Articles and commentary from Bert Lehman, the editor of Sports Collectors Digest.

Nothing beats being there

Years from now when people look back at the 2016 Chicago Cubs team winning the World Series, there will probably be a million people who say they were at the postseason games at the “Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field.

Alright, that may be an exaggeration, but I think you know the point I am trying to get across. In the future there will be more people who say they were at the games than were actually at the games. It always happens for historic events.

Even with all the big-money TV contracts for all the major sports in which practically every game during the regular season is televised, nothing beats actually being at a sporting event in person. Yes, there are replays available if you are watching on TV, but there is one thing TV can’t replicate: the in person atmosphere.

I’ve had the privilege of attending a few historic and memorable games.

I have a friend who has three season tickets for Green Bay Packers games, so in addition to him attending the games, he lets his friends use the other two tickets he has. Because of this I usually attend at least one Packers game at Lambeau Field each year.

The most “historic” Packers game I have attended in person was Brett Favre’s 200th consecutive start against the St. Louis Rams in 2004. I remember sitting in the stands thinking about what an unbelievable feat that was.

I didn’t keep anything from that game, not even the ticket stub. Looking back, I wish I would have kept the ticket stub.

Another memorable football event I attended was the victory celebration at Lambeau Field welcoming the Packers team back after winning the Super Bowl in 1997. The stadium was full of fans who waited for hours in below freezing temperatures for the team to make its way from the airport to the stadium.

The most memorable and historic baseball game I have attended in person was Game 5 of the 2011 National League Divisional Series at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Brewers won that game to advance to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 1982.

When I received the opportunity to go to this game, I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to go. I mean, I wanted to go, but I knew the thought of being there in person if the Brewers lost would be difficult. But then again, having the Brewers win the game and actually being in the stadium would be a great feeling.

I decided to go to the game. To make a long story short, the game was emotionally draining as the two teams went back and forth, with the Brewers winning on a walk-off hit by Nyger Morgan.

Words can’t describe the feeling of being there in person when your favorite team wins a big game like that.

After the victory, confetti was dropped from the roof of the stadium. I did keep a handful of the blue confetti. The confetti is displayed within a framed photo of myself and several of my friends from when we attended a Brewers game earlier that year. That game was for my bachelor party, and was during the drive to the playoffs.
In the Dec. 9 issue of Sports Collectors Digest Rick Firfer shares his first-hand account of what it was like to be at Wrigley Field for the postseason games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs and the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. Even though it’s not the same as being there, it tries to capture what the atmosphere was like at Wrigley Field.

Speaking of things being better in person, there are a few items in my sports memorabilia collections that I obtained in person when I attended four games of Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training in 2007. I made that trip with former SCD editor Tom Bartsch.  

Prior to the trip we made sure we had baseballs for players to sign, as well as pens and markers. We didn’t get as many autographs as we had hoped, but did get some.
The last spring training game, we made sure to stand by the railing as the players made their way to the dugout prior to the game. While waiting I noticed a player approaching who had never taken a Major League at-bat up to that point. I knew who he was because I follow the players drafted by the Brewers throughout their minor league career until they are called up by the Brewers or leave the organization.
The player who was approaching us was the No. 1 draft pick of the Brewers in 2005 – Ryan Braun. When he got to me I asked him if he would sign my baseball, which he happily did. As he was signing it, I said to him, “We’re waiting for you in Milwaukee.”

Sports Collectors Digest Editor Bert Lehman obtained Ryan Braun’s autograph at Spring Training in 2007.

Sports Collectors Digest Editor Bert Lehman obtained Ryan Braun’s autograph at Spring Training in 2007.

He smiled, and replied back, “I’ll be there soon.”

He kept his promise as he was called up in May of that year and has been with the team ever since. Even though that baseball has some monetary value, it is the sentimental value that means the most to me. For that brief moment I had a short conversation with a future MVP player.

Another baseball I received in person at spring training that year doesn’t have any monetary value, but it is a prized possession in my collection. At the time Ben Sheets was my favorite Brewers player and I was hoping to get his autograph. I didn’t get his autograph, but I did get something else.

One morning, we got to the Spring Training complex early so we could take our time and take in more than just the games. The Brewers pitchers were doing bunting drills at the field that is just a fenced off infield. The pitchers concluded their bunting drills and were picking up the baseballs scattered throughout the infield. Sheets picked up a baseball and chucked it over the fence into the grass parking area.

This baseball was thrown by former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets into a grass parking area at Spring Training in 2007.

This baseball was thrown by former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets into a grass parking area at Spring Training in 2007.

There weren’t many fans in the area at the time, so when I saw him throw the baseball into the parking area, I immediately ran to get the baseball. I got the baseball and I have it on display in my “Man Cave.”

Like I said, this baseball has no monetary value, but it is special to me because my favorite player at the time threw it, and it reminds me of my trip to Spring Training with my friends.

Sometimes being there in person can lead to bigger and better things, such as owning your own business in the sports memorabilia industry.

Recently I had to opportunity to speak with Brian Fredrich of ABC Unlimited in Arizona. He sells autographed baseball cards.

He started ABC Unlimited 21 years ago, but his passion for autographs on baseball cards started when he was a kid growing up near Wrigley Field. He originally would go to Wrigley Field to get scorecards autographed, which eventually turned into getting baseball cards autographed.

“I basically spent every day running around Wrigley Field getting baseball cards autographed,” Fredrich said.

After high school Fredrich got a job in corporate America after more schooling. He admitted he eventually got burnt out by corporate America and turned to his passion of autograph collecting. This led to him forming ABC Unlimited and selling autographed baseball cards for a living.

One of the many aspects Fredrich said he enjoys about his business is the conversations he has with athletes while obtaining their autograph.

“I have had the time of my life,” Fredrich said. “It’s hard to believe it’s been 21 years.”

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