City Scene August 2011 : Page 38
man caves An old Yankees uniform; a row of weathered, game-used bats; an autographed copy of the script for the 1984 Robert Redford film The Natural ; and a vast assortment of autographs are among a plethora of baseball memorabilia. 38 L u x u r y L i v i n g www.luxurylivingmagazine.com
Comprehensive collection tells story of baseball from the beginning<br /> <br /> Rare is the man whose reverence for a sport can match Tracy Martin’s love of baseball and the storied history of the game.<br /> <br /> Reaching well beyond your typical childhood library of baseball cards, Martin’s colossal collection helps preserve and celebrate the history of America’s favorite pastime.<br /> <br /> So dedicated is Martin to his baseball theme that a visit to his Grove City home begins with offerings of Ball Park hot dogs, popcorn and glass bottles of Coca-Cola.<br /> <br /> “From up here, you would never know that anything baseball-related was in this house, but when you open that door, it’s like the Wizard of Oz of baseball is down there,” Martin says. “We had an arrangement when we got the house that I got the basement to do whatever I wanted with, and (my wife) got the back yard.”<br /> <br /> That back yard includes a fire pit and a koi pond with a stone waterfall.<br /> <br /> “I kind of thought it was shaped perfectly for a baseball diamond, but she didn’t really go for that one,” Martin says with a laugh.<br /> <br /> The word overwhelming does no justice to the natural reaction upon entering the basement, Basement, which is more of a museum – covered ceiling to floor with more than 2,000 baseball artifacts dating from the 1850s to today. And the history lesson begins.<br /> <br /> “No one person really created it, like Abner Doubleday was supposed to have been said to,” Martin says. “It kind of evolved itself from bat-and-ball games that came over from England and were mainly played by children.”<br /> <br /> Martin’s collection displays the evolution from baseball’s humble beginnings to its massive popularity today.<br /> <br /> The first wall in Martin’s basement displays photos and memorabilia from his experiences with vintage baseball, which have brought him to the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa and even the Capitol Building to play on the lawn.<br /> <br /> “Baseball among adults began as a gentleman’s game,” he says. “It didn’t really become too competitive until money and owners got involved.”<br /> <br /> Game-used bats that are cracked or broken are used for each step of the banister down the basement stairs. A wall of vintage photos at the foot of the stairs features a team photo of an 1860s Buckeye baseball team.<br /> <br /> “We are not sure if that team is from Columbus or Cincinnati,” Martin says. “Interestingly enough, at that time, both cities had teams named the Buckeyes.”<br /> <br /> His collection of autographs – some from players he has met, some from players he hasn’t – is full of Hall of Famers.<br /> <br /> “My all-time favorite would probably have to be my Babe Ruth autograph,” Martin says. “But of the people I have actually met in person, I would have to say Mickey Mantle is my favorite.”<br /> <br /> A baseball movie-themed room features a 16-millimeter film of Babe Ruth burned onto a DVD and set on a loop to play on an Old television Martin found at an antique show. Elsewhere, a wall of mannequins in old uniforms shows how players’ in-game getup progressed during the game’s earlier years.<br /> <br /> “The professional team jerseys from each of those time periods are just too difficult to find, so what I have done here is demonstrated the evolution of the uniform through individual school and town teams,” Martin says.<br /> <br /> Included in the uniform collection are many curious articles of clothing, including a straw hat and a heavy sweater.<br /> <br /> The rack of vintage handmade bats features “townball” style bats from the 1850s, while the glove collection includes a fingerless glove from the 1880s. Balls were originally covered in leather and varied in size and weight, some similar to current baseballs and some much smaller, like a Lemon Peel Baseball the size of a golf ball – and all are represented in Martin’s basement.<br /> <br /> Martin’s collection also includes baseball- themed games and glasses, as well as products that have been endorsed by players. He takes care to display each piece of equipment in such a way as to emphasize the gradual changes in manufacturing techniques, from handmade items to pieces made by large-scale equipment manufacturers.<br /> <br /> Martin found most of the items in his collection at auctions and antique sales, as well as through word of mouth, he says. “Through my website, I will have people E-mail me several times a week, asking me to appraise something or telling me about something I may be interested in,” he says.<br /> <br /> Martin does not limit his interest in the history of baseball to collecting artifacts – he also helps history come alive as a player for the Ohio Village Muffins. The Muffins are the vintage “base ball” team based out of the Ohio Historical Society, and Martin has been with them since 1993. Using the same rules that were utilized in 1860, Martin and the Muffins play with bats no bigger than 2. 5 inches in diameter, leather balls that are 10 inches in circumference and no protective equipment or gloves.<br /> <br /> As much as he enjoys collecting baseball memorabilia, Martin also has a great affinity for sharing his collection with others through presentations, exhibits and displays. Many of his personal items have been lent out to exhibits, parks and museums for display, from Huntington Park to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.<br /> <br /> Martin’s items pertaining to the evolution of the catcher position. The exhibit will be open through February 2012.<br /> <br /> “It was like a dream come true to have my favorite team come and ask to use stuff of mine for an exhibit about my favorite player,” Martin says. More information about the items in Martin’s impressive collection is available on his website, www.vintagebaseballcollector. com.