Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

April 4, 2013

Season tickets for the Boston BBC in 1903 (top) and 1876 (bottom) are being offered in Huggins & Scott's Spring auction.

(FOR UPDATE SCROLL TO BOTTOM)

Baseball season is finally here and many fans are busy lining up their season tickets for MLB’s 2013 campaign. Collectors, likewise, are hitting the spring baseball auctions to chase down relics from seasons long gone, and in the case of Huggins & Scott Auctions, eyeballing a few original season ticket books and passes for the Boston Beaneaters Base Ball Club from the long-gone seasons of 1876 and 1903.

The auctioneer describes the 110-year-old 1903 season ticket booklet as:

“An amazingly well preserved book (which) features a gorgeous leather bound cover (bearing)  lustrous gilt lettering which reads “Boston Base Ball Club, Season 1903, 104”. The page inside the front cover records the ticket holder as “Mr. Fred E. Ling” and is signed by team treasurer J.B. Billings.”

The second Boston relic in the sale from the season of 1876 is described as:

“A very appealing Boston Baseball Season Ticket pass from the NL’s inaugural season 1876. Certified Authentic by SCG this dynamic ducat also bears the signature of Team President N. T. Apollonio with JSA authentication noted on the flip. This extremely rare relic appears to be unused, as the “Admit” line is not filled out.”

The complimentary tickets from 1903 are said to be worth over $6,000 but they didn’t belong to “Fred E. Ling” as the auction house described.  The tickets were actually issued to Boston team treasurer Frederick E. Long, the man who ran the day to day financial operations for the Boston franchise from the 1870s through the 1890s.  Long handled all of the team bank accounts; issued paychecks to players like “Old Hoss” Radbourn and “King” Kelly; corresponded with managers like Harry Wright when the team was on the road and oversaw all of the stockholders of the club for every season he was affiliated with the Boston nine since they joined the National League in 1876.

In 1983, Long’s descendants donated his personal archive of baseball files and mementos to the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, New York, constituting the “Frederick E. Long Papers Collection”, one of the most magnificent archives of baseball business records known to exist from the 19th century.  Included in the archive is the voluminous correspondence between Long and Hall of Famers Harry Wright and A. G. Spalding, bank books, stock ledgers, cancelled checks, promissory notes and, yes, complimentary tickets issued by the club along with the lists of fans they were distributed to by Long.

The Frederick Long Collection in Cooperstown includes a consecutive run of Long's own season ticket booklets for the seasons spanning from 1895 to 1902. Pictured above in their archival box at Cooperstown are the 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1902 booklets. (National Baseball Library, Cooperstown)

The Huggins & Scott offering of a 1903 ticket book issued to Long is curious to say the least since the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Long Papers archive (which spans from 1871 to 1905) lists the entry for Box #20, Folder 2 as: “Season Ticket Books and Passes- 1871 to 1902.”  In fact, the archive includes Long’s personal complimentary ticket booklets for the seasons of 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1902.  There’s no 1903 ticket booklet in Cooperstown and no 1904 or 1905 examples either.  Long, however, did receive a complimentary pass from the Boston club in 1905  as evidenced in a letter from Geo. B. Billings that is currently found in the Long archive.  Where, then, did the 1903 booklet being offered at auction come from?

The 1902 season ticket booklet housed at the HOF in the Long Papers Collection (left) is the last of a series in the collection which starts in 1895. The Huggins & Scott offering (right) appears to have originated from the same collection.

We sent images of the Hall of Fame’s similar items and also asked Huggins & Scott’s Josh Wulkan where his consignors acquired the 1903 ticket book and 1876 pass.  Wulkan said, “We have no comment at this time.”  At time of the publication of this article both lots were still included in the current sale which ends on April 11th.

The Long Papers Collection at the HOF includes several unused 1876 season passes for the Boston BBC, two of which are numbered 122 and 123. The Huggins & Scott offering is in the exact same sequence at #124.

If it appears that the 1903 booklet may be missing from the Hall’s Long Papers Collection, the origins of the 1876 season pass are even murkier considering that the Long archive includes at least eight identical unused and unexecuted passes from the same season?  Then consider that the Huggins & Scott pass is designated #124 and the Hall of Fame’s Long Papers collection includes the two preceding unused passes numbered 122 and 123.  What are the odds the Huggins & Scott offerings weren’t part of the infamous 1980s heist at the Hall?

Items stolen from the Hall of Fame have been showing up in public auctions for the past few decades, but recently it appears that owners of stolen and suspect materials are becoming more confident in selling the material since the Hall has not pursued recovery of any of its property even when there is photographic documentation of the items at the Hall before they were wrongfully removed.  Most recently the Hall failed to make an effort to recover an 1870 Philadelphia Athletics CDV that appeared in a Legendary auction.  Items from the National Baseball Library’s August Herrmann Papers collection, Ford Frick Papers collection and photographic collections appear to have been hit the hardest by the 1980s heist which is believed to have resulted in millions of dollars in memorabilia vanishing from the institution.

In 2006, REA sold a July 25, 1879, letter from Harry Wright to Frederick Long written in Syracuse, NY (left). The HOF's Long Collection includes a series of correspondence in that time period and a letter Wright sent to Long on July 27th from a Syracuse hotel.

The Frederick E. Long Papers collection appears to have been victimized as well, with the first strong proof of theft surfacing in a 2006 Robert Edward Auctions sale of an 1879 letter written to Long by Boston manager Harry Wright.  The Long collection features a sizeable group of Wright’s correspondence with Long during the season of 1879 including a series of letters sent to Long on July 23rd, July 25th, August 3rd, and August 7th.  The REA offering was a letter from Wright dated on July 27, 1879, and sent from Syracuse, New York, just like the letter Wright sent two days earlier from the Syracuse House Hotel.  REA sold the letter for $4,350.

The HOF's Long Papers archive includes signed documents featuring signatures of the most sought after Hall of Famers as evidenced by this 1890 promissory note signed by "King" Kelly. (Frederick E. Long Papers, National Baseball Library, Cooperstown, NY)

Frederick Long also maintained the stockholder records of the Boston Base Ball Club and the archive still contains Long’s handwritten ledger pages documenting every shareholders stake in the baseball club.  It is suspected that the large cache of original Boston BBC stock certificates and certificate stubs that surfaced in the hobby years ago had its origins oin the Hall’s Long Collection as well.  If items were, in fact, stolen from Long’s donated materials, it appears the thieves missed the most valuable items in the collection, dozens of signed cancelled payroll checks issued to Hall of Famers “King” Kelly, Dan Brouthers and “Old Hoss” Radbourn.  Industry experts we spoke with said each of those signed documents would be worth anywhere between $25,000 and $100,000 each if ever offered at public auction.  These rare documents from Long’s files have now been microfilmed, so any attempt of a theft would be easily uncovered by Hall officials and librarians.

The curious case of Frederick E. Long’s season tickets, however, is likely not a case the Baseball Hall of Fame is interested in solving.  Although the items appearing in the Huggins & Scott sale have been reported to the Cooperstown Police Department, Hall officials refused to respond or issue a statement when contacted by Haulsofshame.com.

UPDATE (Friday April 12th):

Huggins & Scott Sells Suspected 1903 Boston Ticket Book & 1876 Pass For Big Bucks; Huggins & Scott Consignment Agent Previously Sold Another 1897 Boston Beaneater Relic Stolen From Baseball Hall Of Fame

Despite being presented with overwhelming evidence that their two lots appear to have been stolen from the Hall of Fame’s Frederick E. Long Collection, Huggins & Scott and auction VP Josh Wulkan chose not to remove the questioned artifacts and sold the 1903 Fred Long ticket book for a hammer price of $6,500 and the 1876 unused season pass for $7,500.

Unlike bigger auction houses (REA and Heritage) which have withdrawn similar items when presented with evidence suggesting a Hall of Fame provenance, Huggins & Scott has chosen to take the route Steve Verkman and Clean Sweep Auctions has chosen: to ignore the evidence and proceed with the sales of materials believed to have been stolen from the National Baseball Library.   Huggins & Scott did the same recently when they sold a letter written by Fred Clarke that originated from the August Herrmann Papers archive, despite the fact it had been removed from a Heritage Auction in 2010.

The Hall of Fame has compounded the problem by choosing to ignore the same evidence in a futile attempt to save face after embarrassing losses which are reported to total in the millions.  Despite police reports filed with the Cooperstown Police by Haulsofshame.com, Hall President Jeff Idelson and PR rep Brad Horn failed to issue a statement and have also failed to respond to Cooperstown Police Chief Michael Covert.  Huggins & Scott also failed to call the Cooperstown Police to confirm the filing of a report despite being given that information.  The Cooperstown Police cannot investigate the matter unless the victim, the Baseball Hall of Fame, comes forward and acknowledges the loss of the artifacts on the record.

Wulken and Huggins & Scott expressed defiance when we contacted them and even left the name in the lot description of the 1903 ticket booklet as “Fred Ling” despite the fact they have the correct information showing the booklet was issued to “Fred Long” the same man whose family donated his entire baseball archive (including his ticket books and season passes) to the Hall in 1983.

Pressed with the simple question as to where his consignor (or consignors) acquired the suspect items Josh Wulkan told us, “Neither consignor had any information to add.”  When we followed up and stated, “You are going on the record that your consignors didn’t tell you where they got these items,” Wulkan responded, “I didn’t say that.  If you are going to write articles and quote me, please make sure you do so accurately.”  Wulkan added that he was displeased with previous Haulsofshame.com reports stating, “You made me look like an asshole.”

In the mid 1990s Huggins & Scott consignment agent Ron Vitro sold this photo stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame featuring Fred Long's 1897 Boston Beaneaters. The photo was returned to the NBL collection in Cooperstown.

During the auction a source contacted us and suggested that the two Boston ticket lots may have been supplied to the auction by Huggins & Scott’s New York consignment agent Ron Vitro.  Vitro has been linked to the sale of another Boston-related artifact verified as stolen from the Hall of Fame.  In the mid 1990s Vitro sold this writer a rare Elmer Chickering cabinet photograph of the 1897 Boston Beaneater team and the Royal Rooters posing on the steps of the Eutaw Hotel in Baltimore.  The photo was returned to the Hall when it was revealed the Hall had photographic evidence proving the image was stolen from the library collection.  The acknowledgment of the theft and the recovery of the item were processed by Hall librarian Tom Heitz at a time when the Hall was actively seeking recoveries of missing items.  The reverse of the photo Vitro sold also showed evidence of the removal of HOF ownership marks.  When asked about Vitro’s past sale of another stolen Hall artifact related to Fred Long’s Beaneaters Wulkan answered, “No.  Neither lot came through Ron Vitro.”  Wulkan again offered no other information about where the two Fred Long lots came from.  According to the Huggins & Scott website the auction house will haul in close to $5,000 in commissions.

An employee from another auction house summed it up best telling us, “Huggins & Scott is very soft on provenance.”


15 Comments

  1. And the beat goes on. Has the HOF realized these things are showingup almost weekly? Nice post.

    Comment by Paul — April 4, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

  2. The investigative work being done on this site is simply invaluable. Please keep up the great work.

    Comment by Scott — April 4, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

  3. Peter,

    It pains me to say this, notwithstanding your solid and passionate reporting, each time you run a piece, I feel on some level you actually embolden the market for these problematic items. I offer these as my personal observations:

    1. Even with access to computer records and bidding software, theft is hard and expensive to prove.
    2. Public institutions like the Hall of Fame regrettably do not appear interested in trying to obtain the items back or keep them from changing hands.
    3. Collectors are still buying, and right now at some very very good prices given the rarity and significance of the artifacts; and collectors drive the market.
    4. Collectors are still willing to pay for and subsidize substandard evaluations as the market still demands the service.

    I feel it could be reasonably and objectively argued that the risk to those who traffic in these items is low, and trending downward; even the secondary risk to name/branding for the institutions that offer them. I wish you the best in your continued efforts and have never hoped I am more wrong about something in my life.

    Dave Grob
    DaveGrob1@aol.com

    Comment by Dave Grob — April 4, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

  4. The fact that Huggins and Scott cant answer a simple question like where did both items come from says it all.
    Looks like they are just another auction house without ethics.

    Comment by Bullpen — April 5, 2013 @ 11:20 am

  5. Looks like huggins and scott is selling a fake babe ruth too. Check out the 700 HR ticket.

    Comment by Bullpen — April 6, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

  6. Currently the 1876 season pass and 1903 season ticket book issued to Fred Long have bids of $4,500 and $2,750. This despite all of the evidence suggesting that both items were stolen from the National Baseball Library’s Frederick E. Long Papers Collection. Josh Wulken and Huggins and Scott Auctions have refused to divulge any information related to the provenance of these two offerings. The auction house appears to be content that the HOF is not pursuing recovery, though HOS made them aware that a police report was filed with the local autohorities in Cooperstown. Police representatives have delivered that information to the office of Brad Horn at the HOF. The HOF still refuses to comment on the situation.

    Comment by admin — April 9, 2013 @ 11:03 am

  7. I really wonder if there was some sort of wink-nod deal where all this missing HoF material was “stolen” and given to private collectors then insurance was paid out to the Hall.

    Now these items are leaking out, one by one. instead of being horded by those who originally received them. The HoF isn’t actively after them, because (a) they’ve already received the money for them, (b) draw more attention to the items they DO HAVE that are forgeries/fake, and (c) expose the initial deception. There are probably still board members or their retinue that have dirty hands that they are trying to protect.

    Why isn’t the press covering this more? Well, perhaps its because the baseball writers are the ones that vote in the current batch of players and wouldn’t want to lose their credentials to the HoF??

    Comment by Krunchy — April 11, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

  8. What do you expect from low life auctioneers grubbing for commissions.Huggins and Scott is just filling the void left by mastro who sold his share of stolen stuff from the HOF including Walter Johnsons Presidential baseballs. Remember those? Hope this comes back to bite Huggins right on the ass. They deserve it.

    Comment by Bullpen — April 11, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

  9. How do you really know its even a real sale and not one of those mastro sales where the auction shills its own item and then ends up with it. Who would be stupid enough to bid on those items from the Hall.

    Comment by Thomas McManus — April 12, 2013 @ 10:41 am

  10. In the future, why in the world would ANYONE donate anything to Cooperstown. Jeff Idelson’s lack of professionalism in handling the thefts is one reason I would never visit the Hall of Fame again.
    Shame on him for not participating in getting the stolen items returned to the Hall.

    Comment by Stephen Koschal — April 12, 2013 @ 10:56 am

  11. There is a signed ticket by babe ruth that sold for 12000 dollars that jsa and the newbie’s sgc both certed as real despite the dismal track record of ruth. auction houses live by the sword and die by it too when they stick to the guns of authenticators BlINDLY and don’t know when to figure it out for themselves. The provenance of the ticket does not prove it’s authenticity and the original owner’s name was lost to hisotry. No way to verify it. Provenance is overrated.

    we need research from the TOP Ruth guys in the country, which I hope will supplant these other services.

    The Blarney Ruth which spence certed was recently recalled by tri-star signa cuts and the owner offerede a replacement. I think the hobby needs a real ruth sleuth.

    Comment by TRAVIS R0STE — April 12, 2013 @ 11:11 am

  12. The hope is that one day a donor will come forward to confront Jeff and Cooperstown about a stolen item…

    Such a shame.

    Comment by Jgmp123 — April 12, 2013 @ 11:41 am

  13. Assuming that there has been interstate sales of these stolen items, why isn’t the FBI getting involved?

    Comment by Scott — April 14, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

  14. Because the victim (BHOF) has to acknowledge the theft and go to the FBI to open a case. This is not being done because the HOF has failed to report the thefts and engage the Albany office of the FBI. The FBI won’t (and can’t) just do it on their own. Besides that, its also an issue that should be investigated by the NYS Attorney General,, as all of the artifacts in the HOF collection are property of New York State and not the HOF.

    Comment by admin — April 14, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

  15. It is starting to appear that the Hall has lost more items than they have retained.

    Comment by Michael Luciano — April 16, 2013 @ 10:37 am

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