According to a federal prosecutors, on January 12, 2012, Irving Scheib, 50, of Bonsall, CA went onto eBay and had what would prove to be the misfortune of paying $750 for an item listed as an "1890's Full Web Workman Baseball Mitt."
Once in possession of this 19th Century bit of baseball memorabilia, Scheib apparently came upon the idea of selling the glove as one used by none other than Babe Ruth. Which, okay, if we're talking mathematical possibilities or statistical probabilities might have belonged to the Bambino but, in reality, Scheib was never told that and apparently didn't have an iota of proof suggesting such a fantastical connection.
Getting To First Base
Buy, hey, a lot of folks don't let proof get in the way of a good story or spiel. And Irving seemed to have been just such a hustler.
According to the feds, Scheib got in touch with a Nevada sports memorabilia broker and presented the baseball mitt as a family heirloom obtained directly from the Babe - more to the point, Scheib allegedly said that deceased Hollywood actor Robert Young, to whom Scheib is related by marriage, obtained the glove from Ruth.
Baby Boomer Side Bar: Robert Young? Omigod, ya gotta be kidding me. Robert Young as in the beloved "Jim Anderson" of that wonderful "Father Knows Best" sitcom. Robert Young as in "Marcus Welby, MD." Say it ain't so Robert!
Anyway, apparently content to drag bunt the good name of Mr. Anderson and Dr. Welby through the infield mud, Scheib sent fake documents to the memorabilia dealer (and to an interested buyer) corroborating this fabricated provenance, and falsely claimed in a letter that the glove "was gifted to Babe Ruth's personal friend and Golden Era Star Robert Young in 1944. . .[and that Ruth] he was so affectionate towards this glove that he slept with it under his pillow at the orphanage."
The very mitt that the Bambino used under his orphanage pillow! Could there be a more holier grail in all of baseballdom? And talk about an expensive bit of leather - the feds alleged that Scheib was asking about $200,000.
After paying for the glove, the buyer asked Scheib and Scheib's wife (who was Roberyt Young's granddaughter) to notarize one of the letters of provenance. Scheib balked and that forced the buyer home - umm, excuse me for getting carried away with the sports analogy, the buyer returned the dubious mitt.
The Relief Pitch
In keeping with the sports credo of shaking off a bad pitch, Scheib got back on the mound and threw the same sales pitch to someone he thought was another buyer, a fellow in New York City, the home of theHouse that Ruth built, that is, before they tore that house down and replaced it with another Yankee Stadium.
Alas, someone was stealing Scheib's signs because the latest buyer was an undercover investigator from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Yer not throwin' a spitball on Preet Bharara's turf!
Apparently, having been shelled by the onslaught of the Murders' Row of theManhattan US Attorney, on June 28, 2012, Scheib pleaded guilty to anInformation of one count of wire fraud in Manhattan federal court. As he made his lonely walk to the showers, Scheib was facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the one count of wire fraud during his scheduled October 2012 sentencing - around World Series time.
The Department of Justice's scorecard (get yer press releases, get yer press releases, here!) included RBIs for both US Attorney Bharara and FBI Assistant Director-in-charge Janice K. Fedarcyk, both of whom felt it necessary to get some post-game publicity:
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "Irving Scheib wove a fantastical tale in an attempt to exploit the iconic status of a legendary figure in the world of baseball, Babe Ruth, to make a quick buck. The peddling of counterfeit goods is a crime, and his plea today makes clear that it is a crime we will prosecute."
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk said: "Unlike a work of art or other rare collectible, an item of sports memorabilia derives its value from its context. A baseball bat or glove is not inherently valuable; a bat or glove used by a famous athlete is. What the defendant attempted to sell was in fact a baseball glove. That the glove ever belonged to Babe Ruth was a complete and elaborately constructed fiction."
It's nice that the feds have time to go after folks telling fibs about baseball gloves that didn't belong to Babe Ruth and never belonged to Robert Taylor. I appreciate it when Bharara says that he wants to make it "clear that it is a crime we will prosecute." Maybe ESPN will add a sports crime segment to one of its shows? Now, what's a guy gotta do to get the feds to go after those folks who keep calling me on my Do-Not-Call-Registry telephone number about credit card deals and better electricity rates?
Additionally, I'm a bit confused about the FBI's post game analysis. A baseball bat or glove has no inherent value. But, hold on, if that apparently worthless bat or glove was used by a famous athlete then it has inherent value. What if that athlete is say a basketball player like Jeremy Lin or LeBron James? Does that use by a famous athlete transfer over into another sport and imbue the bat and/or glove with value? Oh, and one other question, the FBI talks about how this baseball glove scam became a crime because is was a "complete and elaborately constructed fiction" - gee, what if it were only a "mere fiction" or complete but not particularly elaborate? Is there an official scorekeeper that we can refer these burning questions to?