There was commotion in one corner of the George Mason University field house last wek during the first Sports Collectors Convention sponsored by university's Patriot Education Foundation.
A young man hooted and hollered gleefully while several people looked on curiously. He was Bill Ivory, and for 20 cents he had just made a purchase he had been trying to make for three years.
"I finally the (baseball) card I needed to complete the 1954 Series," Ivory said. The player on the card was an obscure Pittsburgh Pirate named Preston Ward who batted .215 in 1953.
But Ivory is just in the early stages of collecting sports memorabilia "especially in comparison with some of the other guys here," he said, referring to the nearly 50 collectors who paid $15 each for a space to set up their displays in the field house. The Patriot Foundation hoped to make $1,000 for scholarship funds through the convention.
There was more, much more, than just baseball cards. There were collectors in every sport - people who have filled their basements, attics and closet [WORD ILLEGIBLE] with relics that give them a relationship with the great, the near great and as in the case of Bill Ivory and Preston Ward, the not-so-great.
Why they cherish those relationships is difficult for even the most ardent collectors to explain.
"Sure, guys ask if you're weird," said Barry Wolfsheimer, 27, a car salesman from Baltimore who was wearing a Navy blue New York Yankee warm-up jacket. His friend, fellow collector and co-worker Chuck Bickert, also 27, wore a green Oakland A's jacket.
"That jacket Chuck has on belonged to Joe Rudy," Wolfsheimer said. "The one I'm wearing, I don't know which Yankee owned it. I think the guy I got it from nailed it from one of the players."
Wolfsheimer admitted that "sometimes people hear about my hobby and figure I'm a weirdo who walks around the house getting my kicks by wearing the clothes of professional baseball players. But others think it's a really neat hobby to be involved in."
Wolfsheimer and Bickert concentrate on collecting uniforms owned and worn by major league players.
"The way we know they're real is that we know what to look for," Wolfsheimer explained, using the 1973 jersey of Yankee pitcher Lindy McDaniel as an example.
"Each player's uniform has his name, the year and the set marked on the tag. Players are usually issued two sets of road uniforms and two of home. Then there are tags in the uniform that say, 'Made Exclusively for so-and-so by so-and-so.' If they are missing any of those markings, you are taking your chances."
Wolfsheimer said someone had tried to trade him a 1959 Washington Seantor's jersey at George Mason.
"But the name was written on the tag in bold magic market," he said, with disgust. "The shirt was all worn looking, but the marker was brand new. I don't even think they had magic markers then."
Although he has had little chance to use his collection in any practical sense, Wolfsheimer told of the time he outfitted his softball team completely in authentic uniforms.
"It was wild," Wolfsheimer laughed. "We played the same position that the guy whose uniform we were wearing played. The other team didn't know what the hell was going on."
Wolfsheimer actually began collecting sports memorabilia as a child when he lived close to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. He hoarded "about 70" bats that players discarded for one reason or another. Only four are left - including one Brooks Robinson and one Hank Aaron model - because Wolfsheimer traded the others to begin his shirt collection.
He now has an Aaron shirt which he said is worth more than $300.
"I drove to Delaware to get it from a guy, I didn't trust having it mailed," he said. He also has a Robinson shirt and says, "I would never part with it; Brooks is the greatest of all time."
In his basement, Wolfsheimer said after some prodding by Bickert, he has "an authentic hat from every American League and National League team" amid a miniature version of baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., where he has "visited many times and gotten a lot of ideas."
Wolfsheimer's basement also contains two seats from the old Yankee Stadium.
"I bought them for $35," Wolfsheimer said. "A wrecking company in Connecticut that helped tear down the old stadium was selling them. They even came with two tickets from an old playoff game that were used for those seats.They're really wild. I mean, they are from the 'House That Ruth Built.'"
Wolfsheimer wasn't the only collector at George Mason who owned a piece of an old stadium. George Martin-Trigona, 30, of Alexandria, had two seats from Griffith Stadium on display in the field house.
"I took a planned commando raid to get those," Martin-Trigona said proudly. He recalled in detail how he sneaked into the vacant stadium one evening before it was demolished in 1965, broke the seats out of the concrete stadium floor, carted them to his car and drove them home.
On other occasions Martin-Trigona took pictures of the stadium from the top of the light towers, providing a nostalgic glimpse of a forgotten baseball landmark with empty stands and a field overgrown with weeds.
One regret Martin-Trigona has, he said, is that "in the crows nest on top of the stadium, where Clark Griffith's office was, there were all kinds of things, like large, framed pictures of Walter Johnson, but it was all locked up and hard to get to.I didn't have the equipment to take them out."
Steve Larsen, 18, a student at Yorkstown High School in Arlington has a goal for his collection, which includes, among thousands of other items, a jersey that belonged to the late Chicago Bear running back Brian Piccolo, the shoes O.J. Simpson wore in the the game be gained 273 yards rushing, a baseball shirt of the late Pittsburgh Pirate Roberto Clemente and a trophy and racket of the late tennis star Bill Tilden.
"My family hopes to open a sports restaurant in the area," Larsen said. "We'd use our collection for the decor."
Most collectors, when asked what they intendto do with their collections, simply shrugged and said that gathering as many of the obscure items as possible provides all the satisfaction they need.