Collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect. For some time, this is how I have closed my articles. Each time I type that phrase, it causes me to reflect on just what it really means to me. I began collecting game used items back in the mid 1970s with bats from the Cincinnati Reds 580 Gift Shop. By the early 2000s, I had assembled one of the better Reds collections within the hobby. At that time, I was probably focused more on finding the things I didn’t have and probably not enjoying what I already owned. I sold and traded off some once in a lifetime items to help pay for our first home and to build an exemplar library of flannels. Both were good decisions, but I have missed what first attracted me to the hobby…the team of my city of Cincinnati.
Can’t really say I have much of an affinity for players I never saw play or heard stories of as a kid. To me, today’s players seem as distant from the place I grew up as I am now. Over the past year or so, I have been looking to rebuild my Reds collection. The hard part is knowing were any number of my things are today and that I have little chance of getting them back. The items I have been picking up seem to mean more to me than many of the items I picked up on the first go around because I realize just how hard it is to put together a collection. A collection is more than an assemblage of items, it is an expression of what we find both pleasure and significance in, or at least it is for me.
My focus has been on items from Reds World Series teams, various uniform styles and items from players I like. Nothing magical about this listing or criteria as I suspect many of you collect along similar lines. One thing that has changed for me is that, I really have never been a collector of autographed items. While I have obtained items that were signed, the signatures never meant much to me. That all changed very recently.
I made a list of the players I was looking for game used bats of and sent it off to various dealers in the industry. One of those dealers who I sent my list to was Zane Burns. I have known Zane since the late 1980s and first met him when I was stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY. Zane responded with an item that sort of fit my list in that the bat was one from Ernie Lombardi. You maybe thinking, OK, nice find of a Hall of Famer, but is it worth a column? Maybe not, but when it’s a bat signed by the members of the 1940 Series team and the bat comes from the estate of player from that team, (Jim Turner) it becomes something entirely different in my book.
In this hobby/industry, we throw the words rare, valuable, and significant around often in cavalier manner in order to attract a prospective buyer. Not one of these words was used by Zane in describing the bat as he knew what it was and what it might mean to me. I suspect the bat was signed around World Series time and not earlier in the season as there is no Willard Hershberger signature. Hershberger took his own on life on August 3rd, 1940 in a Boston hotel room.
Even without this rare Hershberger signature, there are plenty of others worth noting. Both Manager Bill McKechnie and Ernie Lombardi are enshrined in Cooperstown. In addition to Lombardi, both Bucky Walters and Frank McCormick were recipients of the National League Award (1939 and 1940 respectively). The bat in total features signatures of 12 or 1/6th of the total membership of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame:
Johnny Vander Meer
The bat itself is worth noting as well as it is 35” and in fact is consistent with what Lombardi ordered in 1940. The bat currently weighs 34 ½ oz and Lombardi’s records show an order of 2 bats of this model being sent to him for 1940 World Series on 9-27-1940 at 35”, 35oz. Lom’s orders in 1940 were exclusively for the John Marcum Model (M31) at 35” and weights ranging from 35-38oz. While this bat predates the use of model numbers on the knob, it is certainly an M31 based on comparisons with a 1943-1947 Lombardi M31 already in my collection.
Jim Turner passed away on November 29th, 1998. Turner not only pitched for the Reds on the 1940 club, but he also served as the pitching coach for the 1961 World Series team so this offers a special connection to two noteworthy Queen City ball clubs.
I remain curious if there are other bats like this out there. I know the estate collections of both Ernie Lombardi and Bucky Walters have gone to auction, yet a piece like this was not offered in conjunction with those. For me it is certainly a one of kind item that I plan to loan the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum should they want it.
Like I said at the outset, for a while I become focused on acquiring and not collecting. The former leaves you with a fleeting feeling of emptiness moments after you land the item. Taking my own advice, I am trying to collect what I enjoy and enjoy what I collect.
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For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.