Jim McFarland of Florida has a great day career, more on that another time. His evenings, though, are filled with his other passion–as the curator of his own personal Hall of Fame. Jim’s grandfather, a past part-owner of the Cincinnati Reds, shared a portion of his personal mementos with Jim, who has collected ever since. Recently Jim sent photos of his mouth-watering displays of cards and memorabilia and I would like to share them with you. Note the Helmar cards (Jim is a big fan) mixed in with his other favorites such as a T206 Cobb. Thanks for the photos, Jim! (click to enlarge)
I started collecting autographed 1933 Goudeys in about 1988. Back track about 6 years earlier, a carpenter neighbor of mine asked my dad for some help with some baseball cards he had found in an attic – all very good + 1933 Goudeys and Delongs. We flew with him to St. louis to auction them off and after the auction there remained a few lesser cards. Dealers came up to my neighbor offering him a few bucks. He turned to me (then 7) and my brother (then 10) and said “you want these?”. I got a Burleigh Grimes and a Bill Terry and was hooked. Flash forward to 1988, I have been collecting autographs through the mail mostly with the help of my dad and brother. While looking at my 1933 Goudeys (I had about two dozen by that point) I realized that Bill Terry was still alive. I mailed the card and two weeks later when I got back autographed, thus started a 25 year collecting journey.
I managed to get about 40 players through the mail before they passed away. I was on a tight budget so I got the cards autographed as I could afford them. Somehow I ended up with 14 signed Willis Hudlins?!!? They were all great signers except Randy Moore who stamped everything and Dick Bartell whom charged $5 (!!). I can still remember throwing them in an envelope with no cardboard (Yikes!). I received a Earl Whitehill signed Goudey for Christmas in 1988 that my dad bought for $50. I remember thinking how much he over paid back then. In the 25 years since I have only seen one other signed Earl Whitehill whom died in 1950.
The best part about collecting these back in the day was they were pretty worthless. Dealers frowned upon autographed cards and often sold these for less then the card itself was worth. I remember picking up my signed Pie Traynor on ebay in 2001 for $30!. In the last few years however, the vintage signed card market has went crazy. Signed Ty Cobb tobacco cards are going for $25k. Recently a trimmed Bing Miller (died in 1966) sold for $1200!!! I have TWO that I paid a total of $50 for and they are UNTRIMMED!
Rarities: of course Ruth and Gehrig are the kings value wise though, if you have the money, you can undoubtably get one within a year as there are quite a few in existence. I am more concerned with the real rare ones. Earl Clark died in 1938 giving him the distinction of being the first casualty of the Goudey series. He was also a minor leaguer and I have never actually seen one signed making him the holy grail of signed Goudeys. The toughest one I have is Johnny Welch whom died in 1940. Some other tough ones that i have seen 1 or less of are Fred Brickell, Eddie Collins, Tris Speaker, Pete Scott, Heinie Sand, Heinie Meine, and Bernie Friberg.
I currently have 176 different. I have 39 different hall of famers. I have over 130 doubles. I currently have every player that died back to Dizzy dean (that is 1974 and I am only missing the Luke Sewell standing card which is way more difficult to find then it should be because Luke insisted that wasn’t him on the card). The most I have paid for any of the cards I have is $325 for my Johnny Welch. The nearest I have to a complete team set is the Chicago cubs where I am only missing the Pat Malone. If I ever sell my set i might keep the Cubs just so i can have the oldest signed team set in existence (?).
I am happy to share my collection on Helmar’s blog and hope you enjoy them as well.
Happy Collecting! 🙂 Sean Brennan
My agnatic (a fifty-cent word meaning on my Dad’s side) grandmother hailed from a long line of West Virginia coal-crackers on Dad’s enatic (another half buck, meaning his Mom’s) side. Nana (Dad’s Mom) married a guy (Dad’s Dad – we didn’t have an affectionate name for him, sadly- he died in ’37, long before his grandkids were born) whose people were all from Amish country but were part of that heterodox bunch known as Mennonites, meaning they drove jalopies rather than buggies, used zippers instead of hook-and-eye, and sported beards which included mustaches, if they went about unshaven at all. Anyhow, Nana’s folk, tiring of toil beneath the soil, made their slow way to Norristown, PA, at some point in time between the great wars, and while there she, at yet another of fate’s umpteen intersections, made the acquaintance of Jimmie Dykes, a guy who knew his way ’round a diamond a little more than somewhat. He wouldn’t have been able to say if the little chip she wore on her ring finger was from Kimberley or Cracker Jack but he knew whether, with men on second and third, down three in the bottom of the ninth and bottom of the order up with one out, a suicide squeeze was a good move or a fool’s errand. He hadn’t just fallen off any turnip truck. That he was, mid-century, the skipper of Philly’s American League franchise was very much to his baseball credit, given that the last chap who’d plotted the times and tides of men from that selfsame wheelhouse, the legendary Cornelius MacGillicuddy, had been at the helm for half a century (yes, the very same Mr. Mack who’d sold off Dykes, Al Simmons and a couple other future Hall-of-Famers to kick off his yard sale of high-value members of the team when the vicissitudes of Depression-era economics obliged him to honor certain little IOUs the banks were holding over his head). Jimmie went on to manage any number of major league franchises before hanging up his own spikes and becoming Norristown’s eminence grise of the hardball. Anyway, during his days managing the A’s he proved neighborly enough to recommend my Dad to scouts in the organization. Dad, however, had the misfortune to sustain an eye injury in a dugout mishap, the result of which was that he never did play so much as an inning of professional ball. None of this is in any way the stuff of history books but it was definitely part and parcel to what passed for legend around the dinner table when my family was bragging about this one or that. Every family is rich in such material and it’s only for interested progeny to root it out and write it up.
That means you, Dear Reader, so you’d best get to it. As the inimitable Lord Buckley used to say, “If you get to it and you can’t do it, there you jolly well are, aren’t you?”
In the spring of 1958 I flipped a lot of cards. You could say I was a flippin’ idiot and you wouldn’t be overstating it by overmuch. I’d even go so far as to say that I was not only the biggest flippin’ idiot who prowled the yard at St. Andrew’s (by an inch nosing out Steve Snot – not his exact name but you remember what fourth grade was like), I was the best. If you’ve a negative turn of mind perhaps you entertained, however briefly, the thought that maybe ’58 was a milestone for yours truly en route to a lifetime spent prowling yards – maybe even ‘THE yard’. No matter, O Ye of Little Faith – I was on my way to God Only Knew Where, I wasn’t taking any prisoners, and the only impediment that I’d identified by the end of that formative school year was a certain Brian Fitzpatrick. So certain was he of his own flippin’ superiority that he damn near won me over to his way of thinking without a fight. Until the showdown, that is (an event these days known as a throwdown). Word had travelled along the grapevine that there was this fat cat in the fifth grade who didn’t mind flippin’ with us youngsters ’cause he had never lost to any of us. By the time summer vacation had rolled around and accounts had to be settled, not that there were many requiring settlement, flippin’ being for the most part a cash-and-carry enterprise, BF (care to guess what fourth-grade boys made of those initials?) was shittin’ in high cotton, never appearing in the yard with less than a shoebox of cards, mostly Topps, maybe a few of the large-sized Bowman lesser lights from the three years before they disappeared from playgrounds and schoolyards all across America, gone the way of the dinosaur. Most kids would use those old Bowmans and any of the legion Topps dupes which seemed to lurk behind every nickel (not Mack Burk again!?!), making dupes of the dreamers, the gamblers, the packrats, bingers and plungers growing slowly and surely like weeds along the pathways leading to the sweet shoppes, corner groceries and five-and-dimes of ’50s America. I always had a fat wad in my schoolbag in hopes of a game. I had a couple friends who were almost as good as me (horseshoes and hand-grenades, right?), and this Fitzpatrick kid had cleaned them out. That’s when they began prodding me into a head-to-head with the guy, since I couldn’t resist needling them about the astonishing speed with which they’d collapsed in the face of superior firepower. If I’d kept my trap shut I might have been able to avoid falling into one but I’ve always been alligator-mouthed so it was just a matter of time, the approach of which was accelerated by my two ‘friends’, who thoughtfully arranged the meeting that I had come to dread. It took place during the last week of school, on a Monday, as arranged by our seconds, and there was a small crowd awaiting our arrival, word of the contest having spread to all interested parties in St. Andrew’s. I had all my flippin’ stock with me and Fitzpatrick had his usual shoebox. Nothing about him suggested that the day was different than any other day, and perhaps it wasn’t, but one never knows about such things. It was decided that, he being not only older but also the acknowledged champ of the yard, he would lead off, giving the younger guy the slight advantage. It suited his sense of noblesse oblige, to show maganimity to his next victim. For my part, I was warming to the idea of crushing him, if for no other reason than to wipe that smug look off his increasingly detestable phiz. For both of us it was only a matter of time, which had finally arrived. He positioned himself the regulation four feet or so from the brick wall, right foot slightly advanced, he being a rightie, reached blindly into his shoebox, selected a card, adjusted his grip, and flipped. I had already selected my first card, one of the ten or so Mack Burks I owned, and was about to make my move when my eyes focused on his initial toss – an actual 1958 Topps #1 Ted Williams, looking at me as cockily as Teddy Ballgame must have at every pitcher he ever faced, and as fresh as if he’d just been taken out of a pack. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like a vision of The Grail, and this idiot had just tossed it out there like it was so much chaff. For a moment I thought, this kid is so sure he’s gonna win he did that just to psych me out but when I met his gaze I realized that nothing could be further from the truth. This guy was a philistine – that card was the same as every other card to him. It was all about quantity. Nothing else mattered a whit or a jot. I kept looking at him until he finally piped up. ‘You gonna flip or what?’ I looked back at Ted one more time and then I said, to the astonishment of all, ‘I’ll give you all my cards for that one.’ He looked at me like I’d grown a horn from the middle of my head, and said, ‘Are you nuts?’ With that I reached in my bag, grabbed all of ’em and held them out. ‘Waddya say?’ He had no idea what to say so he just nodded. I handed them over, picked Ted up from where he lay, stashed him reverently in my shirt pocket and walked off, oblivious to the murmurings that trailed and then tailed off as I rounded the first corner. There was no way I was ever gonna be lucky enough to pluck that card from a store-bought pack but somehow life provides if only you’re plucky enough to commit to it. Who knows but that Brian Fitzpatrick is out there somewhere, sittin’ on a pile, and happier’n pig in shit. I never saw him again after that day, and I sure as hell didn’t hide. I knew, in my deepest secret soul, who got the better of whom in that contest. I’m betting he felt the same way. It was a good day unless you were a spectator, and there’s gotta be a lesson in that, somewheres.