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The Oddball Insider E-Zine

December, 2006 - Vol. 7, No. 12  Issue #129

  • Knuckleballs by Dave Clark
  • Autograph Hound by Marc Schoder

  • Read previous issue

    KNUCKLEBALLS, By Dave Clark - Knuckleball HQ

    Big C

    I don't know how he got the nickname Big C or why. It may have to do with the remarkable connections he makes with others.

    We mutually collect memorabilia of one of his best friends, Phil Niekro. Our rule has always been to help each other, and not ever swap checks, but to send the other something to add to their collection they may prize, with little regard to monetary value.

    The out-of-this-world connections forged between me and Big C this way are beyond chance. There is something astonishing about this man and his relationships.

    Once I sent him a cardboard drink cup lid with Phil's photo on it, a giveaway on soft drink cups marketed by Isaly's, a small central New York ice cream chain gone past. Little did I know. It turned out that Big C grew up in central New York, and the lid brought back warm memories of his father bringing him many times to the local Isaly's as a youth.

    A friend bought a box of old newspapers, and he gave me one because he found Phil's name in a Braves boxscore and thought I should have it. I noticed there was a "PR" next to Phil's name. I sent the paper to Big C and asked him what was up with that. Phil and Big C were out fishing a few days later, and, in a quiet moment, C showed Phil the boxscore and asked him about it. Phil asked, "I never told you about that game?" In this one, Phil almost had his first and only stolen base, but the hilarious story that went with it went on for about a half-an-hour, according to C, maybe because they were laughing so hard about it. I have all the cards, oddball photos and autographed items, a game-used shirt, hat, and bat, overstuffed three-ring binders and plastic tubs packed with souvenirs, but that's the only item straight out of a newspaper I ever acquired.

    Big C once returned the favor. (Cue the Twilight zone theme music, if you haven't already.) He sent me a copy of the Braves' history, and less than halfway down the foreword, I stopped, stunned. It related how the Braves are the oldest continually operating pro sports franchise in America, and how it was begun in 1871 in Boston by Ivers Whitney Adams. I know the name well. I was brought up in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, hometown of benefactor Ivers Whitney Adams. The town symbol is a bronze statue of a schoolboy he donated, which stands not far from the location of the old town reservoir, part of the water system Adams donated to the town. I thought I knew everything about him. I didn't know his connection to baseball, and I discovered that this fact was essentially lost to the town's living history. With a friend, I co-chaired a benefit, a baseball festival, to celebrate the game and Adams, and to raise funds for a bronze marker to honor his nearly-lost contribution to national sports history.

    There may only be two or three people in existence who would have read the book, read the foreword, and grasped the significance of that obscure note. Out of all the old newspapers I could have hunted down and kept for my collection, why is this one the only one to fall my way? And how many could help use an obscure promo item to reconnect a close friend with a boyhood ice cream chain in one tiny area of the entire world?

    And this isn't even what really gives me pause.

    Big C has a lot of friends, counting at least two Hall-of-Famers. He has a lot of family, scattered wide across the country. He surely has many friends and relatives I don't know about and never will, but I can guess I'm not the only one he knows who has experienced these unbelievable connections to him.

    There are many people who have been called remarkable, for the good work they have done, their uplifting spirit, their bearing, their wisdom and leadership. But what goes on between Big C and others of this world is a relationship, a bond, that a dictionary has yet to have a term for.

    Big C has something going with people, the likes of which I don't think exists anywhere else in the world. I'm astonished. I'm grateful. And I thoroughly enjoy his friendship.

    Now I understand the word, "remarkable".

    eTopps - Are You Fan Enough?

    AUTOGRAPH HOUND, By Marc Schoder - Autograph Dog

    Autographs and Art, Part 2

    Shorey said what began as a small addition to his collection evolved into a truly emotional experience for him.

    Shorey said being a family man limits the time he can go and meet athletes in person to get autographs. "Most of my autographs are obtained through the mail, writing directly to the players," he said. "Others are obtained in-person at show appearances, and through online auctions." He said although he doesnít see the mail items being signed personally, he has conducted years of market research on baseball autographs. "I have familiarized myself with what a specific playerís signature looks like, so I am confident that they are legitimate," said Shorey. "There have been many stories about forgeries, so there is a constant awareness of the signing habits of current or superstar players." Shorey said many of the autographs he gets are from obscure players, ones that are not so engulfed in media hype or driven by huge profits.

    Shorey noted "Iíd have to say that of all the players Iíve met in-person over the years, Iíve never had a bad experience." Shorey said the notable players he has met include: Red Sox players Jim Rice, Mo Vaughn, Bill Lee, Kevin Youkilis and Jim Lonborg. He has also met John Havlicek, Steve Grogan, Whitey Ford, Phil Niekro, and former LA Laker star James Worthy.

    Shorey, whose main collection consists of several different areas, admits that his primary focus is collecting baseball autographs. "There have been several tangents emerge from that original focus, including signed cards, baseballs, memorabilia, and my own sports artwork," said Shorey. "I also collect Red Sox memorabilia, figurines, and Wade Boggs items, which alone exceeds 20,000 items now."

    Shorey said in the years that he has been collecting; he has been able to obtain what most would consider unique items. "Iíd have to say that the strangest piece would be a rubber chicken signed by Wade Boggs," said Shorey. He continued to say that the former Red Sox third baseman was called "The Chicken Man" during his playing days. "There arenít many items of him that I didnít have," he said. "I thought that would be a really unique addition to the collection."

    Shoreyís collection goes beyond just collecting sports art as well. "Other items I can remember are four individual felt juggling balls each signed by a member of the Flying Karamazov Brothers, and a signature of USA softball star Jennie Finch on a Modern Bride magazine with her picture on it." The 37-year-old admits that he, not his wife went to the newsstand to buy it. "OK, so my autograph collecting can get a bit obsessive," Shorey said with a laugh.

    The New England native said that, since he has starting collecting in 1975, the invention of the Internet auction site eBay has influenced his collection the most. "When I started collecting cards, then memorabilia in 1986, the only way to obtain items was from the local card shop, or at a very infrequent card show," said Shorey. He said that before eBay any other buying was done through mail-order advertisements in trade magazines. "My collection has grown exponentially because of eBay, and many of the items in my collection would have been virtually impossible to obtain otherwise," he said. "Some collectors say eBay has taken away the 'thrill of the hunt' aspect of collecting, but I believe the overwhelming majority of collectors would say that eBay has been a positive tool in building their collection."

    Shorey said, with the large boom of the hobby in the last 20 years, he believes that the hobby is dying. "I think, in some ways, the hobby is dying, certainly for younger collectors or collectors with a limited budget," said Shorey. "Many are simply priced out of the hobby, as a single pack of cards has gone from 20 cents (in my youth) to over one hundred dollars for specialized ones today." Shorey said, with the inflated prices of the industry, that currently he doesnít purchase a lot of new cards. "I would be lying if I said I purchase a lot of newly issued cards. I simply cannot. I wait for the dealers to 'cherry pick' the few expensive insert cards from a product and dump the majority of what remains (considered unwanted) in bulk form at discount prices," he said.

    Shorey said that the autographed memorabilia industry however, is alive and well. "Online auctions are inundated with potential buyers, competing for items that run the gamut from Babe Ruth-signed items to Craig McMurtry-signed items," he said. He said that autograph guests can command astronomical fees, and as long as a collector is willing to pay the fees, it will continue to worsen."

    Shorey said that he considers his autograph collection an investment. "The driving factor in building my collection is not money, but for enjoyment of the game and the unique experiences Iíve had writing to the players," he said. "When it no longer involves fun, Iíve collected my last autograph."

    Marc Schoder is a freelance writer and computer consultant in New Mexico. He can be contacted at or or by e-mail at

    The contents of the respective articles represent the opinions of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the editor/owner of The Oddball Mall Sports Cards.

    © Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.

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