This is the third in an ongoing series of articles written by readers who tell the stories of the sports memorabilia they collect and why.
Collect something that you love and you’ll never be disappointed. That’s how I got started with my obsession. Originally I was just a fan of my local pro baseball team, the Burlington Bees of the Class A Midwest League. I became fascinated with how long the team has been in existence and wanted to know more about those who played here in Iowa.
Billy Williams, Paul Molitor, Sal Bando, Vida Blue, Larry Walker and Mark Buehrle are just a few of the players who have worn a Burlington uniform on their way to the majors. The memorabilia helps tell that story–but so many others many folks have never heard.
Burlington baseball dates back to the 19th century. To me the enjoyment is showing people in the community where the team has been, not keeping it all locked up behind a door. After seeing various teams at the major and minor league level displaying their history I wondered why Burlington couldn’t so I talked with the team’s general manager and he was kind enough to let me set up displays at the ballpark to honor the guys who’ve played here. Some went on to greatness while others saw their careers end here.
Stop by and you’ll see game-worn uniforms, old programs, photos and other items.
Baseball at all levels has some crazy tales to tell. Perhaps the oddest item in my collection is a document from William Walters, one-time league president, suspending a fine of a player who was thrown out by a vindictive umpire.
Game-used bats are my favorite. I own over 100 Bee player bats, including one used by Eddie Stock in 1927.
Another unique piece I own would be a Bees lineup card from one of the largest comeback victories in baseball history. The Clinton Lumber Kings trailed Burlington 17-1—and came back to win in 12 innings in a game played three seasons ago. It made national news and Clinton’s lineup card is in the Hall of Fame.
I’m always searching for new finds of memorabilia. When Burlington items don’t appear I will look for anything associated with items from Dubuque, Iowa. I’ve never spent time there but I collect in honor of Mark Baker, a Dubuque resident who passed away from cancer last year. We became acquainted through our love of Midwest League baseball. One of those items is a remarkable 1905 Three-I League championship trophy that’s sits proudly on my desk and reminds me of that friendship.
This year I worked on bringing back members of the 1977 Midwest League championship team to mark the 40th anniversary. This summer, nearly 30 former Bees will be returning to a team and a town many says they still love. Next season I will be bringing the 1965 championship team back as well.
Thanks to these former players from the past 50+ years I’ve been able to piece together parts of the team’s history. I write to former players who are usually happy to share their memories. It is my hope that these letters will help preserve the memories of past players and allow fans to get to know them through their own words. I think it’s an important connection that deserves to be preserved. One day I would like to write a complete and definitive book about the team’s history.
I have a Facebook page I set up devoted to showcasing photos of past players and some of the memorabilia that tells the story of baseball in Burlington.
Do you want to tell the story of what you collect and why? From players to teams to complete sets, autographs, game-worn material and anything else that has kept you busy for years, we’d love for you to share your story in your own words and photos. Send us an email: [email protected]