Does Tom Landry’s fedora qualify as a scientific exhibit?
It does in Dallas, where the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is presenting its “Eye of the Collector” exhibition, which runs through September 5. It’s a look at the reasons why people and museums collect things.
“Star Wars” memorabilia, Pez candy dispensers, duck decoys and vintage bicycles will be on display — along with the ultimate Cowboys collection, owned by Dallas attorney Bob Bragalone.
“There’s a lot of pop culture in this science and nature museum,” said Bragalone, 51, who is loaning “about 1 percent” of the items from his “Cowboys Shrine” to the Perot Museum. You can watch a short video of it here.
That’s approximately 100 pieces of memorabilia, including the fedora worn by Landry, the original coach of the Cowboys, during the famous (or infamous, depending on your loyalties) “Hail Mary” NFC playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings in December 1975. Other items on display: Game-worn uniforms by quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Don Meredith, running back Emmitt Smith and defensive tackle Bob Lilly; a megaphone used by the Cow Belles & Beaux male and female cheerleaders in the 1960s (he owns two of them); a red-and-yellow pennant from the Cowboys’ inaugural 1960 season; ticket stubs; and footballs.
The Perot exhibit is merely a taste of what Bragalone owns. His suburban home northwest of Dallas that he built in 2011 has a 4,000-square foot walk-out basement that he calls the “Cowboys Shrine.”
“It’s got to be the ultimate man cave,” said Bragalone, who is the former managing partner of the Dallas office of Gordon & Rees.
It’s hard to argue with his logic. The Cowboys Shrine museum has a logo designed by Bragalone, a snack bar with an authentic menu (a Hail Mary burger — that’s Staubach to Drew Pearson, No. 12 to No. 88 — sells for $12.88), a theater and a hidden door off the snack bar that takes visitors into a private museum. There is a pool table, a poker table, a pinball and slot machine — all adorned with Cowboys logos — and a foosball table with opposing players dressed in Cowboys uniforms of the 1970s and ’90s.
“Staubach and Troy Aikman are the opposing goalies,” Bragalone said.
There is the actual locker stall once used by Staubach and Aikman, which Bragalone bought in 2009 for $5,500. Bragalone also bought a turnstile from Texas Stadium when the old home of the Cowboys was imploded. He purchased the Landry fedora, which comes with a letter of authenticity from the late Cowboys coach, in 2000 for $2,400 in an eBay auction.
Bragalone said the fedora and the Staubach jersey “are tied” for his favorite pieces of Cowboys lore.
The Shrine includes game-used jerseys, bobbleheads, pennants, pins, exact replicas of all five of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl trophies, ticket stubs (including a 1960 Packers vs. Dallas “Rangers” stub), programs, lighters, and more than 200 pieces of artwork that includes the original “Cowboy Joe” logo. He owns old paychecks, endorsed on the back by players and coaches; contracts; media guides; pocket schedules; footballs and helmets signed by team members; and a 6-foot pennant that was hung during Super Bowl VI.
Bragalone is featured in a 2012 book by Harvey Aronson, “Pro Football’s Most Passionate Fans,” which profiles diehard fans who were honored at the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the Visa Hall of Fans (Bragalone was the 2002 recipient).
There is also a shrine within the Shrine — the Texas Stadium Shrine, Bragalone calls it.
“Texas Stadium didn’t implode,” he said. “It moved to my place.”
There is turf from old Texas Stadium, with some of the painted logos that were on the football field including a Cowboys helmet; and a painted mural in one of the “end zones” depicting the Bragalone family cheering another Dallas touchdown. Well, almost all of them; more on that later.
This stuff isn’t cheap. With 55 years of memorabilia, plus the enhancements to the shrine, Bragalone has doled out a lot of cash.
“Gosh. Never added it up,” he said. “Probably $500,000 at least.”
But after some further calculations, Bragalone revised the figure upward.
“When you consider how each bobblehead costs $30 these days, it may be closer to $700,000 to $800,000 of actual cash outlay,” he said.
And make no mistake; Bragalone owns a lot of bobbleheads.
Why the obsession? It’s normal for a devoted fan to have season tickets, for example — Bragalone’s are in Section 329 at AT&T Stadium, by the way — or attend three of the Cowboys’ Super Bowls (XXVII, XXVII and XXX). But isn’t this desire to own everything Cowboys a little over the top?
“Some people say there’s a collector gene,” Bragalone said.” It’s just a natural way for me to connect to my team.”
That connection began at an early age, while Bragalone was growing up in Kansas, 30 miles west of Kansas City. His father, Ray, grew up in Ohio and excelled in sports at Campbell Memorial High School, where he was inducted into that school’s hall of fame in 2000. Ray Bragalone also attended Indiana University and was a quarterback for the Hoosiers in 1954, but a separated shoulder limited his action. But Ray still loved football and took Bob and his other son, Jeff, to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in the mid-1970s.
The irony in this obsessive Cowboys tale is that Bragalone’s father was a diehard fan of Dallas’ main rival, the Washington Redskins. Ray Bragalone, a career military man who served in Korea and Vietnam, rose to the rank of colonel and was awarded a Bronze Star, was working at the Pentagon in the late 1960s and got Redskins fever.
“I overcame long odds,” Bob Bragalone joked.
But in the early 1970s, Ray was stationed in Korea for a year and left his family in the states. Bob’s mother, Huda, moved the family to Texas to be closer to her relatives. Bragalone’s obsession with the Cowboys truly took off there, thanks to Bragalone’s uncle and aunt, Fareed and Insaf Hassen. The first football game he ever watched was Super Bowl VI, when Dallas won its first title by defeating Miami 24-3.
Ray Bragalone, who died in January 2004, is immortalized on the mural in the Texas Stadium Shrine. As Dez Bryant celebrates a touchdown by the goal post, the Bragalone family is joyous in the background— except for Ray, who is wearing his Redskins jersey, rolling his eyes and crossing his arms.
Dad didn’t know what to make of Bragalone’s collection.
“He was a kid of the Depression, an Army colonel,” he said. “He wasn’t too sure about spending money on a collection.”
Bragalone’s shrine became a reality after he earned his law degree from the University of Texas in 1990. His collection originally consisted of football cards he had collected as a youth beginning in 1972, which resided in a bookcase in his apartment. But after he bought his first house in 1994, Bragalone set his sights higher.
“I wanted bigger stuff,” he said.
That house was 1,500 square feet, which included a 500-square foot game room upstairs.
The Cowboys’ Super Bowl run in the 1990s, the birth of eBay and plenty of disposable cash allowed Bragalone to build his collection. By the time he married Emily Torgussen in 1999, his collection was growing — fast. Bragalone describes his wife as a “game day” fan.
“She’s not a huge fan,” he said. “She just roots for them on game day because she wants a happy husband.”
Emily does have a sense of humor, though. In 2007 she allowed the crew of “Dateline NBC” to hide a camera inside a helmet to peek at Bragalone as he watched a Cowboys game. In the episode, “Honey You’re On Hidden Camera,” she asks her husband to do some chores during the game. The result, predictably, is humorous.
While Bragalone’s collection seems all-inclusive, there still are some items he’d like to acquire.
“Most of it would be in the private collections of Tom Landry and Roger Staubach,” he said. “The game ball for Landry’s first win in 1961, the painted game ball from Super Bowl VI, his Hall of Fame jacket.
“I’d be all over this stuff if it ever came to auction.”
Bragalone did try to obtain Landry’s No. 49 jersey from his playing days with the New York Giants, but abandoned that quest when the bidding got too high.
“I bid up to $10,000 but couldn’t stomach bidding more,” he said.
Bragalone recently spoke with Staubach’s wife Marianne and daughter Jennifer Staubach Gates, who is a member of the Dallas City Council. While they had heard about Bragalone’s collection, Staubach’s wife and daughter were amazed when they saw part of it.
Bragalone, seizing an opportunity, issued an open invitation to the Staubachs (including Roger) to visit his home and see the Shrine.
“I am hoping against hope to get them all over, it would be a total hoot,” he said.
Surprisingly, no Cowboys player — past or present — has seen the Shrine, although Bragalone said some team executives have.
The Perot exhibit is the perfect outlet for Bragalone to show off parts of his collection, and he admits he is enjoying the publicity.
“It’s kind of fun to have some notoriety. I’ve always been a collector,” he said. “The publicity is fun, but there is nothing better than sharing it.”
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