Good, Bad News: Cards Museum Buys Gibby Items

The St. Louis Cardinals Museum made some important purchases from Bob Gibson's personal collection of memorabilia. Too bad no one can see them.

We will start this piece off with a summary presented in a "good news, bad news" format that seems most appropriate for the subject.


Bad news: Earlier this summer, St. Louis Cardinals great Bob Gibson made public his plans to auction off 100 pieces of personal memorabilia collected during his Hall of Fame career and since.


Good news: On Monday, the Cardinals announced the acquisition of four artifacts for their Cardinals Museum collection. Three Gibson items, including his 1968 Cy Young Award, are among them.


Bad news: The Cardinals had to spend over $136,000 at auction to secure the three keepsakes.


Good news: By purchasing them, the Cardinals have protected the future of these important links to their past.


Bad news: The new acquisitions will not be on display to the public indefinitely because there is no Cardinals Museum in which to house them.


In the meantime, the above photo will have to suffice.


Now that you get the drift, let's delve into the details.


The Cardinals proudly announced via press release their newest acquisitions, which include Gibson's 1968 Cy Young Award, Gibson's personal Hall of Fame plaque, one of Gibson's game-used gloves and Earl "Sparky" Adams' 1931 World Series Championship ring.


I am not going to go into Gibson's legacy and importance to the Cardinals franchise. Suffice it to say he is simply the best pitcher to have ever put on the uniform, a man we ranked in 2007 as the second greatest Cardinal of all time. The 1968 season was his signature campaign, making the acquisition even more important.


The team's Monday announcement helped to fill in some important blanks to a story I first introduced back on June 30th at my blog,, a companion site to this one.


In an entry entitled, "Bob Gibson: ‘Who will buy my memories?'", I related my conflicted feelings over Gibson's plan to auction off his personal mementoes, accumulated over the last fifty years.


The live auction was held on July 31 at the National Sports Collector's Convention in Cleveland. It was conducted by a local company hired by Gibson called Legendary Auctions.


Until this Monday, I knew just the basics – only a dozen items had been sold, netting over $450,000. The details of what was purchased and at what prices were released, but none of the buyers' identities were disclosed – until the Cardinals' announcement, that is.


Here are the specifics from the July auction, with the three items purchased by the Cardinals listed first:


Minimum Final bid
Cardinals purchases
1968 Cy Young Award 25,000 82,950
Personal Hall of Fame plaque 4,000 44,438
Game used glove 4,000 8,888
Subtotal 33,000 136,276
Other Gibson items sold
1959 contract - rookie year 4,000 5,333
1st victory game ball 4,000 11,850
1967 World Championship ring 15,000 53,325
1968 contract 3,000 4,444
1971 Gold Glove Award 1,500 16,590
1968 MVP Award 50,000 118,500
1981 Hall of Fame induction ring 15,000 29,625
All Century Team collection (7 items) 5,000 18,960
2006 World Championship ring 5,000 56,288
Subtotal 102,500 314,915
Grand total 135,500 451,191


Though I originally came to the realization that it is Gibson's right to sell his personal items, I still didn't like it. Something about seeing my childhood hero's spoils auctioned to the highest bidder just felt wrong. Now it seems even more a shame given how this played out.


To secure key items from Gibson's legacy for the team museum, his own organization had to compete against a convention of memorabilia hawks, paying market value plus hefty auction fees.


Why couldn't the two have worked it out without having to go to that extent?


After all, Gibson remains employed by the club as a special instructor and has often been in uniform during recent spring training camps. Ironically, one of the most recent items sold to the highest bidder in July was his 2006 championship ring.


Cardinals officials are also not above scrutiny as they represent both what is right and what is wrong with this story.


I applaud them for doing what was necessary to ensure fans for years to come will have a chance to see Gibson's Cy Young Award and the other items instead of allowing them to disappear into the collectors underground.


At the same time, I remain critical of ownership for having shut down the Cardinals Museum. Ironically, the "temporary" closing announcement was made exactly 365 days ago.


The promise is of a new bigger and better Museum. The problem is that its future is tied up in the never-ending Ballpark Village saga. Instead of opening an interim museum location, the team is trying to placate history-hungry fans by displaying a tiny subset of the collection at Busch Stadium.


With St. Louis having been the center of the baseball universe during this summer's All-Star Game Week festivities, wouldn't that have been an ideal time to share the depth of St. Louis' rich baseball past with tens of thousands of visiting fans?


Wouldn't it have been nice to see the Museum's new acquisitions as Adam Wainwright completes his own Cy Young Award bid and during the playoffs?


Instead, there was no museum to visit in July, there still isn't one now and no one has any idea when there will be.


The delays associated with even the initial phase of Ballpark Village means there has been no target re-opening date established for the Museum, founded in 1968.


As such, until the new Museum opens, there are no plans to display the new acquisitions announced Monday, a club official confirmed. It appears they will go into storage with the vast majority of the over-15,000 artifact collection.


If only the Cardinals had gotten together with Gibson regarding their interest in acquiring some of his memorabilia, maybe they could have reallocated some money for rent on a temporary downtown storefront to re-open the Cardinals Museum, an underappreciated gem.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.


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