I don’t know how I knew that Prime Minister Pete Nice — the poker-faced, cane-wielding counterpoint to MC Serch in early-90s race music demi-stars 3rd Bass — had gone into the baseball memorabilia game after leaving hip-hop. It’s just another example of the sort of dorky info-flotsam that I tend to keep with me, often to the exclusion of more important things. I once knew all the Presidents of the United States in order; now I can tell you that the marginally less clownish MC in 3rd Bass — a group that a few downloads confirm is indeed a bit better than I remembered, but just as squirm-inducingly self-aware — knows a lot about the T209 set. This one-for-one brain-space swap is not a very good trade for anyone, although honestly neither bit of knowledge is going to impress anyone worth impressing at this point. I only knew the presidents in order because no one else in third grade did. (Ballin’)
(Nash, left, shown in 2004 flanked by Rube Oldring Jr., son of Rube Oldring. Image culled from philadelphiaathletics.org)
But now, thanks to an interesting feature on Pete Nice’s ca. 2009 life via Sports Illustrated’s Benjamin Wallace, I now know several things about him that I didn’t previously know. The how-did-this-happen piece on Pete Nice’s transformation from rapper to Weird Old Baseball Card Store Dude was one I’ve always wanted to write — and is now another idea to cross off my “things to bring up at my first SI story meeting” list — Wallace’s story doesn’t end with Pete Nash (nee Nice) leaving 3rd Bass and becoming a big success in the notoriously dodgy sports memorabilia game. Instead, the story ends with Nash revealing himself to be something like the Len Dykstra of sports memorabilia, only with a leased Mercedes instead of a Gulfstream and a bunch of sketchy merchandise standing in for a magazine for millionaires.
According to court documents, by early 2006 Nash owed [memorabilia dealer Robert] Lifson nearly $1 million and had failed to deliver all of the collateral he had promised. Most troubling to Lifson was that, he says, a lot of the collateral was not passing muster with authenticators, and there were questions raised in the litigation about whether Nash even owned all of the items he had signed over. When Lifson asked Nash for help in tracing the disputed objects’ provenance, he said Nash stonewalled…
Among the allegations in [the lawsuit Lifson filed against Nash] were that some of the collateral Nash had put up — such as a ball and glove that had belonged to Fred Tenney, first baseman for the pennant-winning 1897 Beaneaters — were not his to consign. Nash rescheduled court appointments, canceled his own deposition at the last minute and, when he was finally deposed under oath, invoked the Fifth Amendment dozens of times in response to questions about the origins of specific pieces of collateral.
The court found in favor of Lifson, and eventually Nash signed a court order in which he admitted to having committed fraud, without specifying how. Lifson, meanwhile, had done a black light test on a suspicious-looking Henry Chadwick business card that, he says, he got from Nash. He believed the test showed the card to be modern. He also sent the card to the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Lab at the University of Arizona for a more definitive radiocarbon dating test; the lab concluded “there is no doubt the material is post-1950.” (Chadwick died in 1908.)