My Collecting Story: Making a connection to Robin Roberts

When Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts died in May 2010 Phillies collectors lost a great friend of the hobby.  Roberts not only made appearances at countless card shows across the country - he also was a dependable target for fans who solicit autographs through the mail.  Last spring when Hunt Auctions put Roberts personal collection "on the block" we also learned that "Rapid Robin" was a huge collector himself.  While looking through the various lots up for bid I was really surprised how much stuff he saved.  There were obvious items like his 1950 NL Championship ring and a personal-sized Hall of Fame plaque presented at his Cooperstown induction in the summer of 1976.  But also included were Hall of Fame weekend passes for 30+ induction ceremonies and treasure troves of scrapbooks and game used baseballs among other things.

Being a mid-level collector, I knew I would not be in the bidding for his rings or uniforms and set my sites on less expensive, one-of-a-kind collectibles that link directly to the best right-handed pitcher in Phillies history.  I described one such lot to my wife as "a grab bag".  It contained a scrapbook from "his early career" and a pile of "personal" paper items.  My hope was to find something interesting and create that link to Robbie.  I ended up winning the lot without really knowing that I bought much more than the scrapbook.  It ended up yielding a couple nice additions to my collection:

  • The "early years" scrapbook which included newspaper clippings from Roberts' high school baseball and basketball career, his first collegiate victory and two years of independent ball.
  • An envelope labeled - "Newspaper clippings from Grandma Kalnis" which contained articles and photos related to the pitcher - spanning from his first season with the Phillies to his last as a coach with the Cubs and eventual induction into the Hall.  I turned these clippings into a full 30-page scrapbook chronicling his Hall of Fame career.
  • An envelope labeled "1950 World Series" which contained full newspapers from the last weekend of the 1950 season and through the '50 World Series.  Though the Phillies eventually lost to the Yankees 4-0, Whiz Kids collectibles remain highly valuable.  I hope to have these personal keepsakes from an original Whiz Kid turned into a scrapbook, too.
Also in the box were random letters to Roberts, various sports articles that he had saved for one reason or another and a number of photographs.  Tucked within this pile was an award dated April 25, 1957 and stated - "This certifies that Robin Roberts has been voted the first honorary member in the Overbrook School for the Blind Groundball Hall of Fame."  Being unfamiliar with the Overbrook School for the Blind I Googled the school's name and Robin Roberts.  I was surprised when a video match was found - an edition of "Behind the Pinstripes" from June detailed Roberts visit to the school and showed him receiving the award I now held.  It was really fun to discover the origin of the certificate - and was touching to see that the great pitcher retained it for 50+ years.  After watching the video I thought it may mean more to the school than it does to me and plan to return it to them in the near future.  

Overall this experience demonstrates what I feel is great about collecting.  It is the excitement of finding something interesting within your financial means, and the fun of researching and fitting it into your personal collection.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose - but, there is no buyers remorse in this collector for this purchase.