By SCOTT SMITH
Dan Lovegrove sought to be a scriptwriter when he graduated from the University of Utah a few years ago with a bachelor of arts degree in theater. Surely the 25-year-old Darien resident could put together a few plots about himself.
For instance, he could write Pin of Dreams: A young man becomes engrossed in learning about Lou Gehrig, the legendary first baseman of the New York Yankees. He reads anything he can find on the "Iron Horse," memorizing every detail about the Hall of Famer's career. Then, he discovers that a one-of-a-kind pin, designed for Gehrig when he was the American League's honorary captain at the 1939 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, is up for auction, At his first memorabilia auction, the man is able to outbid the field, gaining possession of what may be the finest collectible associated with his idol.
Or, how about Turning Point: A young man undergoes reconstructive hip surgery. During the ensuing rehabilitation, his activities are greatly limited. To kill time, he reads about sports and sports memorabilia. His research leads him to a never-before considered idea - why not marry his passion for sports and his knowledge of memorabilia collecting to a business venture. Thus, a new entrepreneur arises at the helm of "Recollectics."
Most likely, Lovegrove would write the story another way, probably under a title such as The Memory Maker: A young man decides to put his knowledge of sports memorabilia and sports history into a business. The business, "Recollectics," is not so much designed to reap a large profit as it is to get people involved in the field of collecting. Thus, a new form of a memorabilia dealer is born - one who serves as a consultant, not a seller.
Actually, Lovegrove would change one part of the last script; he would avoid the term "dealer. "
"I'm a sports-archaeologist"' he says. "I want to build (for) people these collections of meaningful artifacts. "
A "sports archaeologist" is, of course, much more than a mere collector of mementos. The phrase suggests someone who is deeply interested in the history of his subject.
"At home, I compile these newspaper clippings and articles, stuff that covers all sports," Lovegrove says. "I seek out sports' true artifacts. "
Lovegrove's holdings are not limited to file cabinets of articles. He is an extensive collector of memorabilia, especially World Series, AII-Star Game and Super Bowl press pins. He spent $38,000 to acquire the '39 Gehrig pin (see box),
Lovegrove insists that he did not buy the Gehrig pin simply to resell it later. Each new collectable he acquires has a story attached to it, a story that he wants, in some way, to be a part of.
"One thing I like about the pins is that they were there, they were at the game," he says. "They were in the lockerroom, in the pressbox or downstairs right next to the players. If they could talk, the stories they could tell.
"That's why any true artifact of sports, that was on the field, they're recollectic. "
His own business "Recollectics" is a term Lovegrove coined to define his view of memorabilia, a piece of sports history with more than a price attached to it. "A recollectic is any type of sports memorabilia that was a true artifact of the game," he says.
Lovegrove seees his business as a consulting firm for collectors. "I'd love to go into someone's home, and if they want to build a baseball room in there, I'd love to help them do it," he says.
Beyond serving as a curator, he would be "a proxy for a busy fan at an auction or show," or "if kids want to learn about pins or something, I'll help them."
Lovegrove stresses he is not in this venture for the profit, although he does want to earn a comfortable living from the business. "We have to go beyond investments," he says. "You have to collect something because you like it, not because of the investment value alone."
He believes that most collectors buy from the heart, not to fatten their wallet in the near future. "Some people wonder why recollectics have defied gravity," he says, referring to boom in the memorabilia business over the last decade. "The best answer I can find is that it's emotional, it's a passion ... because they can touch history, and collectors want to get as close to a player as they can. "
Currently, the only way to get in touch with "Recollectics" is by mail, but Lovegrove hopes to change that at some future date. "It would be a mail-order business to begin with, but I hope to get a storefront in Darien some time," he says.
A photo start
Dan Lovegrove's fascination with sports memorabilia began with a photograph. His grandmother years ago gave him an autographed photo of former heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey that had belonged to Dan's grandfather.
"I guess it's the Jack Dempsey photo," he recalls. "It drew me in. I just love sports."
His massive collection of press pins started when he bought the 1977 World Series pin that coin commemorated the series between the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. Why did he buy that piece? It reminded the diehard Yankee fan of the team's World Series rings.
Press pins are Lovegrove's specialty and he hopes to write a book on the subject for collectors some day. He is wellqualified. Not only does he own the Gehrig pin - "I'm the only person anywhere who has all the New York All-Star pins," he says -but he also owns a press pin for the 1937 All-Star game in Washington, something of a find, since most books claim the first AllStar press pin was issued for the 1938 game.
"They're probably the two rarest pins you'll ever find," he says proudly.
Cost aside, the Gehrig pin holds the greatest meaning for Lovegrove. He not only finds the on-field accomplishments fascinating, but Lovegrove also has a special appreciation for Gehrig's overcoming injury and illness to play a record 2,130 consecutive games.
Dan Lovegrove knows about physical hardship. He planned to study gemology at the Gem Institute of America in New York after graduation. But in October of 1988, while still at the University of Utah, he underwent reconstructive hip surgery, which included a metal plate being inserted into his right hip.
Unfortunately, complications eventually developed when the bone began to grow back over the plate. The intense pain Lovegrove suffered forced doctors to remove the plate. "That's one of my recollectics, the metal plate they put in my leg, " he says proudly. "I kept every screw."
The operations forced Lovegrove "to learn to walk all over again for the second time." He put his post-graduate studies on hold and took a job collecting tickets at the New Canaan Playhouse. To avoid being idle, he read books about sports, especially about Lou Gehrig.
That's how 'Recollectics' came to be," he says, "because I had so much free time on my hands and wasn't able to go out to parties and socialize at the time.
"I got so attached to these sports books. They kept me going. "
A valuable lesson
The rehabilitation taught Lovegrove a big lesson. "I also learned you should never take a single day for granted," he says. "I guess that's why when I had the opportunity to acquire the Gehrig pin, I had to try to acquire it."
Now, he hopes the Gehrig pin will open some new doors for him. "It will be on my stationary, my invoices to help me advertise and stuff," Lovegrove says.
While Lovegrove eventually plans to loan the pin to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., he first hopes to show it to two people in particular. One is former Yankee broadcasting great Mel Allen.
"I'd like to talk with Mel Allen because Lou Gehrig is to baseball what Mel Allen is to broadcasting with 'This Week in Baseball' (Allen's weekly television program)," Lovegrove says, adding that the broadcaster also was at the '39 All-Star Game and may know the story behind the presentation of the pin to Gehrig.
Another person Lovegrove wants to show the pin to is a former first baseman who now lives in Washington, D.C. -President George Bush. "I know George Bush played baseball at Yale, and he was a first baseman, and he was captain of the team his senior year. What a coincidence," Lovegrove says. "I know he's a baseball fan, and I'd love to show it to him."
Maybe he can even help George Bush the fan begin an extensive collection of memorabilia.
Gehrig is collection's pinnacle
By SCOTT SMITH
Lou Gehrig means almost as much to Dan Lovegrove as he did to the New York Yankees.
Lovegrove, a 25-year-old Darien resident, seeks information about the life of the legendary Hall of Fame first baseman with the passion of a scientist searching for the orgins of mankind. Then again, that's not so unusual for a man who calls himself a "sports archaelogist."
While Lou Gehrig's extraordinary feats have entranced countless baseball fans, he is a singular passion to Lovegrove. After all, not many enthusiasts would pay $38,000 for the 1939 Major League Baseball AllStar Game pin which was designed specifically and only for that year's honorary American League captain, Lou Gehrig.
The 1939 All-Star pin is no ordinary one. Shaped like a baseball diamond, the inner field is made of gold, with a raised baseball proclaiming the game's site and date - "New York 1939" - serving as the pitcher's mound. The basepaths are a dark blue featuring the words "All Star Game, American League." Four individual diamond stones represent each of the bases, Whereas each member of the attending press usually gets a commerative pin for an All-Star contest, only one pin was issued for the '39 game, and that went to Gehrig. It was his last appearance in a Yankee uniform.
Of course, Gehrig was no ordinary ballplayer. Nicknamed the "Iron Horse" for playing in an all-time record of 2,130 consecutive games, Gehrig put up some immortal numbers in his 17-year career. He hit .340 over that span, slugging 493 home runs - including 23 grand slams - and batting in 1,990 runs. In 1934, he won baseball's triple crown by leading the American League with a .363 batting average, 49 home runs and 165 RBIs. What is more incredible is that he achieved his extraordinary lifetime stats while hitting behind Babe Ruth for most of his career.
There was more to Gehrig than just his bat. He still is considered as one of the finest fielding first basemen of all time. Off the field, he was well-known for his kindness and generosity. Unfortunately, his career, and ultimately his life, ended prematurely, as he fell victim to ALS - Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis - since known more commonly as "Lou Gehrig's disease."
"Gehrig put his life on the line for the Pinstripes (Yankees)," Lovegrove says. "He was the epitome of a ballplayer."
When the chance to acquire the "Iron Horse" pin arose Lovegrove jumped at the opportunity. He and his father attended the April 28 Guernsey auction in New York City hoping to get an outside shot at acquiring the pin. After all, it is not often something of such magnitude becomes available.
Though many might not be able to fathom spending $38,000 on a sports artifact, Lovegrove feels that he arrived at his price quite logically. "Right up through April, I kept planning a strategy - 'How am I going to get this pin?' I just decided to learn everything about Gehrig and then take it from there," he says.
The most significant fact that he learned during the quest was that Gehrig never earned more than $39,000 in a season. "I finally decided to go as high as Lou Gehrig's highest contract, and that's as high as I'll bid," he says.
His chances seemed slim, since the auction house listed the value of the pin at approximately $75,000. But when the bidding ended, the price was still within Lovegrove's range, and he was the highest bidder. Thus, he became the owner of what he believes to be the ultimate piece of Gehrig memo-rabilia.
"I still can't believe that when the gavel came down at $38,000, it would be mine," he says.
The pin's worth is now irrele-vant to Lovegrove. He does not plan to resell the piece at any price, not even if someone offered him the original listing of $75,000.
"To me, it's worth more than that," he says. "How can you put a price on a national treasure?
Darien News-Review, Thursday July 26, 1990. Volume 18, No. 30.
Reprinted by permission Darien News-Review. (c) 1990 Darien News-Review.