There were no tricks and all treats for more than 4,000 New England sports card and memorabilia hobbyists attending the 23rd annual Greater Boston Sports Card Collectors Show held at the Shriner’s Auditorium in Wilmington, Mass. The three-day show began on Halloween afternoon and continued through Nov. 2, bringing 250 of the country’s finest dealers, many local legends and Hall of Fame autograph guests together at the Boston area’s largest yearly show.
Former Boston Red Sox and 1967 Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg, along with New England Patriot legend Mosi Tatupu, were the first to enter the signing area of the show on Friday, greeting many veteran collectors and dealers who remembered the two athletes from their playing days.
Lorry Ellis, known in the collecting hobby as the “Baseball Card Lady” and one of the few dealers who has attended every one of the GBSCC’s 23 shows, recalled Lonborg’s glory days.
“Jim Lonborg was a good pitcher throughout his career,” offered Ellis, “but his 1967 season was amazing. The ’67 Red Sox wouldn’t be remembered as the “Impossible Dream” team without his 22-win season that year. Even down to the last day of the season, Boston needed a win from him to capture the American League pennant. He beat the Twins and then we all had to wait until the Angels beat the Tigers to officially win the championship. He had two wins and almost threw a no-hitter against the Cardinals in the World Series, also. It was nice to see him at the show after all these years.”
The two local sports heroes were followed by numerous Hall of Famers and former and current Red Sox ballplayers on Saturday at the signing podium. Tony Gwynn, Yogi Berra, Tom Seaver and Johnny Bench were the show’s Cooperstown connection, signing hundreds of autographs while exchanging stories and advice with new and veteran collectors.
Gwynn, a .338 lifetime hitter with more than 3,000 hits, offered advice and demonstrated the proper batting stance to one young fan, explaining that a good hitter must have a solid base when standing at the plate, while Seaver exchanged stories from his career with many of the autograph seekers in line.
Mollie Ann Bracigliano, the principal behind MAB Celebrity Services, arranged for the appearances of the four baseball Hall of Famers at the show, along with Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester.
“This is my first time working with the GBSCC, and it was a true pleasure. I’ve been running autograph shows for approximately five years, and I can say that this was an extremely smooth operation. The people who run the GBSCC are professionals who care about the hobby and the New England collectors are great. They are truly knowledgeable fans who have been asking some interesting questions of all the ballplayers.
“Tom Seaver, who gave me a lot of support when I was forming my company, seemed to have a great time at the show, sharing many laughs with collectors. Jon Lester enjoyed his time signing autographs, also. The Boston fans seem to really support him. It was a fun show for everyone from MAB, and I hope to continue my association with the GBSCC and New England collectors for many years to come,” Bracigliano said.
Along with Lester, the Red Sox were represented by Craig Breslow, a former Boston hurler now pitching for the Minnesota Twins. He was signing for his charitable group called the Strike 3 Foundation, which includes Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, Joshua Papelbon and Jonathan Papelbon.
Lester was a signing machine, but he took time to talk with many of his fans and share thoughts on his May 19, 2008, no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.
“I can’t say that it didn’t enter my mind during the game,” claimed the lefty.
“Somewhere around the fifth inning, I began to think about the possibilities of getting the no-hitter – but I still had to stay focused. I’m a slow starter in most games, but my bullpen session was really bad that game. By the ninth inning, my adrenaline was really pumping. In the ninth, I remember thinking that the Royals were either going to get me or I was going to get the no-hitter. I was fortunate and the fans were a lot of help, as they were the loudest I have ever heard at Fenway. The last out was something that I will remember forever. It was really exciting.”
Red Sox fans were still able to receive autographs on Sunday, as Jim Rice and Tim Wakefield appeared in the autograph area. But the day belonged mostly to hockey collectors, as former Bruins stars Terry O’Reilly and Ken Hodge shared the autograph stage with Hall of Famers Gordie Howe, Phil Esposito and Ray Bourque.
As considerable lines formed to obtain autographs from the hockey legends, Mike Josselyn observed the autograph session. Josselyn, the owner of Sure Shot Promotions in Hanson, Mass., has been the architect behind the autograph portion of the GBSCC show for the past two years.
“I’ve enjoyed being a part of the GBSCC show in 2007 and 2008, and I hope to be associated with the club for many years to come,” stated the largest autograph promoter in the New England area.
“The Boston fans are passionate about their teams and the local ballplayers and they really turn out to meet their sport heroes. I’m happy to be able to bring in autograph guests like Jonathan Papelbon and Ray Bourque because it gives collectors a chance to meet and share a moment with the athletes.”
Josselyn understands the connection between collector and autograph guest better than many promoters, as he was on the other side of the autograph table for many years. “I was a collector long before I ever dreamed of being a promoter,” said Josselyn. “I understand the perspective of the collector, as I waited in lines for autographs myself for many years. I try not to hurry the collectors past the athletes, as the few moments that they share with the ballplayers are just as important as the autographs themselves. This is my fourth year in the hobby as a promoter and I’m learning all the time. New England collectors support the local teams and the hobby as well as any fans in the country. The GBSCC show proves my point every year as collectors from all over the region come to support the show. The club’s executive board does a great job putting the show together.”
Phil Castinetti, a local dealer for the past two decades who recently expanded his operations by opening a new store in Saugus, Mass., agreed with Josselyn’s remarks. “Without a doubt,” claimed Castinetti, “the GBSCC show is the best in New England and possibly across the country. This show draws dealers from all around the country and has thousands of collectors show up faithfully every year. The autograph lineup is as good as any show around and the level of collectibles is remarkable. There’s everything from new card products to vintage autographs to World Series trophies in this room right now. The show just gets bigger and better every year.”
June show added
Bigger and better could be the keywords in the near future for the GBSSC shows, as a major announcement at the 2008 event offered a look at the club’s plans for expansion in the near future. The GBSCC executive board revealed plans for 2009, which include creating a second three-day show slated for June 5-7 to go along with their annual event every November.
The new show will be titled “Summer Sports Fest” and be held in the same location at the Shriner’s Auditorium in Wilmington, Mass.
“New England collectors and club members have been asking for a second GBSCC show for years and we finally got together and created another event,” explained D’Amico the vice president of the Greater Boston Sports Collectors Club. “We believe that it will be as big as our annual show has been for the past 23 years. If this year’s attendance of dealers and collectors is a preview of the Summer Sports Fest, then it will be a big hit. Everyone has been so positive about adding the second show. I’ve long said that there aren’t better collectors in the hobby than in New England, and every year they prove me right.”