In 1936 Avery Brundage said to those who protested that the Olympic Games should not be held in Hitler's Germany, "The politics of a nation is of no concern to the International Olympic Committee."
In 1972, on a sultry September morning in Munich's Olympic Stadium, in front of 80,000 people gathered to mourn the death by political assassination of 11 Israeli Olympians, Avery Brundage said it again: "The Games must go on."
As Brundage saw things, men and nations could behave as barbarously toward each other as they chose as long as their barbarities posed no threat to his beloved "Olympic Movement." From 1936, when he was first appointed to the U.S. Olympic Committee, until 1972, when he stepped down after 20 years as president of the IOC, Brundage's name was synonymous with everything that was right and wrong with the Olympic Games. He defended them, and the philosophy of amateurism that he saw embodied in them, with the ferocity of a grizzly sow. If some of us grew up in the unquestioned belief that there was something intrinsically finer about an amateur athlete than a professional one, it was probably Avery Brundage's doing.
It was he who once said, scornfully, "I suspect that if a professional baseball player discovered one day that he could make more money by going back home and laying bricks for a living, he'd go home and lay bricks." Swayed by the strength of his narrow conviction, we would momentarily forget Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb and Ted Williams and the young Willie Mays and nod sadly in agreement. How true. How true.
Avery Brundage was a rock, a monument, a force, an influence, a stumbling block and a tough old bird. R.I.P.
The channeled passion of a true collector is usually communicable only to others of the same persuasion. Numismatists talk to other numismatists. Snuffbox lovers seek each other out. But when the object of the collecting passion is baseball cards, even a serious practitioner like Bob Richardson, a copydesk man on the Boston Herald American in real life, can speak to ordinary people.
According to Richardson, the single most-sought-after baseball card in the country right now is a 1909 issue bearing a picture of Honus Wagner. A 1909 Wagner, says Richardson, is worth at least $1,000, its value being determined by its scarcity. There are only some 12 to 14 such cards in existence because old Honus, it is said, did not want his name associated with the tobacco company that distributed them and the company obliged him by withdrawing the issue.
Another treasure, says John Stirling, an Indianapolis funeral director, is a Felins Frank. Felins Frank? Who did he play for? Felins Frank, says collector Stirling, was the name of a company that in the 1920s gave out baseball cards along with its hot dogs.