DETROIT (CN) - A fired employee swiped a Ty Cobb bat and ball and two of Cobb's letters and sold them to the Detroit Tigers for $24,000, a nonprofit claims in court.
The Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation sued Kirk W. Miner and the Detroit Tigers on Feb. 27 in Wayne County Court.
Miner became the foundation's president after his uncle, Manly Miner, died in 1985. Kirk Miner mismanaged the foundation's assets and was fired in March 2012 and evicted its sanctuary that August, according to the complaint.
The foundation says a binder containing Ty Cobb's handwritten letters has been missing since Miner's departure. Cobb and Jack Miner became friends through hunting trips, according to Cobb's autobiography, which is cited in the complaint.
Jack Miner founded the Migratory Bird Foundation in Ontario, Canada, in 1904. Miner pioneered the practice of banding waterfowl by placing metal bands on their legs to track their migration. He inscribed Bible verses on the bands and hunters returned the bands to the foundation with information on where they were found.
Ty Cobb learned of the foundation and befriended Jack Miner and his son, Manly Miner. Cobb gave the items at issue to the foundation due to his friendship with the Miners, the foundation says. When Manly Miner died he gave almost everything he owned, including the Ty Cobb memorabilia, to the foundation - so the foundation says the items were not Kirk Miner's to sell.
In January 2015, the foundation says, it inadvertently received notice from Comerica Bank detailing a $24,000 payment from the Tigers to Kirk Miner. Stephen Cheifetz, counsel for the foundation, contacted the Tigers.
"During a subsequent telephone call with the Chief Financial Officer and General Counsel of the Detroit Tigers, Mr. Cheifetz advised them that the above items were property of the foundation and were missing," the complaint states. "The Detroit Tigers then advised Mr. Cheifetz that Kirk Miner had, pursuant to a written agreement, purportedly sold the Detroit Tigers a Ty Cobb bat, a Ty Cobb ball, and two handwritten letters authored by Ty Cobb. The representatives further advised that two payments, including the $24,000 wire transfer, had already been paid to Kirk Miner and additional payments remained due under the written agreement."
The Tigers still have the Ty Cobb items, the foundation says, and it claims that Kirk Miner has other Ty Cobb memorabilia that belongs to the foundations, including another bat, an autographed baseball, more letters written by Cobb, a binder with additional letters to Jack and Manly Miner, jars of returned bands, a Queen Elizabeth coronation figure and an antique baseball glove.
The foundation wants its stuff back, and damages for conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, statutory conversion and claim and delivery. It is represented by Michael Price with Brooks Wilkins Sharkey & Turco in Birmingham, Mich.
Cobb was a Hall of Fame centerfielder who played for the Tigers from 1905 to 1926. He had a .367 career batting average - the highest ever - scored 2,244 runs, stole 896 bases - a record that stood for decades - and had 4,189 hits, second only to Pete Rose. He is the only Major Leaguer to get on first base, then steal second, third and home - and he did it three times.
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