Monday, August 9, 2010

In Between Naps - July 2010

One of Rob Dewolf's passions is collecting cards of Cleveland Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie. A former minor league baseball player who advanced to Triple-A in the Padres organization, Rob's current job in the newspaper field requires him to get up at 4 a.m., six days a week. Hence the name of his column, which happens to be when he finds time to write about various aspects of the hobby. Rob lives in central Ohio with his wife and daughter.

Sometimes, Luck Conquers All

by Rob Dewolf

Sometimes the collecting gods smile down at you. Granted, they also can be fickle. My 800-count box of 1987 Topps Bo Jackson rookies is proof of that. Rob knows bad buys.

But there are those times when fortune is so good that you almost feel guilty. (But then you remember Cory Snyder, and your conscience is cleared.)

This is a story about one of those times.

For about the past nine years, the highlight of my Cleveland Indians collection has been a 1948 World Series ring. I can't imagine owning a collectible that I'll enjoy more. After I bought it, I somewhat seriously thought about not buying more Indians memorabilia because I knew everything else would pale in comparison. That idea lasted for about a minute, and I returned to my senses.

The ring isn't linked to a player. There's no inscription of a name or anything else that identifies the original owner. Maybe it was given to a front-office employee. I've also heard told that Indians owner Bill Veeck ordered "extra" rings from L.G. Balfour as gifts for special friends, business acquaintances and bar owners.

No matter. It's a ring from Cleveland's only World Series-winning team in the past 90 years, and that's enough for me.


As much as I love this Indian artifact, there was this gnawing feeling. Kind of a mix of emptiness and incompleteness. A longing, if you will.

It wasn’t overwhelming, mind you. More like how you feel walking to the car after 2½ hours at a seafood buffet and you realize you forgot to have a cup of the clam chowder.

You're fulfilled, no doubt. But still, the chowder would have been nice.

In this case, my soup du jour (more accurately, soup of the decade, I guess) was a presentation box that once housed the ‘48 rings. Though I'd never seen one, I knew they existed. In the mid-1990s, one was sold by an auction house and, at the time, I had a passing interest. But because I didn't own a ring, the desire to have a box that one came in wasn't very strong. Let someone else have the hood ornament, I'll hold out for the Rolls Royce.

Except now that I had a ring, I was in the driver's seat. And I wanted the complete package. So I kept my eyes open and waited. And waited. I watched three more 1948 rings come up for auction but no presentation boxes.

Then, this spring, one literally fell into my lap.

A group of personal items from the estate of a former Indians player hit the auction block. There were no headline-grabbing pieces but enough interesting things that I ended up buying the lot. The collection was shipped in three fairly large boxes, meaning I got to enjoy a mini Christmas in May – minus the annual houseful of relatives, in-laws and other guests. Yes, I gave thanks.

As I sat on our family-room floor and unpacked the boxes, I mentally checked off the items I knew should be included. All was going as expected as I dug to the bottom of the final box. Then, while scooping handfuls of packing peanuts I also retrieved something that wasn't on the manifest in my mind. After dropping it in my lap (the word literally isn't used liberally in this blog), I picked up a worn, wooden box that measured about 4 by 5 inches.

There were no markings on the outside, so I immediately figured it to be some kind of generic knick-knack box, maybe presented long ago by a local civic organization at an off-season banquet. After opening it, I realized how wrong I was. Printed in red lettering on silk-like lining on the underside of the lid were these words:






L.G. Balfour Company

Attlesboro, Massachusetts

Realizing what I was holding, I sat in stunned silence. I grabbed the auction catalog and double-checked to make sure I hadn't missed a mention of a presentation box for a 1948 World Series ring. (Yeah, like that would have happened.) Nope. Not a word.

Yet here it was. Just goes to show you really shouldn't believe everything you read.

Missing was the insert that should have sat in the bottom of the box. That was remedied a week or so later with a bit of craft work that required covering a piece of cut-to-fit Styrofoam with black velvet. A few nips, tucks and curse words later, and I thought the finished product looked pretty darn good. Finally, my ring had found a fitting home.

A home run that would have made even Bo proud.

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