After seeing what I had discovered I immediately sent an email to the individual who sold them to me and I asked for any information that he had on these helmets. My curiosity had already been stirred up because underneath each of the helmet's bills somebody had put the names of their favorite player for each specific team. The list reads as follows:
Cubs - Bocabella
Giants - Hart
Mets - Swaboda
Indians - Colavito
Athletics - Hershberger
Reds - Johnson
Pirates - Clemente
Phillies - Callison
Angels - Peirsall
Sox - Berry
Dodgers - Lefebvre
Yankees - Mantle
Little things like this just make collecting helmets that much more interesting. Come to find out the gentlemen who sold me these helmets had picked them up at an estate auction in the Chicago area. He could not recall the name of the gentleman who had passed away, but he did tell me that this guy had played ball for the New York Yankees, but he wasn't for sure if that gentleman had made it to the big leagues. He did tell me that these helmets belonged to that guy's son and that this kid did go on to play college ball. It's a shame that a name couldn't be generated to go with these helmets, but I guess that still leaves a shroud of mysteriousness about them and makes them all the more interesting.
For the next couple of years I found various helmets on eBay and none of them were anything to get too excited about. I also had a good friend who went to a lot of garage sales and would bring me various items from time to time free of charge. Early on I didn't really know what was actually out there until I lucked into some helmets one day. I consider this lucky break one of my best purchases. While browsing on eBay I came across an auction for 12 souvenir batting helmets. The helmets were stacked on the ledge of a backyard deck and the picture quality was just terrible. I couldn't even make out any of the helmet logos, but I noticed that the colors of some of the helmets were really strange. One helmet was bright green and another had a white top and red bill. The auction went for a full six days and nobody had placed a bid. The original starting price was $9.99, so I decided to write to the guy after the auction was over and I offered him $60 for the entire lot to see if he was interested. He agreed to the sell and I thought I had just paid $60 for a bunch of junk helmets, but that all changed when the package came in the mail.
In the words of late, great Harry Carey, "Holy Cow", I had hit the jackpot and could not believe what I had found! The first helmet that came out of the box was the old Reds helmet and after that came the Indians helmet. I honestly didn't even know which teams these logos belonged to because I had never really researched the older helmets. By time I got to the Sox helmet and the Athletics helmet I could hardly contain myself. It was not too long after that when I tracked down Marc Okkonen's book, Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century, and discovered what I had truly lucked upon. There is no doubt that this is when my interest in really being a serious collector of these helmets started. So, how about a story behind my story of who owned these helmets?
So, where did the my souvenir helmet collection develop and begin? My collection dates back all the way to a starting point in 1990 when I was a senior in high school. It was the Teutopolis, Illinois, Sesquicentennial and the usual carnival atmosphere followed along with the celebration. Among the rides and stands was the infamous Guess Your Pitching Speed game. The game I played was even more simply made than the one at left. It consisted of a net, a tarp to stop the ball, and a radar gun. Nothing fancy about that game. Amazingly enough, I was able to win on my very first attempt (No, I won't tell you my speed!) and of course the helmet I grabbed was none other than a Los Angeles Dodgers helmet (I bleed Dodger blue.). I decided to play a few more times with my friends and I also walked away with a Pittsburgh Pirates helmet that evening. Those two helmets are seen below, and this is where the story disappears for quite awhile.
It wasn't until I went to Tiger Stadium in 1998 to see a game, before it closed down the following year, that this story truly began again. I got to see a historic ballpark and after the game a gentleman was selling souvenir helmets outside the stadium dirt cheap out of large, clear plastic bags. I thought it might be neat to start a small collection of these helmets and if I remember correctly, I think I came home with ten helmets total that day but I have no clue which ones they are in my current collection. I also discovered that same year a website called eBay, and thus an obsession with collecting souvenir helmets began.