posted 01-09-2007 04:16 AM
by Kevin Nelson, Southampton Books $18.95, http://www.operationbullpen.com/
Operation Bullpen is the true story of the high-flying national crime ring that forged the autographs of sports stars and celebrities and ripped off American consumers for more than $100 million, before being busted by a dramatic three-year FBI undercover investigation. Nelson conducted exclusive interviews with forgers, counterfeit dealers, and the FBI to piece together both sides of the drama. This is an often unbelievable, sometimes funny, and always interesting book about autographs and forgery.
While the vast majority of the book deals with sports autographs, there are a few references to Armstrong forgeries included, so I wanted to offer a short review here. I have written a much longer review plus an author Q&A for the March / April, 2007 issue of the UACC Pen & Quill.
I was particularly fascinated by the story of Greg Marino, master forger. In order to get into the signing zone he’d smoke pot and often sit in front of the TV to work. Marino would consult real exemplar autographs that he and his cohorts had collected and carefully cataloged in a series of binders.
After many years and hundreds of thousands of autographs, I was amazed that Marino could forge any sig just by looking once at the exemplar. The stories of Marino sitting in a comfortable chair with his signing arm propped up on pillows, stoned to the bone, and polishing off 400 sigs while watching a Yankees game on TV made my draw drop.
The inside account of the three year undercover FBI sting operation brought the book together, making it feel like a thriller. We experience the ups and downs of individual agents assigned to the case, learn about wiretaps and hidden recording devices, and sit at the edge of our seat as the busts come down. Every serious autograph collector and dealer needs to read and understand the story of the biggest forgery scam in American history.
(not the astronaut)