By Rich Klein
The National Convention is the greatest way to reconnect in person with hobby friends. Sometimes you travel the same path and continually see certain people while walking around while at other times you never see a person during the course of a show. However, if a person has a table/booth then the connection is somewhat easier. One example of someone who I did spend a few minutes talking with about the hobby was long-time auction house (Leland’s) owner Josh Evans.
First, I was very happy to see Josh in good health and fine fettle. Anyone who heard his speech during the Net54 dinner was rolling in the aisles with laughter as Josh has gotten better each year in his delivery. His quick witted responses to cell phones going off during his talk as well as his repartee with people asking him questions was top notch. And one of the questions asked brings back a favorite hobby memory of mine.
During the 1988 National as part of the proceedings, Josh using the Lelands name, held an auction to benefit the Jackie Robinson foundation with Rachael Robinson in attendance. I remember a couple weeks after the convention talking to Maureen Durham, the co-promoter of the National and hearing her say how disappointed she was that some of the dealers attended the luncheon and auction in t-shirts and shorts. Twenty-five years later, I hate to say this, but, these are baseball card dealers and to expect them to dress up for an event during a show is not going to happen in 1988 or 2013. Remind me to tell the great Aspen hotel jacket story sometime…
As an aside, I heard during this year’s convention that Ron Durham does the invocation before the Daytona 500 each year and a quick internet search shows that he is still married to Maureen. They now live in the Daytona Beach area.
As noted, the idea of an auction house selling items at major hobby events was actually created by Josh back in the 1980’s and a quarter century later he and his team are still at selling high quality items. While Josh and I disagree on “it’s always just stuff, some of the stuff is better than others”, he and his team should be proud of all the work they have done since the 1980’s.
And, on one of the most controversial topics Josh ever dealt in, we actually had a nice discussion triggered by his speech at the Net 54 dinner. Josh pointed out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (I should mention the original lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart from 1980 were available for viewing at his booth) has pieces of the plane in which Otis Redding (one of my favorite 1960’s R and B artists) and his back-up bank perished late in 1967. In 1968, Otis would become the first artist in the Rock era to have a #1 single released after he passed. Josh wondered why no one objected to that artifact but the Clemente family and fans were so vehemently opposed to his selling pieces of the ill-fated plane Roberto was on several years ago.
My personal belief was while Otis Redding was a popular music figure his popularity with fans and the general public wasn’t as great when he passed compared to Clemente, who remains an almost mythical figure in Puerto Rico and beyond. Clemente was considered a hero since he died while trying to deliver supplies to earthquake-stricken Managua, Nicaragua. As the 2005 auction neared an end, Lelands pulled the Clemente plane parts off the market.
Josh now knows he cannot sell any items from that plane yet I understand his belief that the parts are really historical artifacts.
And something totally unrelated to this article. I was reading the Sports Illustrated "Where are they now" issue and one of the features was about the movie cast from "The Sandlot". I, along with many other baseball fans, really enjoyed that movie, especially the time in which it was set. In reading the SI Article, there was a mention of a 1962 Topps Maury Wills card created for use with the movie but never distributed. There was also a mention that a couple of people involved with the movie had a copy of that card. Now, as a person whose first set ever completed in the hobby was a 1962 master set that is one card which would be my white whale.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]