The Original Collectors Series: Bob, Baseball Memorabilia; Centreville, VA

“I was born in New York City and when I was 10 days old, my grandfather took me to my first baseball game. I saw the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians, 4-1. You could say that’s when I became a devout baseball fan, I was born to be one. As a kid I picked up cards like everyone else did. I was a big Mickey Mantle fan, there’s a ring in the sale that I found in a box of Cracker Jacks around 1959. It’s one of the pieces that I’ve had since the very beginning. I love baseball because it’s a gentleman’s game, a relaxing game. So many professional sports have become really violent. Baseball’s a thinking man’s game, still played on a sunny afternoon or under the lights.

I’m a Yankees fan, but I didn’t just stick to them when I collected, I’m a baseball fan. I love the game. I would seek out obscure minor league teams, The All-American Girls Professional League; I was a big fan of the Negro Leagues and got a number of autographs from those players. I’ve been to 131 minor and major league stadiums, and I wanted a memento of each, so I’d pick up a ball, a pennant, get some autographs. I’m not a terribly shy person so I’d walk up and say “Hey, can I have that broken bat in your hand?” That’s how I got many of the pieces in my collection. I’d also find things at flea markets, yard sales and antiques stores.

I have between 3,000-4,000 items in my collection, half of which were displayed in my man cave, in the basement of my house. So many people would come by and see it – even friends of friends. They all referred to it as “Cooperstown South.” – Bob

The Original Collectors Series: Bob, Baseball Memorabilia; Centreville, VA
The Original Collectors Series: Bob, Baseball Memorabilia; Centreville, VA
The Original Collectors Series: Bob, Baseball Memorabilia; Centreville, VA

Which piece in the collection is the most rare?

There’s a baseball signed by the entire Cal Ripken family. My son and I went to a signing with Cal Ripken Sr., then the coach of the Baltimore Orioles. As he was signing the ball, a woman walked by, he winked at her and she smiled.  I said "Cal, I think that’s the wife, isn’t it? Do you think she’d be interested in signing the baseball?” And he said, “I don’t know that anyone has ever asked her!” I went over and she did! It took me almost 11 years to get Cal Ripken Jr, Billy Ripken, and Fred Ripken. I had to pursue them and have the ball at the right time. The only autograph I was never able to get was their sister.

What do you love about building a collection?

What I’ve really enjoyed is going to a market or store and hoping to find something unique — the hunt is so much fun. And I love talking to the players. When the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game was celebrated in 1997, I went to quite a few of the Negro League reunions, where I got to sit down with the players and hear about their experiences in baseball. Even though they were going through a very difficult time with segregation, they were all very up about playing baseball. These guys were just full of stories; I listened for hours.

Do you have a favorite piece?

I started taking my son to games when he was very young and in 1993, we were at a game for the Bowie Baysox, an AA team for the Orioles.  I bought him a baseball at the concession stand, and he asked if he could join the other kids in the dugout asking for autographs. There are 6 autographs on the ball, none from players who ever made it into the majors. But that’s my personal favorite, simply because it was the first ball my son ever got signed.  

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