Nash: 1909 Pirates photo takes a bizarre twist

From SABR member Peter J. Nash at Hauls of Shame on October 3, 2014:

It is nothing new for an artifact stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame to turn up for sale in a Huggins & Scott auction as there have been a bunch of them sold by the Maryland auction house in the past few years. There have been rare 19th century season passes for the Boston BBC; letters sent to Hall officials by legends like Nap Lajoie and even documents from the famed August Herrmann Papers collection. The most recent entry of auction house contraband is the current Huggins & Scott lot consisting of a rare composite photo of Honus Wagner and the champion 1909 Pirates which they describe as: “…the lone example we have encountered.” It is likely the lone example because the photograph is believed to be unique and has evidence of its HOF accession number being scraped off the reverse of the cabinet mount and is the exact same photo that appeared in a Society For American Baseball Research (SABR) pictorial publication dedicated to the Dead-Ball Era in 1986 with a credit to the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown. It’s most definitely stolen and it is also New York State property that the Hall of Fame will likely never claim title to, just as they have failed to take action over the past decade with many other problematic offerings at H&S, Heritage, REA and Legendary Auctions.

What makes this artifact most remarkable, however, is that it had already been identified in 1994 as an item stolen from the Hall and was returned to the Cooperstown institution by this writer after I purchased it at a baseball card show in Westchester.  The photo originated from the late dealer and auctioneer, Don Flanagan, and after I purchased the image, I realized the exact same photo had been featured in SABR’s National Pastime-Dead-Ball Era Pictorial issue edited by John Thorn and Mark Rucker. Thorn and Rucker had photographed the original at the museum in 1985 and it is documented on the surviving contact sheets for that shoot which were the basis for all of the images included in the publication. The original SABR contact sheet is marked on its reverse, “H.O.F. B20.”


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Originally published: October 9, 2014. Last Updated: October 9, 2014.