$4 million Harwell collection a rare, neglected gem | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

$4 million Harwell collection a rare, neglected gem

Before it’s too late, baseball history buffs may want to pilgrimage to Motown, home to a neglected and rarely discussed slice of America’s pastime’s past.

No, you can no longer cruise by the corner of Michigan and Trumbull and spot the white, boxy facade of old Tiger Stadium, which has now been put out of its misery.

You have to look a bit harder: into an often dark, locked room in the Detroit Public Library, where you can find $4 million worth of baseball memories compiled by legendary Tiger broadcaster Ernie Harwell during his 68-year career. It’s a collection that’s trumped only by the treasure housed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In the library you can find more than 2,500 rare baseball cards from as far back as the 1880s, the 106-year old letter that told Ty Cobb to report to the Tigers, and four decades worth of All-Star Game programs, among much more.

Harwell began donating his collection to the library in 1965. But, as the Detroit News reports, the mismanaged, understaffed library system has limited access to the collection, which was visited by just 500 people last year. What’s worse, thieves may have thinned out parts of the collection, much of which is not cataloged.

The paper reports:

“It’s a disaster,” said John King, the owner of John K. King Used & Rare Books. “I am worried they are just continuing the destruction of the library because they aren’t taking care of the collections. We are going to lose this history.

“Ernie wouldn’t be happy. This is an extension of him.”

Theft already has been an issue in the collection that includes thousands of baseball cards, Harwell’s 1968 World Series ring, rare letters, the guides he bought as a youngster with paper route proceeds and other one-of-a-kind artifacts.

Four years ago, a former library staffer was fired for stealing some of Harwell’s baseball cards. The cards were returned, but the employee wasn’t prosecuted, and officials acknowledge they can’t be certain if they got all of the cards back.

That should be heartbreaking to any baseball fan, especially those familiar with Ernie Harwell, whose huge talent in the radio booth (he was the only announcer ever traded for a baseball player, after all) was only overshadowed by his kindness.

So, while Ernie’s collection is still there, make an appointment to see it. And, if you’re still in the mood for more Ernie Harwell lore while you’re in the area, you may want to check out this out.

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