Labor-of-Love

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Labor of Love

by Stephen McKelvey

While the title of this book – Labor of Love – captures the essence of our father’s lifetime hobby, it applies equally to the five years spent cataloging thousands of autographed baseball items – auctioned off over almost two years by Heritage Auctions – to determine those which would be most fascinating to baseball fans and collectors of all ages.

For over six decades, our father lived a life “silly on baseball – while building one of the largest and unique private baseball autograph collections in the world. His “labor of love” was a meticulous approach to collecting themed autographed baseballs, team sheets and even first-day issue US Postal stamps he considered relevant to the culture of baseball. The collection celebrated everything from the game’s greatest milestones and memorable events … to its most noted characters, occurrences and relationships. It’s a genre of autograph collecting, known as “cluster collecting,” that he is widely credited with creating.

This book shares the story of the unique baseball autograph collection’s origins. The book features – in photographs and short stories – a collection of some of the most unique themed “cluster” items ever created, befitting my father’s legacy as “the czar of cluster collecting.” Included is a baseball signed by 17 of baseball’s legends who hit 50 or more home runs in a season; 13 players who are members of baseball’s 500-home run club; and all eight of the pitchers who won three or more Cy Young Awards (before Clayton Kershaw joined the group in November of last year).

Among the cluster-themed sheets is one signed by all eight Presidents of baseball’s American League teams in 1950 … and another signed by all 14 Presidents of American League teams in 1993 (which includes a future President of the United States!). Memorable event theme balls include those jointly signed by Hank Aaron & Al Downing, Orel Hershirer & Don Drysdale, Bill Veeck & Satchel Paige, Harry Caray & Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra & Sandy Amoros, Mickey Mantle & Chuck Hobbs, among many others.

What do these players have in common? Each of these cluster balls is accompanied by a story that details these players’ unique connection in baseball history. Of the hundreds of “cluster balls” my father collected, 35 of the most unique and special balls are featured in this book.

“Labor of Love” concludes with the story of The Collection’s most treasured family heirloom: a home-run themed baseball signed by Frank (Home Run) Baker, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Roger Maris … and Sammy Sosa. The tale of this baseball – the only one of its kind in the world – is as yet an unfinished story.