Jim Smiley has one of the most extensive collections of baseball memorabilia of any private collector. Kept securely in a safety deposit box, his collection includes pieces from the likes Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Stan Musial.
Here Examiner.com continues their interview with Jim; touching on the current state of baseball and tips on how to start a collection of your own.
Andrew Demo: What are your thoughts about the committee not selecting anyone for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2013?
Jim Smiley: Just to clarify…No one received 75% of the writers vote. However, the Veterans Committee did elect three people. This was the first year since 1960 that the Hall would fail to induct a living person. The Veterans Committee selected umpire Hank O’Day, barehanded catcher Deacon White, and Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert.
Not electing anyone is a high road statement. It’s also weak and filled with hypocrisy. It was the writers handing out MVP Awards to Barry Bonds and Cy Young Awards to Roger Clemens. Now the writers make a stand? It seems kind of weak to me.
AD: Do you believe that players implicated during the steroid-era (i.e Bonds, McGwire, Clemens) belong in the Hall of Fame? Why or why not?
JS: It must be determined what purpose the Hall actually serves. I see it as the game’s official museum. The story of the history of the game cannot be told without the inclusion of the steroid era. The alternative is having a 20-year hole in the storytelling. That being said, telling the story of the era is different than actually inducting a guy and giving him a plaque.
The other problem is deciding who juiced and who did not. Covering baseball and interviewing pretty much all Major Leaguers during a certain period of time, it’s obvious to me that there are many players who have never been implicated to steroids who certainly used. I feel certain that at least one of them will be elected next year. There was a player who had the telltale “backne” (serious acne on the back) and was generally acknowledged as a steroid user. He was close to election this last year. Or how about the player whose body changed drastically and was with an organization where steroids was rampant? I have no doubt both guys will get elected in the next two or three years.
I guess clarification is needed. What is the Hall of Fame?
Another thing, baseball owners, players, trainers, fans, writers, and others looked the other way during the steroid era. With that in mind, it’s difficult to blame a 20-something year old man for doing everything possible to hit the ball farther, recover quicker, or throw the ball faster.
The culture has changed. Now baseball owners, fans, writers and players are policing it. Today I’d blame a guy for using. It’s easier to look down upon a guy like that. But back then not so much.
I guess I skirted that question pretty well.
AD: What are your thoughts on the current state of baseball?
JS: Baseball is going in the right direction now. As we see other players speaking out and taking a public stand against fellow players, we see the game policing itself. Baseball has the most stringent PED rules in America. No other sport is even close. With the black eye baseball has, it’s curious to me that the American public hasn’t even considered PED use in other sports. That’s a joke.
With the players ready to clean it up, I’m confident we’ll see stiffer penalties. Baseball is doing a ton to clean it up. It’s easy to be a fan of the game now.
AD: What advice do you have for aspiring collectors?
JS: The best advice is to collect what intrigues and captivates you. Invest for money, but don’t mistake collecting for inventing. When people ask me how much my collection is worth, I always say, “It’s not worth any money unless I sell it.” Forget about worth.
Something else that’s important is that if a piece really speaks to you, it’s ok to overpay for it. I either paid top dollar or overpaid for the Goldsmith piece we talked about earlier. To me the bottom line is that piece might be the only of its kind that exists. Try to find another handwritten letter about the origin of the curveball. There aren’t any.
Great pieces come up for sale rarely. When they do come up, they’re immediately absorbed into a collection. You might never get a chance to own it again.
Recently I picked up two telegrams to Warren Spahn. They were from the league presidents, Warren Giles and Joe Cronin. The two men were congratulating Spahn on his 300th victory. Spahn, Giles, and Cronin are all in the Hall. Telegrams generally don’t fetch much money. They’re not signed by anyone, but to me those two pieces are historically relevant. My gosh, those things should be on display in the Hall. They were in an auction and I was determined to get them no matter the cost.