Collecting as a matter of history

I have Reggie Jackson to thank for a recent personal epiphany.

A few people before it was my turn to get an autograph last Saturday, a man had to wait as Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson put pepper on the sandwich he was eating.

I snapped this cell phone picture of MLB Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson April 11 at a signing in the Twin Cities. I'd hoped to capture him signing my bat, but I failed and got him looking at me to silently ask where I wanted him to sign the bat.

I snapped this cell phone picture of MLB Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson April 11 at a signing in the Twin Cities. I’d hoped to capture him signing my bat, but I failed and got him looking at me to silently ask where I wanted him to sign the bat.

When it was my turn to get his autograph at the Sportsnews Production Show on April 11 at the Earl Brown Center in Brooklyn Center, I took out my phone to get a photo of the hall of fame outfielder known as Mr. October signing my bat. I looked up to see him staring at me and pointing at the bat with a look of “Where do you want me to sign this?” Without saying a word, he kept pointing until I picked a spot, he signed the bat, and I left — without exchanging a word.

While I didn’t get to shake Jackson’s hand or talk to him about his three-homer game in the 1977 World Series, the experience made me realize why I started collecting sports memorabilia in the first place: I like having that connection to the history.

I collected some autographs — mostly baseball — and a few baseball cards when I was a kid, but I mostly fell out of the hobby in high school and college.

When an uncle started collecting a few baseball card sets, he invited my dad and I to the sports collectible shows at Earl Brown, which typically feature several venders with cards and memorabilia, along with a handful of athletes attending for signings.

I didn’t think much about why my interest in the hobby reignited until this past show. And I have that awkward look from Mr. October to thank for it.

After his signing session, Jackson walked around the show and checked out the memorabilia booths — the first athlete I’ve seen do that at the shows. My dad ran into him, told him he loved watching him as a Yankee, and went to shake his hand. He did — after Jackson wiped his hands after snacking on chips.

It was around that time I realized why I’d stopped collecting year’s earlier. It’d become too impersonal for me — too disconnected.

After several years of collecting — mainly through collector’s magazines I bought whenever I was in Rochester and through Christmas presents — I started losing interest when the Internet became the dominant collecting medium. Pushing a button on a computer to collect just didn’t feel right.

The card shows helped reignite and clarify my spark for collecting because it connected me to the history again in a more direct way.

Here are few cool memorabilia items I spotted at this most recent show:

—Murderer’s row baseball: This faded, discolored softball signed by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and 10 or so other members of the 1927 New York Yankees — the team dubbed “Murderer’s Row” — was a pricey, but cool piece. The price tag, however, was in the thousands.

—Sandy Koufax autographs: I spotted two cool signed pictures of the Dodgers Hall of Famer, who is near the top of my wish list. Both pictures were around $450.

—Picture signed by the entire 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team. I didn’t see this one for sale, but another person attending had this to get signed by goalie Jim Craig, who was at the show. Craig was one of two people he still needed on a picture.

—Game-used jersey/bat cards: The same dealer who had the Ruth-Gehrig ball also had several cards that featured small pieces of game-used bats and jerseys of Hall of Famers. He had cards with game-used pieces from Ruth, Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Manktle, Roger Maris and Ty Cobb.

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