Seven years ago a friend asked me why there wasn’t a podcast on TTM autograph collecting. I loved the idea, but I lacked the time to start up something new, so I just forgot about it.
Enter Jeff Baker. A longtime collector, Boston sports fan, and journalist, he was the perfect person to bring this idea to life. TTMCast launched in January 2019 and Jeff produced over 300 episodes of the flagship weekend show, the mid-week TTMCast 1-on-1 spinoff, and the nationally syndicated Sports Collectors Club radio show. He interviewed a wide range of people in the sports collectibles world– from executives at hobby mainstays to creators of up and coming companies to athletes to everyday collectors like you and me. Authors, directors, musicians with sports connections. The show hit nearly 100,000 downloads across its five years.
Jeff passed away this past weekend at the age of 58 following a brief illness and hospitalization. His unexpected death has brought in tributes and condolences from all over the world of sports collectors.
“In fifty plus years of collecting, my last three have been more focused just based on conversations with Jeff,” said Buffalo Sabres supercollector David Snyder. “He is and will always be a pioneer in our TTM community and will remain a guide to my future in the hobby.”
Jeff wrote for several sites including Sports Collectors Daily where he wrote a weekly column focused on his TTM successes and stories. He also contributed stories from the Shriner’s show and the Legends of Basketball event in Florida.
Jeff was widely seen as a hobby ambassador and was seen at card shows all over New England and even making near-annual trips to the National. He had been looking forward to upcoming trips to Spring Training in Florida and the MLB All-Star Game in Texas.
“Jeff’s show inspired new collectors and helped to regenerate old collectors,” said Les Wolff, a longtime autograph dealer who was a regular on the podcast. “The business is still catering to high-end collectors more than the middle of the road spenders, and Jeff was terrific at representing them. He was full of personality, loved collecting, and loved what he did with the show.”
From TTM collector Aubrey Turner, “One of the things I really appreciate about Jeff is that he was so inclusive in the hobby. When we talked for the podcast, I didn’t know the details of every single autograph I had, but he made me feel important, and I really think that is such a valuable point of character.”
Above all, Jeff was always helping others and spotlighting charitable efforts in the hobby. Besides inspiring new collectors or advising those returning after a hiatus, he often worked to assist others in the collecting community. His efforts helped the Lampila family reconstruct their collection after being ravaged by Hurricane Ian, and last December’s “Give-A-Card, Get-A-Card” drive helped gather autographs for Signatures For Soldiers to sell to support disabled veterans while also providing different cards to collectors.
Outside of the hobby, he and his family also worked closely with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, as he and his son Andrew won the 2015 Dustin Pedroia Heart League Award, while he and his daughter Ruthie co-wrote a children’s book in 2010 with proceeds going to the MDA. More recently, he worked with the board of the Bob Feller Act Of Valor Award–a topic that was the subject of his last story for SC Daily just a couple of weeks ago. His last TTMCast episode featured Greg Poole of Can’s Can Ministry, who uses cards to fund projects to help assisted living centers, classrooms, and students in Southern Illinois.
Said Ted Mann of CollX, “I grew fond of Jeff, because he not only shared wisdom and insights about collecting, but also because he passed that torch on to my kids in a really profound way. He spent a fair bit of time with us at The National this year, coaching my two young boys on everything from through the mail autographs, to doing card deals, to building sets… I think Jeff was one of the bright lights in the hobby, and I hope his memory and lessons can live on.”
As the co-host of TTMCast, I’ll greatly miss our twice-weekly chats in recording the show and constant mid-week texts back and forth talking about what we had added to our collections. The outpouring of support and thanks from listeners and fellow collectors has been overwhelming: in talking to TTMCast correspondent Clemente Lisi last night, we both noted that Jeff had absolutely no enemies in the hobby.
“Jeff had me on the show in 2022, then invited me to talk about soccer throughout the fall and into December,” Clemente said. “We even recorded an interview where I called him from Qatar to talk about the World Cup final. We became fast friends and he made me a monthly contributor to the show. It was a great place to promote my writing and give my opinion. More importantly, it gave me the chance to talk to Jeff at least once a month.”
“I never saw Jeff when he wasn’t smiling and filled with passion and enthusiasm for collecting sports memorabilia and chasing autographs,” wrote Jeff Owens in his tribute on Sports Collectors Digest. “[He] was as passionate and dedicated to the hobby as any collector I have ever met. His devotion and contributions will be sorely missed by the sports collectibles community.”
“Although I never met Jeff, you could tell that he enjoyed talking to people,” listener Erik Lutson tweeted. Many others expressed their gratitude for the chance to appear on the show and felt they had made a friend for life in the hobby just from a single conversation.
As one collector wrote on X (Twitter). “The guy was a 1 of 1 in his passion” for sports collectibles and the hobby at large.
“He went out of his way to help me grow as a writer and podcaster,” recalled Sal Barry of Puck Junk.
“There are only so many folks that understand us, the TTMers, and Jeff’s weekly podcast really gave us a voice and a feeling of legitimacy,” said listener and collector Rob Parker. “It’s going to be a big void not hearing him when my son and I are working on our cards. His show was our go to to listen when we are doing our hobby together.”
If you would like to make a memorial donation in Jeff’s name, the family requests that it be made to The Red Sox Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 411217, Boston, MA 02241.
Jeff’s daughter Ruthie, whose voice you hear in the show’s intro and between-segment bumpers, will host an episode of TTMCast as a memorial sometime in the next few weeks. The show’s ultimate future will be determined in early 2024.