Had the great pleasure of joining the family of 2009 Frick Award Winner Tony Kubek on its private tour of the Hall (and lunch) and while private means private, I can share some of the artifacts and one very nice family image.
How many Tony Kubeks are in this photo?
That is the great Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek, Jr, on the left, of course, and his son, Tony Kubek III on the right, and in between them, Tony Kubek IV. The photo they have picked up is of the first Tony Kubek, congratulating his son the Yankee during his World Series triumphs in their native Wisconsin in 1957. The Hall prides itself on a file on literally each of the 17,000 or so players who’ve performed in the majors since 1871 (to say nothing of a few thousand more on executives, broadcasters, and even famous fans), and it gave the Kubeks a chance to look at Tony’s. The inductee himself stood by with a kind of patient stoicism, while insisting we should be looking at all the other neat stuff.
Such as this Shroud of Turin-like object, the importance of which Hall curators didn’t even fully comprehend until last year.
That, they thought, was some vintage sandlotters’ uniform, circa 1900. It had been labeled such for all the time it had sat inside the Cooperstown collection. Then the light hit it just right, and what seemed to be a murky discoloration on the right breast, just below where the sleeve is folded, revealed itself as the outline of a “Y.”
A similar “N” was found on the left, and certain other characteristics (like the buttons for converting the sleeves from short to long) became evident. That was a 1905 New York Giants’ uniform – the letters had simply come off, or been taken off, in the interim. In fact further investigation proved it was Christy Mathewson’s 1905 uniform. Not the one he wore during his three World Series shutouts that fall, but his regular season model.
Here’s another relic, a little blurry, and not for the faint-of-heart Red Sox fan:
Yep, promissory note, from Yankees’ owner Jacob Ruppert to Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, for part of the sale price of… Babe Ruth. The front signatures are Ruppert (r) and Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston (Ruppert’s less vocal partner – even though his middle name translated as ‘The Man God’). On the back is Frazee’s endorsement, plus five cents in official document tax stamps, used to retire the debt from World War One.
Thus you are looking at what you get when you sell your soul.
The Mathewson shirt (there was also a 1930-era Babe Ruth brought out for our gasping pleasure) is part of a vast collection, kept in archival quality boxes stacked atop each other. They were not just major leaguers’ – there were half a dozen at least from the All-America Girls’ Baseball League of the ’40s and ’50s – and they were certainly not all Hall of Famers’, which brings us to this anomaly of an image.
So Pete Rose is in the Hall of Fame – boxed between Jackie Robinson and Al Rosen.
Which causes my mind to wander off the point, and the famous Rose joke from the early ’80s that enabled card collectors and memorabilia dealers to be the first to sense something was very wrong with Pete’s finances. Collector goes up to a uniform dealer and asks for a game-worn Rose jersey.
Buyer: He wore all these in games?
Buyer: There are a lot of them. I can’t decide
Dealer: Well. Cincinnati, Montreal, or Philadelphia?
Buyer: Uh, Cincinnati
Dealer: Home or Away?
Buyer: Um, home?
Dealer: ’60s vest style or ’70s-era doubleknit?
Dealer: What size would you like?
This last item is not from the priceless archives, nor the temperature-controlled storage vaults beneath the public displays, nor was it gingerly handed to us by Exhibitions and Collections Director Erik Strohl, but it was as wonderful a find as I could’ve had. Two 1988 Topps cards, tacked up to a cork board in the librarians’ main area, reflecting at once the difficulties of baseball research and record-keeping, and its sheer silliness:
Yep. Andy Allanson, and Allan Anderson. A beautiful kind of symmetry.
And this brings me to the last and saddest of the imagery. It is not in the Hall, but rather, in a CVS Drug Store nearly directly across the street from the Hall. It is not in front of the CVS, where Bob Feller was signing autographs when I last walked by, ninety minutes or so ago. It is not even in the front of the CVS. It is in the back, near the tissues.
There. Third shelf from the bottom, below last year’s baseball cards, and the boxes of Red Sox brand tissues. To the left.
Take a closer look.
Oh Holy Toledo Mudhens – it’s a pile of autographed 8 x 10’s of ex-Giant and Yankee John “The Count” Montefusco. Your cost? $4.95 each. The prints themselves probably cost 50 cents apiece, and rigid photo-holders that size are worth just about that. Meaning “The Count’s” Amount is down to about four bucks at the CVS in Cooperstown. And they were not flying off store shelves.
Fame is fleeting.
And with that, this is your faithful correspondent signing off from blog central, on the front porch,
on one of the prettiest streets of the Democracy, until an update after tonight’s big soiree or tomorrow morning’s pre-induction mayhem.