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Stolen Babe Ruth Tape on eBay Unveils Massive Theft

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Hulton Archive/Getty

The National Archives literally house some of our only links to history’s greatest and most significant moments that normally couldn’t be found anywhere else except in the lost annals of time. One of them featuring baseball’s greatest home run hitter showed up on eBay, the only auction site that, as far as we know, doesn’t have a time travel portal.

J. David Goldin of Newtown, Connecticut found an original recording of an interview with Babe Ruth from 1937 on eBay while looking for recordings to add to his massive personal collection of historical recordings. Goldin’s discovery of the historic recording uncovered an equally historic string of thefts from within the National Archives. The most amazing part of the story isn’t just how he uncovered it. It’s WHY he knew the eBay item had been stolen.

Goldin, a former radio man himself who is considered one of the top historical preservationists of old time radio broadcasts, amassed a massive collection of recordings and memorabilia that became his personal obsession. It became so big that he donated the bulk of them to the National Archives.

Then in 2010, he discovered a listing on eBay of the master recording of a candid interview with the Sultan of Swat during a hunting trip. Even though the item could have fetched thousands of dollars, it only sold for a disappointing price of $34.74. The item intrigued Goldin because it sounded familiar. A quick check of his personal collection’s records confirmed why he had that sudden feeling of deja vu: he donated the very same recording to the National Archives.

He thought the National Archives had unloaded the item to a dealer to make room or save money on storage space and wrote the outfit an angry letter. It became the first domino to fall in an investigative chain that eventually brought down Leslie Waffen, one of the Archive’s top audiovisual officials who admitted to stealing the recordings and other items from the organization and selling them for his own gain. He is currently facing federal charges for embezzlement of government property.

It’s too bad that those old mystery and suspense radio shows aren’t around anymore because this would make for a great one.

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