A cherished memory from nearly a century ago could be memorable for a Nebraska businessman.
A 1917 Collins-McCarthy (E135) card of Babe Ruth was lovingly mounted in an Iowa woman’s memory book, a reminder of a date with a man who would eventually become her husband.
The Ruth card, graded 2.5 by PSA, will be part of Hunt Auctions’ Fall Premier sale. While collectors appreciate the addition of a fresh to the hobby Ruth original, the story behind the card and the family that owned it are fascinating.
Walter and Lillian
Walter Ree Stivers and Lillian Pearl Glenn had dinner and took in a movie one night during the 1920s in their hometown of Glenwood, Iowa, according to their grandson, Randy Stivers of Omaha.
Walter gave Lillian a baseball card of Ruth, which she mounted in a memory book called “My High School Days.”
That card — the Collins-McCarthy card of the Babe — shows Ruth as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. It was one of a 200-card set that was produced by the Collins-McCarthy Candy Co. of San Francisco.
“Baseball and Cracker Jacks,” the notation under the card read.
Lillian Glenn was born Aug. 13, 1906, in Glenwood. She graduated from Glenwood High School in 1923. The school’s yearbook that year, “T.N.T.” noted that Lillian was a member of the Glee Club and the National Training Club.
“Lillie” was “A maiden never bold,” according to the caption next to her senior picture.
She married Walter Stivers on Christmas Day, 1928, in Glenwood, according to Iowa State Department of Health records. The town of 6,000, located in southwestern Iowa, was named for Glenn Wood, a Presbyterian minister, according to Henry Gannett’s 1905 book, The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States.
Randy describes the town as “a quiet community.”
“They roll up the sidewalks at 5:30,” he joked.
Tragedy struck the Stivers family on Oct. 3, 1941.
Lillian Stivers died while doing laundry outside her Glenwood home.
“It was one of those outdoor washers,” Randy said. “She had an asthma attack and fell into the washer and drowned.”
Lillian was 35. She left her husband and two young sons, Walter Glen Stivers and Donald Lee Stivers.
The elder Walter Stivers was born July 11, 1903, and died Oct. 11, 1978, according to online vital statistics records. He still owned the memory book when he died, but Randy Stivers said his step-grandmother immediately set out to sell Walter’s belongings.
“The day he died, my step-grandmonster sold his coin collection,” Randy, now 60, recalled. “She put up all of his assets up for bid in a local auction.”
Like his grandfather, Randy collected coins.
“Our grandfather gave us $5 every birthday in silver dollars,” Randy said.
When Walter Stivers’ assets went on the block, his son Donald bought some items, including the memory book for about “$5 to $7.”
Randy, now an asset-liability management software associate for the past 15 years in Omaha, Nebraska, said he “went through the book” about 10 years ago.
He recalled that his father and uncle had baseball card collections when they were younger, but they lost them when a flood during the 1960s poured into the basements of their homes and ruined the cards.
Randy, meanwhile, also collected cards as a child.
“I used to collect as a kid and put them on my bike and I could hear the ‘whirrrrrrrrrrrrr” noise the cards made on the spokes,” he said. “When I went to college I put them in a closet at home. When I got out of college I came home and couldn’t find them so I asked my mom, and she said, ‘Uhhhhh.’”
Another collection tossed by a mom.
The Ruth card remained untouched in the book, however.
When Donald Stivers died at age 82 on Feb. 21, 2021, the family looked at the memory book and realized the Ruth card was still there.
“I said, ‘We’ve got to encase it,” Randy said. “And then find out if it was a copy or authentic.”
From a Memory to Memorabilia
Randy said he called several grading companies, but the pandemic had slowed the slabbing of cards to a crawl.
“I couldn’t get anywhere because of COVID,” he said.
After contacting several auction houses, Randy settled on Hunt Auctions. He said he was impressed with the company’s president, David Hunt.
“He contacted me after I sent some photos,” Randy said. “He was a nice gentleman, and he said, ‘I think you have something here.’”
Randy met Hunt at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont, Illinois, last week and the newly graded card was placed on display for the thousands of attendees to see.
The verdict on the card’s grade was a 2.5. “On another page (behind the card) was a letter that caused a crease on the front of the card,” Randy said.
It may not matter. Ruth cards are good sellers, and the Stivers family could make a handsome profit, likely over six figures. The card will be in an auction set to begin on October 11.
“It was a surprise,” Randy said. “I didn’t get to know my grandfather for very long.”
Randy was a finance major when he graduated from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, a school whose alumni include Jim Fanning, the first general manager of the Montreal Expos.
With a background in finance and banking, he knows that he has something special with the 1917 Babe Ruth card.
“You like to think that someone will come out with a diamond in the rough,” he said. “This (card) is one of them.”
If the card sells for a large price, what started as a lovers’ stroll will end with a big bankroll.