Today’s #TBT sports blog dusts off my popular interview from a few years ago with Dennis Schrader. The likeable Floridian is widely known for amassing an unparalleled collection of autographed baseballs that he calls Little Cooperstown.
Schrader’s love of baseball is evident. His enthusiasm for baseball history is infectious. But, his personal collection of autographed baseballs is nothing less than extraordinary.
Dennis Schrader’s signed baseball collection, once housed in the spare bedroom of his Odessa, FL home, is now internationally recognized. It comprises the most comprehensive and coveted collection of autographed baseballs on the planet.
In 2011, London-based Guinness World Records certified that Schrader’s Little Cooperstown, with a whopping 4,400 signed baseballs, officially ranks as the largest.
The collector’s Little Cooperstown success has been decades long in the making. The immensely likable Schrader started collecting baseballs in 1956 as a kid in Largo, FL. Now his prized cache of coveted balls proudly reside in a museum in downtown St. Petersburg, FL.
Yankee legend Mickey Mantle signed his first ball during Spring Training. Schrader’s passion for the sport and preoccupation with baseball memorabilia, especially the autographed kind, quickly tuned into a lifelong obsession and one that other lovers of baseball can now enjoy.
Schrader declares, “There isn’t any big name who has ever played the game whose signature I don’t have on a ball.”
Schrader’s Collection Boasts 3,300 Certificates
A bold proclamation, but Schrader’s collection is corroborated by over 3,000 certificates of authenticity, scores of photographs and videos, and several testimonial letters that include the Mayor of St. Petersburg, FL and an ethics professor from the University of South Florida.
When interviewed, Schrader reflected how kids always ask to see his Jeter, A-Rod, Pujols and Longoria stuff. But Schrader smiles broadly in recalling how dads and grandfathers go nuts over his plastic encased Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio memorabilia. Schrader’s beloved DiMaggio ball even boasts the signature of the Yankee Clipper’s bride of nine months, the iconic Marilyn Monroe.
Despite generational differences, one name in Schrader’s collection emerges as baseball fans’ undisputed favorite. According to this collector, kids, fathers and grand dads alike are wowed by the nine baseballs signed by legendary Babe Ruth. This micro collection is housed with his other 4,000+ autographed balls in a 150 square foot bedroom, wisely protected with fortress type door and security system.
Schrader’s obsession has emerged as a baseball lover’s gift-wrapped Christmas present. In addition to featuring the Who’s Who of Hall of Famers in his Little Cooperstown, Schrader’s baseball cache also includes autographed balls from the Negro League as well as the famed all-female League of their Own. In addition, it boasts a Sadaharu Oh’s autograph with a prominently penned 868, his career home run total, proudly placed beside it.
Schrader’s Stash Includes a Signed “Shoeless” Joe Jackson
Not to be outdone, Schrader holds what is arguably one of baseball’s most coveted prizes: a Shoeless Joe Jackson. Legend has it that the disgraced Black Sox player rarely signed his name due to personal embarrassment of his poor penmanship.
Schrader’s boundless collection of baseball keepsakes may be amazing, but his personal story is equally compelling. The cancer survivor’s Little Cooperstown is a culmination of a 55 year commitment to collecting that has proven far more cumbersome and arduous than originally envisioned.
Schrader has spent years scouring the internet, phoning prospective sellers, attending countless sports memorabilia shows and forking over a personal fortune for, at times, someone’s barely legible John Hancock on an old piece of raw hide.
Yet is seems all these personal adventures, travels and events have only stoked the embers of Schrader’s personal passion for baseball.
Dennis Schrader, thanks for your persistence. Thanks for your commitment. Thanks for faithfully demonstrating your loyalty and love for a game whose roots date back to 1836. You’ve preserved for the rest of us a unique and unifying piece of what’s great about American history in Little Cooperstown.
Now, Mr. Schrader, I suggest you make one final addition to your collection. Go out, buy a baseball and sign it yourself. . . .
“Dennis Schrader, Owner of Little Cooperstown, largest collection of autographed baseballs in the world.”
MIKE – aka Mike Raffone – thee ultimate talking head on sports!