A Passion within a Passion

Even if I have never met you before or have never even spoken with you before, I already know two things about you:

1) You are very passionate about baseball because if you weren’t, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now,

2) You probably have some type of passion within your passion for baseball, such as memorabilia collecting, score keeping, ballpark hopping, etc.

For me, my passion within my passion (not counting this blog site, that is) is my absolute love for getting baseballs autographed, especially by Dodger players past and present. But let’s be very clear about one thing right up front – my passion for getting baseballs autographed has absolutely nothing to do with trying to make a quick buck off of them on eBay or anywhere else. No, my passion for getting baseballs autographed is for one reason and one reason only – for my love of the game. My collection of autographed baseballs is exactly that – my collection of autographed baseballs – period.

Over the years, I have come to know many other autograph collectors, whether it be of baseballs, baseball cards, bats, jerseys, photographs or whatever; and one thing that every one of them and I have in common is that acquiring an autograph from someone whom you desperately want one from is an absolute rush. It’s like… well, I can’t even describe what it’s like but I can tell you one thing – there is nothing that makes me feel more like a kid again – nothing.

Nothing makes me feel more like a kid again than getting a ball autographed by someone who I desperately want one from. (Photo credit – Christina Cervenka)

I probably have in excess of 500 autographed baseballs in my collection; and while most of them are current and former Dodgers and Dodger minor leaguers, I have quite a few that are not. I also have maybe a dozen or so that I purchased on eBay or while visiting Cooperstown. Why did I buy them, you ask? Well, with all due respect, it’s kind of difficult to get a Don Drysdale or Johnny Podres or Jose Lima autograph these days, if you follow me. I also purchased baseballs signed by Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr., Mariano Rivera, Cal Ripken Jr., Yogi Berra and Nolan Ryan because, quite frankly, I probably won’t get the opportunity to get baseballs personally signed by any of them before either they or I… well… you know. And should I actually get baseballs personally autographed by them, then and only then would I sell the ones that I purchased.

So, out of my 500 or so autographed baseballs, which is the most precious to me? Well, there are actually two of them and they are in a class all of their own – these two:

My two ‘Holy Grails’ of autographed baseballs.

As for the two most precious autographed baseballs that I purchased, well that’s a no-brainer, it would be these two:

Don Drysdale is my all-time favorite Dodger but unfortunately I was never able to get a ball signed by him before he passed away in 1993 at only 56 years of age. I stumbled onto the Duke Snider ball on eBay with 11 minutes remaining in the auction and won it for (get this) $22. Two days later The Duke of Flatbush passed away. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the good Lord wanted me to have this ball.

As deep as my passion is for collecting autographed baseball, I have several friends who are equally passionate about collecting baseball cards, perhaps none greater that my good friend Harold Uhlman from Nova Scotia, Canada. Harold estimates his baseball card collection at more than 30,000, many of which are current and former Dodgers. But unlike most baseball card collectors, Harold is huge into collecting baseball cards of up and coming Dodger prospects. Because of my close proximity to the Dodgers Advanced Single-A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and, of course, the fact that I usually spend a week or more in Glendale, AZ during spring training each year, I am in a position to occasionally get some of his Dodger prospect cards autographed for him. Man, talk about a rush! Not only do I get to enjoy the pursuit and thrill of getting the autographs, but he gets autographed cards from some of his favorite prospects. It’s a win-win proposition, that’s for sure.

In addition to Harold’s passion for collecting baseball cards of current and future Dodgers, he is also (hands down) the biggest Duke Snider fan on the planet. Harold recently told me that he currently has 117 Duke Snider baseball cards, several of which are autographed. And Harold isn’t finished yet – he has 32 more Duke Snider cards on the way. Talk about feeling like a kid again!

Harold’s favorite Duke Snider card is his 1954 Topps card on the left. The other two are his favorite autographed Duke Snider cards.

I have another friend, John Chavez, who I met at Camelback Ranch during spring training two years ago and I ran into him again this past spring training as well. John is a die-hard Dodger fan who lives in Phoenix. John’s passion within his passion is getting bats and jerseys autographed. Although it took him nearly three years to do, John was finally able to get Kirk Gibson to sign a bat and a Dodgers number 23 jersey, which he plans to put into a shadowbox for display (how cool is that!). You would think that getting Gibson to sign these things would have been relatively easy for John since he lives in Phoenix, but he quickly found that Gibson is a bit of an eccentric and was extremely reluctant to sign a Dodger jersey. “I’m not with the Dodgers anymore,” he scolded John on his first (unsuccessful) attempt to get it signed at spring training two years ago. But persistence (and politeness) paid off and Gibby eventually signed it for him.

In addition to the autographed Kirk Gibson Dodgers jersey and bat, John will also include an autographed baseball in his shadowbox. It will truly be a beautiful piece of Dodger memorabilia, to say the least.

Whether its baseballs, cards, bats, jerseys, photograph or whatever, collecting autographs is definitely a very passionate hobby.

So what’s your passion within your passion?

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19 Responses to “A Passion within a Passion”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Nice article – thanks for the promo. The 1954 Duke Card is certainly my signature card. It is the one card that brings me back most closely to my early Dodger days. I still prefer the more plain cardboard cards to the highly glossed cards of today.

    I miss Duke.

  2. ebbetsfld says:

    My passion within the passion doesn’t concern material things. Oh yes, I have some autographs, but it’s my memories of times spent with the players, coaches, and other Dodger Fantasy Campers that give me so much joy. The autographs bring back those memories. Imagine watching the seventh game of the 2001 World Series with Davey Lopes and not just hearing his comments as the game progresses but discussing strategies. And, when the game ends having him ask you, “How did you know Lius Gonzalez would be the game-changer?”

    Just two days ago I drove from Toledo to Anderson, Indiana for my annual lunch with Carl Erskine and a couple of Fantasy Campers from Indianapolis (a three hour drive each way). We spent two hours just enjoying each others’ company, talking baseball, Special Olympics, and how our lives were progressing.

    And it’s the road trips with family and Fantasy Campers both to Minor and Major League Parks to watch the Dodgers and hang out with them at the hotel post-game renewing old friendships and making new ones. I look forward to the upcoming Spring Training where I’ll get to meet many TBLA’ers for the first time and catch up with lots of Fantasy Camp Buddies as we all fan the flames of our common passion!

    • Truebluewill says:

      Dick, when we meet at ST I definitely want to hear more about you watching the 2001 World series with Davey Lopes.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Excellent comments, ebbetsfld. Many of the things that you mentioned are in my initial passion – that is, the actual love of the game and, of course, the Dodgers. However, how could I possibly have omitted adult baseball camp when A) I went primarily because of you and your obvious passion for it; and B) I never would have gotten one of my two most treasured autographs (Sandy’s) had I not gone. So, yes, camp is definitely a passion within a passion and I thank you for mentioning it.

      Like Truebluewill, I would very much like to hear your stories about watching the 2001 World Series with Davey, who is (in my opinion) the very last of the old school Dodgers and the very last who even has a clue about what The Dodger Way was. (Sadly, I say was because it is gone forever).

      Off topic and as a side note, I still look back on that 2001 World Series as among the very best ever played. Obviously, I absolutely despise the Yankees, so any team playing them is my favorite team (except the Giants, of course). I vividly recall Gonzo coming to the plate and thinking to myself “If anybody can do it, Luis Gonzalez can,” and, of course, he did.

      Thanks again for the great reply!

  3. Truebluewill says:

    Ron, fantastic article. You hit a HR with this one. It’s hard for me to say what my passion within my passion is. I’ve dabbled in it all; collecting autographs, baseball cards, yearbooks, baseball guides, bobble heads, and on and on. The thing I like the most about getting autographs is the interaction between me and the player. It might last only a minute or two and consist of only a couple of sentences but it certainly gives me a thrill. Last year at the first Dodger-Met game when Andre Ethier came over to the railing where I was standing he looked at me and said, “Hi how are you.” He actually remembered me from the previous year. What a thrill that was!

    My most prized autographed baseball is the one which has the signatures of Duke Snider, Johnny Podres, Don Newcombe, and Carl Erskine four 1955 World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers. I was able to get each one of those in person, so you can imagine what a thrill that was. I just turned 60 last month, but when I’m standing at the railing near the field waiting to get an autograph from a Dodger player I feel like I’m 6 years old again.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Wow! What a great autographed baseball to have, Will. I am blessed to have all four of those guys, but each separately. To have them together on one baseball is incredible.

      What makes that ball even more significant is that three of the four were also on the 1959 World Series team – the first in Los Angeles, so you actually have a ball with ‘The Boys of Summer” first and last World Series victories – and that’s pretty incredible. (Newcombe was traded to the Cleveland Indians during the 1958 season or it would have been all four of them).

      If you can photograph the ball and email me the photos, I will post them on ether the blog or forum – or both.

      By the way – do you recognize anybody else in that photograph of Kershaw signing my 2012 All-Star Game ball? 🙂

      • Truebluewill says:

        He looks familiar. Could he be New York’s #1 Dodger fan?:)

        • Bluenose Dodger says:

          He might get an argument from OBF on the #1 fan thing, or Christina.

          • Truebluewill says:

            Harold, how can I handle this diplomatically. OBF is Brooklyn’s #1 Dodger fan and Christina would be New York’s prettiest Dodger fan.

          • Bluenose Dodger says:

            Not a big issue Will. Christina is the prettiest and there is no way you can compete for that.

            You didn’t say you were New York’s #1 Dodgers fan. You said, “Could he be New York’s #1 Dodger fan?” A question – so you covered your rear.

  4. Evan Bladh says:

    Ron, Are you a stickler for having players sign the correct ball from the era they played in? I have been trying to get a N.L. Warren Giles ball for the moment that I am able to get Sandy Koufax to sign it. I ordered one last week. Cost me $70 dollars. It arrived yesterday. It’s got some smudges and the Giles stamp is faded, but it is definitely from that era. THAT would be my pride and joy if I ever obtained his signature on that ball.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      I’m not a stickler for this in the least, Evan.

      The number one reason why I even get autographs is (as Truebluewill pointed out) the personal attachment and story associated with every one of them, and yes, every one of them has a story to it.

      Now if I were an eBayer and were only in it for the money, it might be different – but I’m not, so that isn’t important to me in the least.

      Obviously, several of the older autographed baseballs that I have (Drysdale, Podres, Berra, etc.) are on era-specific balls, which is kind of cool. But then, I would be a wee bit suspicious to see a Drysdale or Podres autograph on a Bud Selig ball, if you get my drift.

  5. ebbetsfld says:

    Speaking of autographed balls,I forgot to mention that when I had lunch with Carl he told us he has a very unique ball that was just appraised at a very substantial value. It is a one of a kind because it bears but three signatures – his, Sandy Koufax’s, and Bob Gibson’s, each with a date under the signature.Anybody care to hazard the three dates and their significance?

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      October 2nd – Koufax beat Erskine’s 14 World Series Ks with 15 and Gibson beat Sandy’s record with 17. I’ll pay $500 for that ball – hahaha!

      • ebbetsfld says:

        You da man, Ron. 10/2/53, 10/2/63, and 10/2/68!

        • Ron Cervenka says:

          Do I win the ball? 🙂

          Bob Gibson was at CBR at spring training two years ago but was whisked away in a golf cart by Colletti and Lasorda and didn’t stop to sign – damn it.

  6. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Carl – June 19/52 First no hitter

    Sandy – Sept 9/65 Perfect Game

    Bob – August 14/71

    Dates of no hitters.

  7. Bluenose Dodger says:

    How about this October 2. All in World Series play.

    Carl struck out 14 on October 2/53

    Sandy struck out 15 on October 2/63

    Bob struck out 17 on October 2/68

    • Bluenose Dodger says:

      That is just awesome. No wonder we love this game. How is that possible? Only in a perfect universe. Baseball universe, that is.

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