ESPN The Magazine
It's quite literally the stuff of dreams.
On my office wall is a framed Phillies lineup card from Game 4 of the 1993 World Series. A photographer friend picked it up after manager Jim Fregosi crumpled it into a ball and threw it away after losing to the Blue Jays, 15-14.
I am no Carl Hubbell, but I can see myself in a mirror inlaid into the old wooden frame that used to contain Hubbell's Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown. In the early '80s, I bought a few of the frames for a song at the batting cages adjacent to Doubleday Field before memorabilia became a major industry in the village.
When the spirit moves me, I can sit in Memorial Stadium or the Vet I have two seats from each. If I wanted to look a little foolish, I could pin a large "Bo Belinsky Go! Phillies Go!" button on my shirt. I telecommute to Moscow every day of my working life, thanks to a Russian baseball poster I picked up at a tournament there 13 years ago. At any given moment, like right now, I'll slip on a baseball glove endorsed by Jimmy Piersall or Bill Buckner or Andy Seminick or Larry Hisle or Dave Bancroft or Mickey Mantle or Mark Fidrych or Johnny Callison. I turn my head to see a lobby card from "Damn Yankees" on which Gwen Verdon is seductively writhing on a locker room floor at the feet of Tab Hunter.
There is no rhyme or reason or ulterior motive to what I've collected over the years.
|GET YOUR FETISH ON|
From jock straps to bone spurs, chewed gum to old dentures, fetish memorabilia collectors are on a quest for the bizarre. Story|
• Price on history: From Schilling's bloody sock to O.J.'s white Bronco.
• Blood, sweat and gear: Players are cautious about what they throw away.
• Buyer beware: Determining the authenticity can be an inexact science.
Some of the things are sublime: a ball autographed by the 1938 Washington Senators (Cecil Travis! Buddy Myer! Rick and Wes Ferrell!) that my father-in-law bequeathed to me, and an old New York Baseball Writers Association program signed by Babe Ruth.
More of them are ridiculous: an old bag of 4 Bagger chewing tobacco, a sanitary sock worn by Doc Gooden, and a color 8x10 of Morganna, complete with her trademark signature little nipples atop the M.
Years ago, my wife called from an antique expedition in Pennsylvania to report she had just purchased a cupboard that I would like. "How do you know?" I asked. "It was owned by Nellie Fox," she said, "and it smells of tobacco." Today it stands in our dining room, awaiting the arrival of a hutch, say, owned by Luis Aparicio.
Another time, my brother-in-law gifted me with a bathtub he had removed from a home he was renovating in Sudbury, Mass. Babe Ruth lived there. Babe Ruth bathed there. It's now sitting in an undisclosed location, part of the Plumbing Fixture Protection Program.
They're just objects, of course. I have never sought to find out their monetary value. But I do know their true worth: one touch, one thought really, and I am transported back to a different time and place. The milk carton glove takes me to the streets of San Pedro de Macoris. The pennant from the 1950 National League champion Phillies puts me in the company of the Whiz Kids. The print of "The Base Ball Quadrille" propels me back to Worcester, Mass., circa 1880.
A few years ago, when Jim Fregosi was managing ironically enough the Blue Jays, I asked him if he would like to have the scorecard back. In the silence that followed, I could see him going back in time puzzlement ... frown ... smile ... laugh.
"Nah," he said. "You can keep it. I don't need to be reminded."
Yeah, but I do.
Steve Wulf is an executive editor of ESPN The Magazine.