An online report published today calls into question the authenticity of Shoeless Joe Jackson’s jersey purchased by Major League Baseball from the famed Barry Halper collection and donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
Along with the jersey, the Hall also received Mickey Mantle’s rookie uniform from 1951, an Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card, and the contract finalizing the sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.
In the report on www.haulsoffame.com, evidence is presented to indicate that the Hall’s jersey is manufactured by the wrong maker and doesn’t match photos showing Jackson in his actual 1919 uniform. The report also claims that Halper made conflicting statements regarding the jersey’s provenance.
The report was written by the website’s editor Peter Nash, a former resident of the Cooperstown area and one of the original partners in the Cooperstown Dreams Park. He was also associated for a time with the American Baseball Experience Wax Museum on Main Street. According to the website, over the past 15 years, Nash has conducted his own personal investigation into the baseball memorabilia hobby. The ``jewels of his collection’’ is how then Hall of Fame Chairman Ed Stack described the premiere items acquired by the Hall from Halper.
``It gives us a wonderful inventory of priceless memorabilia,’’ Stack said at the time.
The deal-maker for the acquisition was Jane Forbes Clark, vice president of the Hall. Clark played the lead role in negotiations between Halper and major league baseball.
``Jane took the lead in working with Barry on the terms of the purchase agreement,’’ Stack said.
Shoeless Joe Jackson was barred from the Hall of Fame in the aftermath of the ``Black Sox scandal,’’ but his alleged jersey from 1919 was welcomed in Cooperstown with open arms, Nash wrote.
The Hall’s Jackson jersey is a pinstriped grey flannel made by Spalding. However, with the aid of historical records, photographs and the examination of authentic Sox garments, Nash said he determined that Halper’s Jackson jersey is counterfeit. His research reveals that White Sox uniforms from 1916-1921 were manufactured by Wilson.
A May 4, 1919, ad in the Chicago Tribune shows that Sox owner Charles Comiskey ordered his uniforms from Wilson for 1919, making it impossible for the Hall’s treasure to have been Jackson’s.
The online report shows photos of Jackson in his 1919 road uniform without pinstripes. The article also presents Halper’s conflicting statements as to how he acquired the jersey. In 1985 he told ``The Sporting News’’ it was a ``recent acquisition’’ from Jackson’s relatives. In 1998, Halper claimed he’d bought it from Jackson’s widow in the 1950s.
“Our primary responsibility is to protect the public trust in the artifacts and in the pieces of baseball history that we present,’’ the Hall’s Senior Director of Communication is quoted in the report. The Hall of Fame, Horn said, “has acquired on donation more than 35,000 artifacts, and part of maintaining that collection is the continual evaluation to be sure artifacts warrant exhibition.
“We are constantly researching and studying our own collections to ensure that the museum visitor is never misled and that the artifacts on display are precisely what they are stated to be, in exhibit labels and presentation. It is critically important that we feel confident about the items being presented for the public benefit are authentic.”
Horn declined Tuesday afternoon to comment further on Nash’s claim the jersey is not authentic. He did confirm the jersey is currently not on display.
``The artifact acquisition process is largely incumbent on the truth of the individual making a donation of an item to the museum,’’ Horn added.
The article is posted online at www.haulsofshame.com.
Nash is the author of two baseball history books, Baseball Legends of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery (Arcadia 2003) and Boston’s Royal Rooters (Arcadia, 2005) as well as the writer and producer of the 2007 Emmy-nominated baseball documentary, “Rooters: Birth of Red Sox Nation.” In 2008, Nash re-opened Nuf Ced McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon at 911 Boylston St. in Boston, MA.
He is at work finishing his tell-all book “Hauls of Shame,” which is slated for a 2011 release.