By Peter J. Nash
July 31, 2015
The Hall of Fame pitcher nicknamed the “Christian Gentleman” may be rolling over in his grave tonight as Goldin Auctions sells off what PSA and JSA have certified as an authentic baseball bat alleged to have been “game-used” by Christy Mathewson in the 1905 World Series and signed and dated by his manager, John J. McGraw. But there is no proof whatsoever that suggests Mathewson ever swung the $500,000 bat and several experts have opined that the signature of McGraw is a poorly executed forgery. The authentication of the bogus signature by Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence is yet another prime example of why both authentication companies are facing allegations of fraud, incompetence, racketeering and operating a monopoly in three federal anti-trust lawsuits filed by Nelson Deedle, Todd Mueller and Michael Johnson. Sources indicate that several collectors have alerted the FBI about the sale.
Author Ron Keurajian told Hauls of Shame he is of the opinion that the inscription and signature of McGraw is a forgery and added, “Whatever moron buys that bat deserves to get burned.” When compared to authentic examplars of McGraw’s signature executed between 1900 and 1910, the signature on the bat exhibits tell-tale signs of forgery as if the autograph was drawn slowly. Supporting Keurajian’s analysis is additional information of the bats alleged provenance which shows that the previous owner of the bat, Terrence Zastrow, prepared a sketchy sworn affidavit with virtually no detail documenting that the bat actually was owned at one time by Mathewson. Making matters worse is information submitted to Hauls of Shame detailing how Zastrow was once indicted for counterfeiting coins and was caught on wiretaps admitting how he defrauded the US Government. When Hauls of Shame asked Ken Goldin if he knew of Zastrow’s indictment and counterfeiting history the auctioneer said, ” If you are referring to something from 1972 I think many people have a past, yourself included. If you wish to discuss the bat, you should talk to MEARS who researched it extensively and awarded it an A-10 their highest grade, or PSA who awarded a GU-10 their highest grade.”
When we spoke to Troy Kinunen of MEARS he admitted that he authenticated the bat after the autograph was certified authentic by the third party company and that he assumed the signature and inscription were real. Because of that assumption he told us, “I was able to attribute it to Mathewson because the bat had no name on it and that’s way the bats from 1905 would appear. The fact that the writing on the bat had the exact date placed it at the World Series.” When asked if he had seen any evidence that could unequivocally show that Mathewson owned the bat he said, “No, but I was told that the bat was given to a family by Mathewson.” Incredibly, both MEARS and PSA claim that another reason the bat is authentic is because Mathewson did not sign the bat. In the PSA letter of authenticity John Taube writes, “players don’t sign their own equipment.” MEARS says, “The fact that the bat was signed by teammates, not Christy Mathewson himself, lends to the fact this was Mathewson’s bat which was signed by his teammates and intended to be a keepsake…”
It’s hard to believe both PSA and MEARS actually believe this and it’s interesting to note that they both make the same point as if MEARS based their 2015 letter on the 2013 letter by PSA. If this were actually true, the majority of “game used” items both companies have authenticated would not exist.
But what is most stunning about the PSA, MEARS and JSA authentications is the sworn affidavit of Terrence Zastrow. Hauls of Shame requested the affidavit referenced in the Goldin lot description but Goldin would not furnish a copy of the document which states that Zastrow was the owner of the bat as of July 24, 2013 and that when Zastrow “came into possession oof said bat” he was “told that said bat had been given to Christy Mathewson by his team mates on October 14, 1905.” Zastrow states that “Mathewson gave said bat to a member of a Chicago family” but fails to identify the family or the individual. He then adds that the bat was in the possession of the alleged family “until June 2013.”
In a nutshell, there is no verifiable evidence in Zastrow’s affidavit that supports either the Mathewson ownership or “game use” of the bat. In fact, MEARS, on its web page states the criteria to render an “A-10″ grade on a bat. MEARS says, “A bat being graded A-10 matches known factory production details, exhibits significant signs of player use, has unquestionable provenance or an abundance of unique and player specific traits in combination with manufacturer’s characteristics proving that the bat could only have been used by the examined player.”
It appears that both MEARS and PSA simply accepted the autograph authentications by PSA/DNA and JSA in addition to the claims of direct provenance and ownership by Mathewson to elevate the bat to a $500,000 museum quality artifact. The truth of the matter is that MEARS and PSA can only identify the bat as a vintage and authentic Hillerich bat from the turn of the century. Neither outfit provides any convincing evidence that shows otherwise, including photographic evidence which shows Mathewson holding a bat in 1908.
Last week, a major collector contacted Hauls of Shame and provided us with an actual authentic photo of Mathewson holding his bat during the 1905 World Series. The collector noted that the knob and handle “looked thicker than the bat that Goldin is selling.” The image is not clear enough to reveal the exact details and wood grain but it does cast more doubt on Goldin’s alleged treasure.
The image was just recently sold by Heritage Auctions as part of the estate of Mathewson’s catcher Roger Bresnahan and was readily available to PSA, MEARS and JSA. The 1905 image does, however, show that the bat in Matty’s hands does not have large piece of wood missing from the knob. One industry executive we spoke with said, “That photo shows a bat without any wood loss on the knob. If it was such a keepsake and retired after the 1905 Series how would that have been damaged? That’s a problem, but not as big a problem as having no evidence it was Matty’s bat.”
Ken Goldin acknowledged Zastrow’s past as a counterfeiter but also stated, “My consignor is not Zastrow or a relative. This bat has been in an esteemed private collection for two years.” Based on Goldin’s response it appears that Zastrow sold the bat to the collector and it is interesting to note that Goldin includes another letter addressed to Marshall Fogel referencing a different family that owned a Mathewson jersey they received as a gift. That letter has absolutely nothing to do with the Zastrow bat and appears to be included in an attempt to deceive bidders. Several sources told Hauls of Shame that the consignor of the bat is New Jersey collector Dr. Richard Angrist. Angrist’s name appears on the copy of the Fogel letter which is included in Goldin’s 23 page report on the bat.
Hauls of Shame contacted Zastrow’s son, Justin Zastrow, to ask whether his father could explain his affidavit but he did not respond to our voice mail. The Zastrow family owns and operates Authentic Investment Inc. which is described as “a family owned company.” PSA, Joe Orlando and John Taube have a long history of not responding to our requests for comment.
Troy Kinunen of MEARS told us he stands behind his authentication of the bat and that he only heard of Zastrow’s past as a coin counterfieter a few days ago. Kinnunen said he had done business with the Zastrow’s previously. A private detective we spoke with told us, ” I found that the Zastrow case isn’t online, but it is in a box in the Federal Records Center or the National Archives and Records Administration. It’s case 553, case number 1:1973-cr-553, U.S. District Court, Northern Illinois, Chicago location.”
The current bid on the alleged Mathewson bat at Goldin’s sale in Chicago is $140,000 with five alleged bids.
UPDATE (SAT. Aug. 1st): According to Goldin Auctions the alleged Mathewson bat sold for $218,700. In addition, Ken Goldin contacted HOS and wanted to clarify one issue about the Fogel letter included with the lot. Goldin told us: “Goldin did not supply anything regarding Marshall Fogel. When the item was consigned to us it came with 23 pages of documents handed to us by the consignor. The letter regarding Fogel was not something that we supplied, but is part of the authentication papers of PSA DNA.” Goldin also stated that the sale of the bat at $218,700 was a real sale and that the bat met its reserve price although it sold for less than half of the $500,000 Goldin expected.
(This is the first of a two-part Special Report from the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, look for our follow up report after the Goldin Auctions sale tonight)