Moving right along, I got the privilege to acquire an old 60's helmet from a gentleman in New Jersey back in January of 2006. This story really has some cool history with it. He had purchased the helmet as an adult, but he had always seen them and wanted one as a child. He told me that he remembered them being at Connie Mack Stadium and he thought the price was around $2.50 which of course would not be cheap for a child back then. He had mentioned how he and his friends would sneak into the stadium to watch games because he came from a poor family. (It's amazing what you could get away with back in those days.) The only reason that he was parting with the helmet was that he was making room in his house and some items had to go. It's amazing how many times I hear a story like that and I hope that I never fall into that abyss of having to get rid of my helmets. I was honored to take on this helmet into my collection and it was a great addition.
The next helmet with a story showed up in September of 2005. I dropped a $100 on this helmet on eBay and purchased it from a gentleman in Chicago. (If you haven't figured it out yet, Chicago tends to be a hotbed for these helmets!) The helmet was the very first blue White Sox helmet that I ever came across. The neat thing about this one, however, is that it said Grand Stand on the helmet so it was an obvious promotional helmet. After requesting more information, the gentleman told me that the helmet was his brother's. The gentleman stated that he was only a year old while his brother was eight years old in 1970. The helmet was given out at Comisky Park during Grand Stand Helmet Day. His brother also belonged to the White Sox Knothole Gang fan club, but this gentleman did not know if this helmet giveaway was affiliated with being in that group. He included that it had been in his family the entire time and those are the helmets that I am thrilled to get because I know they are not going anywhere as long as I own them. (On a side note, I recently discovered that none other than Branch Rickey was the man who came up with the Knot Hole Kids gangs. Isn't that kind of cool!)
Moving on with what few stories I have, I feel the need to mention two helmets that are partially connected by one story and showed up in the Fall of 2004. The first info here deals with another Senators helmet that I picked up for a pretty hefty price (It's actually the second largest amount of money I have spent on a helmet). After purchasing it off of a gentleman from the east coast (I'd rather not talk about the price because I still have nightmares about what I paid for it!) he informed me that he had been collecting memorabilia from the Senators for about the last twenty years up and down the eastern coast. In that time frame he told me that helmet was the only one that he had ever come across for sale (He obviously purchased it.) and that they were extremely hard to come by. So, I guess I can kind of rest assured that the money was worth it for a plastic child's souvenir helmet from the 1960's? (Some people that I know just think I'm crazy for spending that money on something like that.) That same person later hit me up asking if he could buy it back off of me. Nope. This however is not where this story ends.
Within a week, the helmet that I dropped the largest amount of money on appeared on eBay. That helmet was, in my opinion, the even rarer Colt .45's helmet. I never thought that I had a chance to get this helmet as I watched it roll through the auction process. If I remember correctly, the auction was even a ten day listing as opposed to the seven so I had more time to have a psych tell me if I was absolutely crazy for what I was about to do. Again, I'm not divulging what I spent, but just let me tell you that my wife was okay with it, and my mother thought that I had completely lost it. I can say that it ranks pretty high on my favorite's list just because the logo and team name is so different from the other teams. Heck, I would go out on a limb and say that the .45's would not even have lasted in today's society as a team name because somebody would probably have complained that the name was to violent, or better yet, that it would make people go out and want to buy a .45 caliber gun. Seriously, if the Bullets couldn't make it in the NBA then how could the .45's make it?
Another helmet that I discovered I only paid $9.99 for and I think it is still one of the rarer helmets that I own. That helmet would be the Cardinals helmet pictured at the upper left. The sticker was really bizarre. I knew that the Cardinals used to wear a blue helmet that had a red STL with a white outline in the sixties and it was similar to the one they wear today, but I couldn't find one picture of a Cardinals player wearing a cap that came close to this helmet. It's so weird that I could only give a time frame of the early to mid-60's for this helmet. I finally got more information on this from a fan of this website who took the time to do some research while he was down and out. I'm glad that he took the time because at that time I had already bought a few other Cardinal helmets that were baffling to me. After combining his research and a little more snooping on my own, the whole Cardinal Helmet Mystery finally came to and end. Thanks for your help, Robert.
I always try to get the story from people when I purchase a helmet off of them, but in 95% of the cases there is no story to go along with the helmet. My theory on that is that most of these helmets are valuable (not in terms of dollars) to the people who own them and those people are not the ones selling these helmets on eBay. The other rare helmets that show up have been picked up at flea markets, garage sales, or just in passing and their is no personal value to those individuals. Anyway, getting back to some purchases, I would say my next steal would have been the Senators helmet at right. Like I said earlier, I can't give away all of my secrets (I'm talking about the types of searches I do on eBay when I speak of secrets.) but this little beauty popped up one day on eBay back in 2004 if I remember right. It was obvious that there weren't a lot people looking at it because when it came down to the final day of the auction it was still going for about $15.00. I watched it, placed my bid, and walked away with it for a little under $50. That has always shocked me because at that time this was the only helmet like this one on eBay that I had ever seen. Of course, I believe that there are more like this out there (and a few of these have appeared), but again, it's one of only a few that I've seen. For its age, the helmet is kind of cheaply made. Most helmets that I pull from the 60's are made of fairly strong plastic, but this one is really kind of thin and flimsy, nonetheless, it is still a great find.
Moving along to my next strange purchase, I come to a helmet that has always baffled me. Shortly after lucking into my big purchase, I came across another auction on eBay that seemed to slip under everybody's radar. This would have been July 2001 and the lady that listed these helmets had listed them rather strangely (sorry, I can't give away all of my good secrets for finding helmets). The helmets did not sell and I missed bidding on them before the auction ended. I did however get a second chance to acquire them and ended up dropping $45 for the pair. The two helmets that I purchased from a lady in Chicago can be seen above.
The first helmet was easily recognizable to me by now as a White Sox helmet, but the first thing I noticed on the helmet was that it did not have any holes in the top of it like my other helmets. It is even easier to see this on the mystery helmet next to it. The thing that struck me as strange was that nobody else had discovered these two helmets and at that time the only other older White Sox helmet that I had seen listed on eBay went for about $65 and it was damaged. After arriving at my door, I looked for a company name on the inside of the helmets and to my surprise there were no markings of any kind. The helmets do still shows signs of where foam padding would have been, but that is it. I looked for more information from the lady I purchased them off of but the only thing she could give me was that they came out of a neighbor's attic and that those neighbors had lived there for about 50 years. The son who lived there now was an eccentric hippie, had a very poor memory, and while wearing a gas mask dug these out of his attic.
I sent an email with a photo of the mystery helmet to the Baseball Hall of Fame and they could not give me any information on the helmet colors or logo. I assumed that the mystery helmet may be a minor league helmet of some sort, and I was almost positive it had nothing to do with the Chicago Cubs, but who knew? Come to find out I was completely wrong and it actually was a Cubs helmets through some much older company. Check out the Cubs page to see another that I found which is almost just like it.
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.