Ernie Harwell: Questions remain about fake Cobb diary

Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI)
July 5, 2009

BY ERNIE HARWELL, FREE PRESS BASEBALL COLUMNIST

Ty Cobb's diary didn't reach the literary stature of the diary of
Samuel Pepys. Neither did it reflect the historical significance of
Anne Frank's diary, but it had achieved a place of honor in the
Baseball Hall of Fame Museum at Cooperstown.

That place of honor no longer exists. The Cobb diary is a fake and
will forever be relegated to the archival basement in Cooperstown.

Brad Horn, spokesman for the Hall of Fame, issued this statement: "We
have found that the 1946 Ty Cobb Diary is an unreliable source, not
representative of an authentic Ty Cobb artifact.. Our suspicions have
been confirmed by the FBI statement that 'the written entries are not
consistent with the natural writing style of Tyrus R. Cobb..' The
document has not been on display at the Museum since 2001, but will
remain a part of our library collections. It will no longer be
available as a research document."

The diary was part of a 200-item donation in November 1998 by Major
League Baseball from the Barry Halper collection. Ted Spencer, then
curator of the Hall of Fame, selected the items before the Sotheby
auction of the Halper Collection for $21.8 million.

Horn said the FBI report was not available. Also, Spencer would not be
available for an interview.

I first heard suspicions about the Cobb diary from Ron Keurajian of
Oxford, an outstanding authority on forgery in the field of baseball
autographs.

Ron had read an article about the item in the Summer 2007 edition of
Memories and Dreams magazine, published by the Hall of Fame. The
article, written by HOF historian Russell Wolinsky, reproduced several
pages of the diary and detailed Cobb's golfing exploits. Keurajian
phoned Wolinsky, requesting a copy of the artifact. Wolinsky told him,
"I can't photocopy it for you because it is fragile and priceless." "I
remember telling him," said Ron, "that it was not priceless and it was
an amat call had been prompted by another magazine article that
represented the Cobb diary as being authentic. Spencer was more
responsive, saying he planned to send the diary to the FBI for further
investigation.

Now, we get the official word that the once-treasured artifact is
indeed fraudulent.

Here is Ron Keurajian's analysis of the Ty Cobb diary:

"The quality of the forgery is rudimentary, at best. It is far from
being well-executed, as the hand evidences unsteady lines and the
handwriting seems almost child-like. The entries appear contrived. For
example, there is one about Joe DiMaggio which states 'he can't putt
for big money' and another entry states 'also drinking too much.'
Anybody who has ever read Cobb's writings knows that he would not
write in such a fashion. Cobb was well-versed in the art of the
written word and would never write crude comments such as these."

The Baseball Hall of Fame and its president, Jeff Idelson, should be
commended on their decisive action. By admitting that the Cobb diary
is an unreliable source, they have fulfilled their responsibility as a
history museum to maintain the public trust.

However, the story is still incomplete. Many questions remain. Halper
can't answer them because he died Dec. 18, 2005. The FBI will not
permit the Hall to release details of the report, or names or
divisions of those involved in the inquiry.

Who was the forger? How did he con Halper into buying the diary? Did
Halper have it authenticated? If so, by whom? Do any other copies of
the fraudulent diary exist?

Someday, maybe we will have the answers.


Have a question for ERNIE HARWELL? Send it by mail to Ernie Harwell,
Detroit Free Press Sports, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit 48226; or by
e-mail to [email protected] with "Ask Ernie" in the subject
line. Please include your name and hometown with your question.

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