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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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The baseball autograph hound
Whatever happened to . . .
By Jeff Klinkenberg, Times Staff Writer
Published October 7, 2007
THE STORY: Tampa's Dennis Schrader, the wealthy owner of a mobile home company, kept his fabulous collection of 1,400 autographed baseballs - worth at least $1-million - in a large vault he calls "Little Cooperstown." A Devil Rays fan who grew up rooting for the Yankees, Schrader owned balls autographed by Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Maris and many others. He had a hankering to show off his collection, but worried about robbery.
FROM THE STORY: Fans with gray hair remember exchanging soda pop bottles for money spent joyfully on baseball cards that were stored under the bed and taken out dozens of times during the day for worship. Baseball fans of a certain age remember when they could imitate the batting stances of every player named to the All-Star team, when even Dad said "Give it a rest" after hearing, for the umpteenth time that night, the batting averages of every player on the favorite team.
For a baseball fan with gray hair or no hair or a sagging waistline, following baseball is all about romance and escape. It's a link to childhood, to the time when Mom and Dad were still alive, when the most exciting thing on television was the game-of-the-week broadcast by Pee Wee Reese and Dizzy Dean. When you were immortal.
THE REST OF THE STORY: Schrader is having a little too much fun for a 59-year-old man. "Since last September my collection has grown from 1,400 baseballs to 2,524 autographed, 308 unsigned, grand total 2,832 baseballs. I've had over 300 e-mails, over 100 phone calls and countless people recognizing me in public and wanting to talk sports memorabilia. So many people have come by to view Little Cooperstown." His collection now includes a ball autographed, in 1961, by Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and balls autographed by 19 of the 23 pitchers who won more than 300 games. The ones he doesn't have would belong in the next Field of Dreams movie since they're dead.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Schrader doesn't know, but he hopes that somebody he will open a Little Cooperstown Museum in Florida. "This is my dream, to share this with the baseball fans of America as my house is being run over."
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Don't call the St. Petersburg Times. Call Dennis Schrader at (727) 726-1138 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about autographed baseballs.