Thursday, February 04, 2010
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Rare sports memorabilia to be auctioned at Zion Lutheran's Saturday breakfast

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[February 04, 2010]  The names are familiar to anyone with a bit of age on themselves. They also are common names if you love sports, especially baseball, and enjoy the rich history of the men who played the sport when it was indeed just a sport.

InsuranceJoe Adcock, Bobby Thompson, Frank Crossetti, Carl Erskine, Birdie Tibbetts, Johnny Sain, Danny Cox and Jimmy Piersall, to name just a few.

They are just a few of the players who signed cards or notes for Lincoln collector Norm Mueller.

They also are just a few of the players whose autographs will be available for purchase at Saturday's silent auction at Zion Lutheran.

The silent auction is part of the school's huge annual pancake and sausage breakfast.

The event is so popular that vehicles are directed to park in the old Walmart lot across the road and grab a shuttle to the front doors of the school. Every year, all who come agree the food served was well worth the short wait.

Along with gallons of pancake mix hitting the grills, 3,850 pounds of whole hog sausage has been processed and awaits final preparation before hitting the discerning palates and plates of the local community.

The event begins at 7 a.m. Saturday and runs till 1 p.m. and always has an interesting silent auction to go along with the great breakfast.

This year is no different, and thanks to Norm Mueller's generosity, it also will offer rare, hard-to-find autographs and other sports memorabilia for baseball fans and sports collectors -- all donated by Mueller.

Mueller started collecting cards, autographs and sports memorabilia in 1965, and he has served his hobby well. When asked if he had a room for his collection, Norm explained that the entire three-room second floor of his home is filled with what he and his wife, Patricia, have gathered over the years.

Norm is a Cardinals fan and wanted to don his Cardinals sweater before getting his picture taken with the trove of items he has donated to the school. Norm says he and his wife attend eight to 10 Cardinals games a year, and he professes that of all the Cardinal players he has seen over the years, Stan "the Man" Musial was and is his favorite.


Norm has loved the Cards and baseball since a youngster. He says that as a youngster he would have two TV sets and the radio on so he could watch and listen to more than one game at the same time.

When asked what his most prized memento was, he said it is a Cooperstown baseball bat that has 72 autographs on it.

"There isn't any room for any more signatures," Norm said. He laughed.

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Norm was asked if he could say what the biggest difference is between collecting almost 50 years ago and collecting today. "It's more expensive today," he said. Norm alluded to the fact that autograph shows now can be very expensive compared with the old days when players would freely sign something for a fan.

Autographs now also need certificates of authenticity that weren't needed when he started. Now, with so many forgeries, documentation is essential and means perhaps five to 10 times more money than an undocumented signature.

Norm and Patricia have been to many shows as well as Cardinal caravans, but he has gotten a great many of his autographs the old-fashioned way. He wrote to the players and simply asked if they could return their autograph in a stamped, self-addressed envelope he had included. Norm admitted he never heard from a great many baseball legends, but his collection shows that a great many did in fact send him a signature.

Among those he has met across a table are baseball icons Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. He says his least favorite player to converse with was Willie Mays. "He's pretty arrogant," Norm offered.

Like many fans Norm is saddened by the steroids scandal. And although Mark McGwire ended his career as a Card, Norm thinks no player linked to steroids should ever be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Norm told of a little bit of collector's luck a few years ago. He went to a game in Peoria when Cub legend Ryne Sandburg was managing the Peoria Chiefs. Norm said there were 8,000 people at the ballpark, and his name was drawn to win a Sandburg autographed bat.

Five years ago Norm started asking for the autographs of MLB umpires and has received a strong reply from the profession. Norm, who has been an IHSA- and ASA-sanctioned umpire for 29 years, said, "They are very appreciative of the fact that they haven't been forgotten and what they accomplished."

This Saturday, the community will be able to bid on Norm's items as well as enjoy a great meal, all the while helping Zion Lutheran School.

But remember, the silent auction will go all nine innings. And the final bid won't count until the last out is made at 1 p.m.



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