Baseball Collectibles And Fun: DHL All-Star FanFest

I’m not someone who follows baseball religiously or follows a season with bated breath. But I’ve always had a love of the game, its sincere players, rascals, larger-than-life stories and its culture of creating history through attractive collectibles and rediscovering history through antiques. So shooting the DHL Fan Fest with a total enthusiast like Dan was incredibly fun.

Dan Borsey,Dan the Man in the WorthPoint Van, throwing
a ball at the DHL FanFest at the Jacob Javits Center in New York

Bernie Williams at the DHL FanFest, a huge event for
baseball activities and baseball collectibles

Dan and I met and talked to collectors and buyers who were authentic fans, not just guys trying to make a quick buck on the turnover. We met fans whose mathematical and statistical knowledge could take down Bob Costas in a grudge match of love. These were really nice people who had opinions on everything from stadium changes, team ownership, free agency and what kind of ink should be used to print baseball cards.

Dan with Yogi Berra

Early on, it was easy to see that the FanFest, which precedes the All-Star Game each year, was going to have a Yankee theme. That’s where the game was going to be played, and this year is the final one for Yankee Stadium, which I grew up with. There was an appreciation of the stadium in an exhibit that contained a large model, photographs and timeline peppered with information for novices and experts.

I like to contemplate the meaning of even tangentially meaningful objects as a way to understand their connection to human beings and history. So the most moving event we attended was the Thurmon Munson auction. The collection offered by Diana Munson, his widow, was both a celebration of his exuberance and truly sad.

Original contracts, his mitt, his rookie awards, the World Series ring, all showed his rise in stature. The replica 1978 World Series trophy Steinbrenner made for him showed his grand quirkiness—no others have ever been made. Most of the baseballs, pictures and trophies weren’t just collectibles, but demonstrated the vitality and unique character and image of the late Yankee captain.

I had followed Munson’s career as a youngster, and it stuck with me the way singer Buddy Holly’s might have for a generation earlier. If that wasn’t enough, John Turturro, who played Billy Martin in the Showtime miniseries, “The Bronx Is Burning,” was there to explain how important a piece from the auction could be to someone who grew up with those late-’70, headline-catching,idiosyncratic, dramatic Yankees.

With no kids of my own, I enjoyed talking with parents and meeting some kids who got all the thrills they were looking for. Especially in a city like New York, it seemed like a great opportunity to practice stealing bases, hitting and getting free practice with some computerized trainers.

Baseball collectibles—ball signed by Mickey Mantle

Plus, I never would have gotten my great shots of Derek Jeter if a seven-year-old kid didn’t see me struggling to lift my camera over the heads of the adulating, screaming, camera-flashing crowd. “Hey Mister!” he called out. “Want a spot here on the bleachers?” (Thanks, buddy!) He made room for me, and once in my camera’s eye, I could see Jeter up close, giving tips to inspire one young girl, maybe four or five years old, to throw like a pro.

– Matt Kohn is the director of “Call It Democracy,” a film about the Electoral College, and “Site Specific: The Legacy of Regional Modernism,” a film about architecture. He is currently in production on a documentary about the avant-garde music scene in Lower Manhattan and a separate film about religious reconciliation in Sudan.

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