SI Vault
Curry Kirkpatrick
November 25, 1974
Before the cost of ignorance jumps as high as the price of your morning eggs, there is this to know about sports memorabilia:
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November 25, 1974

A Million Museum Mementos Is The Bargain At Joel Platt's Place

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Before the cost of ignorance jumps as high as the price of your morning eggs, there is this to know about sports memorabilia:

?The Polo Grounds home plate that Bobby Thomson crossed after hitting his home run in the 1951 playoff is not in the baseball Hall of Fame. Neither is the Boston Braves' uniform Babe Ruth wore when he hit the last three home runs of his career.

?The contract that Bronko Nagurski signed to play for the Chicago Bears in 1934 is not in the football Hall of Fame. Neither are Pudge Heffelfinger's Yale pants and pads.

?William (Lone Star) Dietz' baby curls from his first haircut are not in Los Angeles' Citizen's Savings (n�e Helms) Athletic Foundation Hall. Gene Tunney's "long count" gloves were not among the keepsakes Jack Dempsey took home when he closed his New York City restaurant last month. And Muhammad Ali's 1960 Olympic Games sweatshirt is neither buried forever like his former name, nor is it being mass-reproduced in order to hype that hoped-for $10 million purse.

All of these things—along with more than one million similar items—are sitting in the lower level of a house on Orion Drive in a suburb of Pittsburgh. They belong to Joel Platt, the self-styled "King of the Collectors." But, as Platt is the first to agree in the case of his dazzling accumulation of baseball bats, boxing gloves, hockey sticks, football helmets, golf clubs, team uniforms, pictures, trophies, letters, medals and every other form of athletic minutiae, a house is not a proper home for such treasures.

This is not any ordinary run-of-the-mill conglomeration of junk Platt has down there filling up eight rooms. He has spent 31 of his 35 years collecting his memorabilia, traveling the country and accosting famous athletes and/or their relatives to acquire the goods. Platt has more than 20,000 autographed pictures, 15,000 programs, hundreds of pieces of sports equipment dating back to 1865. He has one room lined with racks of autographed baseballs. It is called The Ballroom. Along the way to acquiring these mementos, Platt has also latched onto a dream.

It is Platt's idea to use his vast collection as a nucleus in the establishment of a "Sports Immortals Museum." This would be a national shrine similar to the Citizen's Savings Hall but, as Platt puts it, "without the dull, musty atmosphere of most museums.

"My museum would provide the nation with the most extensive and imaginative displays of sports memorabilia ever assembled," Platt says. "Audio-visual displays, wax figures of the stars, voice tapes of athletes describing their great performances, IQ computer quizzes, movies depicting classical moments in sports, a restaurant, motel and theater complex. Most museums don't live or breathe. The Sports Immortals Museum would come alive right before your very eyes.

"This project is no longer just me. I promised the people who gave me their mementos that they would be in a museum one day. And Joel Platt keeps his promises."

Platt routinely lapses into such euphoria when discussing his grand plan. But most of his efforts to attract state, foundation or private-corporation funding have fallen on deaf ears.

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