Platt no longer considers himself a mere collector, a species he describes as "bedbugs, generally lacking in the social graces and having innate personality defects." He thinks of himself more as a museum curator.
His primary occupation is in real estate. He owns some buildings in downtown Pittsburgh and he has prospered enough to hire others to watch over his holdings while he indulges himself in the planning for the museum. Keeping up to date on new records, corresponding with teams' equipment managers for uniforms and autographs, and hustling the collection take most of his time.
Even a quick look at the basement rooms reveals a range from fascinating nostalgia to inconsequential trivia: Red Grange's No. 77 jersey and a Riva Ridge shoe; Jesse Owens' commemorative Olympic medals and Henry Armstrong's shoeshine brushes; Henry Aaron's Milwaukee Braves uniform and tickets to the Corbett-Sullivan fight in 1892.
Platt has a piece of wood chopped by Cy Young just hours before baseball's most prolific winner died of a heart attack, not to mention a picture of him chopping it. He has the only ball Curt Simmons ever hit for a home run; a photo of Edgar Allan Poe's second cousins wearing their Princeton football suits; a timing bell used in the bantamweight championship fight in 1912 between Kid Williams and Johnny Coulon at Doyles Arena in Vernon, Calif.; and a picture of the 1922 Oorang Indian team that went 2-6 in its only season in the NFL even though it featured such players as Stillwell Sanooke, Baptiste Thunder, Xavier Downwind and Jim Thorpe.
On a trip to California a few years ago Platt made the important contacts that have led to his fondest acquisitions, a wealth of memorabilia left by Thorpe. Earlier he had called on Thorpe's daughter, Grace, in Pearl River, N.Y. She had refused to come to the door. He had talked to hundreds of people in the Pennsylvania towns of Carlisle and Jim Thorpe for information on the great Sac and Fox Indian. Finally the trail led to Cabazon, Calif., where Thorpe's third wife, Patricia, was living in a trailer and caring for retarded indigents. That first visit and several subsequent ones failed to interest Mrs. Thorpe in contributing to the future museum. Then, out of the blue three years later, a telegram arrived on Orion Drive. It said simply, "Am confined to bed. Come and get Jim's things." Joel Platt did. Now all he needs is someplace to put them all so he can clean out his basement.