837 and is accompanied by an LOA from Jimmy Spence and JSA.

This 1915 request for World Series share money for the Red Sox was signed by Babe Ruth and his teammates and sent to Baseball's National Commission. It is believed to have originated from the HOFs Herrmann Papers Archive.

The same letter was also sold in 2001 by Federally indicted ex-hobby kingpin, Bill Mastro, at a MastroNet auction as lot 694 for close to $10,000 and was offered with another World Series check request (lot 698) written by John J. McGraw and his 1917 New York Giants, which sold for close to $3,000.  MastroNet did not include any information regarding the provenance of either document other than to mention that the 1915 Red Sox letter included “absolutely remarkable” signatures and was “a unique document of museum quality.”  Both letters were authenticated by Mike Gutierrez for MastroNet and James Spence for PSA/DNA.

John Bruce (far right) sits with (from l to r) Harry Pulliam, August Herrmann and Ban Johnson. If looks could kill: Herrmann & Co. might have similar looks on their faces if informed of the HOF thefts of their papers.

Gutierrez was at the center of a late 1980s FBI investigation into thefts at the Baseball Hall of Fame after he sold a signed photograph of Babe Ruth to auctioneer Josh Evans that was stolen from the National Baseball Library.  The photograph had a Hall of Fame accession number covered with white-out and after Evans reported the incident to Hall officials, Gutierrez became the prime suspect for both the FBI and state prosecutors.

In 1998, an anonymous source told hobby newsletter The Sweet Spot that he had accompanied Mike Gutierrez on a visit to the National Baseball Library and said of Gutierrez: “He would go to the photocopy machine, make copies of some of the documents; he made neat stacks of copies,” the witness said. “For every 10 items he’d take to the machine, however, nine originals would return to the file. One original would be mixed in with the copies and they would go directly into his briefcase. That briefcase would never leave his side.” The eyewitness also indicated that the documents Gutierrez was copying were from the Hall’s Herrmann Papers collection.

Gutierrez is one of Heritage’s current consignment directors and a regular on-air appraiser of sports memorabilia for PBS and Antiques Roadshow.  In 2001, Gutierrez’ auction, MGA Auctions offered the 1917 New York Giant check request letter in a Sports Collectors Digest auction just months after it was sold by MastroNet, who was also his employer.

Mike Gutierrez offered the 1917 New York Giant team-signed WS check request in his 2001 MGA Auctions sale.

The Hall’s Herrmann Papers archive includes documents related to protested games, the World Series, player contracts, player discipline and virtually ever aspect involved in the business of Major League Baseball.  It includes all of the correspondence to Herrmann in relation to the National Commission as well as all of his day to day records as owner of the Cincinnati Reds from 1902 through the 1920s.

The current Heritage offering of the 1915 Red Sox WS request also appeared with this 1917 NY Giant request in a 2001 MastroNet auction. Both documents originated from the HOFs Herrmmann Papers archive.

While any such team-signed document addressed to Herrmann’s Commission  (like the 1915 Red Sox check request), had to have originated from his files, the 1917 Giant check request illustrates best the likelihood that these documents were stolen from the Hall in the 1980s heist of well over $1 million in donated materials.  The New York Giant letter offered by Mastro and Gutierrez in 2001 was dated October 9, 1917 and apparently wasn’t addressed or paid promptly by Herrmann and the Commission.  On October 15, 1917, the Giants wrote a second demand letter for their World Series money. In the letter addressed to the Commission including  Herrmann, Ban Johnson and John Tener, manager John McGraw claims that all of the players who signed both requiest letters “have already made arrangements to use our money from World Series receipts.”  Unlike, the letter sold by Gutierrez and Mastro, this letter still resides in the National Baseball Library in the Herrmann archive’s World Series files.  In fact, at the top of the letter Herrmann hand wrote in pencil the notation:  ”File with World Series Papers.”  In addition to that letter request, the NBLs files still contain the check request from the 1917 champion White Sox.

This 1917 WS check request from the New York Giants to the National Commission is currently found in the files of the National Baseball Library's Herrmann Papers archive.

The Herrmann Papers archive was donated to the Hall in 1960 by Reds owner Powel Crosley Jr. and also includes other requests for World Series monies including team-signed letters from Hermann’s Reds requesting their share of the fixed 1919 Series and the 1917 request made by the Chicago White Sox signed by the “Eight-Men Out” including Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.  Considering how many valuable and rare signatures have been documented as stolen from the Herrmann archive it is surprising that the Jackson-signed document is still in Cooperstown, now protected in an archival sleeve.

A 1917 White Sox request for WS money, signed by "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, and a 1920 request signed by the 1919 Reds are still part of the HOFs Herrmann archive. (National Baseball Library, Cooperstown).

The 1915 and 1917 letters to the Commission are also addressed to Herrmann’s Commission’s secretary, John E. Bruce, who dealt with financial considerations for Baseball’s governing body.  The file for Herrmann’s 1915 World Series documents includes several other letters addressed to Bruce dealing with the travel expenses for umpires Bill Klem and John Rigler who traveled between New York and Chicago for the Series.

The HOFs Herrmann Archive includes a file devoted to the 1915 World Series with several letters addressed to Commission Secretary John Bruce. (National Baseball Library, Cooperstown).

Letters suspected to have been stolen from the Hall of Fame’s collection have been appearing at auction since the early 1990s with several having direct links to Heritage’s Mike Gutierrez.  Heritage has removed several Herrmann documents from previous sales written by HOFers Fred Clarke, Joe Tinker, Charles Comiskey, Ban Johnson and others.  Other Herrmann documents have appeared in sales held by Superior Galleries in Beverly Hills, CA., and at Richard Wolfers Auctions in San Francisco, CA., at times when Gutierrez was employed as a consultant or employee of those two companies.

HOF Chairman Jane Forbes Clark and President Jeff Idelson have dropped the ball in recovering stolen artifacts. Their predecessors dropped the ball in prosecuting suspect Mike Gutierrez (right).

In December, Huggins & Scott auctions sold two documents that were previously pulled by Heritage in 2010, a letter addressed to Herrmann by Joe Tinker and another regarding a protested game by Fred Clarke.  Despite the fact that another legitimate source of Herrmann materials has not been established and that the sellers of the suspect contraband can produce no verifiable provenance for the documents they are selling, the leadership at the Baseball Hall of Fame has not pursued recovery of its property.  In fact, when another auction was selling documents addressed to Herrmann,  Hall communications director and spokesperson, Brad Horn, told Clean Sweep Auctions president, Steve Verkman: “There is insufficient information for us to unequivocally state that these were stolen from the Hall of Fame.”  Verkman told, “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.”

Babe Ruth’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, is disturbed by the sale of stolen and historic artifacts linked to her grandfather.  Tosetti has played a key role in helping recover other stolen documents like Babe Ruth’s will, which vanished from a New York City courthouse. Outspoken in support of the memory of the Babe, her public statements raised awareness and helped the FBI and the NY State Attorney General finally recover the stolen will.

Upon hearing about the 1915 Ruth letter being offered by Heritage Tosseti said, “My grandfather donated his personal awards and artifacts to the Hall of Fame, and the State of New York with a trust that they be kept safe in perpetuity, to enrich baseball history for future generations. The Hall of Fame, and the State of New York have a responsibility to take care of said items.
When collecting brings in so much money, there must be extra care taken to safe guard these baseball treasures. The Major League papers that include my grandfather are now being sold by these auctions houses. Maybe they should be accountable along with the Hall of Fame that is letting them be sold to spare their embarrassment ? It is sad to see items that might have been cherished family heirlooms, which were given for generations to appreciate, being stolen and sold out of greed. I know my grandfather would not approve. They really should be ashamed.”

Chris Ivy, Heritage’s director of Sports Auctions and son of Heritage CEO,  Steve Ivy, did not respond to our inquiries about the provenance on the Red Sox letter and the authenticity of the Ruth plaque.  Another recent investigation confirmed that Ivy and Heritage had sold another item stolen from the Hall of Fame, a rare photo of the 1886 New York Giants for over $10,000.  Ivy has still not indicated if that item has been returned to Cooperstown.

Recently, has published stories revealing that, in addition to the Herrmann archive, other collections at the Hall have been compromised including 19th century photographs, the Ford Frick Correspondence files and the Frederick Long Papers Collection.

In the recently published McFarland book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide, author and expert Ron Keurajian weighs in on the thefts from the Hall.  ”Today, any letter or document addressed to Herrmann, the National Commission, Tom Lynch, Ban Johnson……should be considered suspect and its origins must be investigated carefully as it may be stolen,” says Keurajian.  He adds, “Any letter that involves payment of salary, salary disputes, suspensions and games that were protested should also be scrutinized.”  Keurajian advises collectors to avoid these items and calls them “toxic.” contacted Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark for comment at her Clark Estates office at Rockefeller Center in New York City, but Clark did not respond or issue a statement regarding the Heritage offering or the issue of theft from the Hall.   Upcoming reports will also show that the papers of Clark’s grandfather (and Hall of Fame founder), Stephen C. Clark, have also been looted by library thieves.  Clark refused to comment on that issue as well.  Clark is the sole heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune and one of the richest women in America.

UPDATE (Feb. 24):  Sports Illustrated reports that a Texas man and his son named “Seven” won the 1915 Red Sox letter believed to have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame:

A boy wearing a black No. 5 David Wright Mets jersey won the stick for $262,900 and the jersey for $286,800 at a sports memorabilia auction Saturday night. Eruzione’s Miracle on Ice jersey, not the one he wore in the gold-medal game against Finland that Seven won, fetched the highest amount, $657,250, of every lot in a three-hour, $5 million, 134-item session at Fletcher-Sinclair mansion.

Seven, who is not named after Mickey Mantle, watched the movie “Miracle” for the first time this week.

“It was all he talked about for three days,” his father said.

He and his father, John, an avid baseball memorabilia collector, were already flying from Texas to win autographed Mel Ott and Mickey Mantle baseballs and a 1915 Boston Red Sox team signed sheet, including Babe Ruth. The most notable non-Eruzione item was one of Curt Schilling’s two blood-stained socks from the 2004 playoffs that went for a lower-than-hoped $92,613.”

A kid named "Seven" is said to have won the 1915 Red Sox document believed to have been stolen from the HOFs Herrmann Papers archive.


Heritage's black and white HOF plaque allegedly signed by Babe Ruth and authenticated by Jimmy Spence (inset) contrasts an authentic example (inset) sold by Philip Weisss auctions in 2009.

Also being offered in Heritage’s live auction extravaganza is another item with ties to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, a black and white souvenir postcard depicting the Bambino’s bronze plaque which was allegedly signed by Ruth.  The item was authenticated by JSA’s Jimmy Spence and the auction house estimates the value of the signed postcard as exceeding $50,000.  The current bid stands at $16,000.

The alleged Ruth signed plaque authenticated by JSA (top) differs from the JSA authenticated plaque sold at Philip Weiss Auctions and also authenticated by Jimmy Spence.

Black and white HOF plaques produced by the Albertype company are rarely found bearing the authentic signature of Ruth and an authentic example was sold at Philip Weiss Auctions in Long Island in 2009 for $62,150.  In contrast to that authentic example, the Heritage offering, authenticated by Spence, does not appear to be a favorite of expert Ron Keurajian, author of the book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs:  A Reference Guide. Keurajian references the authentic plaque sold by Philip Weiss in a section in his book devoted to signed Hall of Fame postcard plaques.  According to Keurajian it is the only authentic Ruth autographed HOF plaque-postcard known to exist.

REA sold a HOF plaque with this alleged signature of Ruth for $44,062.50 in 2008.

Back in 2008, Robert Edward Auctions sold an alleged Ruth signature on a HOF “Sepia Plaque” that pre-dated the Albertype plaques and were produced between 1939 and 1943.  However, according to assertions made by Keurajian in his book, this autograph, authenticated and slabbed by PSA, is also not genuine.

Keurajian says that the keys to determining what an authentic Ruth signature looks like are found on the plaque sold by Weiss in 2009.  Says Keurajian, “Even though this plaque was signed by Ruth late in life it shows a strong and steady hand with evidence of good flow.”  In Keurajian’s study on Ruth in his book he writes, “A genuine signature will evidence no shakiness of hand and one that does should be considered suspect and avoided.”

The Heritage signed plaque exhibits signs of hesitation, uneven flow of ink and unusual letter construction.  To the average eye the signature appears to be authentic, but forgers of Ruth’s signature are so skilled that the expertise of Keurajian is needed to point out the danger signs.  In his book Keurajian adds, “Because the (Ruth) forgeries are signed in a methodic way, the signature lacks the up and down bouncy strokes of a genuine  Ruth. ”

For more coverage on controversial Babe Ruth memorabilia up for auction and the Bill Mastro Hearings click: here.

By Peter J. Nash

Feb. 12, 2013

This ultra-rare PM-1 pin of Babe Ruth is up for sale at Legendary Auctions. Its authenticity is being questioned.



When it was announced that a discovery of a PM-1 pin of Babe Ruth was made in 2005 by auctioneer and pin expert Rob Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions, it represented one of the most remarkable finds in recent times. It was billed as being quite possibly the earliest issue representing Ruth in a Major League uniform and as part of a 1915 commercial issue that is now recognized in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. The pins were first documented in the late Burt Sugar’s The Sports Collectors Bible, which listed nine different players depicted on pins that were designated as “PM1’s.”

At the time of the astounding find a press release stated, “Uncovering buried treasure is something most can only dream of, but Robert Edward Auctions has done it with this discovery of the 1915 PM1 Ruth Pin!”

Lifson gave his thoughts on his discovery of the rare Ruth pin from the scarce 1915 PM1 “Ornate Border” pin set and said, “When we saw this pin, we had to finally say ‘Now we’ve seen everything!’ We have always had a special appreciation for baseball pins.”

Lifson continued, “For Robert Edward Auctions, seeing this pin in the collection of a longtime collector was almost like finding a previously undiscovered Joe Jackson in T206.”  In the REA press release published on the MEARS website it was reported, ” Upon seeing the pin, at first Robert Edward Auctions officials could not believe their eyes. Could it really be Babe Ruth? Most PM1s have the player’s name identified on the photo but some do not. This example is of the unidentified style, leaving REA to provide verification of the identification.”

It was also reported that in order to verify the image on the pin, Lifson had located, “a copy of the actual photograph of Ruth, which was used in the making of the pin.”  The PM-1 issue had never represented an example of the Ruth in the set but the press release also noted that while known as a scarce issue, ” it is not uncommon for new checklist discoveries to surface. During the past year alone, Robert Edward Auctions has provided two other additional PM1 checklist additions to The Standard Catalog (Jake Daubert and a second previously unknown pose of Tris Speaker).”

This rare cache of PM-1 pins, including the Ruth, was collected by the Drier family and is the cornerstone of Legendary's February auction. This Legendary ad states the significance of the collection.

Describing himself as a “pinback expert” the press release quoted the REA President as saying,  “This is one of the most exciting baseball pinback finds we could ever imagine existing, though before this find neither we nor anyone else, to the best of our knowledge, even considered the possibility of Ruth’s inclusion in the set.”

It was reported that the rare pin discovered would not appear in an auction and that “the owner has decided to sell the pin privately.”  Doug Allen, President of Legendary confirmed for that Lifson sold the rare pin to the Dreier family and it appears as the first lot in Legendary’s February 27th sale.  Allen also confirmed that Lifson had sold the Dreier’s the majority of his pin collection that was highlighted in Stephen Wong’s Smithsonian Baseball coffee-table book published in 2005.

The 1915 PM-1 Ruth pin discovered by Lifson is at odds with the image it was generated from, a 1918 image shot by Charles Conlon.

But Lifson’s claim of having verified the Ruth discovery by locating the actual photograph used to create the pin is problematic as a source has revealed to us that the photograph of Ruth was believed to have been shot at New York’s Polo Grounds by photographer Charles Conlon in 1918, three years after the issue date of the PM1 set which features many of the stars from the 1910 and mid-teens era.

This comparison of both photos reveals specific points of emphasis that illustrate the Conlon image and the image on the PM1 pin are the same. It appears that the image on the pin, however, has been slightly enhanced and drawn over.

In regard to the 1918 dating of the photograph pin expert David Maus of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told us, “Obviously, this is when people like Conlon started to photograph Ruth in a batting pose. How could a 1918 photo of Ruth get on a 1915 PM1 pin?” It’s a pretty legitimate question. Either the pin is fake or the dating of the PM1 set is seriously wrong.”  Maus also indicated that the same photograph is also featured on page 52 of “BASEBALL”S GOLDEN AGE - The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon” by Neal and Constance McCabe and identified as a 1918 image.

John Rogers, owner and founder of the Rogers Archive owns the original Conlon glass-plate negative of this very photo and told us, “I looked at the original glass plate and it was not dated like some others are, but every piece of paperwork associated with this photo says its from 1918.”  Rogers’ Conlon Collection website dates the photo as an image shot in 1918 and images sold as wire photos at auction also date the shot to 1918.  The same photo is also paired with a bat purported to be Ruth’s lumber from the 1918 World Series in a Sports Illustrated piece on the World’s Most Expensive Sports Memorabilia.

Since most reliable sources date the matching photo to 1918, it should be noted that the Red Sox played nine games at the Polo Grounds in 1918.  On May 4, 1918, in New York, Ruth hit his tenth career home run and on May 6th hit his eleventh.  It was a historic game as Ruth played first base and batted sixth (the first time he had appeared in a game other than as a pitcher or pinch-hitter) and the first time he batted in any spot other than ninth. Ruth hit his second home run of the year  as five of his eleven career homers up to that date were hit at the Polo Grounds. Paul Shannon of the Boston Post commenced his story of the game stating : “Babe Ruth still remains the hitting idol of the Polo Grounds.”

On June 24th Ruth played again in New York and on the 25th he hit the eighteenth homer of his career ( and third of that season) into the upper deck at the Polo Grounds.  Ruth didn’t hit any homers on June 26th and 27th but when the Sox returned to the Polo Grounds on September 2nd, the Babe smacked out two in the last game of the season.

Babe Ruth's earliest baseball cards depicted him as a pitcher including (l. to r.) 1914 Baltimore News Rookie Card; 1915 Sporting News Rookie Card; 1917 Collins-McCarthy; and the PM-1 pin discovery by Lifson.

It is  reasonable to assume that New York based photographer, Charles Conlon, went to the Polo Grounds on September 2, 1918, to take photographs of the Red Sox on the last day of the season for use during the upcoming 1918 World Series against the Cubs. (The Red Sox clinched the pennant on 8/31) Ruth led the Major Leagues in homers with eleven in 1918, so photographing him in a batting pose at that time was understandable.

The earliest commercial use of the Conlon Ruth photograph we could locate was in an advertisement for a Ruth endorsed product in the November, 1920, issue of Baseball Magazine.  The same photo may also appear in the 1919 Reach Baseball Guide.

The significance of the Ruth PM1 find no doubt helped secure a record price for the relic when it was sold since the release date of the set pre-dates the 1916 Sporting News Ruth rookie card.  Lifson and REA noted the rarity and significance of the Ruth rookie card in a 2011 auction when they wrote:

“The Babe Ruth rookie card appears to naturally be a card that forgers and con artists gravitate to, creating fakes and trying to fool collectors into parting with thousands of dollars of hard-earned money for a “good deal” on an ungraded reprint or a card they don’t really have. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! Remember: Real Babe Ruth rookie cards are rare!”

REA also noted how remarkable it was that Ruth’s card appeared in the 1916 Sporting News set: “It would be hard for a piece of cardboard to better symbolize the history, the essence of American sport, than this Sporting News rookie card of Babe Ruth. Ruth had only pitched in four games with Boston in 1915 but fortunately impressed the card manufacturer enough to warrant inclusion in this major issue.”

PM-1 pins also included pictures of American Presidents like these examples of Wm. Howard Taft. David Maus believes it would be easy to use the ornnate frame from one of these examples to create a fake PM-1 baseball pin.

A few weeks ago, asked Legendary’s Doug Allen to inspect the Ruth pin under a loop and he told us, “It looks like a period photograph and has the same resolution and surface sheen as the others in the set we compared it to.  I will send scans so you can see.”   As of today Allen had not sent any hi-res images of the Ruth pin and the other pins it was examined against for comparison.  Images on the Legendary website, however, were available as part of an auction preview.

As for the possibility the Ruth pin is a fake, David Maus told us, “1915 PM1 pins could be easily faked. A small hand cut sepia photo could simply be  inserted into the ornate border frame. Any existing PM1 pin could have easily had the original photo removed and a new photo of any desired subject inserted in its place. PM1 pins are also known to exist featuring presidents of the United States including Taft and Wilson. Any of those pins could easily have been re-purposed to create a fantasy pin.”  Maus’ expertise is the product of extensive research on the PM-1’s and other pinback issues and he likely has more knowledge about the set than anyone in the hobby.  On the subject of counterfeits Maus added, “With all the recent talk about how albumen photos could be faked to create a Brooklyn Atlantics CDV, how difficult would it be to create a sepia-toned PM-1?”

Regardless of the pin’s authenticity, however, is it likely or even possible that Ruth could have been depicted in a 1915 issue swinging a bat?

Though Babe Ruth was a Red Sox player in 1915, and on the Sox World Series roster, that does not sufficiently explain his presence in this set. Though Ruth debuted on July 11, 1914, he rode the bench and was sent down to the minors in mid-August. He returned to pitch the final week of 1914 and collected his first big league hit.

In 1915, Ruth pitched well for the Red Sox, going 18-8, but was hardly involved in the Series (except going 0-1 in a pinch hitting appearance.) He was not in the Red Sox Series starting rotation which consisted of Ernie Shore, Rube Foster, Dutch Leonard and Ernie Shore. Even if Red Sox like Barry, Foster, Hoblitzell and Speaker were included in the set to cash in on their 1915 World Series popularity, several other players on the Red Sox would have been considered for a limited set release before Ruth would have, including, but not limited to: Duffy Lewis, Harry Hooper, Everett Scott, Dutch Leonard, Larry Gardner, Bill Carrigan, Hick Cady, Smoky Joe Wood, Ernie Shore, etc.

The November, 1920, issue of Baseball Magazine depicted the same Ruth Conlon photo used for the PM-1 pin (inset with original backing) in an ad for a Ruth product endorsement.

In addition, while batting poses of Babe Ruth as a Red Sox player are not completely unknown, all hail from 1917 or later (Ruth began to play the field during his off-pitching days and led the Majors in homers with 11 in 1918.) The inclusion of a batting pose of a Red Sox pitcher who didn’t even play in the 1915 World Series appears to be questionable at best.

Ruth’s 1916 Sporting News rookie card depicts him in an appropriate pitching pose. (The 176 subject 1915 Cracker Jack set did not choose to include Ruth, nor did the 1915 General Baking Set -51 players, 1915 American Caramel set -48 subjects, 1915 Postaco Stamps-36 players, etc.) Ruth’s 1917 Collins-McCarthy issue also depicts Ruth in a pitching pose.

A brief review of other player images used for the 1915 PM1 set finds source material ranging from 1907-1915. Joe Tinker, Walter Johnson and Dick Hoblitzel’s photos are the same as used on the 1913 Tom Barker set, Nap Lajoie’s image is the same as his 1912 Plows Candy and ‘14 and ‘15 Cracker Jack set, Ty Cobb’s photo is the same as his 1912 Plows Candy, Chief Bender’s image is also featured on his 1911 Pinkerton Cabinet and 1914 Texas Tommy, etc. The Christy Mathewson photo is from 1911 (date based on research by the Pictorial History Committee, Society for American Baseball Research, 2006) Ed Konetchy and Honus Wagner’s images are the same as their respective 1909 Sporting News Issues, Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers are pictured in their 1907 Cubs uniforms, Frank Chance and Jimmy Archer are pictured in their 1909 Cubs uniforms and Benny Kauff appears to be wearing his 1915 Brooklyn Federal League Jersey. While the source photos for the set originate from a wide variety of years, some as early as 1907, none of them appear to have originated from 3 years after the set was released, like the Babe Ruth image.

How Lifson determined that the photo he found was from 1915 is not known.  His determination that the pin was from the PM-1 set, however, as the recognized authority on pin issues created a “hype” for this “unique” Ruth pin that was no doubt sold for big bucks to the Dreier Collection as a centerpiece of their pinback holdings.

Here is the most complete checklist  currently available for this scarce and important issue:(Subjects include 31 players– 15 HOFers and 16 non-HOFers or unknown)



Player Checklist

# Player

(1) Jimmy Archer (w/o name)

(2) Frank Baker (HOF)

(3) Jack Barry
(4) Chief Bender (w/ name) (HOF)
(5) Frank Chance (HOF)
(6) Ty Cobb (HOF)
(7) Jake Daubert
(8) Al Demaree (white hat)
(9) Johnny Evers (no Chicago) (HOF)
(10) Rube Foster
(11) Dick Hoblitzell
(12) Walter Johnson (no Wash) (HOF)
(13) Benny Kauff (w/ name)
(14) Johnny Kling (only known w/o name)
(15) Ed Konetchy
(16) Nap Lajoie (HOF)
(17) Sherry Magee
(18) Rube Marquard (HOF)
(19) Christy Mathewson (side view)(HOF)
(20) John McGraw (HOF)
(21) Ed Reulbach
(22) Eppa Rixey (HOF)
(23) Babe Ruth (known only w/o name) (HOF)
(24) Tris Speaker (batting; front view) (HOF)
(25) Tris Speaker (batting; side view) (HOF)
(26) Jeff Tesreau (w/ name)
(27) Joe Tinker (HOF)
(28) Honus Wagner (HOF)
(29) Al Demaree (brown hat)
(30) Willie Mitchell
(31) Jimmy Archer (w/ name)
(32) Chief Bender (w/o name) (HOF)
(33) Johnny Evers (w/ Chicago) (HOF)
(34) Benny Kauff (w/o name)
(35) Walter Johnson (w/ Washington) (HOF)
(36) Rube Bressler
(37) Unknown Fielder (w/o name)
(38) Johnny Evers (w/o name)
(39) Unknown catcher (w/o name)

Straight/stick pin variations of Nap Lajoie, Joe Tinker, Frank Baker and Johnny Evers exist. (Other players may possibly also have straight/stick pin variations.) Heart-shaped ornate frame pin featuring Frank Chance and “1914 Braves” is also known to exist.

Known Sales Prices:

1) *Archer (w/o name)–$514 (, $525 (‘05 Hunt), $340 (‘08 Legendary), $336.05 (‘06 Legendary), $336.05 (‘06 Legendary), $305.59 (‘01 Lelands)
2) *Baker –$450 (‘08 Legendary), $1612.20 (‘07 SCP), $7767.50 (‘08 Heritage)
3) *Barry–$963 (,
4) *Bender (w/ name)–$22,705 (‘08 Heritage)
5) *Chance– $1677.47 (‘05 Mastronet), $2868 (‘08 Heritage), $9560 (‘08 Heritage) $402.50 (‘01 Lelands), $340 (‘09 Legendary)
6) *Cobb- $1385.31 (‘04 Lelands), $23,900 (‘08 Heritage), $1624 (‘06 REA), $2270.50 (‘12 Heritage)
7) *Daubert –No Known Sales
8  ) *Demaree (white hat) –$7767.50 (‘08 Heritage)
9) *Evers (name only/no Chicago)–$7767.50 (‘08 Heritage), $310.70 (‘09 Heritage), $2868 (‘08 Heritage) $420 (‘08 Legendary), $340 (‘09 Legendary) $325 (‘08 Huggins/Scott), $255 (‘12-Ebay)
10) *Foster –$340 (‘09 Legendary)
11) *Hoblitzell- $420 (‘08 Legendary), $211.50 (‘10 Goodwin), $340 (‘09 Legendary)
12) *Johnson (No Washington Version) $4100 (‘06 SCP), $939.60 (‘10 SCP-the same pin as the ‘06 Legendary auction), $7767.50 (‘08 Heritage), $1677.47 (‘05 Mastronet) $987.00 (‘06 Legendary)
13) *Kauff- (w/ name) $16,730 (‘08 Heritage)
14) *Kling (w/o name)–No Known Sales
15) *Konetchy –$377.18 (‘05 Legendary), $240 (Date?-Auctionscc)
16) *Lajoie –No Known Sales
17) *Magee –No Known Sales
18) *Marquard –No Known Sales
19) *Mathewson (side view) –$900 (‘10 Legendary), $1300 (‘09 Huggins & Scott) $533 (Date?-Auctionscc)
20) *McGraw— ($548.55) (‘01 Legendary)
21) *Reulbach–No Known Sales
22) *Rixey–No Known Sales
23) *Ruth (w/o name)–Sold Privately– Price Unknown
24) *Speaker (Front View) –$695.75 (‘01 Lelands), $507.88 (‘09 Heritage), $611 (‘06 Legendary)
25) *Speaker (side view)–No Known Sales
26) *Tesreau (w/ name) –No Known Sales
27) *Tinker –$5975 (‘08 Heritage)
28) *Wagner -$1025 (‘11 Ebay)
29) #Demaree (brown hat)–$340.77 (‘10 Ebay)
30) #Mitchell– $1612.20 (‘07 SCP)
31) *Archer (w/ name)-$540 (‘08 Legendary)
32) *Bender (w/o name)–$340 (‘08 Legendary), $305.59 (‘01 Lelands)
33) #Evers (w/ Chicago)-no Known Sales
34) #Kauff (w/o name) $340 (‘08 Legendary)
35) #Johnson (w/ Washington) -$508.01 (‘11-Ebay)
36) #Bressler –$340 (‘09 Legendary)
37) #unknown fielder (w/o name) –$340 (‘09 Legendary)
38) *Evers– (no name/no chicago) $448.13 (‘11 Heritage)
39) #unknown catcher–no known sales
* designates listed in 2011 Standard Catalog (Lemke)–(31)
# designates “uncataloged” version (8)

Stick Pins– Tinker -$450 (‘10 Legendary), Evers -$420 (‘10 Legendary), Lajoie- $565.55 (‘10 Ebay)

The 62 prices given from the last 10 years are for conditions ranging from poor to gem mint. (With prices ranging from $211.50 to $23,900, clearly the player portrayed and the condition of the pin both factor heavily into the total value)

–Teams Represented–

Cubs-(6) Archer, Chance, Evers, Kling, Reulbach, Tinker
A’s- (4) Baker, Barry, Bender, Bressler
Tigers–(1) Cobb
Dodgers-(1) Daubert
Giants–(5) Demaree, Marquard, Mathewson, McGraw, Tesreau
Red Sox–(3) Foster, Ruth, Speaker
Reds (1)-Hoblitzell
Senators (1) Johnson
Indianapolis-(1) Kauff
Cardinals –(1) Konetchy
Indians (2) Lajoie, Mitchell
Phillies (2) Magee, Rixey,
Pirates (1) Wagner

Unknown teams (2)

Teams not represented: White Sox, Yankees, Browns and Braves


Tris Speaker Pin Being Sold By Legendary Auctions Could Also Be A Fake Like Babe Ruth Pin; Retail Backings Not Original To Many Pins In Auction

The retail backing of the Ruth PM 1 pin being offered at Legendary is not original as it was the backing for the Chief Bender pin sold at Heritage. Some say the Ruth pin had no backing when "discovered."

In the 1915 PM1 pin set, teams like the Cubs (4 WS appearances), A’s (5 WS appearances) and Giants (4 World Series appearances) had a larger number of players in the set due to their national popularity. The inclusion of stars like Tris Speaker, Jake Daubert, (‘13 NL MVP), Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Nap Lajoie, Honus Wagner, Benny Kauff (top attraction in 1914 Federal League), Dick Hoblitzell (considered the greatest NL 1st Baseman at the time), Ed Konetchy (Top star of the day), Sherry Magee (considered one of  the best all-around players in the game during the era), Willie Mitchell (star pitcher- Indians) would all make obvious sense. The inclusion of Phillies and Red Sox players like Rube Foster(star of the 1915 WS) and Eppa Rixey (future HOFer who lost the deciding game of ‘15 WS to Rube Foster) may indicate that the pin set was still being produced in the fall of 1915 during the 1915 World Series between the Phillies and Red Sox. While that explains the inclusion of 30 of the 31 of the known subjects in the set, it does not really explain the inclusion of Babe Ruth.

However, if all dating sources are incorrect for the photo used to produce the image on the Babe Ruth PM1 pin and the image is actually from 1915, this pin would be his true rookie card (PM1’s qualify as rookie cards –case in point, Eppa Rixey’s rookie card is considered to be the 1915 PM1 pin), as it predates the 1916 M101 Sporting News release. (which just sold for $142,200 at REA) Additionally, it is a 1 of 1, the only one known to exist! So if a 1916 Ruth rookie with at least 70 known examples sells for $142,200, what is a 1915 “true” Ruth rookie (only known example) worth? REA recently sold a PSA 2 1914 Baltimore “minor league” rookie for $575K (10 known examples). One can only imagine what a 1 of 1 true 1915 “Major League” rookie card of Babe Ruth would sell for at auction. The 1914 Ruth is worth more than a Wagner T206 in equal condition making it the most valuable baseball card in the world. An authentic 1915 Ruth rookie (1 known example) could also be in the argument for the most valuable ”card” in the world. Is it more likely REA discovered and Legendary Auctions is selling the most valuable “card/pin” in the world or that the pin is actually circa 1918?

In response to our earlier story (above) regarding the authenticity issues associated with the Babe Ruth pin, Legendary Auctions added this addendum to the listing to sway fears that the pin is not authentic:

“Additional Notes about This Abundantly Intriguing, Valuable Piece:

As stated in the Standard Catalog, “Little is known about these tiny pins, such as who issued them, when and how they were distributed.” Generally, collectors accept a midpoint range of 1914-15 for a prospective period of issue, likely due to the dated 1914 Braves pin. Considering the diversity of players included, it is probable that the series was distributed over a number of years. For example, players like Chance and Mathewson were just finishing their HOF careers while the tenures of players like Bressler, Scott and Ruth were only beginning. In trying to stock the set with high-caliber players the manufacturer took a big risk by guessing whether emerging players would make the grade. For instance, Bressler was a “bit” player who did not appear in 100 games until 1919. On the other hand, Ruth was a clear winner. The Conlon batting pose of Ruth is generally considered to be a circa-1918 image, which would mean that the pins could have been distributed over a 4- to 5-year period of time. Due to the significance of the Ruth pin—and the lack of a dependable third party service to authenticate it—we went to great lengths to ensure its authenticity. We showed the item to reputable hobby veterans and examined it under high magnification. As can be seen in the additional photos (which were taken under 50x magnification) the surface of the Ruth pin is consistent with that of the Johnson and other pins examined, and it shows definitive signs of crazing and pitting—which would be expected as a result of nearly 100 years of exposure to even controlled elements. We are pleased to be able to present what could arguably be the earliest card/pinback collectible that depicts Babe Ruth in a batting pose … the pose that is indelibly stamped in our mind when we celebrate Ruth as the best to ever play the game!”

Legendary Auction’s assertion that players like “Bressler” and “Scott” support their new position that the pin set should be re-dated to include years up to and including 1918 does not really hold water upon closer examination. A player named “Scott” does not appear in the set and Rube Bressler’s inclusion in the set solidifies the production year as 1915, rather than refuting it. Bressler was a rookie phenom for the 1914 pennant winning athletics in 1914. He went 10-4 with a staff best 1.77 ERA. The A’s sank to the bottom of the standings in 1915 and Bressler sank with them. Continuing to suffer the effects of an arm injury he incurred during the 1914 stretch run, Bressler finished the season with a 4-17 record and an inflated 5.20 ERA. Bressler’s decline continued in 1916 and culminated with his release from the A’s. The ONLY year Rube Bressler would have been included in a set like this is 1915 as he was the sensation of the 1914 American League and the set was obviously hoping to capitalize on his “rookie phenom” status. The set is dated 1915 because of Bressler’s inclusion, not despite of.

Legendary Auctions has previously sold over 30 of these 1915 PM1 pins, including at least 16 known variations. Many of those pins are now part of the Dreier Collection that is currently available. However, in none of those earlier auctions was the mention of a possible 4-5 year production window and a re-dating of the set to 1915-1919 ever made. HOS finds it curious that the “discovery” of one Babe Ruth pin by REA has basically changed the stance of Legendary Auctions and “reputable hobby veterans” regarding the dating of this pin set. Is it more likely the entire hobby has been wrong about the 1915 date of this set for 30+ years or that the Babe Ruth pin is a fantasy piece created to cash in on the Babe Ruth “rookie card” mania? has also discovered that while the original press release heralding the discovery of the Babe Ruth pin several years ago, makes no mention of the original retail backing cardboard still being attached, the pin now, curiously, is attached to one of the few known examples of original paper backing for this set.

A few pins have been sold in the past with original retail backing:

HOS wondered if the paper “retail backing” now attached to the Ruth pin could be a ploy to add legitimacy to an otherwise questionable entry in the set checklist. Closer investigation of the paper retail backing on the current Ruth pin reveals that it originated on this Chief Bender pin sold by Heritage Auctions and was switched by Legendary Auctions to the Ruth pin (as shown above).

The same can also be said for the retail backing of the Honus Wagner pin (formerly affixed to a Jimmy Archer pin) as well as the Mathewson pin (formerly attached to a Johnny Evers pin).

The PM 1 pins of Honus Wagner and Jimmy Archer had the retail backings switched between the Heritage and Legendary auctions.

It is no coincidence that four Hall Of Fame “keys to the set”, Ruth, Mathewson, Wagner and Tris Speaker are the only pins with the original retail card still attached to them. At least three of the four were switched in an apparent attempt to add more value to the “centerpiece” pins, or in the instance of the Ruth pin, to lend credibility.

When we asked Doug Allen of Legendary about this issue he said, “When the pins came from the Dreirs, the retail backings were not affixed to the pins, so we were not sure which ones were affixed to each pin.”

The newlt discovered PM 1 pin of Tris Speaker contrasts starkly with other new discoveries of pins of Bressler, Scott and Walter Johnson. Note that the Speaker pin has the actual ballpark background from the original photo depicted in the background.

Another pin apparently discovered by Rob Lifson of REA and sold to the Dreiers appears to also differ substantially from the other pins in the set. The “Tris Speaker w/ full name” pin is another one-of-a-kind pin that is likely unique to the hobby. However, close examination of that pin reveals characteristics that do not occur on any other of the known PM1 pins. His name is displayed differently than all the other pins and it is the only pin that shows a background scene (identified as the 1912 World series by Legendary Auctions) Does this pin raise further questions regarding the authenticity of the Babe Ruth PM1 pin? It should be noted that no other examples of the Tris Speaker w/ full name and Babe Ruth pins have ever been discovered. Their inclusion in the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards is based completely on their discovery by Rob Lifson and subsequent sale to the Dreier family.

PM 1 pins of US Presidents are bountiful and perfect candidates for creating counterfeit PM 1 baseball pins

As stated earlier, there would be no shortage of pins for a possible forger to work with. Presidential and actress pins can be obtained for just a few dollars and possibly turned into priceless baseball memorabilia that has been known to sell for over $20K.

The PM 1 Ruth pin back (left) and the back of the Tinker stickpin version reveal how easy it would be to open, remove and replace a photograph in an ornate frame.

A view of the rear of the Babe Ruth pin currently being sold by Legendary Auctions shows how simple it would be to replace the small oval sepia photo enclosed in the ornate frame. Six small brass clasps could simply be bent up to free the pin back and image from the fancy border frame. A replacement photo cut to appropriate size could then be inserted in lieu of the original and the brass clasps bent back down to hold in place. Just like taking off the back of a picture frame.

The same method could also be used for the stick pin variation of the PM1.

HOS Notes:

1) A Christy Mathewson (front view) pin was inadvertently omitted from the originally published checklist of pins. There are actually 40 known versions of pins in this set, 9 of which are uncataloged.

2) The list of known sales prices was not intended to be an all-inclusive list. It was compiled from a cursory search of completed auctions to help readers establish a baseline of prices that have been paid for various pins. It is acknowledged that many recorded sales have not been documented. Thanks to HOS readers for providing these additional documented sales prices:

a) Archer (w/o name) $857 (‘03 Heritage), $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet)

b) Barry $857 (‘03 Heritage)
c) Evers (name only/no chicago) $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet)
d) Konetchy $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet)
e) Mathewson (side view) $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet), $1677.33 (‘05 Mastronet), $2300 (‘00 Legendary)
f) Speaker (Front View) $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet), $818 (‘00 Legendary), $717 (‘12 Heritage)
g) Bender (w/o name) $776.75 (‘11 Heritage)
3) Many of the entries in the Standard Catalog PM1 checklist are based on auction house sales. While the Standard Catalog includes an entry for a Johnny Kling pin in the set and it IS included on the above list, it is believed by HOS, that its inclusion is based entirely on the mis-identification of a Jimmy Archer pin (w/o name) in this 2001 Lelands Auction and does not actually exist.

4) Inclusion of Ed Reulbach pin on checklist is based entirely on its inclusion in the Standard Catalog. It’s existence has not been personally verified by HOS. Rumors of an Eddie Collins version persist, however, it is not included in the Standard Catalog or the above HOS checklist.

Rob Lifson (left) outbid Bill Mastro (center) at Christie's and took home the trimmed Wagner card for $651,500. The Wagner card is at the center of the Mastro guilty plea.


As widely reported back in January hobby big Bill Mastro is set to appear today before a Federal Judge in an Illinois Court to plead guilty to at least one count of fraud brought against him in a 33-page Federal indictment that was unsealed back in August of 2012.

Mastro’s defense attorney, Michael Monico, did not return calls for comment regarding the hearing in which his client is expected to cooperate with the government as part of a deal he cut with Federal prosecutors Nancy DePodesta and Steven Grimes.  Mastro is expected to appear before Judge Ronald A. Guzman who replaced Judge Suzanne B. Conlon back in January.

Via Twitter the New York Daily News reports from the courtroom that Judge Guzman “nixes Bill Mastro plea deal, rips prosecutors for not requiring ex-memorabilia king to cooperate against other defendants.”  Based on the plea deal prosecutors agreed to, Mastro would have only served 30 months or less in prison.

Bloomberg News reported that Judge Guzman asked prosecutor Nancy DePodesta, “What does the government get out of this?  Bloomberg also reported that prosecutors “sought a sentence of as long as 6 1/2 years” and that DePodesta said “the terms were the product of negotiations she would not make public.”

According to the report Guzman said, “What I’m buying here is a pig in a poke, I need more,” referring to the “absence of a pre-sentence report.”

Mastro’s attorney Michael Monico was quoted as saying. “I think this is the first case of its kind ever in the United States.”  According to Bloomberg Monico told the judge that “difficulty arose from the shifting values of some of the items sold and the uniqueness of the case.”  One of the most prominent items involved in the case is the famous Gretzky-McNall T206 Honus Wagner card that is alleged to have been trimmed by Mastro to enhance its value.

Last year a source told that Mastro was caught admitting to trimming the card on Federal wiretaps.  Oddly enough, when Bill Mastro sold the card after trimming it in the 1980s he only pocketed close to $100,000 from collector James Copeland.  The card was later sold by Mastro’s partner, Rob Lifson, at Robert Edward Auctions for close to $1.2 million.  At that time both Mastro and Lifson knew they were defrauding the buyer, but Lifson has avoided prosecution as he is widely recognized as the informant who helped the government kick-start its case against Mastro.

Judge Guzman has postponed the hearing until March 19th.  For more on the history of this story check out our on-going 10-part series on the Mastro Investigation.

By Peter J. Nash

February 5, 2013

Saco River Auctions sold Old Judge cabinet cards of King Kelly and Billy Nash suspected to have been stolen from Nuf Ced McGreevy's collection at the BPL. The thefts at the BPL and NYPL have been linked to Barry Halper and the Porn-King of Lowell, MA.

Saco River Auctions says lighting has struck a few times for them with consignments of ultra-rare baseball photographs from the 19th century but, as reported in our last two reports, two of them appear on the missing list of a major institutional collection.

There are only two known examples of the Brooklyn Atlantics CDV that Saco River is scheduled to sell on February 6th and there are only two Gray Studios cabinets known of player Charlie Ferguson, one of which was sold on New Years Day by the auction house in Maine.  Both of those rare items fit the description of relics missing from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection and are under scrutiny in an on-going FBI investigation.  There are only five or six known examples of the Old Judge cabinet card of “King” Kelly that Saco River sold back in August for $62,000.  You do the math.

Now, has learned that the “incredible find” of Old Judge cabinet cards sold by Saco River last August included three cards that appear on the “Missing List” of the Boston Public Library’s famous “M. T. McGreevey Collection of Baseball Pictures,” including the rare card of “King” Kelly (in street clothes) and cards of Billy Nash and John Clarkson. Susan Glover, the “Keeper of Special Collections” at the BPL, has confirmed that the library is missing Old Judge cabinet cards of Kelly and his Boston teammates Nash and Clarkson, as well as several others. Glover also confirmed that the McGreevey Collection originally had two Old Judge cards of Kelly and still retains one featuring Kelly batting in his Boston uniform.  The N-173 Old Judge set only featured two cards of Kelly and evidence suggests that the other Kelly card missing from the library is the “street clothes” portrait of the Boston legend. Like the Brooklyn Atlantic CDV from 1865 it is a much sought-after rarity.

Jay Miller, an Old Judge expert and co-author of the book, The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company 1886-1890, says that only six of the “Kelly in street clothes” cards are known to exist and adds, ” There are somewhere between 30 and 40 copies of the Kelly Batting N173 known.”   When hobby veteran Lew Lipset published his Encyclopedia of Baseball Cards in 1983 he didn’t even include the Kelly card on a checklist.  Lipset told us, “I know I never had one. I believe at the time of publication of  the Encyclopedia I doubted it existed.” has only been able to confirm two sales of the card at public auction (including the Saco River example.)  The earliest example we could find offered at auction was sold by MastroNet in the Spring of 2002.

This excerpt from the BPLs McGreevey Collection "Missing List" identifies Old Judge cabinets of King Kelly, John Clarkson and Billy Nash which were copyrighted in 1888. The list features over 50 rare photos that were stolen from the collection.

Susan Glover confirmed that the library currently has six Old Judge cabinets and is missing at least six others listed on original inventories from the collection donated in 1923 by Baseball’s most famous fan, Michael T. “Nuf Ced” McGreevy.  Most all of the pictures in the collection once hung on the walls of McGreevy’s legendary 3rd Base Saloon in Roxbury, MA., considered by many as baseball’s first museum.  Evidence suggesting that McGreevy’s other missing Kelly cabinet was the rare “Kelly in street clothes” variation is the inclusion of a large reproduction of that very image in the BPLs collection.  The surviving photograph is an enlargement of the Kelly Old-Judge cabinet and is shown hanging on the walls of McGreevy’s bar as early as 1906, as evidenced in period photographs.  The enlargement appears to be a silver-gelatin print made from the original and features enhancements in charcoal rendered by an artist when the large reproduction was created.  The BPL records describe it as a photographic print and state that the ” image is probably an enlargement of an original photograph that has been retouched.”

The Kelly Old Judge cabinet (batting) still at BPL shows a faint oval library stamp in the red-circled area (left); The Saco River Kelly cabinet (center) shows no visible stamp on the photo which was the basis for McGreevy's large portrait of Kelly that hung in the 3rd Base Saloon (right).

Kelly was McGreevy’s favorite Boston player and the most prized artifact in his baseball collection was a solid gold medal presented to Kelly by the Boston Globe in 1887 as “Best Base Runner.”  In 1943, McGreevy’s daughter donated the medal to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, via the Globe.  Along with Albert Goodwill Spalding’s collection at the NYPL, McGreevy’s holdings were considered the finest collection of baseball photography from the late 19th-century and Dead-Ball era.

The Old Judge "Kelly in street clothes" image (inset right) was the model for McGreevy's enlarged portrait (inset left) which hung prominently on the walls of the 3rd base Saloon as evidenced in this 1906 photo. The portrait is highlighted on the wall in red.

In 1939, McGreevy’s large Kelly portrait also appeared in a BPL window display at Filene’s department store in Boston to celebrate Baseball’s mythical centennial.  Displayed in the same window was a matted display of some of Nuf Ced’s Old Judge cabinets, including his card featuring the pose of “King” Kelly in uniform.  Former BPL Print Department employee, Aaron Schmidt, has previously confirmed that the surviving Old Judge’s likely escaped the hands of thieves because they were maintained in their original matting from McGreevy’s saloon. The surviving Kelly Old Judge cabinet has glue residue on its mount from its original matting. Sometime in the late 1970s to early 1980s one-third of the McGreevy collection (@70 photographs) vanished from the library as part of a large scale theft similar to the heist that occurred at NYPLs Spalding Collection.  Schmidt told us, “The loose photos, especially the small ones like the Old Judges were probably easy pickings back when items were removed from the collection.”

McGreevy's Kelly portrait and six Old Judge cabinets appeared in a Filene's Department Store window in 1939 as part of a BPL exhibition (left) The Saco River Old Judge cabinet (right) could be McGreevy's.

Like the Atlantic CDV the rare King Kelly Old Judge cabinet was allegedly discovered by an anonymous antique picker in Kennebunk, Maine, in “an old trunk.” Despite the fact that all news reports indicated the picker was anonymous, a collector named James Basch posted information on a collector forum at the time of the August 2012 auction revealing that the auctioneer told him details about consignor. Basch wrote:

“The auction house manager was a class act. He relayed a story to me about the consignor of those cabinets. The consignor was a Vietnam vet who had exposure to agent orange, and has had subsequent medical issues as a result.  In addition, his wife has cancer and has had bills run up during her hospitalization. This is truly one of those stories where everyone wins.”

But was it really a “win-win,” and how did out-of-the-way Saco River Auctions in Maine get so lucky with three rare 19th century baseball consignments featuring artifacts all fitting the descriptions of items looted from and on the “Missing List’s” of major public institutions?

The stolen cabinet photo of Nig Cuppy (left) was offered on eBay by Paul Dunigan Jr. in 2011. In 1995, Paul Dunigan Sr. consigned to Lelands an autographed tintype of HOFer Tommy McCarthy that was stolen from the NYPL.

Oddly enough, all of these rare items may have some additional common denominators.  Two years ago a reader and collector from Iowa named David Maus discovered that one of McGreevy’s stolen treasures was being offered by an eBay seller located in Lowell, MA.  The item was a 1901 Holsinger cabinet photograph of Red Sox player “Nig” Cuppy and was identified by Maus thanks to tell-tale BPL ownership marks that had been defaced to conceal its McGreevy provenance.  The seller of the stolen cabinet photo was Paul Dunigan Jr., who told BPL officials that  his mother found the stolen card in her attic amongst other items once owned by his deceased father.

Paul Dunigan Sr. died in 2004 and was one of the top collectors of 19th century memorabilia with an affinity for Old Judge cabinet photographs.  In 1995, Dunigan Sr. consigned a group of material to Lelands which was sold as originating from an “anonymous and legendary collector.”  That group of items, identified as a “Collection of a Gentleman,” included an important item stolen from NYPLs Spalding Collection.  Like the current CDV being offered by Saco River, the item fit the exact description of an artifact on the NYPLs 1922 inventory;  an 1887 autographed tintype of HOFer Tommy McCarthy.  The library even described the exact same inscription on the card penned by McCarthy himself.  Lelands described the lot as, “One of the only known signatures of McCarthy and definitely the only tintype.”   Its whereabouts are currently unknown and the tintype, valued at $25-35,000, is currently included on Hauls of Shame’s10 Most Wanted Missing National Baseball Treasures List.”

After outing the stolen Cuppy cabinet photo, David Maus identified another missing cabinet card that was sold on eBay, this time a Gray Studio cabinet of player Charlie Ferguson suspected to have originated from the NYPLs Spalding Collection and subsequently seized by the FBI and then returned to the eBay buyer for unknown reasons.   The same card was then consigned to and auctioned by Saco River on New Years Day, 2013.

That particular cabinet was said to have been discovered in an old drawer by a military collector and was offered on eBay from Salem, MA., about 35 miles from Lowell where Paul Dunigan Jr. said he discovered the “Nig” Cuppy cabinet stolen from the McGreevey Collection at the BPL.  The Gray Studio cabinet was sold on eBay for over $900 by Henry Withers as HankDog1938.

From Peep Shows to Sotheby's: The stolen McGreevey photos moved (left to right) from Paul Dunigan of Towers News in Lowell, MA. to Alan "Mr. Mint" Rosen to Barry Halper to Rob Lifson and Dede Brooks of Sotheby's for the 1999 sale of Halper's collection which featured many items stolen from the BPL.

When he was alive, Paul Dunigan Sr. was the owner and operator of Towers Video,  the premier purveyor of pornographic magazines, videos and peep-shows in the Lowell region.  Dunigan is said to have made a fortune in Lowell and was a controversial figure who once filed suit against the city after his adult bookstore was raided by law enforcement.  Dunigan’s wealth helped fuel several of his hobbies including car-racing, antiques and collecting rare nineteenth-century baseball memorabilia.  By 1984, Dunigan had compiled a top-notch collection but decided to sell a large portion of it to dealers Lew Lipset and Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen.  Dunigan’s son, Paul, told that his father sold part of his collection in 1984, “To expand the business and fund the purchase of a building across the street from his store, to renovate it and buy inventory.”

Lipset remembers the transaction and told us, “What Rosen and I got from Dunigan was in our possession for a couple of hours and went to New Jersey with him (Rosen) where he sold it.”  The buyer of the majority of Dunigan’s collection was super-collector Barry Halper who also had a long history of buying, selling and trading with Dunigan.  It is unclear whether Halper already had stolen BPL materials in his collection, but what is certain is that both Barry Halper and Paul Dunigan at different times owned the largest holdings of materials stolen from the Boston Public Library’s McGreevey Collection.

In 1939 the BPL loaned items from the McGreevey Collection for an exhibition in a Filene's Department Store window in Boston. All of the photos outlined in red were at some time stolen from the library and ended up in the possession of collector and NY Yankee partner, Barry Halper.

When Halper sold his collection off at Sotheby’s in 1999 the sale included numerous rare photos stolen from the Boston Public Library with the ownership marks defaced on some items and clearly visible on others.  A close review of the Halper Sotheby’s catalog and the Internet auction via has revealed that Halper at one time owned most all the McGreevy treasures that appeared in the Filene’s window in 1939 as part of the BPL exhibition.  In 2006, a year after Halper’s death, his widow consigned other rare photographs she found in her home to Rob Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions.  Lifson worked for Sotheby’s as its special consultant overseeing the Halper sale in 1999 and handled a wide array of fraudulent and stolen items offered by Sotheby’s at a time when auction house CEO, Dede Brooks, was involved in a price-fixing scheme with Christie’s.  In 2006, several photos consigned to Lifson by Halper’s widow  were  determined to have been stolen from the New York Public Library and the McGreevy Collection.  One of those photos was an over-sized cabinet photo of the 1891 Boston Beaneaters which was featured in the 1939 Filene’s window.  The items consigned to REA by Halper’s widow were recovered by the BPL after they were notified by this writer.

Halper's widow consigned the 1891 Boston (left) and 1882 Buffalo (middle) cabinets to REA. Each photo shows the defaced BPL stamp and cabinet designation that appears in tact on the 1901 Red Sox catcher photo to the right.

When Saco River Auctions posted lots online for its New Years Day auction, Lot 44A was listed as an “Original Photo of the Boston Beaneaters.”  That photograph depicted the 1889 Boston Base Ball Club and matched the description  of another photograph stolen from the McGreevey Collection that was also sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby’s in 1999.  That photo sold for over $6,000 and has appeared in the Boston Herald in 2009 in an article about the very same photo and the McGreevy thefts from the BPL. contacted Saco River Auctions on December 23rd asking for a scan of the back of the photo, which was being offered in a period frame, only to be informed that the photo appeared to be a reproduction.  Saco River did not remove that photo from the sale until the day of the auction after other collectors also identified the photo as a reproduction.

Saco River offered a reproduction photo (left) of the 1889 Boston BBC as an "original" on New Years Day, 2013. The oroginal reproduced is a rare photo stolen from the BPL sold by Barry Halper in 1999 at Sotheby's as lot 291 (right).

The bigger question, considering the ties that Saco River consignments have to the NYPL and BPL missing lists, is how did the auction consignor get his hands on a reproduction of an original photograph that appears to have been stolen from the Boston Public Library over 30 years ago and sold at Sotheby’s by Barry Halper in 1999?   The stolen photo had the corners clipped and the reproduction offered in the frame by Saco River was fastened to a backing by black corner holders.  Halper’s photo was clearly identified as BPL property with a library stamp and another stamp designating its former storage location at the BPL.

When first contacted Saco River Auction’s manager Troy Thibodeau in December, the auctioneer stated that the Gray Studio Cabinet, 1865 Brooklyn Atlantic CDV, Old Judge cabinets and the reproduction photo of the 1889 Boston team were all consigned by different parties.

How has Saco River Auctions attracted four different consignors with items that appear on the NYPL and BPL missing lists?  Are these items linked somehow to Dunigan and Halper?  And how did both men get their hands on all of the stolen NYPL and BPL material in the first place?

The stolen photo of the 1889 Beaneaters that was sold by Halper at Sotheby's in 1999 was featured in a July 16, 2009 article in the Boston Herald.

Last year a source once close to Halper alleged that the deceased Yankee partner had confessed that he was the mastermind behind the NYPL thefts and that the items in the Spalding Collection were “there for his taking.”  The source alleged that Halper had other individuals rob the library’s treasure trove on his behalf.  In 1979, Halper’s close associate and special consultant to his 1999 Sotheby’s sale, Rob Lifson, was the first person ever apprehended stealing rare items from the Spalding Collection.  TIME Magazine reporter David Aikman did not identify Lifson by name, but wrote about a theft at the NYPL in which a “baseball card thief was caught when a guard saw him slipping the cards into a bubble gum box taped to his briefcase.”   The culprit, according to Aikman’s original notes, was a nineteen year-old college student who also had substantial cash on his person when he was apprehended and claimed to have made that money selling baseball cards in just one day. When he was apprehended, Lifson was a nineteen year-old college student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and was Barry Halper’s primary source for 19th century baseball material. Time reported that when he was apprehended, the thief “Had $5,500 in cash on him as well as a cache of smiling infielders.”

Lifson is now the president of Robert Edward Auctions in Watchung, New Jersey, and over the years has given conflicting testimony regarding his attempted theft to several writers.  In one account, Lifson told this writer, “I was a kid, and I took a CDV, and you know they have incredible security, ya know, they saw me , and they saw me palm a CDV and the second I left, they just stopped me and took it away and you know, I got in trouble.”  In 2009, Lifson gave an alternate account saying he stole two photos and reported: “He (Lifson) secreted two photographs under a piece of cardboard attached to the outside of his briefcase. He was caught before he could leave the room.”  Earlier, in July of 2009, Lifson told the New York Daily News he had no involvement in the thefts from the NYPL.

Collector Paul Dunigan placed this want ad for Old Judge cabinet cards of Boston players and Hall of Famers in the December, 1978, issue of "The Trader Speaks."

As early as 1977, Barry Halper had a large cache of stolen materials from the NYPL in his possession, including the correspondence archive of baseball pioneer Harry Wright and numerous CDVs and cabinet cards featuring players like Cap Anson and John Clarkson.  During the same time period another prominent collector named George Lyons, the late brother of film critic, Jeffrey Lyons, also acquired assorted rare items that originated from the NYPL collection. Paul Dunigan Sr. bought, sold and traded with Halper and Lyons during the late 1970s and early 1980s and placed want ads in collector publications for items he was seeking.  At the top of Dunigan’s want-lists were rare items that were found almost exclusively in the NYPL collection including the rare Kalamazoo Bat cabinets issue. His favorite issue, however, were  Old Judge cabinet cards produced by Goodwin & Co. and in 1978 Dunigan was offering $150 for Boston players and $300 for Hall of Famers depicted on Old Judge cabinets.

Pictured are three of the 5 or 6 known "Kelly in Street Clothes" variation of the Old Judge N-173 cabinet cards. The Saco River example (far left), MastroNet (middle) and an SGC-graded copy (right) are shown above.

Evidence strongly suggests that Barry Halper had acquired a significant  group of materials stolen from the NYPL by the summer of 1977, however, it is unclear when exactly Halper and Dunigan first acquired stolen materials from the BPLs McGreevey Collection.  By all accounts the McGreevey Collection was still in tact when authors Daniel Okrent and Harris Lewine utilized a large group of photos credited to BPL for the 1979 release of The Ultimate Baseball Book.  It appears that after this book was published the McGreevy gems began top disappear, however, unbeknown-st to the robbers, the BPL photographed many of the images in the collection in conjunction with the 1979 book.  In their acknowledgements authors Okrent and Lewine thanked several outlets and individuals who contributed rare materials for the book including curator Eugene Zepp at the Boston Public Library, librarian Jack Redding at the Baseball Hall of Fame and collectors Richard Merkin and Rob Lifson.

(Clockwise) 1. 1882 Oversized Cabinet Photo of Boston BBC. Ownership mark of BPL was defaced, but recovered by library. 2. 1897 Chickering cabinet photo of "Chick Stahl." This image was from a contact sheet of a 1983 SABR photo shoot at Halper's home. The BPL ownership mark has been removed/defaced. 3. 1904 Photo of Jimmy Collins and John L. Sullivan. This image was captured by the BPL before the original photo was stolen. Barry Halper sold the stolen photo at Sotheby's. 4. 1901 Chickering photo of the Boston Americans w/Jimmy Collins. The BPL marks were altered to conceal library ownership.

Barry Halper ended up owning many of the original photos utilized in the 1979 Okrent & Lewine book including the famous photo of  Red Sox legend Jimmy Collins in the dugout with Heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan.  That photo was recovered in 2008 when a photography dealer in Portland, Maine, offered it for sale on his website.  The BPL stamp and other ownership marks were vandalized and obscured with black ink to conceal the McGreevey provenance.   Before the rare photo ended up in Maine it was sold as part of the 1999 Halper sale at Sotheby’s.

In 1984, the BPL conducted its own investigation and recovery effort headed by BPLs “Keeper of Prints” Sinclair Hitchings and Bob Richardson, a veteran collector and ex-Boston Globe writer.  Hitchings and Richardson successfully recovered close to twenty of the stolen McGreevey photographs at card shows and via dealer ads in hobby publications.  In the course of the investigation the library identified a South Boston resident named Emil Pagliarulo as a “person of interest.”  Pagliarulo was identified by BPL employees as having visited the McGreevey Collection several times in 1979 or 1980 and it was Pagliarulo who investigators believed sold stolen BPL photos to Paul Dunigan Sr.

In 1984, Dunigan sold a large portion of his collection to dealers Lew Lipset and Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen, who subsequently sold the majority of the items to Barry Halper and the remainder to a few other collectors in the Midwest.

During the investigation in 1984 officials communicated with Halper who is said to have denied ever owning or selling any BPL or McGreevy material.  A source with knowledge of the documents retained by the BPL confirms that a letter written by Halper making this denial is currently in the possession of  library officials.  Halper wrote in the letter that none of the items he purchased from Dunigan’s collection were from the McGreevey Collection.

Its appears that Halper was not forthcoming with the library officials and its also evident that Paul Dunigan Sr. retained stolen McGreevey Collection items, as evidenced by the sale of the 1901 “Nig” Cuppy cabinet on eBay in 2011.  All of the rarities popping up at Saco River Auctions fitting the descriptions of missing items at the NYPL and BPL, have raised red flags at both institutions.  The fact that each of the Saco River consignments come from alleged anonymous pickers only adds to suspicions that someone may be supplying the non-sports auction house with black market treasures.

Paul Dunigan Jr. told us that since he discovered the Cuppy cabinet in 2011 he had not found any other baseball photos at his father’s house and said his mother hadn’t either.  Dunigan also said neither he nor his father did business with Saco River Auctions in Maine.  Said Dunigan, “Since my dad passed the only auction we’ve used to sell some of his antiques is Morphy’s in Pennsylvania.”

McGreevy's portrait of Kelly (inset , left) was enlarged from the Old Judge cabinet photo (inset, center) and was hanging on the 3rd Base Saloon walls in 1916 (circled in red outline). Nuf Ced (inset, right) holds his prized Kelly gold medal in 1938 (Courtesy Boston Public Library).

As for the rare “King” Kelly “in street clothes” cabinet card, it is remarkable that such a card could surface at the bottom of a trunk in Maine when a Kelly cabinet card is currently missing from the McGreevey Collection at the library on Copley Square.  Nuf-Ced McGreevy knew Kelly personally and ended up with his gold medal as his prized-possession.  The Kelly portraits that lined the walls of his saloon were his most treasured photos and they are all still there except one- an Old Judge cabinet card of the “King.”

Who’d be more likely to have snagged a copy of the rare Kelly card?  A guy nicknamed “Nuf Ced” who bought Old Judge cigarettes in 1888 and got a “King” Kelly cabinet in return?  Or an alleged Vietnam Vet antique picker in Maine who opened an old trunk and struck gold?

We’d bet on McGreevy.


(EDITORS NOTE: The writer of this article is a founder and co-owner of McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon Co. and also co-owner of the reconstituted McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon at 911 Boylston St. in Boston, MA. In 2007 he also wrote and produced the Emmy-nominated documentary film about McGreevy’s exploits, Rooters: The Birth of Red Sox Nation.)