I respectfully call my mother’s home “The Museum” because she has craftily decorated her home with memorabilia. Memorabilia from her childhood, my childhood, my siblings’ (brother and sister), sports, Irish culture, New England style, and country living. Her home is a tribute in many ways to her many, many years of sporting events like baseball games, swim meets, dance recitals, and graduations by not only her children but her grandchildren. Walk around my mother’s home and you will feel like you are in a wonderful museum full of interesting artifacts and really cool stuff.
Yesterday, I happened to find a cabinet with some of my old sports cards and baseball memorabilia. These cards had moved around my old room from place to place, finally landing in a cabinet under a shelf of trophies my brother and I acquired as teenagers playing youth sports in North Kingstown. My brother was in town from New Jersey with his family and I took the time to show my nieces how amazing their Dad was as an athlete. And, along with my wife and my son, we pulled out my old baseball card collection for a little show and tell, trivia 101, jogging the memory banks of the RIBBE (yours truly). I showed the girls and my son Harrison why baseball cards were so important to sports fans pre-internet.
I pulled out an Eddie Murray card and read the back to them. I showed them his picture, his stats, where he was born, and so on. Then, I asked them to “Google” Eddie Murray on their phones, which they did. Eddie Murray came up, his photo, his stats, where he was from, his Hall of Fame induction date, etc. “This was my internet growing up, reading,” I said them. From there, we proceeded to look through hundreds of cards and call out names and they would ask me if I knew them. And then we came upon a few local names and some interesting artifacts:
Billy Almon was the number 1 draft pick in 1974 for the San Diego Padres. Almon is from Providence, RI, played high school baseball in Warwick, and played collegiate baseball at Brown University. Billy Almon played over 1200 games in the Major Leagues, retiring in 1988. According to http://www.baseball-almanac.com, Almon actually recorded stats in 8 defensive positions, but never pitched in a game.
Here is a ticket I received as a student in 1983, so I would have been 11 years old in roughly the 6th grade at Wickford Middle School. It was a ticket to the Pawtucket Red Sox, general admission to any game from July 18th through August 7th. My choices were against Charleston (not sure whose affiliate this was), Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers affiliate), or the Richmond Braves (Atlanta Brave affiliate).
Most baseball fans refer to Dave Lopes as “Davey” Lopes. However, his card reads Dave Lopes. Lopes is from East Providence, RI and attended LaSalle Academy in Providence. He was drafted into Major League Baseball in 1968 after playing college baseball at Washburn University. He made his professional debut in 1972 and went on to play 16 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, and Houston Astros. Lopes was a Gold Glove winner and a 4 time All Star. Lopes won the World Series in 1981 as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lopes has been a coach and manager in professional baseball, as recent as 2017.
Matthew “Max” Surkont was born in Central Falls, RI and played his first professional game in 1949. Surkont pitched for 5 professional organizations including the Boston Braves and the New York Giants, which would have made him teammates with Willie Mays. Surkont was 6 foot tall and 215 lbs. and according to his baseball card “set a baseball record in 1953 by striking out 8 straight batters.” This professional record stood until 1970, when Tom Seaver struck out 10 consecutive batters. Max Surkont pitched in the Major Leagues for 9 seasons.
These are called “Topps Baseball Coins” and I have just a small collection that was handed down from my grandfather. He wasn’t a huge baseball fan but collected some cards and memorabilia over time. He knew I was a huge fan and he gave me a shoe box of cards and these coins when I was a teenager. There are some all time greats in this collection, starting with Willie Mays and Harmon Killebrew. There is Don Zimmer, Warren Spahn, and Tom Tresh. Jim Fregosi became a Major League Manager after his playing career. Jim Bunning became a United States Senator after his playing career.
This was a really fun afternoon with my family. I was able to take some cards and other memorabilia home with me for future articles. I left 99% of the other artifacts from “The Museum” intact for my next visit there.
Baseball stats and history courtesy of http://www.baseball-almanac.com.