Jackie Robinson’s Rookie of the Year award went up for sale last week at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont. Lelands.com, the auction house, asked $1 million.
That got me thinking. What piece of sports memorabilia would I most like to own (assuming I could afford it)? Would it be the bat Lou Gehrig used to hit his first home run? The one Babe Ruth used to hit his last? Michael Jordan’s first pair of Nikes? Or a Muhammad Ali championship belt?
The Jackie Robinson rookie award would go high on my list, simply because it speaks of more than sports. It signals a shift in American history. At the mid-point in the 1947 baseball season, some writers were still dismissing Robinson, still reluctant to admit that a black man could be an impact player. One wag went so far as to say Robinson wasn’t even the Dodgers’ best rookie that year, giving that honor to Spider Jorgensen.
I think, if I were in the mood for a shopping spree, I would be very happy to go home with the Robinson trophy. But I don’t think it would be my most valuable piece of memorabilia. I don’t collect, but if I did, I’d go for the action items—the balls, bats, and gloves.
We collect to remember, to attempt to travel back in time, because single moments—the special ones—seem to jump out of the past and live forever and make us happy. That’s why, if I could have any piece of memorabilia, I’d choose the bat I used to hit a home run off of Stephen Messinger in Little League when I was 10 years old.
I think I was 10. Maybe I was nine, or 11. I can’t remember. But I do remember the feel of the ball hitting the bat and the angle of the line drive and the spot where it hit the grass and the two outfielders running after it as I rounded second and then third and the sound of my father’s voice cheering me.
It was my only career home run.
I’d like to have that one back.
OK, readers, tell me what piece of sports memorabilia you’d like to own.