By Peter J. Nash
June 16, 2011
Penny Marshall’s alleged 1999 purchase of Lou Gehrig’s “Last Glove” for a record price of $387,500 has been reported in articles published by the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times and even showed up in a 2003 book called Glove Affairs. But only one account published in 2006 came from a reporter who actually interviewed the director of A League of Their Own fame and best known for her sitcom roles as Myrna in the Odd Couple and Laverne in Laverne and Shirley.
New York Daily News reporter Michael O’Keeffe interviewed Marshall in 2006 for an article he wrote called, A Penny and Thoughts…On Sports. In the article Marshall spoke about some of the favorite items in her collection including two others that originated from the Barry Halper Collection; a checker board allegedly owned and autographed by Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson and an Andy Warhol serigraph of Pete Rose signed by the artist and Rose. Both items were part of the 1999 Sotheby’s auction of the late New York Yankee minority owner’s collection.
In the article O’Keeffe also reported that Marshall, a die-hard Yankee fan, also made memorabilia history when she won another Halper item related to Lou Gehrig. O’Keeffe wrote, “She (Marshall) purchased a Lou Gehrig glove at a 1999 auction for $387,500, still one of the highest prices ever paid for sports memorabilia.”
Earlier this month, uniform and equipment expert Dave Grob issued a report on the MEARS website challenging the authenticity of that same alleged ”last glove” used by Gehrig and presented compelling evidence illustrating that the genuine Gehrig glove was donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame by Gehrig’s mother as part of her last will and testament.
Sources indicate that the New York Post recently contacted Penny Marshall in California to confirm that she purchased the glove and that, through her assistant, the director “denied 100%” that she had ever purchased or owned it.
Haulsofshame.com also interviewed Penny Marshall who expressed surprise that she had been tied to the record purchase. “I never bought it, if someone wants to give it to me I’d take it, but I wouldn’t pay $400,000 for a glove. Billy Crystal bought that Mickey Mantle glove for $200,000 in that auction,” said Marshall. She also confirmed that her purchases in the 1999 Halper sale at Sotheby’s included the Christy Mathewson checkerboard and some ”sheet music.” When informed that the glove sold at Sotheby’s had serious authenticity issues and that the genuine Gehrig ”last glove” resides at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Marshall added, “The Hall of Fame came to my house to see my collection, I’m going to leave them some of my stuff when I’m gone.” Marshall did not recall ever hearing about her inclusion in the book Glove Affairs and said she didn’t know how the stories of her alleged purchase originated.
Marshall’s denial stands in direct conflict with the reporting of the Daily News’ Michael O’Keeffe who interviewed her for his 2006 article and stated that she purchased the alleged Gehrig glove. Marshall told Haulsofshame.com she was not familiar with O’Keeffe’s article.
Another Daily News reporter, Bill Madden, was the first in the press to report the discovery of Babe Dahlgren’s alleged “Last Glove” of Lou Gehrig in his memorabilia column of June 16, 1979, for The Sporting News. In that column entitled, “Dahlgren Still Carrying Lou Gehrig’s Glove” Madden described how Dahlgren originally sent a letter to UPI sports editor Milton Richman and revealed to him how he had in his possession gloves once used by Gehrig and Yankee Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri.
Madden quoted from Dahlgren’s letter, which was written after the ex-Yankee listened to a talk show about baseball card values and said, “I must be sitting on a small fortune having the gloves of both Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri.”
Madden expanded upon what the gloves might be worth writing, “I have always maintained an item is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.” Stating that a T-206 Honus Wagner card was fetching “over $4,000″ in 1979, Madden added, “What do you think a one-of-a-kind item like the last glove Lou Gehrig ever wore must be worth?”
So, Madden called Dahlgren at his home in Bradbury, California, to discuss the Gehrig glove and got the story straight from the man who replaced Gehrig at first base in 1939.
In his column, “Collecting Memories,” Madden directly quoted Dahlgren as saying: “It wasn’t until 1940, a year after Lou played his last game that I got his glove. We had just come north from spring training and Lou, who didn’t go to Florida, in ‘40, was waiting for us in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. He was cleaning out his locker and he took his glove and threw it over to Pete Sheehy, the clubhouse man. I remember him saying, “I won’t be needing this anymore, Pete.” (It should be noted that Dahlgren was not directly quoted by Madden as saying his glove was specifically Gehrig’s “last.”)
Listening to Dahlgren’s story Madden was struck by the fact that the man who replaced Gehrig had “preserved all his memories of his career with such vivid detail.” Madden did a follow-up article in January of 1980 reporting that Barry Halper had acquired the glove in a deal with Dahlgren.
Dahlgren’s ”glove tale” from Madden’s TSN column lived on a decade later in 1990 when writers Steve Wulf and Jim Kaplan wrote a Sports Illustrated article called Glove Story: Freud Might Have Said, A Baseball Glove Is Nothing But A Baseball Glove. Just Try Telling That To Major League Players. The SI article included Madden’s original quote from Dahlgren in 1979: “It wasn’t until 1940, a year after Lou played his last game, that I got his glove.”
But by the time Halper decided to unload his collection at Sotheby’s in 1999 the Dahlgren “glove story” had made an amazing transformation. The Sotheby’s catalogue description stated that Dahlgren said he and Pete Sheehy acquired the glove on the exact same day that Gehrig stepped off the field for good in 1939, not a year later in 1940. Sotheby’s also claimed that Dahlgren said that Gehrig had “used the glove in many Championship and World Series games.” Sotheby’s also falsely claimed that the glove was “accompanied by a wire photo of Gehrig wearing it on the field.” That photo did not show the glove that was being sold.
Having dubbed the glove, “One of the greatest highlights in the Barry Halper Collection, and one of the most significant Lou Gehrig pieces in existence,” Sotheby’s secured a hammer price of $350,000 plus a buyers premium of $37,500. The next morning the New York Daily News reported that the price Halper got for the glove was the “most ever paid for a glove” and also, “the most expensive item sold in the entire auction.”
Meanwhile, at the same time, a display case at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, featured another Spalding first-baseman’s mitt also identified as Gehrig’s “last” from 1939. Expert Dave Grob revealed in his report that the glove was donated by Gehrig’s mother specifically as his “last glove” as part of her last will and testament in 1956. Grob’s report also included Gehrig’s first hand account of still having his “last glove” displayed in his home as reported by John Kiernan in The New York Times on March 16, 1941.
So, how could Sotheby’s have offered Halper’s glove without disclosing the conflicting information on Dahlgren’s story and the fact that there was another glove alleged to be Gehrig’s last on display at the game’s national shrine? No doubt, the bidders battling for the chunk of leather were not aware of the questionable authenticity of the glove. Without disclosing the facts, Sotheby’s sold the glove to “an anonymous telephone bidder” as reported in the Daily News by Bill Hutchinson in an article headlined, “Gehrig Mitt Shags 350G.”
One prominent collector who was a successful bidder at the 1999 Halper sale told Haulsofshame.com, “It’s hard to believe Halper and Lifson didn’t know about the other “last glove” that was in Cooperstown. How could they not have disclosed all of the information? And how come the Hall of Fame didn’t say anything either?”
The Sotheby’s catalogue acknowledgements for the Halper auction even recognized the Baseball Hall of Fame Library for their “assisting in our research as it proved to be invaluable.”
The revelations about the Gehrig glove made by expert Dave Grob are just the latest in a long line of exposed bogus, stolen and misrepresented artifacts sold by the collector and Yankee partner who died in 2005. When Halper sold an alleged 1919 White Sox jersey of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson to Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame in 1998, he claimed he purchased it from Jackson’s widow in the 1950’s. But testing done by the Hall of Fame proved that the jersey was a forgery made with materials manufactured after the 1940s. Other documented fakes in Halper’s collection included Babe Ruth’s Red Sox rookie jersey; Ty Cobb’s diary from 1946; Shoeless Joe Jackson’s pocket watch, glove and “Black Betsy” bat; Reggie Jackson’s 1967 A’s rookie jersey; Eddie Cicotte’s 1912 Red Sox jersey; John McGraw’s 1905 NY Giants jersey; Cy Young’s Red Sox jersey; Jimmy Collins’ Red Sox jersey; Lou Gehrig’s Coumbia jersey; Mickey Mantle’s c.1960 glove; Iron Man McGinnity’s 1905 NY Giant jersey; Buck Ewing’s 1880’s NY Giant jersey; a 500 Home Run Club signed sheet with a fake Babe Ruth autograph; a Ty Cobb jersey; the shotgun used to kill Ty Cobb’s father; Mickey Mantle’s 1951 rookie jersey (#6) and scores more. Many of these fakes were part of Halper’s $8 million sale to Major League Baseball in 1998, but most were included in the 1999 Sotheby’s auction.
The mystery of who purchased the bogus “last glove” of Lou Gehrig has had many hobby executives and collectors scratching their heads. Outside of the coverage that Penny Marshall purchased it, no one has been able to say definitively who purchased the glove for the record price. Rumors that President George H. W. Bush“coveted the glove” and may have purchased it were dismissed by Jim Appleby, an Aide to President Bush. Other rumors that the purchase was made by either Cal Ripken Jr. or a wealthy Japanese collector of Gehrig memorabilia have not been confirmed.
Josh Evans from Lelands Auctions echoed the sentiments of many we interviewed saying, “I doubted that Penny Marshall story, she’s not a $400,000 person.” Evans and other auction house heads like Doug Allen of Legendary, David Hunt of Hunt Auctions and Troy Kinunen of MEARS all indicated they had no idea who the buyer of the alleged Gehrig glove at Sotheby’s was.
The two people who do know the identity of the ”unluckiest collector on the face of the earth” are the individuals responsible for the sale at Sotheby’s in 1999. Marsha Malinowski was the Sotheby’s head employee overseeing the sale and Halper associate, Rob Lifson, of Robert Edward Auctions (REA), was Sotheby’s hand-picked consultant in charge of the sale. However, both Malinowski and Lifson aren’t talking, as both did not respond to inquiries about the glove and the identity of the winning bidder.
Since the sale in 1999, Lifson has taken credit for creating the entire Sotheby’s catalogue. In 2004 Lifson told David Lee of Beckett Sports Collectibles Magazine, “As far as what REA did, I personally wrote the entire catalogue (over 1,000 pages), decided what was going to be in the auction and how it was going to be presented.” Lifson added that he also. “Chose all illustrations, oversaw the layout of the catalogue, chose the authenticators, took care of all matters related to research, did all the grading and personally set all estimates and reserves.”
We asked Lifson what research he conducted related to the misrepresented Gehrig glove and how he claimed in the Sotheby’s description that it was, “the actual glove used by Lou Gehrig in his final game on April 30, 1939.”
We also asked Lifson if he’d contacted the winning bidder regarding the authenticity issues and inquired as to why the Sotheby’s description did not reference the conflicting Dahlgren acquisition story that appeared in both The Sporting News, in 1979, and Sports Illustrated, in 1990.
Lifson did not respond to inquiries for comment.
This is by no means Sotheby’s first experience with bogus Halper baseball gloves. A Cy Young glove that sold for over $70,000 in the 1999 sale was returned because it was found to be a child’s model glove. Halper said that glove came from the “Cy Young’s Estate.” The NY Daily News also reported in 2003 that the Mickey Mantle glove sold to actor Billy Crystal (for $239,000) as the “Mick’s” from”circa 1960″ was misrepresented as well. The DailyNews’ Michael O’Keeffe reported that glove collector and enthusiast Denny Eskin claimed that, “Most likely, the glove was used in 1966.” The News also reported that Rawling’s glove designer Bob Clevenhagen told Crystal that his glove was, “Made no earlier than 1964 and most likely used in 1966.”
In 2005, the Daily News reported about another one of Halper’s problematic gloves, a Joe DiMaggio model alleged to be from early in his career. Again, Denny Eskin claimed that the glove was not manufactured until 1954, three years after DiMaggio retired.
When confronted with this information, Rob Lifson, Sotheby’s lead consultant for the sale, pointed the finger at Dave Bushing who he claims he hired to authenticate gloves and other equipment for the 1999 Halper auction.
Bushing and his colleague Dan Knoll disputed Lifson’s claim in Sports Collectors Digest stating, “No letters came from us on Barry Halper gloves. We’re listed in the front of the catalogue as doing hats and bats.”
The Daily News reported that Lifson ”insisted that Bushing authenticated all of the gloves in the Halper auction. Bushing was not credited for examining gloves in the catalogue…because the huge auction, it had more than 2,400 lots, included only a handful of gloves.”
In an interview yesterday Bushing confirmed his prior statements about not authenticating gloves for the Halper auction. Said Bushing, “If we had done gloves (it) would have been listed as such and they would have had a detailed opinion.” “Attribution of authentication in a catalogue is a fact, a fact that confirms that we did not do (authenticate) the gloves,” Bushing continued. As for Gehrig’s alleged “last glove” Bushing stated emphatically, “I never studied the glove nor the provenance.”
Josh Evans, of Lelands, sums up the Sotheby’s “last glove” fiasco best. Said Evans, “The Halper auction was soft on authentication.”
The ”unluckiest collector on the face of the earth” who purchased Halper’s “last Gehrig glove” has learned that the hard way.