The Photo-Match Guy is at it again.
Justin Cornett, who owns an oil brokerage firm in Houston, made headlines last summer when he says he photo-matched a game-used bat of Ty Cobb from 1913 that he won at an auction to an iconic image of the Georgia Peach and Shoeless Joe Jackson.
In November, Cornett was the high bidder for a baseball glove in Hunt Auctions’ Louisville Slugger sale that Williams wore during his first seasons with the Boston Red Sox. With the buyer’s premium, Cornett paid $72,000 for the glove. And just like the Cobb bat, Cornett believes he has uncovered another gem — this glove, a Rawlings model BH (for then-Chicago Cubs second baseman Billy Herman) seems to be the one Williams used as a rookie in Boston when he debuted during the 1939 season.
“Game used gloves are really tough to find,” Cornett said. “And just having a photo of Ted Williams wearing a glove is really rare.”
Cornett combed through photographs of Williams during his rookie season — including some rare color shots taken by a Boston Globe photographer — to definitively place the glove in Williams’ hands during his rookie year.
“It has a crazy amount of provenance,” the 43-year-old said. “It’s spectacular.”
John Taube, owner of JT Sports in New Jersey and an authenticator for PSA/DNA, agreed.
“The glove comes stacked with a log full of provenance,” Taube said. “Denny Esken (of PSA) placed it in that time period.”
Both Taube and Eskin signed a letter of authenticity on behalf of PSA/DNA (#1G00529), on Nov. 3, 2018, noting that the glove belonged to Williams during the 1938-1939 period. Cornett, who considers himself “a photo junkie,” took it a step further and came up with a more precise time frame.
Discussions about Williams rarely focus on his fielding. Hitting was what made the Splendid Splinter a baseball Hall of Famer. With a .344 lifetime batting average — including a .406 mark in 1941 — six American League batting titles and 521 home runs, few baseball fans paid notice to Williams’ .974 fielding percentage, 4,158 putouts, 142 assists and 113 errors.
After winning the auction, Cornett began searching for photos of Williams during his debut season in Boston. He found one in an auction that showed a color photograph of Williams sitting on the dugout steps of Fenway Park, chatting with Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. The picture was snapped by Boston Globe photographer Arthur Griffin. According to the auction description, Griffin was enlisted by Kodak to test out new color film technology, so one of his shots was the dugout exchange between the Sox owner and the rookie phenom. The photo was later signed by Williams and Griffin.
“When I saw that photo, it looked similar to the glove I had bought,” Cornett said. “The lines and the fingers matched perfectly.”
“The identifying marks and the welting on the thumb of the glove are what did it for me,” Taube said. “It looks like a little lizard’s face. From the Griffin photos, you can see the welting is exact. There are two distinct creases.”
Williams had given the glove to Wilbert Wiley, a childhood friend from San Diego the Red Sox star described as “my first boyhood pal” in My Turn At Bat, the 1969 autobiography he co-wrote with John Underwood. According to Ben Bradlee Jr.’s 2013 biography of Williams’, The Kid, Wiley had a paper route delivering the San Diego Evening Tribune and Williams would help his friend. Then, they would go to a playground in the North Park section of San Diego and pitch to each other.
“He always could hit — and he could pitch, too,” Wiley told The Washington Post in 1998.
Cornett already owns several baseball gloves, including a Mookie Betts model from 2018, one Mike Trout used in 2015-2016, and a glove worn by Astros star Jose Altuve from his Gold Glove season of 2015. But this one was particularly special.
Cornett considered himself a “lifelong Astros fan” and collected baseball cards from the late 1970s and 1980s. He enjoyed competing in the game too, playing second base, third base and shortstop.
Cornett graduated with an entrepreneurship degree from the University of Houston in 1997 and began working for Enron. He left Enron after a major financial scandal hit the energy company and in January 2003
founded Liquidity Partners, an oil and gas brokerage firm.
A lover of memorabilia and vintage baseball, Cornett began collecting high-end baseball cards in 2014. He then began focusing on vintage photographs, and then hit the jackpot when he matched an iconic photograph of Cobb and Jackson snapped by Cleveland photographer Louis Van Oeyen on Sept. 6, 1913.
The Williams glove now joins the Cobb bat in Cornett’s collection. He said he has no plans to sell either item. What will his next big-ticket item be? Cornett is not sure, but he said it definitely would not be a signed baseball, even if the signatures included some big Hall of Famers. Gloves are a nice fit.
“Gloves are extremely undervalued in the market,” Cornett said. “Especially if you can put it in the (player’s) hands at a certain time.
“I’d rather have a piece of equipment that a player used than a ball they just happened to sign.”