July 5, 2020

Going Nine: Nash Way Off Base With Halper Smear

(Editor’s Note) You may have noticed that fora few hours today, this story wasn’t available. It seems Mr. Nash wasn’t satisfied with “having his say” on his site in response to this column, he sent me an email threatening to sue me for writing it. There were some inaccuracies in my reporting which have been fixed, and I apologize to my readership for that. They have been corrected. However, otherwise, I stand by my story 100 percent. Anecdotal statements are not sworn testimony, neither are quotes from an unnamed source on the status of a FBI investigation. The opinions of anyone, no matter their standing or reputation, are also not evidence of any kind. MH

The newspaper industry is in enough trouble these days without printing smear jobs written by “journalists” who have a conflict of interest about the very subject they are writing about.  But this past week, the  New York Post did just that by publishing this gem by Peter J. Nash about deceased baseball memorabilia collector Barry Halper.

What the New York Post doesn’t tell you is that Nash is involved in a long-running litigation with a memorabilia auction house that represented Barry Halper, admitted in publicly-filed court papers to committing fraud against that very same auction house, and has an outstanding warrant against him related to this ongoing legal battle.

Nash contends that his admission of fraud in the above case was part of the settlement deal, which he explains — in detail — on his site. His warrant, he argues, is “a civil (not criminal) warrant only in Somerset County, NJ, and related only to discovery and document production in the case with the auction house and the collection of their judgement.”

Nash is also perplexed as to why, as a journalist for more than 15 years, I would question his integrity in reporting this story. Well, the above collection of facts disqualify him from rendering an unbiased opinion, no? Once his accusations went from the insulated world of a niche blog to a news major news site, and he did not fully inform the readership of his involvement in the case at hand, ethics went out the window.

Yes, it’s so edgy and interesting that the once-rapper whose most famous moment was clubbing a Vanilla Ice lookalike in a music video, that the New York Post wouldn’t fact-check either the article or the person who wrote it?

According to Nash, the Post contacted him after reading his blog. So they certainly can’t plead ignorance of the author’s background.

According to a story written on Dec. 9, 2009,SI.com,

Nash recently lost a lawsuit against a leading memorabilia auctioneer in which he admitted to fraud, and, according to sources, the FBI is investigating whether he sold forged memorabilia.

Among the allegations in the countersuit were that some of the collateral Nash had put up — such as a ball and glove that had belonged to Fred Tenney, first baseman for the pennant-winning 1897 Beaneaters — were not his to consign. Nash rescheduled court appointments, canceled his own deposition at the last minute and, when he was finally deposed under oath, invoked the Fifth Amendment dozens of times in response to questions about the origins of specific pieces of collateral.

Yet, this did not stop the Post from allowing Mr. Nash to accuse Barry Halper — based largely on unnamed sources or in some cases no sources at all, just innuendo — of being a “con artist,” who “allegedly paid people to back his lies,” and that Barry Halper is “the primary suspect in a notorious heist of the New York Public Library’s Fifth Avenue branch.”

Perhaps Mr. Nash — the Ivy League educated hip-hop impresario and baseball enthusiast — deduced that by attacking a extremely well-known and beloved baseball collector — who also happened to be deceased — was a great way to spark interest for his upcoming book — which just happens to be about malfeasance and fraud in the baseball memorabilia industry.

Getting a fellow Red Sox fan who sued the same auction house that Nash is involved in a lawsuit against to call Halper “The Madoff of Memorabilia” is even more despicable, and transparent, for that matter.

Barry Halper lost his life at the all-too young age of 66, and to those who knew him, his baseball collection wasn’t a Ponzi scheme that he ruined thousands of people’s lives with. It was a passion that he wanted to share with others. A lifelong dream pursued, reached and celebrated with everyone.

From the NJJN.com website:

Rabbi Laurence W. Groffman, spiritual leader of B’nai Jeshurun, where Halper and his wife, Sharon, were members, praised Halper as a “really kind, wonderful mensch.”

“He would never turn down a request from our temple brotherhood to do lectures,” the rabbi said. “I remember he did a great presentation once showing his collection of vintage boxing films. The thing about it was not only that he had this great material, but the depth of his knowledge about it was incredible. He was always generous with his time.

Hall Of Fame catcher Yogi Berra:

“He was a wonderful guy, a very good friend for a long time,” the Hall of Fame catcher said in a statement. “Baseball and his family, those were always the greatest things to him.”

Always one for a self-deprecating remark, Berra mused that Halper “had more of my stuff than I had. Barry loved telling stories, and he really loved the Yankees. He was always real generous to charities and helped out” the Yogi Berra Museum and Education Center in Montclair.

Nash’s article begins like this:

The vaunted dealer, with a wing named after him in Cooperstown, has been unmasked as a con artist who hawked replicas and forgeries as one-of-a-kind gems.

Really? By who?

But Halper didn’t just buy fakes and pass them off as real. He allegedly paid people to back his lies about how he acquired some pieces, and he’s the primary suspect in a notorious heist of the New York Public Library’s Fifth Avenue branch, where $1 million worth of letters to baseball pioneer Harry Wright and other scrapbook entries vanished in the 1970s.

There is a not a single shred of evidence that exists that would allow anyone, least of all a journalist, make these accusations. Each one is laughable.

The FBI already has carted away photos and documents from Halper’s collection that were allegedly swiped from the Boston Public Library, but not before some of the artifacts were auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1999 as part of a $30 million sale.

No, they did not.

“When tracking the stolen items, all roads seem to lead to Barry Halper,” said a source familiar with an ongoing FBI probe of the New York theft.

Nash must really have trouble selling this book. This is the most entertaining gem in a mountain of a sloppily-put together “expose”. But while it’s laughably obvious to me what a biased, self-serving, and useless piece of “journalism” this is, it wasn’t such to the New York Post, which published it as a story.

That it did so without mentioning any of the legal difficulties facing Mr. Nash, which clearly show a clear conflict of interest with the subject matter, makes it a grave disservice to the reader, and more so to the Halper family. That the Post also failed to publish any material forwarded them by the Halper family that informed them of their error concerning the enormous trust they placed in their newest contributor is even worse.

Jason Halper:

My father was one of the first people to gather baseball memorabilia into a collection, and if he didn’t invent the hobby, he was certainly among the first, going back to the 1940s. His boyish enthusiasm for any great “find” never waned, and he was a beloved figure on the baseball scene not only for his collection of more than a million items, but for his love of the hunt, and the stories behind his acquisitions. As his reputation and collection grew, he began hearing from people all over the country with unusual items, and as the hobby developed and prices became associated with artifacts, he was sought after for his willingness to purchase goods.

When illness beset my father later in his life, he agreed to put his massive collection up for auction rather than have his family burdened with the estate issues. When certain items were said to be replicas and not originals, he either did not sell them or he expressly relabled them as replicas without dispute. This includes the Ty Cobb, Pud Galvin, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth uniforms referenced by Mr. Nash in his article. In fact, many of the items identified in Mr. Nash’s article, such as the Ty Cobb shotgun, were not sold at all by my father. Evidently, Mr. Nash did not want such facts to get in the way of his public smear campaign.

In all events, my father did not collect memorabilia for the money – he was a very successful businessman and a minority owner of the New York Yankees. And he certainly would have never done anything to compromise his reputation. Was my father ever “had” over the years? My father was not a forensic expert and he never claimed to be an authenticator, and he certainly may have been gullible when he was presented with exciting finds. My father’s collection had literally over a million items and spanned over 50 years of collecting. It is therefore quite possible that some of the items he purchased over the years would not pass today’s forensic tests. That is not unusual for collections of my father’s size, baseball or otherwise. But did my father ever knowingly participate in a fraud, as Mr. Nash now claims? Hardly. If anything, my father was the victim of fraud from people with a good story, anxious to receive a payment. My father had a good heart, and he tended to believe people. This was, after all, a hobby, not a business to him, and his collection was all about showing off historical items and telling the stories behind them.

Contrary to Mr. Nash’s accusations in his article, the FBI has never “carted away photos and documents from Halper’s collection that were allegedly swiped from the Boston Public Library.” That is an outright lie. Mr. Nash also states that my father’s “1846 Knickerbocker baseball may be a phony” – and that the letter from Alexander Cartwright (the “father of baseball”) that accompanied the ball in my father’s 1999 Sotheby’s auction “was stolen from archives in Hawaii.” Those accusations are also pure nonsense. Indeed, Mr. Nash and the Post fail to inform their readers that the 1846 Knickerbocker baseball was purchased by my father directly from the Cartwright family, was described in the Sotheby’s catalog as “The Cartwright Family Baseball,” and was accompanied by a description stating that “there is no way we can be certain” that the ball was from 1846. As for the letter from Cartwright that accompanied the ball, Mr. Nash omits the fact that my father purchased that letter from Josh Evans, an auctioneer – who is quoted favorably elsewhere in Mr. Nash’s article. If the Cartwright letter was stolen, as Mr. Nash now claims, perhaps Mr. Nash should ask Mr. Evans where he got it from.

In addition, Mr. Nash’s article grossly inflates the monies paid for my father’s collection at the Sotheby’s auction and by Major League Baseball. Mr. Nash even concocts bizarre tales like a two-way mirror in our home to spy on visitors. That is another lie. I lived in that house for 20 years. There was no two-way mirror.

Mr. Nash identifies other items from my father’s collection – mainly older uniforms and Ty Cobb-related items that my father purchased from Cobb’s biographer – that he claims are not authentic. I am not qualified to comment on whether century-old uniforms or diaries are authentic or not, but my father believed Cobb’s biographer (why wouldn’t he?). When purchasing Cobb items (or any other items) my father did not bring items to laboratories to conduct forensic tests. He trusted people. And it is important to note that to the extent any items identified by Mr. Nash were actually sold through Sotheby’s or to Major League Baseball, those items were openly documented, cataloged, and reviewed by authenticators, not by my father. If anyone had any questions or doubts about a particular item, they could have simply raised those questions at the time the items were sold in 1999 – as opposed to 12 years after the fact, when my father is no longer around to defend himself.

In short, Mr. Nash’s article in the Post is a sad attempt to discredit the achievements and reputation of a man who devoted a great portion of his life to baseball and the memorabilia of the game, for the pure joy of collecting. My father was a sincere person who never knowingly misled anyone. Mr. Nash refers to my father, apparently in the hope of selling books, as the “Madoff of Memorabilia.” That is outrageous. Such a title is ironic, given that Mr. Nash is the one who has readily admitted in court papers to committing fraud. To the extent that there were any authentication issues with certain items in my father’s collection, such issues can and should be established by clear evidence – not by malicious accusations from a biased fugitive like Mr. Nash.

Peter J. Nash was once Pete Nice, and he wrote, or helped write, and perform “Pop-Pop Goes the Weasel”, a 1990 rap “anthem” pointed at the injustice of rappers who were “posers” who weren’t representing the true nature of what rap was all about. As a member of “3rd Bass”, I assume Nash was all about “keepin’ it real” back then.

Funny thing about life. If you make the wrong choices, it’s not that difficult to become what you once despised. Smearing a man’s good name to sell a book?

Pop-pop goes the weasel, ’cause the weasel goes pop.The newspaper industry is in enough trouble these days without printing smear jobs written by “journalists” who have a conflict of interest about the very subject they are writing about.  But this past week, the  New York Post did just that by publishing this gem by Peter J. Nash about deceased baseball memorabilia collector Barry Halper.

What the New York Post doesn’t tell you is that Nash is involved in a long-running litigation with a memorabilia auction house that represented Barry Halper, has admitted in publicly-filed court papers to committing fraud against that very same auction house, and has an outstanding warrant for arrest related to a $760,000 judgment against him.

Not so “Pete Nice” is he now, is he?

Yes, it’s so edgy and interesting that the once-rapper whose most famous moment was clubbing a Vanilla Ice lookalike in a music video, that the New York Post wouldn’t fact-check either the article or the person who wrote it?

Never does the fact that Nash, who according to Sports Illustrated, has been investigated by the FBI for selling forged memorabilia items ever even get mentioned. Or that in his testimony in the litigation with the auction house, Mr. Nash repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment in response to dozens of questions about his memorabilia transactions to avoid incriminating himself.

There could hardly be a less credible “journalist.”

Yet, this did not stop the Post from allowing Mr. Nash to accuse Barry Halper — based largely on unnamed sources or in some cases no sources at all, just innuendo — of being a “con artist,” who “allegedly paid people to back his lies,” and that Barry Halper is “the primary suspect in a notorious heist of the New York Public Library’s Fifth Avenue branch.”

Perhaps Mr. Nash — the Ivy League educated hip-hop impresario and baseball enthusiast deduced that by attacking a extremely well-known and beloved baseball collector — who also happened to be deceased — was a great way to spark interest for his upcoming book — which just happens to be about malfeasance and fraud in the baseball memorabilia industry.

Getting a fellow Red Sox fan who sued the same auction house that Nash is involved in a lawsuit against to call Halper “The Madoff of Memorabilia” is even more despicable and transparent, for that matter.

Barry Halper lost his life at the all-too young age of 66, and to those who knew him, his baseball collection wasn’t a Ponzi scheme that he ruined thousands of people’s lives with. It was a passion that he wanted to share with others. A lifelong dream pursued, reached and celebrated with everyone.

From the NJJN.com website:

Rabbi Laurence W. Groffman, spiritual leader of B’nai Jeshurun, where Halper and his wife, Sharon, were members, praised Halper as a “really kind, wonderful mensch.”

“He would never turn down a request from our temple brotherhood to do lectures,” the rabbi said. “I remember he did a great presentation once showing his collection of vintage boxing films. The thing about it was not only that he had this great material, but the depth of his knowledge about it was incredible. He was always generous with his time.

Hall Of Fame catcher Yogi Berra:

“He was a wonderful guy, a very good friend for a long time,” the Hall of Fame catcher said in a statement. “Baseball and his family, those were always the greatest things to him.”

Always one for a self-deprecating remark, Berra mused that Halper “had more of my stuff than I had. Barry loved telling stories, and he really loved the Yankees. He was always real generous to charities and helped out” the Yogi Berra Museum and Education Center in Montclair.

Nash’s article begins like this:

The vaunted dealer, with a wing named after him in Cooperstown, has been unmasked as a con artist who hawked replicas and forgeries as one-of-a-kind gems.

Really? By who? The admitted memorabilia fruad who write the article?

But Halper didn’t just buy fakes and pass them off as real. He allegedly paid people to back his lies about how he acquired some pieces, and he’s the primary suspect in a notorious heist of the New York Public Library’s Fifth Avenue branch, where $1 million worth of letters to baseball pioneer Harry Wright and other scrapbook entries vanished in the 1970s.

There is a not a single shred of evidence that exists that would allow anyone, least of all a journalist, make these accusations. Each one is laughable.

The FBI already has carted away photos and documents from Halper’s collection that were allegedly swiped from the Boston Public Library, but not before some of the artifacts were auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1999 as part of a $30 million sale.

No, they did not.

“When tracking the stolen items, all roads seem to lead to Barry Halper,” said a source familiar with an ongoing FBI probe of the New York theft.

Nash must really have trouble selling this book. This is the most entertaining gem in a mountain of a sloppily-put together “expose”. But while it’s laughably obvious to me what a biased, self-serving, and useless piece of “journalism” this is, it wasn’t such to the New York Post, which published it as a story.

That it did so without mentioning any of the legal difficulties facing Mr. Nash, which clearly show a clear conflict of interest with the subject matter, makes it a grave disservice to the reader, and more so to the Halper family. That the Post also failed to publish any material forwarded them by the Halper family that informed them of their error concerning the enormous trust they placed in their newest contributor is even worse.

Jason Halper:

My father was one of the first people to gather baseball memorabilia into a collection, and if he didn’t invent the hobby, he was certainly among the first, going back to the 1940s. His boyish enthusiasm for any great “find” never waned, and he was a beloved figure on the baseball scene not only for his collection of more than a million items, but for his love of the hunt, and the stories behind his acquisitions. As his reputation and collection grew, he began hearing from people all over the country with unusual items, and as the hobby developed and prices became associated with artifacts, he was sought after for his willingness to purchase goods.

When illness beset my father later in his life, he agreed to put his massive collection up for auction rather than have his family burdened with the estate issues. When certain items were said to be replicas and not originals, he either did not sell them or he expressly relabled them as replicas without dispute. This includes the Ty Cobb, Pud Galvin, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth uniforms referenced by Mr. Nash in his article. In fact, many of the items identified in Mr. Nash’s article, such as the Ty Cobb shotgun, were not sold at all by my father. Evidently, Mr. Nash did not want such facts to get in the way of his public smear campaign.

In all events, my father did not collect memorabilia for the money – he was a very successful businessman and a minority owner of the New York Yankees. And he certainly would have never done anything to compromise his reputation. Was my father ever “had” over the years? My father was not a forensic expert and he never claimed to be an authenticator, and he certainly may have been gullible when he was presented with exciting finds. My father’s collection had literally over a million items and spanned over 50 years of collecting. It is therefore quite possible that some of the items he purchased over the years would not pass today’s forensic tests. That is not unusual for collections of my father’s size, baseball or otherwise. But did my father ever knowingly participate in a fraud, as Mr. Nash now claims? Hardly. If anything, my father was the victim of fraud from people with a good story, anxious to receive a payment. My father had a good heart, and he tended to believe people. This was, after all, a hobby, not a business to him, and his collection was all about showing off historical items and telling the stories behind them.

Contrary to Mr. Nash’s accusations in his article, the FBI has never “carted away photos and documents from Halper’s collection that were allegedly swiped from the Boston Public Library.” That is an outright lie. Mr. Nash also states that my father’s “1846 Knickerbocker baseball may be a phony” – and that the letter from Alexander Cartwright (the “father of baseball”) that accompanied the ball in my father’s 1999 Sotheby’s auction “was stolen from archives in Hawaii.” Those accusations are also pure nonsense. Indeed, Mr. Nash and the Post fail to inform their readers that the 1846 Knickerbocker baseball was purchased by my father directly from the Cartwright family, was described in the Sotheby’s catalog as “The Cartwright Family Baseball,” and was accompanied by a description stating that “there is no way we can be certain” that the ball was from 1846. As for the letter from Cartwright that accompanied the ball, Mr. Nash omits the fact that my father purchased that letter from Josh Evans, an auctioneer – who is quoted favorably elsewhere in Mr. Nash’s article. If the Cartwright letter was stolen, as Mr. Nash now claims, perhaps Mr. Nash should ask Mr. Evans where he got it from.

In addition, Mr. Nash’s article grossly inflates the monies paid for my father’s collection at the Sotheby’s auction and by Major League Baseball. Mr. Nash even concocts bizarre tales like a two-way mirror in our home to spy on visitors. That is another lie. I lived in that house for 20 years. There was no two-way mirror.

Mr. Nash identifies other items from my father’s collection – mainly older uniforms and Ty Cobb-related items that my father purchased from Cobb’s biographer – that he claims are not authentic. I am not qualified to comment on whether century-old uniforms or diaries are authentic or not, but my father believed Cobb’s biographer (why wouldn’t he?). When purchasing Cobb items (or any other items) my father did not bring items to laboratories to conduct forensic tests. He trusted people. And it is important to note that to the extent any items identified by Mr. Nash were actually sold through Sotheby’s or to Major League Baseball, those items were openly documented, cataloged, and reviewed by authenticators, not by my father. If anyone had any questions or doubts about a particular item, they could have simply raised those questions at the time the items were sold in 1999 – as opposed to 12 years after the fact, when my father is no longer around to defend himself.

In short, Mr. Nash’s article in the Post is a sad attempt to discredit the achievements and reputation of a man who devoted a great portion of his life to baseball and the memorabilia of the game, for the pure joy of collecting. My father was a sincere person who never knowingly misled anyone. Mr. Nash refers to my father, apparently in the hope of selling books, as the “Madoff of Memorabilia.” That is outrageous. Such a title is ironic, given that Mr. Nash is the one who has readily admitted in court papers to committing fraud. To the extent that there were any authentication issues with certain items in my father’s collection, such issues can and should be established by clear evidence – not by malicious accusations from a biased fugitive like Mr. Nash.

Peter J. Nash was once Pete Nice, and he wrote, or helped write, and perform “Pop-Pop Goes the Weasel”, a 1990 rap “anthem” pointed at the injustice of rappers who were “posers” who weren’t representing the true nature of what rap was all about. As a member of “3rd Bass”, I assume Nash was all about “keepin’ it real” back then.

Funny thing about life. If you make the wrong choices, it’s not that difficult to become what you once despised. Smearing a man’s good name to sell a book?

Pop-pop goes the weasel, ’cause the weasel goes pop.

Mark Healey is the Online Editor for Baseball Digest. He is the host of “Baseball Digest Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM, and the “Baseball Digest LIVE” podcast. He is also the founder of Gotham Baseball, whose entire print run is available for viewing at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.