Charlie Sheen made the rounds recently promoting his new sitcom on FX and when he appeared on ESPN radio with Colin Cowherd talk shifted to his baseball memorabilia collection and his alleged ownership of the Bambino’s 1927 World Series ring. Sheen told Cowherd he considered his bling the premier item in the baseball collecting universe along with his other treasure, the papers that sent Ruth to the Yankees from Boston in 1920. Last Friday Sheen appeared for an interview taped for YES Network’s Center Stage with Michael Kay. In the interview, which aired this past Friday night, Sheen said that the Babe’s ring was his favorite item in his downsized collection. Sheen told Kay, “Babe Ruth’s ’27 World Series ring. There’s one in the world, I have it. Yeah. I didn’t give that up.”
It was just over a year ago that Sheen flashed a glimpse of Babe Ruth’s 1927 Yankee World Series ring via Twitter and soon after questions about the origins of the ring were raised in a story published on Deadspin. The Babe’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, questioned the rings authenticity and whether it was stolen from the Ruth family decades ago. A 1988 book writtten by her mother, Dorothy Ruth Pirone, also claimed that the Bambino’s World Series rings had mysteriously vanished sometime after her father’s death in 1948. Confusing the matter were statements made by deceased collector Barry Halper in 1990 that he had purchased Ruth’s 1927 ring from Dorothy Ruth Pirone. Pirone’s daughter, Linda, said Halper’s story was a “huge lie.”
Halper sold the ring to auctioneer, Josh Evans, who, in turn, sold the ring to Charlie Sheen in the 1990s (ESPNs Dan Patrick reported in 2002 that Sheen paid $225,000). Since the time the actor was fired from his hit sitcom and his bizarre meltdown was chronicled 24-7 in the media, the Ruth ring has become known as Sheen’s “Winning Ring.”
But now, new information may link the Bambino’s famous ring to an unsolved FBI murder investigation and a 1988 episode of Unsolved Mysteries hosted by Robert Stack (a.k.a. Eliot Ness of Untouchables fame).
In the episode of the hit-TV show, which aired on October 12, 1988, Stack reported that the famous Ruth ring was once owned by a collector and Ponzi-schemer named Dennis Walker. After Walker’s financial fraud was exposed he skipped town and ended up a victim of what some thought was a gang-land hit. At the start of the Unsolved Mysteries episode Stack set the scene for the mystery that ensued after Walker was found dead and his multi-million dollar baseball collection vanished into thin-air. Stack introduced the episode describing the most important item in Walker’s missing treasure-trove: “In 1927 legendary Babe Ruth hit sixty home runs. The record has stood for over thirty years. Today his 1927 World Series ring is valued at $50,000. It has disappeared,” Stack said
In relation to the Walker investigation, Stack also said, “Police theorize it (Walker’s items) is being sold in undergound markets. Any item from Dennis Walker’s collection is viewed as stolen goods. Any one who traffics in such items is liable for prosecution.”
The episode then detailed the sordid tale of Dennis Walker and his collection:
Linda Ruth Tosetti remembers seeing the Unsolved Mysteries episode back in 1988. “When I saw it and heard the mention of Babe’s ring, I called up the TV shows hotline and told them I heard Barry Halper had the ring, but no one ever followed up as far as I know,” said Ruth-Tosetti. She added, “I had seen the ring pictured in Larry Ritter’s book, The Babe: A Life in Pictures, and it was credited to Barry Halper.”
According to the TV show, Walker master-minded an elaborate 1980s Ponzi-scheme and funneled a majority of the cash into purchases of millions in baseball memorabilia and antiquities. In 1985, he established a museum he called the “National Sports Hall of Fame” in Medford, Oregon, which featured the 1927 World Series ring, a Babe Ruth uniform and two rare T-206 Honus Wagner baseball cards. The museum also featured Pete Rose’s diamond-studded Hickock-Belt, silver bat and other assorted Rose-related items. Pete Rose, himself, was the master of ceremonies at the grand opening of Walker’s museum in February, 1985.
In April of 1986, as Walker’s Ponzi-scheme was unravelling, he packed up his baseball collection in a van and hit the road, never to be seen alive again. On July 5, 1987, the decomposed body of the 43-year-old Walker was found in a Las Vegas hotel room with his baseball collection nowhere to be found. In 1989, the Associated Press reported that at the time of Walker’s death he also owed Pete Rose $70,000 and that Rose’s valuable Hickok-Belt, awarded to him as Athlete-of-the-Year in 1975, had also vanished.
Oregon’s Assistant Attorney General, Jim McLaughlin, appeared on Unsolved Mysteries and confirmed that the exact cause of Walker’s death was unknown. “No one has ever been able to determine what caused his death. That combined with the missing sports memorabilia, leaves many, many more questions open than closed in this case.”
Walker, who established a bank in the island nation of Tonga, in the South Pacific, paid Rose $20,000 in cash for the Hickok belt along with what Rose biographer David M. Jordan described as, “$50,000 worth of Tongan securities maturing two years later.” Rose would later find Walker’s notes were worthless but it turns out Charlie Hustle may have hustled the con-man, too. According to Jordan, in his 2004 book, Pete Rose: A Biography, before Rose sold the belt he double crossed Walker when he “secretly had the precious stones removed from the (Hickok) belt and replaced with fake gems.”
In a 1989 article published in Penthouse, Gerald Posner claimed that Unsolved Mysteries contacted Rose’s close friend, Paul Janszen, to “see if Rose would do an interview on the missing memorabilia.” Janszen told Posner Rose’s response to him was, “Hell, I don’t want to do that show, Paul. They’ll start digging and find out I got paid cash for some of that stuff. That’ll bring the IRS on me.” Janszen also told Posner that, when Walker was found dead in 1987, Rose sent him to New York in an “aborted attempt to retrieve part of the collection.”
In 1989, the Associated Press reported that the FBI had “reopened an investigation into the disappearance of more than $7 million in sports memorabilia, including a 1927 New York Yankees World Series ring and a $30,000 Hickock Belt that Pete Rose won.” At the time, FBI spokesperson Tom Nicodemus confirmed that the Walker case had been re-opened after “$10,000 of (Walker’s) memorabilia turned up in New York.” “Based on that, it was obvious there was interstate transportation of memorabilia,” Nicodemus told the AP.
Almost twenty-five years later, is the alleged Babe Ruth ring once owned by Dennis Walker now found in the Charlie Sheen collection housed at the actor’s “Sober Valley Lodge” in Beverly Hills?
We asked Evans last year if he knew about Walker’s 1927 ring and if he thought Barry Halper may have acquired Walker’s missing ring on the black market. Evans responded, “No comment.”
If Charlie Sheen’s prized possession is, in fact, Dennis Walker’s missing Babe Ruth ring, both Sheen and Evans can add their names to a long list of Barry Halper’s victims. Both Sheen and Evans were, no doubt, good faith buyers who may have been decieved by the late Halper, who has been implicated recently in defrauding both Major League Baseball and the Baseball Hall of Fame with sales of counterfeit items including fake jerseys of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Mickey Mantle.
Last year we contacted Dennis Walker’s son, Greg Walker, of Las Vegas, Nevada, and asked him if Charlie Sheen’s “Winning Ring” could have been his father’s missing ring? “Knowing my Dad, he probably had those items,” said Walker. Walker also added, “My mom has the inventory from the museum and is trying to round it up.” Walker did not respond to our recent follow up inquiry to check on the status of the collection inventory.
Even if Sheen’s 1927 Ruth ring was actually part of Dennis Walker’s missing collection, the self proclaimed “Messiah of Malibu” may still be in the clear, after all. Tony Green, a spokesperson for Oregon’s Attorney General’s office confirms that the Dennis Walker case has long been closed and is likely past the statute of limitations. Likewise, the FBI office in Portland, Oregon, couldn’t even locate the Walker case on their computer database. Beth Ann Steele, a spokesperson from the FBI’s Portland office referred us to the FBI’s National Press office.
Meanwhile, Linda Ruth Tosetti is still hoping the FBI can help her family determine if the original Ruth 1927 ring was stolen from his Riverside Drive apartment. Says Tosetti, “The FBI has kept in touch with me, just last week they told me they nabbed a guy related to Robert Young from the old TV show “Father Knows Best” who was selling a fake glove he said my grandfather used as a kid at St. Mary’s. Babe leads the pack again in bringing crooks to justice.” The Babe’s blood granddaughter also revealed that she recently purchased a few replicas of her grandfather’s 1927 ring on eBay for $350 each. ”Boy, I guess it’s easy to make one,” she said.
Sheen was rumored to have recently purchased the Bambino’s 1920 Yankee road jersey for $4.4 million but the auction house who placed the winning bid, Lelands, would not confirm or deny that the jersey would end up joining the ring and Ruth sale agreement in Sheen’s allegedly down-sized collection. If he didn’t snag the jersey he’s still got what he considers the greatest item in the history of baseball memorabilia- the ring he tweeted as, “Class of 1927, Bambino U.”