Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Art of Antiquing: What’s Old is New Again

“Old is something that you did not see at your grandmother’s, “says Terry Kovel.  Terry and her husband Ralph have co-authored 97 books about antiques.  The vintage collectibles and antiques industry was very fragmented when Terry Kovel and her husband Ralph started going to antique shows in the early 1950’s.  “We saw lots and lots of ashtrays and silver with marks at the bottom of the pieces.  Nobody knew what they meant and there certainly wasn’t a book or guide to look up these markings” Kovel tells me.  Unbeknownst to Terry, Ralph had contacted a book publisher to pitch a new book on silver marks.  Ralph calls Terry three months after the initial pitch with the book publisher and tells Terry he just received a $500 advance and the book is going to print.  “I remember asking Ralph who was going to write and do all the research.  Ralph tells me that he would need my help.  I immediately told him I would do so, but only if my name is listed as a co-author,” according to Terry.  This first book titled, Kovels’ Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain, 1650–1850, is still in print.

The antiques and collectibles market is constantly changing and shifting as tastes, supply/demand, and other variables come and go.  However, Terry is quick to point out the one thing that hasn’t changed is top condition brings top price in almost any instance across all the antique categories.  Many more people collect today than 20 years ago before the internet.  “That red handkerchief at a local antique show was $200 before the internet.  Now it might be $50-$75 because everybody looks in their attic and finds them,” according to Terry. 

One of the hottest categories of antique collecting today is technology antique enthusiasts.  People collecting transistor radios, electric fans, and some of the first computers are in high demand.  Additionally, beer can collectors are willing to pay high prices for that rare and unique vintage beer can. 

“As for my favorite find, I bought a sugar caster by Paul Revere Sr. in the 1960’s.  A sugar caster is basically a big pepper shaker.  That caster costs $15 and is worth thousands of dollars today.  It is currently on loan at a museum so that it can be properly displayed and for people to view.” 

The 2015 Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide is now available which includes over 35,000 up to date listings.  Today, Kovel’s Antiques and Collectibles newspaper column is syndicated nationwide to over 120 newspapers and online.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Thrill of opening a Pack of Topps Baseball Cards Today

 As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I vividly recall jumping on my bike and riding to the local pharmacy or grocery store to purchase baseball cards.  It was such a thrill to rush home from school, jump on my bike, and pedal as fast as possible just to procure baseball cards.  Back when I was collecting, Upper Deck was making its foray into the highly competitive baseball card market.  The Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card was the “key” card in the set and was also the most valuable.  Twenty five years later, the Griffey card is still the most valuable card in the set.

In my opinion, Topps was always the superior card brand. Others tried to take a share of the pie while Topps prevailed.   Topps is still making baseball cards today, while all of the other manufacturers are now defunct.  As a vintage card appraiser, I appraise many vintage card collections on a regular basis.  The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Card is a very valuable card in any condition. Many are still many hidden in private collections and usually hit the market when somebody needs liquid capital.

I am not much of a current baseball card collector.  However, I recently caught wind of what Topps Baseball Card Company has been trying to keep secret.  Two new product offerings that are slated to be released by Thanksgiving.  Firstly, the 2014 Topps Dynasty baseball set is a very high premium set.  This limited edition baseball card set features some of the most iconic stars of all time.  Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, and Jackie Robinson to name a few.  Each card will be encased (no more worries about condition deteriorating) and will include an autograph or cut signature.  I am not expecting to find an autographed Babe Ruth card in each box.  However, the thought of opening up each pack brings me back to my childhood and puts a smile on my face.

Autograph collectors typically want autographs on a baseball, baseball bat, jersey or program.  However, the 2014 Topps Baseball Five Star Baseball Card Set includes autographs on baseball cards.  Each autographed card will feature an active or retired player and signed in gold or silver ink.  Additionally, relics such as bat knobs and jersey patches will also be included for each card.  Baseball card purists and autograph collectors should both be very excited about this set.
Even though I am a vintage baseball card purist, I may have to purchase a few of these modern baseball card packs.  However, this time I will be driving my car and not riding my bike.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How much is that Ole Miss Goalpost worth?

It has been over 50 years since Ole Miss beat the top ranked team in the country.  On Saturday evening, Ole Miss Faithful could finally exhale now that the fog has been lifted.  Ole Miss defeated top ranked Alabama on Saturday evening to the delight of over 60,000 fans that packed Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

After the game ended, thousands’ of fans stormed the field and many descended to each end zone to immediately remove the goalposts.  Growing up in Jackson Mississippi, graduate student Bucker Corso dreamed of the day when Ole Miss would defeat the top ranked team in the country.  Corso also stormed the field with his friends’ and fraternity brothers’.  Corso wasn’t the one who actually tore down the goalposts’.  However, Corso and 25 others picked up a goalpost and carried it out of the stadium and would then walk about one mile to the “square” where the scene was reminiscent of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  “Every place on the square was packed with people and the euphoria of it all being an Ole Miss fan growing up in the state of Mississippi is something I will never forget”, says Corso.

On Monday, Corso presented Athletic Director of Ole Miss, Ross Bjork with two pieces of the goal post that Corso and his crew took home after the game on Saturday.  Corso rented a saw and cut up the goal post into 30 pieces.  “Every one of the 25 guys who carried the goal post got a piece, and I gave two pieces to the AD.”  Many have offered large sums of money for a piece of the goalpost.  One person offered $1,000 for six inches of the post.  

The SEC conference fined Ole Miss $50,000 for the fans rushing the field.  Additionally, it would be another $25,000 to replace the goalposts.  Mr. Bjork has asked the fans’ that attended the game on Saturday to please donate money to  As of October 8th, the goal of raising $75,000 was already achieved. 

When valuing a piece of sports memorabilia, it is worth what somebody will pay for it.  $1,000 is a lot of money and who knows how that investment will fare over time.  However, the memories of each Ole Miss fan at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday October 4th 2014 are priceless and will be remembered for generations to come. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rooting for the Cubs? Here's the Novel For You

In between the sun setting on the baseball season in October and the sun rising again in late February for spring training, baseball fans across the country speculate about what the next season will bring. This can be a tough time for a Chicago Cubs fan. Actually, in general, being a Cubs fan is not for the faint of heart.
The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. Wrigley Field turns 100 this year and it has never witnessed a World Series victory. For 106 years, Cubs fans across the country have been waiting for the “loveable losers” to win.
If you’re a long-suffering Cubs fan, I have a novel that might help you keep the fire burning. Abner’s Story, by Michael Bellito, is about two teenagers(named as it happens after Bellito’s real-life sons) who interview an older man. The older man turns out to be one of the last people to remember a Cubs World Series victory.

Bellito was inspired to write the book after his uncle passed away a few years ago. His uncle had a story about ditching high school with a friend in 1945 to attend a World Series game at Wrigley Field. While he was there, he purchased a program—now a prized possession of Bellito. As a loyal baseball fan, the author has attended numerous baseball games with his son Matthew. Every playoff game that Bellito has attended resulted in a win!

Abner’s Story is a feel-good story great for all ages and especially for passionate fans of baseball. The lead characters, Matt and Jason, are easy to get behind and root for. Whether you’re a baseball history buff or are barely aware of the consistent struggles at Wrigley Field, the author discusses the long struggle in a way that will bring newcomers along without boring more advanced readers. (One example: I always enjoy when a book can smartly include a reference to Babe Ruth without going off on tangent or distracting from the storyline. Abner’s Story pulls this off nicely.)

If you enjoy Abner’s Story as much as I did, you might enjoy Bellito’s other books, Ten Again and First Time Around.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Like Father, Like Sons: How Arthur D'Angelo's Sons Continue His Sports Merchandising Business

On Sunday June 15th, families gathered around the dinner table to celebrate Father’s Day. But the D’Angelo family in Boston prefers to do something different.  “We work six or seven days per week, especially during the baseball season,” says Bobby D’Angelo, Vice President at ’47 Brand. ’47 Brand is a sports lifestyle brand and is also an official licensing partner of the MLB, NBA, NFL, and many other professional sports organizations.
The company was started by patriarch Arthur D’Angelo who, at the age of 86, still works at the flagship location outside of Fenway Park in Boston. Arthur and his twin brother started selling newspapers for two cents in the early 1940s. As Italian immigrants, the family didn’t speak a single word of English.  But “two cents” was the price of a newspaper and the brothers started to learn how to pronounce the phrase. Arthur quickly learned how to upsell and cross-sell as he started to also sell peanuts, ice cream, and flowers. Eventually, the twins acquired and operated a dry cleaning business. Hall of Famer Ted Williams was a friend of Arthur’s and also a client. Arthur would pick up and deliver the dry cleaning to Williams on a regular basis.
Arthur D'Angelo.
Today, Arthur’s four sons run the family business and have grown annual sales to over $200 million. In 2013, the Red Sox honored Arthur and ’47 Brand: The private road leading up to Fenway Park from Yawkey Way was re-named “Arthur’s Way” in honor of Arthur D’Angelo, and Arthur threw out the first pitch before a ballgame.

April 15th, 2013 is a day that the Boston community will never forget. Bobby was at the ’47 Brand flagship location in Fenway Park when a passerby told him about the Boston Marathon bombing. “At first I didn’t believe it, but I turned on the TV and saw the chaos. Our team immediately wanted to do something to assist the victims. We got approval to sell the Boston Strong shirts and donated the proceeds to The One Fund, a charity formed to assist the victims and family members affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy. On September 21st, 2013, we presented a check for over $1.4 million to the Mayor of Boston to assist the victims.”

The D’Angelo family legacy will likely be painted and sculpted in the years to come. However, “the goal for my children is to have the same respect for me that my father’s kids have for him. We are all trying to be the best husbands and fathers that we can be.”

Thanks to the D’Angelo family.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Last Survivor of 1948 Baseball Tragedy Recalls Crash That Changed Everything

One of the worst tragedies in baseball history is something that Bernie Gerl thinks about on a regular basis. On July 24th, 1948, The Duluth (Minnesota) Dukes minor league baseball team was traveling from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to St. Cloud, Minnesota for a game. Sunny skies and perfect weather for a nearly three-hour bus trip.

For reasons still unknown, the team bus collided head on with a truck carrying dry ice. Both drivers were instantly killed—as were four ball players from the Duluth Dukes.

Bernie Gerl always enjoyed being one of the first people on the bus. He liked to “pick” his seat and get comfortable. On the fateful day of July 24th, 1948, Gerl was seated right behind the driver. Nobody can recall what happened, but Gerl was badly burned. If it hadn’t been for a nearby farmer and some fast-responding firemen, he would have died at the scene.

Gerl was unconscious for three days. “When I opened my eyes for the first time in three days, I saw my father,” he remembers. :It was difficult to speak and put together full sentences. I do remember telling my dad that I was in a slump and I gotta get out of here.” Gerl was a healthy 190 pounds before the accident. When he was discharged from the hospital 40 days later, he only weighed 120 pounds.

Gerl didn’t play for two years after the accident. The recovery time was intense, but Gerl fought through the pain and re-learned some of the basic motor skills needed to play ball. After baseball, Gerl worked for the Cola-Cola company for 39 years. His brother was a truck driver and got him the job with Coke. In five short years, he was running the Joliet, Illinois operation. He started with Coke in 1955 and was VP of Customer Relations by the time he retired. Gerl managed every operation in Northern Illinois and frequently travelled the world on behalf of Coke. “It was great to see the world and learn about different cultures,” says Gerl.

Today, Gerl is the last remaining survivor of the crash in 1948, and he’s still married to his childhood sweetheart, Bernadine. They’ve been married for 65 years. Some of the memories from the accident are well documented in Gerl’s many scrapbooks, which consist mainly of newspaper clippings and other personal mementos that were sent to Gerl while he was still in the hospital immediately following the accident. Many of Gerl’s grandchildren have seen the scrapbooks, but some are still too young to understand the severity of the crash. Bernie Gerl is 88 now, but that one day 66 years ago sticks with him. “July 24th is a day that I never forget.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shad Khan, American Dreamer & Owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars

There is nothing that makes me smile wider than returning to my alma mater, University of Illinois. No matter where you attended college, returning to campus gives you that feeling of fun, youth, and freedom.

Recently, I returned to Champaign-Urbana to interview entrepreneur, philanthropist, and owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid “Shad” Khan. Shad came to the United States at the age of 16 from Pakistan with barely the shirt on his back. He enrolled in college courses at the University of Illinois in Champaign. He needed to quickly find a job, any job, to afford food. The YMCA had a job opening for a dishwasher. “Washing dishes gave me the sense of empowerment and feeling that I control my destiny,” Shad says. Other jobs during his teenage years included delivering pizzas, working for the highway system, and going door-to-door as a salesman for a cleaning company that turned out to be a pyramid scheme.

Shad’s most meaningful job was working for Flex-N-Gate, an automotive parts manufacturer that he now owns. Working at Flex-N-Gate, Shad didn’t understand why the company was manufacturing two-piece bumpers for automobiles. He left the company to start his own company developing a one-piece automotive bumper, which is still used today on virtually every domestic automobile.

Cold calling was a big part of Shad’s success. In fact, as a commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2013 at University of Illinois, he spent several minutes talking about this practice, telling graduates, “Cold calling is about developing social skills and getting used to rejection. We are constantly selling something to somebody.”

Shad believes that life is a continuing process of learning. “If you aren’t learning, you are regressing,” he says, “because more growth comes from failure than from success.” Everybody has to start somewhere doing something. You never know where you will end up or what career path will choose you. Work hard, be open minded, and persevere. “There are 320 million American dreams. Go get yours.”

Shad has a perfect example: In 2010, he was very close to finalizing a deal to purchase the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. Things didn’t work out in St. Louis. But the experience helped Shad purchase the Jacksonville Jaguars just two years later.

As for Shad’s dream? “The Jacksonville Jaguars to play the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.”  Here’s hoping this dream comes true.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What the SF Giants Mean to One Cancer Stricken Fan

Jim Broedlow has been a San Francisco Giants season ticket holder for 43 years. Though he is a four-time cancer survivor, his love of the  Giants never wavered.

Jim is no ordinary fan. He has attended every home opener for the Giants since 1972. As far as he’s concerned, Opening Day is a national holiday; in fact, his oncologist has several times delayed chemo treatments so Jim can attend baseball games.

One of the memories that Jim will never forget is the so-called “World Series Earthquake” of 1989, during the World Series between the Giants and their crosstown rivals, the Oakland As. Minutes before Game 3 was scheduled to begin, an earthquake struck, with thousands of people inside Candlestick Park. It was the first major earthquake in the U.S. to be televised on live T.V.
“When the earthquake hit,” Jim remembers, “we didn’t know it was an earthquake. I was holding onto a railing next to my seat. The rail was swaying so much, we thought it was really fun. We then realized it was an earthquake when we saw several dignitaries at the game being rushed off the field.”

Will Clark, Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow, Buster Posey, and Dave Dravecky are a few of Jim’s favorite players. In the late 1980s, Jim mailed a letter to the San Francisco Giants requesting an autograph from Dave Dravecky, a pitcher. Dravecky’s signature arrived back in June of 1988 and has been a treasured piece in the Broedlow household.
As it turns out, Dravecky is also a cancer survivor. A few years ago, Dravecky surprised Jim at his home to talk cancer and the San Francisco Giants. “We spent two hours together,” says Jim, “and it was such a great memory.”
“I was fighting for my life in 2010,” he continues. “It felt like the Giants were fighting for me. They wanted me to live and watch them win a World Series championship. While I was in the hospital, representatives from the Giants visited to wish me well. Additionally, they presented me with a letter from team President Larry Baer.”

For the Giants, Opening Day of 2013 was a culmination and celebration of their triumph in the 2012 World Series. World Series rings were presented to the winning 2012 team. To cap things off, Jim was chosen to carry the World Series flag onto the field and then present it to manager Bruce Bochy. “I heard 41,000 fans yelling and cheering,” he says. “It was such a thrill. When I handed the flag to Bochy, I told him to bunt the ball more. I don’t know if he heard me, but we beat the Cardinals 1-0 on a bunt hit. I love baseball—can you tell?”
My sincere gratitude to Jim for sharing a life of passion and inspiration. You are an important part of baseball history—still in the making.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday, Wrigley Field

April 23rd, 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field opening its doors to Chicago baseball fans. Many Americans have fond memories of visiting Wrigley over the past several decades, and Wrigley is still voted one of the best fields in baseball. To celebrate this occasion, I recently spoke with two of the longest tenured season-ticket holders at Wrigley Field.

Since 1958, Bill Irace has been a season-ticket holder at the corner of Clark and Addison. Now 95, Irace remembers watching Cubs all-stars such as Hack Wilson and Charlie Grimm grace the baseball diamond. Working for a family-owned electrical contractor, Irace would frequently take clients to Wrigley to enjoy a mid-summer game. “I remember when Hal Totten, radio play-by-play announcer, would blast out announcements through his megaphone. If there was a pitching change, Hal would shout out this information into the megaphone that could be heard in the outfield. In the 1940s, the standing-room-only section was in front of the outfield bleachers. If a baseball was hit into the crowd, it was ruled a HR. Roughly one hundred fans were able to fit into this section.” Children who attended the game with Bill were almost guaranteed to get a baseball.

Carol Haddon has been a Wrigley Field mainstay since 1970. Carol grew up on the South Side of Chicago; she remembers taking the “el” (Chicago’s elevated train) to Wrigley with her mother for “Ladies Day.” As a retired special-education teacher, Carol has fond memories of taking her special-ed students to the ballgame. Tickets were $3.25 for a box seat. (The same ticket now costs between $90 and $127.) Carol’s seats are in the first row atop the Cubs dugout. “Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game was one of the most memorable games,” she says. “The domination that Wood had over every batter was unbelievable. The Cubs were the NL Champs in 1984. It was their first postseason appearance since 1945. I remember manager Jim Frey taking the entire team and walking around the baseball diamond thanking the fans for being very supportive.”

Thanks to Bill and Carol for sharing their memories with me. Here’s hoping the Cubs return to the postseason in 2014!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Interview with Tom Ricketts, Owner of the Chicago Cubs

Sitting in the most important office in the Chicago Cubs’ organization, I couldn’t help but notice how unpretentious everything looked. I expected something lavish. This is not the case at Wrigley Field. But when I mentioned the low-key surroundings to Tom Ricketts, chairman and owner of the Chicago Cubs, he said, “Michael, we have hundreds of better ways to spend money. I don’t need a fancy office.”

This year, some of that saved money is going towards celebration. April 23rd 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field. There are ten home stands during the 2014 season specially designated to commemorate the ballpark’s rich 100 year history. Players will be wearing historic uniforms, fans can eat specialty food offerings, and retro toys will be given away to those lucky fans attending the games.

Mr. Ricketts was kind enough to answer some questions about Wrigley Field and the Cubs.

What are the best decisions you’ve made?
Keeping Crane [Kenney, the Cubs' President of Business Operations] and hiring Theo [Epstein, President of Baseball Operations, who won two World Series rings as general manager of the Boston Red Sox].

What was your proudest moment as owner of the Cubs?The investment in our spring training facility. We have the best spring training park in baseball.

How does the Cubs organization work with social media?We are continually obtaining feedback from fans in all aspects of the operation. We are very active in social media and always enjoy the real-time feedback. Much of the feedback is obtained in-game.

You are consistently engaging with your fans inside Wrigley. Why have you chosen to be a hands-on owner?
I walk around with 12 baseballs every game. Each baseball is uniquely stamped with the date of the ballgame. I don’t want to be trapped as an executive. I need to be engaging with fans and see what they are talking about. Additionally, the crowd lifts me up. They are very supportive.

Fans are always asking if the famous trough urinals in the men’s room will survive the renovation. What’s the verdict?
They are staying. They’re part of the history and allure of Wrigley Field. However, we do understand that we need shorter lines.

Why haven’t you sold the naming rights to Wrigley Field?I don’t want to fix something that is not broken. I want to be respectful of the park.

How do you measure if the club is moving in the right direction?According to numerous credible sources, the Cubs farm system is the second best in baseball.

How closely do you follow the minor league standings?I read every minor league box score and the baseball prospectus every morning.

It is borderline unaffordable for a family to attend major league baseball games. How do you intend to keep ticket prices down?
We have tiered pricing and special packages throughout the year. Also, bleacher prices are down in 2014. There are also a fixed number of $19.14 tickets that we will be selling to commemorate the 100-year anniversary.

Many thanks to Mr. Ricketts, and best of luck to the Cubs in 2014! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Does It Mean To "Win One For The Gipper?"

Collecting vintage sport cards and memorabilia has been a passion of mine for over 15 years. Some of my purchases are worth a hefty sum and some are important from a historical perspective. One item that I recently purchased falls into the “not super valuable” category—but it tells a story that’s priceless.

In general, paper items (tickets, stubs, and programs) are not worth lots of money. This is the case with the piece I just bought: a 1920 Notre Dame vs. Purdue program. The program has a few condition issues, such as mildew stains on some pages, and the binding is very loose. The hobby of sports collecting wasn’t really a big thing yet in 1920, and most of the game attendees did not leave the game with their program. It was simply left in the stadium for the grounds crew to throw away.

This program has character. I really enjoy the advertising from local professional service companies in the Indiana area. Dentists, attorneys, insurance salesmen—all advertised in the program for your business. Additionally, it was an election year, so many nominees advertised in the program for brand awareness purposes and to obtain votes.
Getty Images
George Gipp circa 1920. (Getty Images)
Beyond the sense it gives you of daily life in the ’20s, this program contains a remarkable piece of Notre Dame history. Notre Dame has been a storied franchise for over 100 years.Joe Theisman, Joe Montana, Paul Hornung, Johnny Lujack, and George Gipp are all Hall of Fame athletes that donned the gold and blue uniforms.
According to Bleacher Report, George “Gipper” Gipp was the second best Notre Dame football player in the school’s history. The Gipper originally enrolled at Notre Dame on a baseball scholarship. One day, legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne saw Gipp playing baseball and convinced him to take up football instead. Gipp obliged and quickly became a superb player.

Sadly, Gipp contracted strep throat near the end of the football season and died a few weeks later. The program from November 6th, 1920 is Gipp’s third to last game. Famously, as Gipp hovered near death, Rockne exhorted the team to “win one for the Gipper.” The story was later made into a film starring Ronald Reagan, who then adopted “The Gipper” as his nickname.

November 6th 1920 Notre Dame vs. Purdue Program

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Interview with St.Louis Cardinals Owner Bill DeWitt, Jr

Bill DeWitt, Jr., is the chairman of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have won two World Series Championships under his leadership; tonight, they’re playing their first game of the 2013 post-season. Mr. DeWitt recently spoke with PARADE about the Cardinals and his family.

What is the best part of owning a MLB franchise?
I enjoy the everyday challenge of keeping the Cardinals a premier franchise. We do everything to maintain and enhance the franchise.
What is your favorite part of Busch Stadium?
I love the entire atmosphere and being at the ballpark in general. My father, Bill Sr., took me to ball games at Sportsman’s Park, and I just love the ballpark.
Why was Tony LaRussa such a great manager?
Tony possessed all the characteristics of greatness from the very first day of his tenure. He knew how to motivate the young athletes. He was an innovator. He developed the idea of a set-up man and a closer. Tony was also at the forefront of pitcher/hitter match-ups in late-inning situations. Additionally, he was very smart due to his legal background. His analytical abilities and his comprehension of the game far exceeded all his predecessors.

Do you collect or own any vintage Cardinals memorabilia?
Yes, I have a few things. Many significant and historical vintage items from the Cardinals organization will be publicly displayed at Ballpark Village, which is opening in 2014. Ballpark Village is a mixed-use retail and residential district that is situated on 10 acres just north of Busch Stadium. Many one-of-a-kind pieces of Cardinals memorabilia will be showcased at Ballpark Village. Some highlights include: A pristine home jersey of Dizzy Dean, and a 1926 World Series Grover Cleveland uniform.
A young Bill DeWitt, Jr. meets Babe Ruth.
Do you have long-term plans for the Cardinals to stay in the DeWitt family?
Yes, we plan to keep the Cardinals in the DeWitt family for future generations. My son, Bill III, is the President and is fully engaged.
Who was the greatest ballplayer you’ve ever watched play ball?
I saw Mantle, Mays, Musial, and many more in their prime. However, Stan Musial was the all-time greatest to play the game on the field and off the field. (Musial was a great ambassador for the game of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals.)
Everybody has a mentor at one time in their life. Who was your mentor, and what did you learn from him?
My father, Bill Sr., was my mentor. He owned the Cincinnati Reds in the 1960s and I saw how he was able to be successful. I learned a lot about scouting and player development from my father. My father was such an interesting man. In 1916, he was looking for a job and got hired selling concessions at the ballpark. The legendary Branch Rickey [the baseball owner who signed Jackie Robinson] became a mentor to my father and encouraged him to finish his education. Branch trained my dad into the great success that he was.
My thanks to Bill DeWitt for his time and invaluable knowledge

Friday, January 31, 2014

What's It Like To Work For The Chicago White Sox?

William “Night Train” Veeck—known as “Train” to his friends—is the grandson of Baseball Hall of Famer Bill Veeck. Bill was a promoter of Major League Baseball and also had ownership interests in the Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Browns, and Cleveland Indians. I spoke with Train about his grandfather and his own work in baseball, working for the White Sox.

What was it like growing up in a baseball family? Besides your grandfather, your father Mike has ownership interests in several minor league teams?
Dinner table conversations were lots of fun. I learned a lot about the marketing strategies and front office operations. I started working at the ballpark when I was five years old. I would fill up sodas, and roll up hot dogs into aluminum foil. I even had a tip jar for people whom appreciated my hard work.

Why are you following the Veeck legacy and working in baseball?
I love baseball. It’s everything I have known and worked for. A very humbling experience for me is walking through the gates before a home game and knowing that the legacy in my family is still going strong. I am part of an organization that has done a lot for me and my family.

Your grandfather famously had a little person, Eddie Gaedel, pinch hit in a baseball game.
Yes, everybody knows the story. His jersey resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many years ago, my sister held up the jersey and the experience was very enchanting.

What’s your primary job with the White Sox?
Group sales of 20 or more people. My favorite area of the ballpark is the patio in right field, which is run by the Bertucci Boys. For a fixed price, you have unlimited beer and the best food in Major League Baseball. The price also includes a game ticket. This is something to experience if you haven’t already done so.

Whether the Sox win or lose, how do you make sure the fans leave happy?
I can’t control the wins or losses, so we focus on customer service and customer engagement. Is the beer cold?  Hot dog hot? Being at the ballpark allows you to get away from work life for a few hours, so we need to make sure you are being taken care of.

The main goal for any ball club is to fill the seats. How is social media helping you do this?
We opened a social media lounge in June. Fans can stop in and charge their phones. They can congregate to interact both online and offline to work collaboratively. Via social media, we can respond to customer service inquiries. For example, if we have game issues or any information we need to disseminate to fans, we can do so in real-time. We also upgrade fans’ seats and sometimes bring free food to people who are engaging with us on Twitter.

Train Veeck with Michael Osacky.
What’s the biggest difference between working with the White Sox and working with a minor league team like the Charleston River Dogs?
Mobility of ideas. Ideas get out quicker in the minors. There’s a different mindset. We can get a little more “wild” in the minors. In MLB, people pay lots of money for a season ticket, so you don’t want to belittle the experience.

When the game ends, what is your wish for every fan exiting the building?
Make sure everybody had fun

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Top Reasons Why Sportscards & Memorabilia Collections Are Liquidated

People frequently ask me why anyone would want to sell family heirlooms like vintage sports cards and memorabilia collections. I’ve found that very few people want to sell but they are forced to sell, often for the following reasons.

1. Death
When a person passes, the government has a vested interest in this person’s estate. If you do not have a living trust, the estate will end up in probate court. Probate court specializes in the administration of estates. A large percent of the total proceeds from the estate will be paid to the government. If a sports memorabilia collection is part of the estate, it will probably be sold to pay off any debts from the estate. Additionally, the representative from the estate may have no interest in the collection and would rather liquidate.

2. Divorce
When a couple gets divorced, a judge could force one to sell a collection to pay for alimony, child-support, or legal bills, etc. The memorabilia collection can often be the last thing one would want to part with since it likely took several years to amass and is a treasured possession.
3. Economic
The current economic recession has unearthed many unique vintage sports cards and memorabilia. These family heirlooms hold a strong sentimental connection to the families. However, when the breadwinner of the family loses his or her job and remains unemployed for an extended period of time, he or she must find a way to pay the bills. When forced with the tough decision of foreclosure, the decision to sell the sports memorabilia collection is a little easier.

4. Paying for College Tuition
It is no secret that college tuition is very expensive. Scholarships for superior athletes or exceptional geniuses are the exception to the norm. The ability to pay for room and board is not easy in this recession. Therefore, many families have decided to sell collectibles and finance their child’s education.
Very few people want to sell their prized memorabilia collection.  However, many people need to liquidate for the reasons listed above.  One of the benefits of liquidating is the opportunity for the buyer to seek enjoyment in the collection and be able to share all of the happiness just like the previous owner.

If you want to add others, please do so in the comments section.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Baseball Secrets of the Wrigley Field Dumpsters

Dumpster diving, antiquing, picking—whatever you call it, it’s something that many of us do each spring/summer as the weather breaks and the rain gives way to rising temperatures and sunny skies. One could argue that “antiquing” is a national pastime, as the majority of Americans have visited a garage sale, purchased an item from an antique store off the highway, or perhaps walked one of the numerous flea markets in the area. TV shows like American Pickers get us excited to see what treasures are still buried in attics, garages, and barns.

I recently met with a woman, Sarah, who told me that she started “picking” before television was even around. Sarah was born and raised in Chicago and was a huge Chicago Cubs fan. She lived close to Wrigley Field and even though she didn’t always have money to purchase a ticket to the ballgame, she would frequent the area just to share in the excitement of thousands of fans cheering on their team to victory.
One late afternoon during the hot summer of 1962, Sarah was walking down Waveland Ave. and noticed several items being tossed into the dumpsters. She stopped and asked the security guards what was being thrown away. The guards didn’t know or care; it was trash. Sarah started to befriend the guards, and after about 15-20 minutes of chatting, she asked if she could “dumpster dive” and see what was inside.

The security guards laughed and then let her climb into the dumpsters. At the very top of the pile were two large and heavy albums. Sarah didn’t open the albums to see what was inside, but she figured they could be something good. Reluctantly, the security guards allowed her to take them with her.
When Sarah got home, she quickly realized that the albums were old scouting reports filled out by the Cubs’ advance scouting teams. Advance scouts are paid to scout the opponents to try and gain the upper hand during a live ball game. It’s always important to know how your competition is hitting, fielding, pitching, and stealing bases. The scouts “rate” every weakness and strength for each player and document the findings in albums.

So Sarah found a very interesting piece of sports memorabilia and something that she has treasured for decades. But good luck trying to scale the fence at Wrigley Field today—let alone persuade the security guards to let you leave with anything!