Page Written Account of
28th Annual 2007
Sports Collectors Convention
Pre Con Venture to
and Adamstown PA
on highlighted words to see photos
28th annual 2007 National Sports Collectors Convention
was held August 1 thru 5 at the IX
Center in Cleveland Ohio. I believe it was one of the better
Nationals in recent years for sports antiques. Although the
show only went for five days I was gone eleven. As is my usual
routine when going to a National I left a week early to do some
exploring. Things got interesting right from the go. As I was
walking thru the San Francisco airport I saw Willy Mays come out
of the American Airlines Admirals Club. I made the mistake of
asking permission to take his photo. He adamantly refused my
request, waving me off with a gruff raised voice. He was out in
public, I should have never asked, and just took one. He probably
wouldn't have noticed or cared. Although, I escorted him to his room once
at the hotel I work at and my impression was; do it his way, and you’ll get along
fine with him.
flew from San Francisco to Philadelphia where I stayed for two
nights and one day. I had always wanted to see Philadelphia, and
since it was only 430 miles from there to Cleveland I went for it.
The plan for the trip was to arrive in
Philadelphia Thursday and rent a car, see the city Friday, leave
for Adamstown Saturday morning, leave Adamstown Sunday afternoon
and drive on to Cleveland for the National. In Philadelphia I saw
Boat House Row, the sculpture
on Kelly Drive, the Philadelphia
Museum of Art, and Constitution Square.
photos to enlarge
genuine article - A
Philly cheese steak
Jim's Steaks on South Street
I lucked out a few days
before I left. A guest at the hotel I work at was from Philly and
I asked her where to get the best Philly cheese
steak. She told me Jim’s
Steaks on South Street is the best. The first night I got there I
took a cab to Jim’s. She was right on; Jim’s definitely has it
on the grill the was a large bed of top round sliced paper
thin. I watched as the cook separated a spatula full of the cooked
meat and formed a patty on the grill. He then opened a bun,
painted it with cheese whiz, placed it open face over the patty,
slid the spatula under it all and flipped the whole thing right
side up, added the onions...and handed it to me. Take it from
someone who is picky, it was excellent! Philadelphia’s two most well known places to get a cheese
steak are Pat’s and
Gino’s. They’re competitors, and face
each other; both on ends of V shaped city blocks in “South
Philly”, as it’s called. The next night I tried the cheese
steak at Pat’s, and it couldn’t hold a candle to Jim’s. Plus
the service was way nicer at Jim’s.
I was planning my trip to Philly I emailed the Schuylkill Navy and
asked for a hotel recommendation near Boat House Row. The
Schuylkill Navy is the oldest amateur athletic governing body in
the United States and comprises the ten rowing clubs of Boathouse
Row. Clete Graham the Commodore was kind enough to hook me
up with Joe Sweeny to give me a tour of the Row, and he was great.
Joe was 70 had been rowing since college. Just looking at him you
could tell he’s in excellent shape. He occasionally fills in on
crew teams, and also coaches a women’s crew team. Joe started
the tour by graciously treating me to breakfast at a café near Boathouse
Row frequented by rowers. I ordered scrapple
and eggs so I could try scrapple for the first time. Scrapple
is basically a pork scrap meatloaf, served by the slice,
indigenous to Pennsylvania. It was ok, not bad.
As we walked along
on the tour it was obvious Joe was very well known and liked by the
rowing community, especially the young ladies! Joe took me thru
about three boathouses. I had asked Clete Graham if there was a
rowing museum on the Row, he told me no. However, each boathouse
is a museum in it’s self. They all had a good amount
memorabilia, much of it dating from the 19th century.
After about three or four houses, Joe told me he wished he could
show me the Malta club’s house, as it had the most memorabilia,
but that he didn’t have access to it since he wasn‘t a member.
We walked up to it and Joe quickly found someone outside that he
knew. He explained I was writing a story and asked if he could
show me the inside. The gentleman graciously said he’d be glad
to but they had just shellacked the floor. He checked to see
if it was dry, and cautiously led us upstairs where I could see a
good amount of incredible looking antique memorabilia on the
walls. The gentleman said it was a shame we had come then as they
had taken the display cases out for the shellac job, and that they
would be back in a few days. It was wrenching not to be able to
wander around and at least see all the stuff on the walls.
However, being the floors might not be fully dry, Joe didn’t
want to impose further and suggested we leave. Shortly after, Joe
had to leave to coach his women’s rowing team, and my tour
that I drove further up Kelly Drive, which Boathouse Row sits on,
and took in how incredibly scenic it is. There is a narrow strip
of a park, about half a block wide, between Kelly Drive and the
Schuylkill River (scoo-cul). Actually it’s all part of Philly’s
Fairmont Park. From there, throughout the day you can see rowing
action going on up and down the river. 8 man teams, 4 man teams,
single sculls, and all type rowing endeavor. I’m sure there is
more rowing going on there daily than anywhere in the country. I
was struck by one lifeless aspect of the scenery; the bridge
supports. I immediately recognized them from the Thomas Eakins
rowing paintings he did in the late 19th century. For me
that was exciting.
highlight was seeing Frederic Remington’s c1908 heroic bronze
statue titled “Cowboy”, of a cowboy on a horse on the edge of
a cliff. It’s the only outdoor public work Remington ever
produced. I remembered reading how Remington had insisted on it’s
location, which added meaning to seeing it in person. By the way,
Remington played “rusher” on the 1879 Yale football team, and
I have an 1879 Harvard vs. Yale football program which he’s
listed in, along with Walter Camp.
knew the “Cowboy” statue was in Fairmont Park, somewhere in
the strip next to the river. I must have spent half an hour
driving around looking for it. In desperation I ended up driving
deeper into the park away from the river. Finally I found a park
maintenance worker who tried to explain where it was. He ended up
leading me to it in his city maintenance truck full of tree
trimmings. Now that’s the City of Brotherly Love! Turned out it
was on the opposite side of Kelly Drive from the strip, facing the
river. Essentially you’re suppose to view it from across Kelly
Drive; a distance of about 30 feet. Being a bronze statue
aficionado, no way would that suffice. I dodged traffic, made it
across, and climbed the embankment to where it was. Unavoidably I
ravaged the flower bed that surrounds it while soiling my spotless
white brand new K-Swiss. As is typical viewing outdoor sculpture,
it was interesting to see the foundry
marks, and the nuances of
their work, but after that it’s kind of anti-climatic. It’s
not like you get to take it home or anything, you look at it and
it stays there; collectors like to take stuff home! The whole
drawn out arduous history of the statue’s commission, from
conception to casting to erection is detailed in Harold and Peggy
Samuels' 1982 book “A Biography: Frederic Remington“.
taking in the Remington and other statues I headed to the
Philadelphia Museum of Art where I saw two of the greatest
American sports paintings. Both by Thomas Eakins, “Between
Rounds” a c1898 boxing painting, and “The Pair-Oared Shell”,
a c1872 rowing painting . It was a special experience seeing them
in person after seeing them in books, especially “Between Rounds”.
The museum doesn't allow use of a flash and I'm no good without
one, so my photos were lame.
In the front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of America’s
largest outdoor displays of sculpture from the Beau-Arts (realism)
era, the Washington Monument done in 1897 by Rudolf Siemering
(German). It’s magnificent, and fitting to have so powerful a
work directly in front of a power museum. On the right side of the
front steps of the museum is another sculpture that technically
isn’t art because it was created for a movie, but probably gets
as much if not more attention as the colossal Washington Monument.
I speak of the statue of Rocky Balboa. I stood for a while
watching as one after another people have their picture taken in
front of it. And then there was the Rocky dance on the front steps
of the museum. Again it was a continual parade of picture taking
as people do the Rocky - both fists over their head thing while
getting their picture taken.
note on the restaurants there at the museum. There was a regular
sit down restaurant with a great looking buffet for $22.00. Next
door to it was a jam packed cafeteria with a Costco-esque
selection. I saw the $22.00 for the buffet and ran for the
cafeteria. All the food there looked fantastic…too fantastic….they
sell it by the ounce. By the time I gathered this and that and
stood in a long line to pay, the bill came to $17.00! For a few
bucks more get the buffet.
there is was off to Constitution Square where I saw the Liberty
Bell, then took the last tour of the day to see Independence Hall
where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Constitution Square I called up Joe and we went to Pat’s for
another cheese steak. From there Joe took me to a posh rowing bar in
the Rittenhouse Hotel, on Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. The
owner of the hotel was a friend of Joe's, and it was explained to
me the owner funds a good deal of rowing endevour of Boathouse
Row, so they loan
for his bar.
in the bar I got to know Joe a little more. Essentially he was Mr.
Philadelphia. He had lived there all his life, and had known all
the movers and shakers of the city for many decades. As we were
walking thru Rittenhouse Square Joe pointed out where his father,
who had been a doctor, had his office when he was growing up. Joe was
retired from the City of Philadelphia as the Controller. He had
been second in command of the City under the police chief.
Amazingly he was even a close friend of Grace Kelly‘s, and had
attended her wedding reception to Prince Rainer in Monaco. What an
interesting person and what a pleasure to meet him.
next day I left Philadelphia for Adamstown Pennsylvania, about an
hour away. I was surprised at the bumper to bumper traffic on
Interstate 76 on a Saturday. It was my second visit to Adamstown.
Adamstown is kind of the antique capital of the United States, or
at least it used to be before eBay. The town abounds with antiques
stores and there are two renowned antique flea markets, Renningers, and
Stoudt’s, also called Black
Angus. Also there’s
another outdoor antique market, Shupps Grove, that is located in a
forest of pine trees about 5 minutes outside Adamstown. A friend
of mine, Jerry Director told me an interesting story. He said
before the internet when Adamstown was on fire (in it’s
hay-day), Shupps Grove would be so packed he would have to park
two miles away and hike in. You just know Bob
McCann , Corey
Leiby , and David
Hunt have been strip mining the town for decades. All them live in
Pennsylvania within driving distance. By now they probably have pneumatic delivery
tube systems from each store right to their living rooms.
I got to Adamstown, I started combing the stores as soon as I hit
town. I started at one end and headed toward the other. Loosely,
my plan was to see the Adamstown Antiques Gallery last. Sort of
leaving the best for last. Adamstown Antiques Gallery is the best
store in the town for antique advertising, toys and general
Americana. Pretty much everything in the store is high quality.
Plus it’s clean, well lit and air conditioned. It’s also the
home of Morphy Auctions. But there was a problem….it was closed
by the time I got there. Most of the stores stay open till at
least 5:00PM but they closed at 4:00PM. I was dumbfounded. But I
figured it was open the next day Sunday, so I’d see it then.
Your National story is fabulous! I like how you spotlight dealers and collectors. It is a great reference. I also like how you show the local shops and restaurants along the way. It is like I am watching the Travel Channel or an Antiques Digest Show.
-Dr. John Gennantonio, Cincinnati Ohio
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next morning I was up at 3:00AM and got to Renningers and
by about 4:00AM. Unfortunately it rained and cut the number of
dealers way down. It rained the last time I was there too! Both
markets have some covered outdoor area so there was still a certain
amount of activity. Plus both markets have sprawling indoor areas
with many permanent dealers. My parade got rained on but it was
still fun. All I had on was a short sleeved shirt and shorts and
wasn’t a bit cold even at 4:00AM. I saw the same pattern of
activity as the last time I was there. Stoudt’s Black Angus
Antique Mall and Renninger’s Antiques/Collectibles Market are
less than a mile apart, and they both open the same time, about
4:00AM. So in the early hours when dealers are slowly getting
set up, collectors comb one market then hop in their
car and head for
the other. So there’s a lot of running back and forth between
markets, and everyone’s doing the same thing.
the markets I headed over to the Adamstown Antique
Gallery. I was
so beat I slept in my car for half an hour before I went in.
Basically it was like going to a very good antiques show, it was
full of great stuff. But as usual there was very little sports
items. The one thing that stood out was a c1900,
12 1/2" plate with a
batter and catcher illustrated on it, for $750.00. I himmed and
hawed over it. I didn’t feel I needed it for my collection, but
being I was on my way to the National I thought maybe I could flip
it there. I’d seen the illustration on other porcelain pieces. I
believe it was produced in Vienna. It’s strongest aspect was it’s
deluxe 12 1/2" size, that I’d never seen before. I decided to get
it, and naturally no one wanted it in Cleveland so I ended up
owning it. When I got it home I was glad no one bought it, as it
rounded out my baseball stuff
with a large porcelain piece.
Adamstown Sunday afternoon I headed for Cleveland on Interstate
76. My estimated time of arrival was around 1:00AM. However I hit
a rainstorm that was so bad it was too dangerous to drive, and had to get off the highway. I made it to a town called Camp Hill
PA., near Carlisle. There I hunkered down in a Starbucks with internet, till the storm
passed. I lost about 3 hours, and got to Cleveland about 4:00AM.
Monday I got up late and took off for an antiques mall in
then rested up that evening for the big day.
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