One constant that the internet onslaught has failed to replace is the age old industry trade/card/autograph show. The interaction of dealers, buyers, and sports figures coming together at a quality show simply cannot be replicated by virtual reality. And that is how it should be, not that there is anything wrong with the internet as a venue for collectors and dealers, just that the personal interaction should be a vital component to the collectors world. And to that end, I spent the past weekend at the now yearly SCD Sportsfest in Chicago that was held in the newly built and ultra modernist Renaissance Hotel and convention center. It was a class show from beginning to end starting with the location and moving forward. They had the usual great lineup of autograph guests such as Johnny Bench, Joe Montana, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Gale Sayers, Bob Gibson, Fergie Jenkins, Dale Murphy and scores of others but what I found the most interesting and enjoyable was the special guests , the fan favorites that aren’t found in the hall of fame or whose autographs don’t carry price tags exceeding a full tank of premium gasoline. On Friday night, for a mere $10, a fan could meet, greet, and get an autograph from the likes of Stan Bahnsen, Bill Madlock, Bill Lee, Johnny Padres or Al Oliver. For that same ten spot, you could also get signatures of HOF’ers Monte Irvin, Raymond Berry or Bob Feller. Now, I am not a collector of autographs but have always enjoyed some light conversation with former ball players, especially the players who seem to take the time with the fans.
I had a 1980 Ted Simmons game bat that I figured I might as well get signed since he was at the show on Saturday. I chatted with him on his selection of Adirondack bats over the more commonly found Louisville Slugger models. I showed him the knob markings and explained the batch and year codes and he seem genuinely interested. He relayed as to how he chose the Adirondack bats. He was a teammate of Joe Torres and Joe’s brother Frank was a Rawlings rep at the time so he signed with Frank, that simple.
And speaking of Frank Torre, I have had the pleasure and privilege of having to gotten to know Frank, a great guy in every respect and a fan favorite anywhere he goes. Frank and I played in a card game together last year and he was so impressed with my poker prowess that he signed his gamer to an Ace poker player, probably hoping it would induce me to the next match. That gamer now rests in the Wisconsin Historical Museum where it will remain forever. Ted sent his best wishes to Frank, now recovering from a kidney transplant. Billy Staples was also there with his new book entitled “Before the Glory” which gives some great stories of 20 baseball heroes as they were growing up. There is a great story in there by Whitey Ford where he relates playing in a New York High School game against the cross town rivals of Frank Torre. I got a copy of the book with some get well wishes from Billy along with Ron LaFlore who was in the booth and will be forwarding same to Frank this week.
I met some decade old friends as well as met many others whom I’ve had contact with but never personal. I always enjoy this aspect of the live shows. I had some lively conversation with several dealers and collectors. Most of the dealers I talked with had a great weekend. Al Rosen told me he spent over 140 K and I saw him buy a nice Ruth/Gehrig ball and a 1934 Tour ball in addition to the array of cards he seems to always be buying. I managed to find some great bats, Mantle, Hornsby, Al Dark, Edd Roush along with a set of original photographs of Red Grange in his last college game along with a two single photos of Grange and Halas in uniform. I also got a minty Mego Ali doll in the deluxe stage box, a Nellie Fox Chewing Tobacco die cut store display with two original bags of chew, a ‘minty’ autographed 1950/51 Bobby Thomson store model bat and a nice Steelers pennant. And you know, there is nothing better that walking a show and finding some killer merchandise for your collection or inventory.
SCD’s Chris Nerat and Bob Lemke ran an appraisal fair on Saturday from 1-5 that had a line the entire day. Some of the items I saw walk in included a 1908-10 Cubs panoramic photo, a silver plated Joe DiMaggio pro model bat (?), a complete 1954 Spic and Span Braves premium set, along with a mint (original key on back) gambling punch board that featured pics of Ruth and Gehrig and a minty Ruth signature on a side panel. These appraisal fairs are always a hit and the line that never seemed to diminish was a testament to that.
Walking around, I saw a 1936 Indy program, mint in box heartlands that included Maris, MIB Bobbin heads including Mantle and Maris, an incredible Nellie Fox collection, a collection of 1930/40’s minty White Sox programs, along with vintage pennants, a Jackie Robinson “Oscar” statue MIB with comic book and enough vintage cards and autographs to keep any collector happy.
Several auction houses had preview items on display for their upcoming auctions. Hunts had a 1955 Ted Williams jersey, a Boston Garter card of Cobb and eleven, yes eleven 1914 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb cards and a minty Lou Gehrig single signed official Harridge ball. Mastro Auctions had a 1911 C55 complete tobacco hockey card set, a NM8 33 Lajoie, some rare Pirate cigarette cards, and the ultimate baseball card, a T206 Honus Wagner. Mile High has an incredible collection of pre 1970 un-opened material along with Ruth’s 1927 HR #36 ball and a nice Ruth/Gehrig duel signed ball. I saw a Joe Jackson/Buck Weaver duel signed ball along with a never seen 1953-54 Briggs meats Jensen/Masterson panel and a Hack Wilson D&M endorsement contract at Huggins and Scott. Game Used Universe has some nice jerseys for their upcoming auction including a 74 Home Berra, a 91 Yount Road, an 87 Reggie Jackson A’s, a local favorite Harold Baines 87 Home and a U of M Anthony Carter jersey. AMI also had a few great jerseys on display such as a Johnny Unitas, a 70 Mays, a 79 Brock and a game worn Mickey Mantle Yankees hat. Premier was also there handing out catalogs for their future auction that shows a nice Mays game used bat, an Ed Charles 67 A’s vest, a killer autographed 1936 PCL photograph and a Dick Schofield Cardinals road.
All in all a great show and a great venue that should be on everyone’s show calendar. The crowd was large and enthusiastic buyers roamed the floors the entire show, the hotel was one of the nicest I’ve ever seen and the food was also top notch with even a Starbucks on premise and free parking. Until then, will see you all at the National in Cleveland. David Bushing