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By Peter J. Nash

Jan. 10, 2012

Rickey Henderson as Ty Cobb?

 

In his recent George Steinbrenner biography, The Last Lion of Baseball, New York Daily News sportswriter, Bill Madden, describes a 1985 Sporting News photo shoot at Yankee Stadium for “a feature story on the uniform collection of the renowned baseball memorabilia collector and limited Yankees partner Barry Halper.” 

Steinbrenner agreed to host the photo shoot, which featured manager Yogi Berra dressed up in what appeared to be John J. McGraw’s 1905 Giants jersey and George dressed as Jacob Ruppert, sporting Ruppert’s alleged bowler cap and a handle-bar moustache.  Also suited-up for the shoot were Jeff Torborg as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Mike Armstrong as “Pud” Galvin, John Montefusco as Cy Young and Halper as the Bambino in his alleged camel-hair coat.  Madden wrote in the biography, “The picture made for a classic Sporting News cover, with (Rickey) Henderson appropriately wearing the uniform of Cobb, whose all-time base-stealing record he would one day eclipse.”

Henderson was dressed in a Detroit Tigers pinstriped home jersey emblazoned with the classic olde-English “D” on the left chest.  In contrast to his gheri-curls, Rickey also sported a phony handle-bar moustache along with the other Yankees who played along accordingly. TSN ran with the caption “Some Stolen Memories” under Henderson’s portrait and stated, “The uniform being modeled here is the one Cobb wore in 1914, the year before he set the modern major league record of 96 stolen bases.”  TSN also joked, “Can (Henderson) continue in his Cobbian ways, or will he trip over his own moustache.”

To date, the jerseys of Joe Jackson, Cy Young and John McGraw, featured in the TSN photo shoot, have been the subjects of Haulsofshame.com investigative reports that have established each of these garments as forgeries.  Uniform expert Dave Grob has referred to the TSN cover as “The Mt. Rushmore of uniform fraud.” 

A recent investigation into the Cobb jersey worn by Rickey Henderson further supports Grob’s claim.

This 1985 TSN cover features several monumental uniform forgeries from the Halper Collection. Jeff Torborg wears a fake "Shoeless" Joe Jackson jersey while Rickey Henderson sports a fraudulent Ty Cobb jersey.

Here’s our analysis of the alleged Ty Cobb jersey worn by Rickey Henderson:

The Story:  Like most Halper uniforms, the alleged Ty Cobb jersey was accompanied by a rather elaborate story of provenance, which was published in The Sporting News.  Bill Madden wrote:

“A similar case of Halper’s persistence involves one of his Ty Cobb finds.  A few years ago , Halper received a tip that a man in Wyoming claimed to have the uniform the Georgia Peach wore with the Tigers in 1918.  “The first problem,” Halper said, “was that this fellow who claimed to have the uniform did not have a phone.  I sent him countless letters and telegrams before I was finally able to get him to call me collect from one of his neighbor’s houses.  In our conversation, he detailed the uniform to me and satisfied me that it was, in fact, the genuine article.  He told me his father had a trial with the Tigers but was cut in spring training.  According to the man’s story, his father was very distraught about being cut and Cobb, in one of his rare public displays of compassion, gave the father his uniform as a means of soothing his disappointment.”

Halper added, “To me that is great history–a side of Cobb so seldom seen and a story of Cobb never before told.”

The Jersey:  The garment Rickey Henderson wore for the photo shoot appears to be an original Thos. Wilson & Co. jersey manufactured in the Dead-Ball Era.  Both Wilson and Spalding were known to supply the Tigers with uniforms during Cobb’s career.

The Problem:  At some point before the 1999 Sotheby’s sale of the Halper collection, the Cobb jersey allegedly failed to pass authentication and never made it into the sale.

The same jersey Rickey Henderson wore in the 1985 TSN photo shoot appeared in the 2007 REA sale for the Halper Estate.(Plate Courtesy of Dave Grob)

 The Post-Mortem Discovery:  After Halper died of complications of a diabetic condition in 2005, his widow consigned to auction a substantial personal stash of memorabilia Halper kept for himself after the 1999 Sotheby’s auction.  The jersey Rickey Henderson wore in 1985 was found amongst Halper’s belongings.

The Auction:  Robert Edward Auctions described lot 1195 in their 2007 sale as follows: 

“Offered here is an extremely rare Detroit Tigers home flannel jersey dating from the early to mid 1920s. The white pinstriped jersey, which predates the use of uniform numbers, features only the team’s distinctive letter “D” appliqued in navy felt on the left breast. A four-button front and navy sun collar further distinguish the jersey and help to more narrowly define its period of use.”

The auction house did not mention that the offered jersey was once attributed to Cobb by Halper, nor did they inform bidders that the jersey at any time had failed to be authenticated.

The Buttons:  Under close inspection and compared to the garment Henderson wore on the 1985 TSN cover, the REA auction lot revealed the exact same damage to the top button.  Both buttons were cracked and appear to be identical.

The top button and the uniform pinstripes on both the 1985 TSN jersey and the 2007 auction jersey were perfect matches. The top buttons on both jerseys were cracked in the exact same place and the pinstripe alignment highlighted on the Olde English "D" was also a perfect match.(Plate Courtesy of Dave Grob)

 
The Pinstripe Match and Crest Alignment:  The jerseys from the 1985 TSN issue and the 2007 REA  auction both feature identical pinstripe patterns.  The Olde-English “D” on each jersey has identical crest alignment. 

The Chain Stitch:  REA noted in their description the following:

“A “Thos. E. Wilson & Co.” manufacturer’s tag appears in the collar. There is a name stamped on the tag that begins “C. H. Bra…”; however, the remainder of the last name is obscured by a stain (the name possibly reads Brady or Bradley). A name was once sewn on the left front tail but has since been removed. Despite the removal, the outline of the name remains slightly discernible and clearly begins with the letters “Bra,” which is consistent with the visible portion of the name stamped on the manufacturer’s tag.”

REA’s Conclusion: The auction lot description alludes to a theory as to who the jersey was actually issued to and when:

“Based upon the manufacturer’s tag and uniform style, this jersey most likely dates to the three-year period 1923 through 1925. That time period is further supported by comparison of this jersey to a 1924 Ty Cobb Detroit Tigers road jersey. Aside from the removal of the name in the left tail, the jersey is completely original, as issued, and displays no other alterations. Research indicates that there was no player by the name of “Brady” or Bradley” (or any player whose name last name began “Bra…”) on the Tigers active roster in the 1920s. Therefore, this jersey must have been issued to and worn by a non-roster player during that time (a common practice).”

(Note: The 1985 TSN article states the jersey was from 1915 and 1918)  The jersey sold for $4,993.75 in REA’s 2007 sale.  

The original Thos, E. Wilson & Co. label on Halper's alleged 1918 Ty Cobb jersey reveals the partial name of the real owner of the garment.

The MEARS Authentication:

REA noted the MEARS grade and additional information:

 ”The jersey displays light wear throughout, including a broken top button, and remains in impeccable condition given its age. Graded A8.5 by MEARS (base grade of 10, minus 1.5 points for removal of the name in the tail). 1920s flannel jerseys remain quite scarce today and are highly prized by collectors. As a point of reference with regard to its extreme rarity, it should be noted that only nine other jerseys/uniforms dating from the 1920s are currently even listed in the MEARS population report. The offered jersey is exceptional in all respects and would make a substantial addition to any advanced collection. From the Barry Halper Collection. LOA from Dave Bushing & Troy Kinunen/MEARS.”

The Recent Statement of Halper’s Son, Jason Halper:

  “Indeed, when authenticators opined that certain items purchased by my father over the years were replicas and not originals, my father either did not sell those items, or they were expressly relabeled as replicas when sold. This includes the Ty Cobb, Pud Galvin, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth uniforms referenced in the article.”

Our Conclusion:

Our own research indicates that the jersey offered by REA in 2007 was the exact same jersey worn by Rickey Henderson for the 1985 TSN cover shoot.  It is likely that the jersey had Cobb’s name chain-stitched somewhere on the garment and it is also likely that the chain-stitched name was removed sometime after Henderson wore the jersey for the 1985 photo shoot.  Under magnification, it might be possible to identify where the “Cobb” name was once stitched into the garment.  The jersey does appear to be an authentic Detroit Tiger jersey from the 1915 to 1925 era, however, without examining the jersey in person it is difficult to determine this definitively.  Our research has also confirmed that Thos. E. Wilson Co. and Spalding were manufacturers of  Tiger uniforms of that era.

The evidence suggests that the alleged Cobb jersey worn by Henderson was likely a forgery executed on an authentic Tiger jersey of the period.  The jersey’s only link to Cobb was likely the fraudulent chain-stitch similar to others in the Halper collection.  Unlike the characterization of this garment as a “replica” by Jason Halper, this Detroit Tiger jersey was doctored at some time to deceive.  It is not known when the chain-stitched name (or names) were removed from the jersey.  When the jersey was included in the 2007 auction, Halper’s former personal archivist and assistant Tom D’Alonzo was an employee of REA.  A source told us D’Alonzo was familiar with the jersey and that it had likely been identified as a Cobb jersey on the 1995 $40 million appraisal of the Halper Collection done by Christie’s.  

The alleged Cobb jersey Henderson wore for the 1985 photo shoot was not the first problematic Cobb jersey in the Halper Collection.  In Halper’s 1989 documentary film promoting his collection he displayed another Cobb jersey that he acquired from Cobb biographer Al Stump.  The Stump/Cobb jersey was also a forgery that appears to have been created from scratch (like a manufactured costume).  It is not known how Halper disposed of that jersey, as it never appeared in the Sotheby’s sale in 1999.

  Ron Cobb, author of  The Georgia Peach: Stumped by the Storyteller, acquired a Polaroid of yet another alleged Cobb jersey offered by Al Stump to Howard G. Smith, Jr.of San Antonio, TX.  Said Cobb,  ”I obtained all the correspondence and photos that Stump send to Smith in late 1980 and early 1981 in his attempt to unload his Cobb collection. Based on the Old English “D”, I would say that this is not the same Cobb jersey you include in the article below as the one in the film Halper did in 1989.  So, it appears that another fake Cobb jersey is out there somewhere.”

Halper held out this Cobb forgery as genuine in the 1989 film about his collection. The jersey originated from Cobb's biographer, Al Stump, who sold scores of Cobb forgeries.

Many uniforms in the Halper Collection were actually authentic, period jerseys, however, it has been proven that logos and chain-stitched names of Hall of Fame and star players were added to these garments at some time to enhance their value.  The best examples to date are the alleged  “Shoeless” Joe Jackson jersey that Halper sold to the Hall of Fame in 1998 and the alleged 1912 jersey of Eddie Cicotte sold at Sotheby’s in 1999.

What would expert Dave Grob do if he had access to examine the alleged Cobb  jersey worn by Rickey Henderson?

 Grob told us:
 
 ”With these older uniforms, the first thing I do is perform a very detailed physical inspection of the artifact.  In this step in the process I am focusing on the material composition of the uniform and evidence of contrived attribution.  This specifically involves making sure the fabric is of an appropriate quality and weight for the period and that the materials are also period appropriate.  In this case I would expect to see a professional quality grade of wool blend flannel in either a six or eight ounce weight (more likely eight oz) and I would not expect to find materials containing synthetic fibers.    In very simple terms, I am looking to confirm that a less than major league grade uniform has not been used in order to fool or deceive the collector. 
 
 I can’t speak to what others do, but my work is performed using on hand fabric samples (either actual uniforms or swatch samples from manufacturers’ catalogs) and a digital microscope in order to conduct comparative analysis. I would also be looking to ensure the physical structural integrity of the garment has not been compromised post manufacturer.  This typically involves looking to ensure tags and any forms of supplemental identification have not be added or removed.    I do all of this first since if the jersey can’t get past this stage, then it doesn’t make much sense to try to track down images or other references. This typically involves using a digital microscope,  lighted magnification, and UV lighting.  Once again,  not sure what other folks use,  but these are standard protocols for me.   If everything in the first step checks out, I will then look to confirm various aspects of style with respect to trying to date the uniform. 
 
 These early uniforms are typically without year identification.  Style of manufacturers tag can be helpful in establishing a range,  but it not conclusive in its own right since there are such a limited number of examples and the fact remains that tags are often found in jerseys after the “thought to be” transition date to another style.  Period images and period accounts (from newspapers or personal correspondence) are also helpful.  It has been my experience that you can’t simply accept the work of someone else’s dating by way of an auction description as this work has been notoriously sloppy across the industry for decades.   
 
 The last thing I consider is provenance or history.  Sadly, this has been the starting point and often ending point for evaluations in the past.  I leave this until the end since no story, no matter how compelling can make an item into something it’s not.  When I consider provenance, I am looking to answer two questions.  Is the story or history reasonable and is it verifiable.    I then take a look at the totality of what I have seen and offer an opinion that objectively reflects my observations.   All of this has to performed against the back drop of an environment that includes variations and limited samples for comparison.”

Halper’s accounts of provenance continue to be exposed; Jerseys displayed on the 1985 TSN cover are counterfeits:

Halper said he purchased Joe Jackson’s jersey from his widow in the 1950s, but after he sold it to the Hall of Fame as part of his $7.5 million deal, it was exposed as a forgery.  He said he acquired his John J. McGraw jersey from the relatives of a NY Giant equipment manager named ”Macklin,” but that jersey was bogus and failed to match an authentic 1905 Giant uniform in the Hall of Fame’s collection.  The McGraw jersey sold at Sotheby’s for over $30,000 and was authenticated by Grey Flannel.  Halper’s Cy Young Boston jersey was bogus, too, created in the same style as another forgery of a Jimmy Collins jersey also authenticated by Grey Flannel and sold at Sotheby’s.  When confronted by the owner of the Collins jersey Grey Flannel responded stating that Halper’s early uniforms were “full of controversy.”  Rickey Henderson’s “Cobb” jersey (devoid of chain stitching) was ultimately sold as a generic Tigers jersey in REA’s 2007 auction.  (We called Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson for his recollections of the photo shoot and his modeling of the Cobb forgery on the TSN cover, but Henderson did not return calls.) 

(Upcoming reports will examine the last two Halper garments featured on the 1985 TSN cover; the alleged 1879 “Pud” Galvin jersey and the alleged “camel-hair coat” attributed to Babe Ruth.  Halper sold the coat to the Hall of Fame in 1998.)    

 


10 Comments »

  1. well, i must NOW admit that i wonder if the late barry halper’s world series, national and american league championship ring collections were real or fakes! i can only hope that they were the real thing, but now i am not so sure.

    Comment by keith andrew "andy" bounds — January 10, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

  2. There really are no comments that can be made about all of this. The greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the game. What an awful thing to do.

    Comment by Ernest Reed — January 10, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

  3. That Grey Flannel reality show on Discovery network should be a blast.

    Comment by Harry — January 10, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

  4. What the hell,he had forged items of everything in his collection,so why not the shirt off of someones back.I guess he figured,what the hell, I have screwed the collector with everthing else,why not cloth.

    Comment by Herbie Buck — January 10, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

  5. This doesn’t seem to be a “fake.” Nothing was created with the intent to decieve. Halper was told a story he had reason the believe, and believed it. It doesn’t look like he did anything wrong in this case.

    Comment by Section 36 — January 11, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

  6. I would have given Rickey the shirt off my back. I didn’t. But I would have.

    Comment by The Ghost of Tyrus Raymond — January 11, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

  7. What’s the odds in Vegas that the HOFs Babe Ruth coat is legit???? My bookie says it’s a longshot. I know my signed copy of the Dowd report is the real deal.

    Comment by Peter Edward Rose — January 12, 2012 @ 2:19 am

  8. When it sounds too good to be true – it probably isn’t.

    Comment by g e sullivan — January 12, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

  9. That guy in wyoming who didn’t have a phone with the Cobb jersey had to have been real, right?
    Another guy in the boondocks who took Halper for a ride. Guess he was good with a sewing machine too.

    Comment by Keyser Soze — January 12, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

  10. T. J. Schwartz has had to hear about this stuff–yet he writes an “integrity” column for the biggest sissies in the hobby—SCD! And the biggest sissy of them all is T. S. O’Connell. What a LOSER Tommy is.

    Comment by Marc Rettus — February 13, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

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