I’ve owned a few pieces of sports memorabilia over the years. I’ve given most of it away as either gifts or donations for charity events. The hardest piece to let go was a mini-helmet signed by Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, Archie Griffin and Eddie George. For a die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes fan, this piece of history signed by the only living OSU Heisman Trophy winners at the time was priceless.
The Columbus Chill was a minor league hockey team and I had season tickets for their final year in central Ohio. The NHL was expanding and the Blue Jackets didn’t need any competition. The off-ice highlight of the season was a charity dinner and auction benefiting the then-Columbus Children’s Hospital.
Dressed for success, I enjoyed the dinner and paid to sing a song with a Chill player whose name escapes me. The fundraiser featured both a live and silent auction and I bid on a few items displayed around the room. I was the lucky high bidder for a football autographed by former Ohio State football coach John Cooper as well as a Pete Rose-signed baseball.
These prizes were only whetting my appetite for the featured live items at the end of the night.
I had stood next to several people gazing at the signed helmet. The Buckeye fans’ trophy came in a display case and included a certificate of authenticity. Eddie George was playing for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans by that time, but both Archie and “Hop” were still active in Columbus.
The bidding for the helmet started rather low – $100. I almost broke my arm shooting my bid number into the air. By the time the auctioneer got back to me, the price was over $300. I didn’t care. My financial situation could handle it and I wanted that autographed helmet.
The price war slowed to $25 increments, bidders dropped out and at $500 I was the highest bidder. A man in a suit took the bid of $525 but I wasn’t going to lose this prize for that little amount of money. I think his wife might have given him the evil eye because he bowed to me when I raised the bid to $550.
The price was a bit high, but all the money went to a great charity. And I now had a true collectors-worthy trophy for my home.
In the fall of 2007, I was involved in a chili cook-off fundraiser for The Byron Saunders Foundation, raising money to provide Thanksgiving dinner for local families. As I looked around the house for items to donate, I knew that the helmet I had treasured for years could go to better use providing a meal that many take for granted.