This morning was about as exciting as it gets these days. The money was deposited in our savings account to cover all the closing costs on our new Florida home and the builder took us on a detailed tour of the exposed wiring, plumbing, and structure. Our new home is slowly coming together based on the model we selected and the modifications that we arranged. Ten-foot ceilings, eight-foot doorways, a larger garage, upgraded appliances, and a pool are gradually becoming reality. I will share the floor plan and some photos with my friends shortly in a Zoom “Leadership Meeting.”
This afternoon, I will then put together a plan for to tomorrow’s baseball card show. I want to fill in some lineups for the 1954-1972 White Sox teams. I also added some photos to my Sherm Lollar collection this past week with some E-Bay purchases. Switching back and forth between hobbies keeps things from getting too routine. Card collecting, genealogy, and writing have been the mainstays of retirement. It’s been frustrating not being able to travel, as well, but at least a trip to Florida is only a week away. We’ll check out the house in person, visit with friends & family, drive down through The Keys, and spend a week in Miami. Florida is the one place that has been consistently open this past year, so we’ve managed three visits, including the cross-country drive.
It was another frustrating finish for I.U. basketball last night. A chance to beat Wisconsin in Madison for the first time in 23 years fell short in double overtime. We were on the verge of winning in regulation and overtime, but the second extended period was all Badgers. The next game is Sunday at Nebraska, with must-win expectations. The new year has not been kind to the Hoosiers with key losses in both football and basketball. At least, I have a new home to look forward to in March since Madness may not happen again for this very average BIG team. Today’s home inspection, however, has lifted my spirits about the future.
In these times of no baseball or other popular sports, it’s important to savor the past and why a silly game has so much personal meaning. I blame it on my dad, taking me to games as a kid. High school basketball in our hometown, Notre Dame football, and occasional trips to Chicago for the Cubs or White Sox were bonding moments for us. I used the same magic on my son. I can remember fiddling with the TV antenna to watch a game with either of them, although we had an electronic rotor by the time I became an adult. It sure beat aluminum foil or climbing up on the roof. My son also got to see NBA and college basketball, NFL football, auto racing, and soccer with me. We still share an interest in baseball cards, but he’s more for the Cubs than my White Sox.
My dad started as a Tigers fan, but eventually became a die-hard Cubs supporter. As a grandfather, he lured my son to the Cubs side. I had no choice but to play along, although my loyalties still lie with the Sox. It all comes down to one man, that I’ve never met, but a childhood memory keeps our relationship strong. In the 1959 World Series in glorious black & white, Sherm Lollar hit a home run against the Dodgers, and even though they lost the war, it was at least a battle won, and a lifelong attraction to the number 10 that he wore on his back.
Some may joke that I’m still obsessed with this man who has been dead for 43 years. I did see him play when my dad took me several times to Comiskey Park, and still know the line-up of those White Sox teams of the 60’s. It wasn’t for another 46 years before they got back the World Series and actually won. I was there for two of the games in the sweep of 4. It’s too bad Sherm couldn’t have been around. Cancer took him at the early age of 53. Although, he did get a World Series ring in New York before he joined the Sox, and one more with the Orioles as the bullpen coach. It’s also a shame that more catchers have not been voted as Hall-Of-Famers, because they are the heart & soul leaders of any team. The glory always goes to the pitcher. Unfortunately, I don’t think he will ever get the defensive credit that he’s long overdue.
I’m not a wealthy man that can spend a lot of money on baseball cards and memorabilia. They were like gold to me growing up, even though I abused a few Yankees on my bicycle spokes. If I had extra money, I would spend it at the neighborhood store on bubble gum packs and trade the duplicates with my friends. As a retiree, I reverted back to childhood and joined a group of collectors, knowing that I couldn’t compete with their high-priced Mickey Mantles or Ty Cobbs. Fortunately, for me Sherm Lollar was not on the Cooperstown wall and therefore his cards were relatively affordable. As it turns out, however, there were hundreds of them made by various manufacturers over his 28 years of playing and coaching, not to mention photos, articles, ticket stubs, yearbooks, score cards, cartoon likenesses, promotional items, and ads. He was even a Trivial Pursuit question, beanie pin, card game, and coin. Sadly, he never got his own bobble-head or figurine, but there were glasses, plastic cups, mitts, catcher’s masks, and stamps bearing his likeness and/or signature. At the end of his career he owned a bowling alley, and provided a post card for patrons to get his signature. I was able to secure one of these, after his nephew sold some of his personal collection.
I have Sherm Lollar’s signature on cards, photos, scraps of paper, and baseballs. My rarest find is his uniform #10 from the first four games of 1956. It’s hard to imagine that I’ve spent over $4,000 on items that mean little to anyone but me. I will probably never recover that investment even if he somehow gets into the Hall. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a movement on his behalf. I care for his memory and family, but I could have never gathered so much of his past on my limited budget. Granted, there are famous teammates and fellow All-Stars of his on some items, adding to their value. I have him in photos along side of Yogi Berra, Bill Verdon, Al Lopez, Marty Marion, Minnie Minoso, Early Wynn, Frank Hayes, to mention a few.
Over the past month, with little to do, I’ve added to to my Sherm Lollar collection, that has to be one of the largest in existence. A photo of him with Billy Pierce showing off #10, another with Frank and Brooks Robinson, plus a couple of magazine pictures have been recently added to my bulging notebook. A 1960 ticket stub, a team photo from the 1951 St. Louis Browns, and a couple additional magazine clippings are in the mail. Within reason, I’ve vowed to add whatever I can, because within my circle of fellow collectors, that I have been separated from during months of social distancing, I’m known as the “Sherm Lollar Guy” and have the t-shirt to prove it!
I did feel like an “Old Sport” in my running “Shorts” this morning, dragging a sore left leg and extra weight on top of my concrete-like feet. It was slow going on Day #4129 of “The Streak,” thinking of how much longer I’ll be able to maintain this daily routine. I think this viral threat has aged me both physically and mentally. It’s hard to get going every day in a fight against an enemy we can’t see coming. Some of my favorite past-times have been taken away in the process, including basketball and baseball just for starters. As I mourn the lack of sports in my life, I at least wanted to write about it today!
To think I was on my way to Spring Training and in anticipation of March Madness when this whole pandemic started. The hotel where we were staying would soon empty and the restaurants began to slowly shut-down. We got on a plane to fly back, leary of what was to come in the way of self-quarantine, social distancing, and protective gear. My reality was the fact that all sports stopped when at first play was restricted to just fans. At least, we’d be able to watch on TV, but instead we’re stuck on re-play. Out of habit, I continue to check the ESPN app, but unfortunately there’s little to report.
I did run across Tim Kurkjian’s article about baseball uniform numbers and the greatest players in history to wear each one. It struck me because as a kid I was drawn to #10 when it came time to pick a uniform. It was because of my catching hero Sherm Lollar of the Chicago White Sox. I have his 1955 uniform in my collection, along with lots of cards, pictures, and stories about his career. I would imagine that many other kids made similar decisions in Little League based on their favorites.
#10 in the article was assigned to Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves, a top-four Hall of Fame third baseman. He was born as I turned twenty-one. Sherm sadly died five years later. I’m sure there are those that adopted #10 based on Chipper’s popularity. Sherm, I’m sure was far down the list of those wearing the number, since he will probably never inducted into the Cooperstown Club. Chipper’s #10 was ceremoniously retired by the Braves, while infielder Yoan Moncada currently wears it for the White Sox. Sparky Anderson, Dick Howser, Phil Rizzuto, Ron Santo, Tony LaRussa, Tom Kelly, and Michael Young all wore #10 and were honored by their respective teams by not allowing others to ever wear it again. Howser, Kelly, and Young have yet to be inducted nationally.
Kurkjiun reported that the Yankees were the first to put numbers on the back on their jerseys starting in 1929. “The numbers often corresponded to where the player hit the batting order, which is how Babe Ruth ended up with No. 3 and Lou Gehrig No. 4.” Other Yankees secured their place in numbers history with Derek Jeter #2, Joe DiMaggio #5, Mickey Mantle #7, Sherm’s rival Yogi Berra #8, Alex Rodriguez #13, Whitey Ford #16, and Roy Campanella #39. Many of my childhood baseball peers fought over Mickey and Yogi’s numbers, while #10 was usually always available.
Some kids wanted to be #1 like Ozzie Smith or #6 Stan Musial, particularly if they were Cardinals’ fans. #17 Dizzy Dean and the Gaslight Gang was slightly before my time. If you were a Reds’ fan, Barry Larkin #11 or controversial Pete Rose #14 were probably your top uniform choices. Ted Williams wore #9 while Red Sox traitor to the Yankees Johnny Damon #18, Tony Gwynn claims #20, Roberto Clemente #21,Clayton Kershaw #22, “Say Hey” Willie Mays #24, Barry Bonds #25, Wade Boggs #26, and Mike Trout #27. They are each Hall-of-Famers on Kurkjian’s list. With the current trends in free-agency, it’s more challenging for a player to retain the same number throughout their career, particularly if it’s retired by the team they join. Big bucks have also been rumored to change hands during team transitions since the number is part of a player’s brand.
In the higher ranges of uniform numbers, everyone wears No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Hank Aaron wore #44 on his back, Nolan Ryan #30, Greg Maddux #31, and Sandy Kolfax #32. If you were into base-running speed you might crave the number 35 of Ricky Henderson fame. Orel Hershiser owns #55, the highest number on this particular list. Other pitchers like Goose Gossage chose #54, Don Drysdale #53, CC Sabathia #52, Randy Johnson #51, J.R. Richard #50, Hoyt Wilhelm #49, Tom Glavine #47, Lee Smith #46, Bob Gibson #45, Dennis Eckersley #43, Bartolo Colon #40, Curt Schilling #38, spit-baller Gaylord Perry #36, and Tom Seaver #41.
I’ve been skipping around quite a bit on the ESPN list with preference given to some of my more familiar favorites. For the record, these are all great players, with just a few yet to gain Hall-of-Fame status. The best defensive second-baseman in his opinion was #12 Roberto Alomar, Carlos Beltran tops those wearing #15, followed by #20 Mike Schmidt, #23 Ryne Sandberg of the Cubs, Bert Blyleven #28, Rod Carew #29, Eddie Murray #33, Big Papi, David Ortiz #34, Keith Hernandez #37, and last but not least Torii Hunter #48. At this stage, too many uniform numbers have already been claimed forever, so modern day players will have to start at #56 to make a lasting numerical impression. Who will be the first to wear #100 or #1000? Manny Ramiriez and Aaron Judge have already claimed #99, while Yasiel Puig wears #66. It’s a number game – what’s lucky for you?