Dan Adams admits he is a storyteller. But even this tale is hard to believe — until you see the treasure trove of baseball memorabilia the Florida resident found nearly 50 years ago.
Adams, who has been a comedian, musician, charter boat captain and cruise ship event planner during his eclectic career, found more than 600 autographs of baseball stars — clear, neatly penned signatures — ranging from Hall of Famers to everyday players. He also uncovered 148 scorecards, plus several scorebooks from the 1910s, postcards from the same era, autograph books filled with players’ signatures, programs and baseball guides.
This gold mine of baseball memorabilia had been sitting at the end of a driveway. That is no fish tale.
Adams, now 69, was working the comedy circuit in southwestern Maine in 1975. He was driving around York County one afternoon to take in the sights, a tradition that began when he was young as his father took the family on drives.
“I was driving around during the day and I saw this old trunk in a driveway,” Adams said. “It was an old captain’s trunk.”
Adams paid $15 for the item and put it in his car. But when he got home, the trunk “fell apart.”
Annoyed that he had wasted money on the trunk, Adams soon discovered some hidden gems carefully wrapped inside newspapers. Some of it was wrapped with a Nov. 4, 1876, front page of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.
That was the tipoff. The box was heavy, but there was some heavy stuff to be found.
The Batboy’s Treasure
Adams discovered a first-edition copy of the inaugural Who’s Who In Major League Baseball, a 543-page book in 1933 that listed the game’s notable players.
Inside were handwritten autographs on pages above the book’s photographs of players. Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Dizzy Dean, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby and Mickey Cochrane had neatly signed the book, along with more than 440 others.
The players’ clear, legible signatures in the book “were phenomenal,” Adams said.
“They must have gone to Catholic school like I did and got beat up by nuns,” he joked.
The front and back inside covers of the book afforded the owner a place to collect autographs from the players, separated by league and team (National League on one cover, American League on the other).
The rare book and additional autograph books, Adams learned, belonged to Frank Borsa, who was a batboy in Boston during the 1930s. Borsa had stars sign the book and his autograph books when players came through. As Boston was a two-team town in the 1930s, that meant players from each league came through Beantown.
In the days before eBay and the memorabilia craze, players were only too happy to oblige a kid.
But how does one put a price on these signatures? Adams is stumped.
“I can’t get a decent appraisal because no one else has all this stuff,” Adams said. “It’s the Holy Grail of autographs.”
Borsa was the Red Sox batboy in 1935. While it is unclear how much he was paid during the season (if at all), he did receive a check for $63.36 at the end of the season when team executives divvied up the money the franchise received for finishing in the first division, according to a brief in The Boston Globe on Nov. 2, 1935. Players received $380.16 out of the pool of $9,934.01, according to the newspaper.
A letter Adams found in the box was written by Borsa to Walter McNichols, the business manager of the Cleveland franchise. Borsa had asked McNichols for the autographs of the team’s owner and general manager. It was returned with the signatures of team owner Alva Bradley, general manager Cy Slapnicka and McNichols. That means the letter was written between 1935 and 1941, when Bradley and Slapnicka were in the Cleveland front office together.
There was much more in the trunk. Now, Adams has the items in sturdier containers, but he is still amazed when he looks at the collection.
“Every time I open it I find more stuff,” Adams said.
Scorecards, Books and Programs
There was a complimentary Red Sox ticket booklet from 1915, scorecards from both Boston teams from the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s, and postcards dated before 1910, including some from Red Sox player (and later manager) Bill Carrigan.
There was also a program from a May 28, 1926, game between the New York Giants and Boston Braves. The “Christy Mathewson Memorial Game” was a tribute to the Hall of Fame pitcher, who starred for the Giants and later served as president of the Braves. It was “Matty Day” at Braves Field, according to The Boston Globe (the Braves won 5-3). Money raised was donated to erect a memorial at Saranac Lake, New York, where Mathewson died in 1925.
Outside of baseball, there were theater programs from Boston and a program from a rodeo held at Boston Garden in November 1936. Those were hosted by Col. William Thomas “W.T.” Johnson of San Antonio, known as the “Angel of the Rodeo.”
The year was notable because the 61 cowboys scheduled to compete in the show went out on strike — and won — as they demanded more pay, according to The Boston Globe. Johnson, who once took a Paint pony by elevator to the top of the Empire State Building, was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2011. Soured by the strike, he sold his promotion in 1937.
The programs – and in particular, the scorecards — “still look brand new,” Adams said.
The books dated to 1910, with the Reach Official American League Guide 1910. The other books were Spalding’s guides, with the latest one printed in 1930. Other Spaulding guides were from 1913, 1921, 1924 and 1929.
The Queen Of Baseball
Here is where the mystery deepens.
The scorebooks, listing games from 1914 to 1918, were kept by Dolores G. Mitchell of Andover, Massachusetts. What connection she had to Borsa — or to the person who was getting rid of the trunk — is lost to history.
She may not have a connection to either person. Census records and newspaper accounts provide no clues.
However, Mitchell was a fixture at Boston’s major league games for at least 37 years.
In a May 2, 1940, caption in The Boston Globe, Mitchell was called the “Queen of Baseball” as a photograph showed her handing White Sox pitcher Monte Stratton a piece of candy.
Two weeks later, a United Press story published in the Portland Evening Express in Maine reported that Mitchell had been coming to games at Boston’s American League park since 1903. Mitchell sat in a box seat near the third base dugout “where she chats with the players, managers and umpires alike, with a smile for each — and a generous supply of candy for all.”
“The game is healthy and clean,” she told United Press. “The players are decent and the whole scheme of things is grand.
“Baseball has kept me contented and cheerful.”
It is unclear when Mitchell, who was born in Maine sometime in 1887, began recording games in scorebooks. Her stepfather was Joseph Fitch and her mother was Emma Arnold, according to census records.
Records referencing Mitchell are also scarce. She was mentioned in the 1917 will of her uncle, Calvin G. Arnold, a Civil War veteran who fought for the 1st Connecticut Cavalry. She received $100, along with her mother.
Somehow, Mitchell had a connection to the Red Sox and to Carrigan, who played for the team from 1906 to 1916 and managed the club from 1913 to 1916 and again from 1927-28.
The postcards in Adams’ collection are addressed to Mitchell, and several are from Carrigan. One included a photograph of Carrigan’s home, while another sent from Buffalo featured a photograph of the Milburn House, where President William McKinley died after being mortally wounded at the Pan American Exposition in September 1901.
Mitchell also received postcards from Chester Pearson, who would later become the first mayor of Gardner, Massachusetts, in 1922. His wife, Fanny Kittredge Pearson, who was heavily involved in charitable work in the city, also sent Mitchell postcards.
The connection between the Pearsons and Mitchell is unknown.
Mitchell was the recipient of the free passes to Red Sox games; Adams has a full ticket book of 25 games from 1915 that were given to her.
The scorebooks that Adams owns have Mitchell’s name written on some of them, but they all feature the same distinctive penmanship.
The games she scored featured many Red Sox contests against Detroit, but there are also minor league games played by the Lawrence Barristers of the New England League.
In her beautiful cursive writing, Mitchell wrote down the lineups and scored all four games of the 1914 World Series, when the “Miracle” Boston Braves swept the heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics. The following year, she recorded all five games of the World Series, when the Boston Red Sox defeated the Philadelphia Phillies. Game 1 includes the lone win by the Phillies, a complete game by Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Mitchell also scored Games 1, 2 and 5 of the 1916 World Series, which were played in Boston.
Mitchell did not just keep score. She also provided some side notes. In a July 14, 1916, game at Fenway Park — a scoreless tie between the Red Sox and St. Louis Browns that was called after 17 innings — Mitchell notes that Boston starting pitcher Carl Mays got “spiked in the face” during the 15th inning by his pitching rival, Ernie Koob.
On Aug. 10, 1917, Mitchell added a note that Babe Ruth connected for “the longest hit ever made in the park, way up in (the) center field bleachers.” Ruth’s first home run of the season, a solo shot off Detroit’s Bill James in the fifth inning, would lead to his 18th win of the season as the Red Sox rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 5-4.
The Boston Globe agreed, noting that the blast hit the eighth row of seats in the center field bleachers “and might still be going if not for the obstruction.”
“When Tyrus Raymond Cobb saw where it landed he just flopped on the grass,” the newspaper reported.
Ruth only had two home runs in 1917 and that was only his eighth career round-tripper, but his numbers would soon rise dramatically.
You Never Know
Adams contacted an auction house about two decades ago, thinking perhaps that the collection could provide a nice nest egg for retirement.
He was not satisfied with the numbers thrown his way. While he is not a baseball fan, his years as a businessman told him to wait.
“I have a Ph.D. in patience,” Adams said.
From time to time he did sell off some of the memorabilia.
Adams tells the story about how one person in 1995 wanted a scorecard that contained the name of a journeyman catcher, Raymond Ellis “Red” McKee, who played for the Detroit Tigers between 1913 and 1916.
McKee was a coal miner from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the buyer paid a lot of money for a scorecard between the Tigers and Red Sox in 1914.
“He started at a thousand and kept going up,” Adams said, noting that there were no autographs on the scorecard, just McKee’s name. The game was not even scored.
Adams finally settled at $1,500.
Adams still scratches his head. According to Retrosheet.org, McKee went 0-fo-9 against Boston in 1914, walking three times and scoring a run.
Years later, when Adams and his partner, Jen Roberts, were selling her home in order to downsize to one residence, McKee’s name came up, along with the man who bought the scorecard.
“That was my father-in-law,” the real estate agent said about the eager buyer.
While Adams calls himself “a big picture guy,” Roberts has been meticulous in recording what the trunk contained, putting together an Excel spreadsheet detailing every item
“She cataloged a lot of this stuff,” Adams said.
Adams was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. From the start, he was a born entertainer who liked to sing and tell jokes.
He began his show business career early, singing at a Ranch House in Springfield when he was 13.
Adams said he played guitar and told jokes while integrating audience members into his shows, calling his humor family oriented. Adams said he played guitar and told jokes while integrating audience members into his shows.
He performed on the circuit part-time in Maine and decided to go the entertainment route after an unpleasant experience while teaching at a school in Westfield, Massachusetts.
An unruly student “cracked my head open with a Thermos,” Adams said.
He went to Florida to recover and was performing at the Desert Inn in Daytona Beach “for $750 a week” and decided show business was better — and safer — than teaching.
“I called the school and said, ‘You’re going to need to find a substitute.’ They said, ‘For how long,’ and I said, ‘Forever,’” he said.
Moving to Florida for part of the year, Adams began working on cruise ships in 1977 as an events director and sang “for two hours a week.”
“I was like Julie (McCoy) on ‘Love Boat,’” he joked.
Adams later became a charter captain on the west coast of Florida. He would fish by day and work clubs at night. He spent a good deal of time at The Bank, a restaurant and bar in Clearwater Beach, and said he helped organize and run the first two Clearwater Jazz Festivals, which debuted in 1980. Woody Herman and Buddy Rich were the first two headlining acts.
He got into recording music after country singing stars George Jones and Johnny Paycheck heard him. Adams was persuaded to go to Nashville and recorded a pair of folk-country albums during the early 1980s: “By Request” and “Legends,” on the Sundance Records label from Madison, Tennessee. He sang several standards, including “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “Your Song,” “City of New Orleans,” “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and “All I Have to Do is Dream.”
There is also “Old Dogs, Children And Watermelon Wine.”
Returning to Florida, Adams became a full-time charter captain in 1996. COVID-19 effectively put him out of business, however.
Adams calls himself a collector, and a look around his west-central Florida home is evidence of that. He owns a 1952 Seeburg jukebox and a 1950s-era pinball machine. A vintage pay telephone hangs on the ball (it works), and his shelves are full of items that would make an antique shop dealer jealous.
Even Roberts has some memorabilia that she has collected, the linchpin being a ticket from Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, when Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in the history of the postseason classic.
Adams still shakes his head at what he found 48 years ago. Had he driven by later or simply ignored the captain’s chest, a great deal of baseball memorabilia could have been discarded. And why the person who was throwing it away decided to do that is another mystery that may never be solved.
“When you get to touch this stuff and look at it, you go, ‘Wow,’” Adams said.
He would like to sell those items someday but would prefer they go to someone who is not going to chop up the Who’s Who book for the signatures. A person who loves baseball history would fit the bill.
Adams said the National Baseball Hall of Fame wanted him to donate the book for free, but that was not going to happen.
“They’d put it in a display and probably only show the Babe Ruth page,” he said. “No one would get to see the rest of it.”
While Adams could cash in big time, that is not his main focus.
“I’m not looking to make millions of dollars,” he said. “I’m looking for someone who would appreciate this.”