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The Baseball Wall

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As collectors, we envision what we hope to have our man caves look like one day. Ideas constantly spinning in our head: What could fit here? How much room do I have there? or How many jerseys or photos could I hang on this wall? I have always been a “completionist” when it comes to collecting. No matter what it was that I was collecting: Star Wars action figures, GI Joes, or baseball cards, I needed to have them all. When I started collecting signed baseballs with inscriptions, that collection was no different. My inscription collection started with Hall of Famers with different inscriptions and my original philosophy was to collect one signed baseball with a different inscription from every Hall of Famer. Some of the first items I remember obtaining were Mickey Mantle with No. 7 that I received as a birthday gift from my parents, a Cal Ripken Jr. with 1983, 1991 AL MVP, and a George Brett with 3,154 Hits. It wasn’t until later when I purchased a Mickey Mantle signed baseball with HOF 74 inscribed that I realized I did not want to have just one signed baseball from every Hall of Famer: I wanted as many inscriptions as possible. As my collection grew, my vision for displaying my collection started to take form. Mr. 3,000, the movie starring Bernie Mac as “Stannnnn” Ross, was always one of my favorites growing up. In the movie, Stan owns a bar that is decorated with all kinds of memorabilia from his career, including a wall of 3,000 baseballs, one for every hit in his career. This is where the vision for my collection originated. One day I would have a room in my house with a wall full of signed baseballs telling the history of our national pastime.  

In June of 2018, after collecting hundreds of inscribed baseballs, my vision became reality. I was finishing up occupational therapy school and my wife and I bought a house that was big enough to house my collection (truth be told I refused to buy a house without a room big enough to put my stuff).  With the help of my dad we spent hours hanging the 28 30-baseball display cases, making sure each one was level and perfectly aligned with the other. Once they were all FINALLY hung in perfect symmetry (we had to restart halfway through because we starting hanging them on the wrong side of the wall), it was time to organize the baseballs. The inscriptions on the wall of 840 baseballs included milestones from members of the 500 Home Run Club, 3,000 Hit Club, 3,000 K Club, and 300 Win Club. It also included AL and NL MVPs, Cy Young Award winners, World Series MVPs , All-Star Game MVPs from 1979 to current day, and was rounded off with inscriptions of nicknames from Hall of Famers and jersey number inscriptions from Hall of Famers. Unfortunately, most of these sets cannot be 100% completed due to inscriptions not always being common practice, especially with prewar players. One by one, I placed them in the cases, and with each one I placed, decades of baseball history began to take shape. Once I had placed the last ball in the case, I stepped back and took it all in. It was finally finished. I had made my collecting dream a reality.

Since the wall has been finished, the only changes that have been made are the additions of the newest MVPs, Cy Young Award winners, World Series MVPs, All-Star Game MVPs and the latest members to achieve the 500 home run, 3,000 hit, 3,000 strikeout, or 300 win plateau. With the exception of a few additions, and showing it to people who come visit, I haven’t had the time it requires to really appreciate it. Between my job as an occupational therapist, my business, Game 7 Authentics, LLC., and most importantly, my beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters, there’s not a whole lot of extra free time to reflect on my collection. However, recently I was able to get a few hours to completely rearrange the wall of baseballs. I had run out of room, adding the newest MVPs and Cy Young Award winners and in order for them to continue to flow correctly, a rearranging was necessary. In order for me to be able to rearrange the MVP/Cy Young Award winners successfully, it required rearranging the entire wall. This gave me the opportunity to look at every baseball and when I did this, I realized this collection is not just a representation of the history of baseball: each baseball in the collection is a memory for me.

I was surprised at how many I vividly remember obtaining. Going through each individual ball and moving it to a new place brought back so many memories of how the balls were obtained. Whether it was driving to St. Louis with my mom to get Cal Ripken Jr. to inscribe his All-Star Game MVP years, driving to Texas for the Rangers Winter Warm Up with my dad and brother and meeting Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry for the first time, or sending into a private signing for Dennis Eckersley, every ball in the collection had a story. It was the late nights I spent in college funneling through pages on eBay or even Google searches looking for that rare, Don Drysdale Cy Young award inscription. It was memories of saving money I made in the summertime in order to buy a Mickey Mantle signed baseball with 56, 57, 62 MVP inscribed and memories of my little brother surprising me with a Kevin Mitchell 1989 NL MVP inscription to help me complete my set.  After the rearranging, and trip down memory lane was finished, I felt reinvigorated, like the spark I had for collecting while I was in the thick of finishing all of these inscribed sets had come back. Don’t get me wrong, my passion and love for collecting has never went away, but I had never been more focused on collecting than I was from 2010-2015 trying to complete all of these nearly impossible sets. 

Whatever your “baseball wall” is in your collecting world, make time to enjoy it and reflect on your collecting journey. Don’t just think about the items themselves. Think about how you obtained them, when you obtained them, where you were when you obtained them, and what was going on in your life when you obtained them. People ask why we care so much about our collections. This is why. Our collections are more than just ink and leather bound together by some string. They truly are a part of our lives and who we are.  So enjoy your “baseball wall” every now and then and don’t lose the piece of you that is your passion for collecting. 

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