Oct. 8, 2010
In statements made to the New York Post and the Chicago Sun Times earlier this week, Brad Horn, spokesman for the Baseball Hall of Fame, confirmed what Haulsofshame.com had revealed in an investigative report released in August; Barry Halper’s alleged Joe Jackson jersey is a fraud. The Baseball Hall of Fame conducted testing of the fabric and thread of the black “S-o-x” emblem sewn on the garment’s chest area, and found that the thread was polyester and the dye used to color the emblem was not from the “Dead-Ball Era.”
Halper claimed to have acquired items from ”Shoeless Joe’s” widow in the 1950’s including: Jackson’s 1919 jersey; Jackson’s ”Black Betsy” bat; Jackson’s glove; and a 1919 Pennant gold pocket watch. However, the revelations this week by the Hall of Fame suggest that Halper may have intentionally defrauded both the Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball when he sold these dubious items in 1998 as part of a $7 million dollar transaction.
The Chicago Sun Times reported that the bogus Joe Jackson jersey had been removed from the Hall of Fame’s White Sox exhibit in 2008, “to undergo more study when its authenticity came under question.” But the Hall of Fame provided the jersey to author Bert Sugar for his coffee-table book, Bert Sugar’s Baseball Hall of Fame (Running Press, 2009), which was released in May of 2009.
When asked what he thought now about the Jackson jersey he’d included in his book, Sugar, from his home in Chappaqua, New York, said, “It ’s just not the real McCoy. I spoke to the Hall of Fame and we’re working on replacing that page in the book with another Jackson themed item.” Sugar added that he had the jersey photographed for inclusion in the book, “about a year and a half ago.” Sugar also said he viewed his book as a “virtual tour of the Cooperstown museum” and felt that replacing the Jackson page was important to maintain that experience for his readers.
With the realization that their Jackson jersey is tainted, the Hall of Fame also recently removed from a museum display case an alleged Jackson glove from the Halper Collection. In addition, another key Halper item under scrutiny is Joe Jackson’s alleged “Black Betsy” bat. Several bats attributed to Jackson’s professional baseball career have sold at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Halper’s bat, purchased by MLB and the Hall of Fame, no doubt had a hefty price tag, too, especially if it was the alleged “Black Betsy” bat in his wife’s possession in the 1950’s. When the Barry Halper Gallery opened at the Hall of Fame in 1999, Halper’s ”Black Betsy” was displayed prominently in an exhibit case alongside the fake 1919 White Sox jersey.
Halper had displayed the bat publicly before in the 1980’s documentary film about his personal treasure-trove, The Ultimate Baseball Memorabilia Collection (Cabin Fever Entertainment). In the film, Halper says to his house guest, then-Yankee manager, Billy Martin, “I want to show you this bat because everybody’s talking about Joe Jackson…That’s Black Betsy, that’s what it is. It has “Black Betsy” (burned) right on it, he was the first one to have a black bat like this.” Martin, who was visibly impressed to hold “Shoeless Joe’s” alleged bat, took a swing and said to Halper, “It’s too heavy for me, I’d be a little tardy.” Odds are, Billy Martin was likely one of the only Major Leaguers to ever swing that bat, not “Shoeless Joe.”
“Shoeless Joe’s” alleged “Black Betsy” has kept a curiously low profile at the Hall of Fame since its original display in the Halper Gallery in 1999, and has not been publicly displayed much in the decade since the Halper Collection purchase and donation.
Hall of Fame spokesperson Brad Horn was unavailable for comment to confirm when Halper’s “Black Betsy” had been officially on display at the museum in Cooperstown.
The Jackson model “Black Betsy” that Halper sold appears to be a Spalding store model with a decal affixed to the barrel of the bat. When asked his opinion on the bat, authenticator Troy Kinnunen of MEARS responded, “On a Spalding model bat like that one, which was readily available to the general public in the late teens, the value would be 100% based on the bat’s provenance. Without that, the bat would probably be worth anywhere between $400 and $1,000.” So, without Halper’s story of acquisition from Mrs. Jackson, its clear the Hall of Fame’s bat would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in value if it doesn’t have iron- clad provenance.
The next big question in the Halper-Jackson uniform scandal is what the Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball will do to recover the money lost as a result of the revelations that the jersey is a fake. The Hall of Fame’s 1998 Form 990 non-profit tax returns indicate that MLB contributed about $7 million in cash to the Hall of Fame to be used for the purchase of 175 items which they selected from the Halper Collection. MLB spokesman, Matt Bourne, said he did not know what the financial ramifications were for Baseball stating, “That took place so many years ago, I’m still checking into it.” When Bourne was asked if the office of MLB Security would open up their own investigation into the Halper scandal he stated, “I’ll have to check into that, too.” Barry Halper’s widow, Sharon, is currently a limited partner of the New York Yankees.
Industry experts and auctioneers have some pretty definitive ideas on what the value of an authentic 1919 Joe Jackson road jersey would be. Doug Allen, who heads Legendary Auctions said, “Although there are very few $1 million dollar jerseys including Ruth and Cobb. I think this would be a $1 million dollar jersey.”
Troy Kinnunen of MEARS Auctions went a step further stating that he’s had hypothetical discussions with a few of his top clients about what an authentic Jackson jersey would sell for at public auction. Said Kinnunen, “The record for a jersey is just over a million dollars for a Babe Ruth, but a Joe Jackson jersey from 1919 would be the most sought after in collecting history. I’d say it would sell anywhere between $3 million and $5 million dollars.”
With the inevitable financial ramifications of the purchase of Halper’s bogus material, the Baseball Hall of Fame, may come under further scrutiny by New York’s Attorney General since it operates as a non-profit public trust. The Hall of Fame learned last year that the Ty Cobb diary they purchased from Barry Halper was also a forgery, however, it appears they have never pursued reimbursement from Barry Halper’s estate. In the custody of the Hall of Fame, in a public trust, the bogus Cobb diary and Jackson jersey are owned by the people of the State of New York. It only makes sense that the State of New York would require restitution. In the aftermath of the Hall of Fame’s admission that the Joe Jackson jersey is illigitimate, how much they are owed is now the lingering question.
Additional Coverage of the Hall of Fame Jackson Jersey Scandal Also Appeared in these Publications:
The Chicago Sun Times
The Daily Star