Finding something really exciting in the realm of game-used equipment isn’t necessarily limited to bargain-priced high-dollar items, or estate sale discoveries. Sometimes, even in the realm of the organized hobby, the unexpected treasure is waiting to be unearthed.
Such was the case in 1989, at a late-autumn major card show in Chicago. While I have my own collection of game-used items, most of the bats I own were directly acquired from players or coaches. I do keep an eye open for goodies for friends and associates, however, and this show provided me with one of the most unusual examples of these.
If I told you I found a Cal Ripken game-used bat at a card show, unless you were a Ripken enthusiast, the revelation wouldn’t be overly shocking. After all, Cal Jr. played for about 20 years, and Louisville Slugger bats issued to and used by him are among the most frequently submitted recent superstar lumber submitted to MEARS for the evaluation of my associate, Dave Bushing.
Ah, but if I told you it was a bat of Cal SR…the Iron Man’s FATHER…you’d be more likely to raise an eyebrow, wouldn’t you?
Well, that was exactly the case here. A trio of dealers from the Twin Cities area had an H&B bat of Ripken Sr. (signature model, no less) from the late Ripken’s playing days in the minors (Cal Sr., while coaching and managing in the majors, never played in The Show).
To make a long story short, I inquired about price, made a call to the premier Ripken Family collector in the world, Bill Haelig Jr., informed him of my find, and was able to middleman a purchase of the bat, making the dealers happy, giving me satisfaction at finding a Ripken-related equipment item advanced collector Haelig didn’t have, and giving Haelig a complete set of Ripken Family bats in the process (he had several examples of Cal Jr. and Billy already).
The feeling of finding a neat item out of nowhere resurfaced just a few days ago, in a swap session I had with a locally-based game-used dealer who comes up with some interesting items, but, despite his experience, doesn’t d much research on what he has.
In this case, the item was a NOB-bearing Cubs BP jersey, by Majestic, 1990-93 tagging and sleeve logo, with a #17 on the back. The major league (no derisive laughter here, please) Cubs did not use NOBs on their BP tops in this era, but the team’s minor leaguers would wear these NOB-bearing blue mesh jerseys in spring training, as over 100 minor leaguers are in camp in the spring…gotta figure out who’s who SOME way, right?
Anyway, my pal’s biggest concern was whether or not this could have been an MLB Cubs Mark Grace BP top sent down to the minors with the NOB being added in Arizona. I conceded it to be a possibility, but the light wear on all lettering and numbering on the jersey convinced me that such was not the case.
So, as I rode the bus home, I double-checked the back of the blue mesh shirt, and studied the NOB and its applique closely…
Suddenly, a bolt hit my brain out of nowhere? Didn’t Jason Sehorn, a star defensive backs for the New York Giants for close to a decade, play minor league ball for a short time?
I hit the computer upon my arrival home, found plenty of bios on Sehorn, most of which mentioned his brief flirtation with professional baseball, but none of which detailed when and for whom he played.
Then, I detoured around that temporary info roadblock by placing a call to longtime equipment dealer Murf Denny. The Brule, Wisconsin equipment dealer also has an intensive inventory of team media guides. We talked briefly, and then I asked him to check a 1990s Giants guide to find out the time and organization of Sehorn’s short stint in the bushes. The next day, I had my answers: Two seasons, early 1990’s (matching the jersey tagging and sleeve logo), CUBS organization.
At that point, I couldn’t care less if it WAS a Grace hand-me-down. Auction houses and Ebay make Sehorn Giants jerseys a fairly regular offering, but how many Jason Sehorn BASEBALL jerseys do you see? (By the way, for those interested, the jersey is NOT for sale, and has already been promised to a local Sehorn fan when and if it does get sold.)
The odd and the unusual…yes, they can (and sometimes are) found right in the realm of our own organized hobby.