Memories in memorabilia
By Mark Backes
I’ve been a collector of sports memorabilia for over 30 years. My passion for these collectables began because of my dad.
My dad had many passions, but none greater than Indiana State University basketball and golf. As a result, his memorabilia collection had a definite theme. So when I say ISU b-ball, think Larry Bird. And when I say golf, think Arnold Palmer.
When I was in my 20s, my dad started my collection with three great items.
The first was a signed photo of Larry Bird and my dad. My dad was a college professor at Indiana State University, at which he served as a faculty advisor to Bird the year the Fighting Sycamores chased Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans to the title game of the NCAA Tournament.
I remember being in college and visiting my dad during the tournament. We didn’t see the final game together, but I still remember how much fun watching the tournament in Terre Haute was at that time.
The second item is a signed photo of my dad and John Wooden, the iconic former UCLA basketball coach. Again, the Indiana State connection comes into play. Wooden and my dad met each other when Wooden attended an event at ISU honoring him as a former coach of the Fighting Sycamores.
The last item was my father’s most prized: a signed black and white 8”x11” photo of his golf hero, Arnold Palmer. Think about what Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson represent today; Arnold Palmer was arguably bigger than both of them in his day.
My dad taught me how to play golf when I was seven, and I grew up hearing about every tournament Palmer played in. I can’t even remember how many final Sunday tournament rounds I watched on a black and white Philco TV with my dad. So to get a signed photo of Palmer was really special to me.
Flash-forward to this morning — I was walking through our Goodwill production facility in San Francisco and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a great piece of memorabilia: a huge hand-signed Arnold Palmer print. I immediately called Julian Lopez, our merchandise manager, and asked him to post the print for sale online in our eCommerce eBay store.
I know this will be a great addition to someone’s collection. I would have bought it myself, but the 8”x11” black and white photo of “Arnie” my dad gave me is all the Palmer I need.
It’s the memory, not the memorabilia!