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December 19, 2005

RIP: Barry Halper

From the Daily News:

Barry Halper, the New Jersey businessman and limited partner in the Yankees who amassed what has been acclaimed as the most extensive and valuable collection of baseball memorabilia, died yesterday from complications of diabetes. He was 66.

In all, the Halper collection, which was ultimately sold at auction by Sotheby's in 1999, contained over 100,000 pieces ranging from the truly historic (Babe Ruth's famous camel hair coat, Shoeless Joe Jackson's "black Betsey" bat, the papers of correspondence between Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and Red Sox owner Harry Frazee on the sale of Ruth in 1919), to the truly bizarre (the rifle Ty Cobb's mother used to shoot his father, Cy Young's dentures, and a weather vane that had rested on the roof of a Waterbury, Conn., factory that had once been the home of 19th century Hall of Famer Roger Connor).

At his press conference in Dallas in 1994 announcing his successful liver transplant, Mantle spotted Halper in the audience and cracked: "Hey, Barry, did you get my other liver?"

In addition to his baseball connections - he briefly served as CEO of the Yankees - Halper was a trustee for the St. Barnabas Hospital burn unit in Livingston, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for that institution by having his baseball friends, DiMaggio, Rose et al, speak at fundraisers.

When Halper sold his stuff, I felt terrible for him. As a collector, I would have to imagine that part of the thrill is thinking that the collection would remain in the family for years. But, a year after he sold his memorabilia, I saw the following clip on "why" -

The auction of Barry Halper's baseball memorabilia last year featured some of the most unique items from the national pastime ever assembled.

Had Halper's collection remained intact and put in a museum, it would have rivaled that of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Halper wanted to see the collection kept together, but when that did not come to fruition he decided to part with it via an auction conducted by Sotheby's.

"I hated to break it up, but in fairness to my family it needed to be done," Halper, 60, said in a recent phone interview from his home in New Jersey.

Halper recalled reading about the struggles the family of former Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie went through when he died because of the taxes involved.

"I vowed that wouldn't happen," Halper said.

Halper gave the Hall of Fame first shot at any items in his collection. Major League Baseball reportedly paid $7.5 million to $8 million for about 20 percent of the collection and donated it to the Hall of Fame.

When you think of all the work and pride that went into a collection like his, there's no amount of money that can make up for that.

It almost makes me want to say - if you have some good "stuff" like his, just keep it quiet, and give it to your family before you pass, and tell them to enjoy it in quiet too - and save yourself some grief.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at December 19, 2005 10:42 AM

Comments

It almost makes me want to say - if you have some good "stuff" like his, just keep it quiet, and give it to your family before you pass, and tell them to enjoy it in quiet too - and save yourself some grief.
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That may be the case, but realistically he's sitting on a goldmine. I can see his family cashing in on the memorabilia, especially if they aren't baseball fans...

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 19, 2005 02:33 PM