Imhof, who has a question-and-answer column of his own in the San Jose Mercury, had a radio show several years ago that was a failure because he was so successful. A cigarette lighter manufacturer sponsored the program, a question-and-answer show, and Imhof was supposed to give a lighter to each listener who stumped him. Thirteen weeks went by, and not one lighter was given away. Fearful of bad public relations, the sponsor hinted that it might be best if Imhof missed every now and then. Imhof compromised to the extent of giving away lighters on unanswerable questions ("Would Jack Dempsey have beaten Joe Louis?"), but it was too late to salvage the program.
From time to time Imhof dreams of doing a book. Several years ago he suggested to a publisher that he bring out a book giving a complete play-by-play account of every World Series game. After some dickering Imhof huffily decided against it. "I wanted to write, 'Greenberg hit to left, advancing Gehringer to second,' " he explains, "but that was too dry. That's history, but that was too dry. They wanted this stuff that Russ Hodges gives you on the radio, ' Willie Mays runs back against the fence and makes the most monumental catch you ever saw!' That's what they wanted. But I didn't want any deal like that."
Much of Imhof's time is spent corresponding with more than 400 collectors around the country. It is not unusual for him to spend as much as three hours a day just reading his incoming mail. Each fall when the canning season ends, Imhof takes a month's tour of the state to poke around bookstores for out-of-the-way volumes. Mrs. Imhof goes along and dutifully stays by the car feeding nickels and dimes into parking meters. To make sure that she doesn't run out of coins, Imhof thoughtfully keeps a sackful of them hanging from a hook in the back seat. If this might sound, as though Imhof is unnecessarily hard on his wife, well, it just isn't so. For example, he doesn't begrudge her a thing for the house—as long as it has a sporting connection. "I like to buy things from people in sports," he says. "When my wife told me she wanted some new drapes for the house, I said, 'O.K., as long as you get them from Don Silva." He's a former Pacific Coast League and American Association umpire. When I decided to build this house, the first two bids I let were to two former boxers. The backyard house was built by Joe Rondon, a former lightweight. We get Marin-Dell milk because Sal Taormina, an old Seal outfielder, works for them."
As if to underline his love for sports, Imhof is always willing to answer any question about sports from home. He doesn't mind if the call comes through at three in the morning. (Try it. The number is ALpine 2-7039.) The question he is most often asked is: why didn't Schmeling get the heavyweight title when he knocked out Louis? And the simple answer is that Louis wasn't the titleholder at the time. Braddock was.
The collection itself is open to anyone who wishes to consult it. Imhof welcomes visitors. "Anyone can come any time and enjoy it with me," he says. "The only thing is I wish I knew who was the bastard who took my 1942 Ring Record Book."