‘Southside Bobby’ Collection Of 3,000 Autographs From Golden Era Of Sports Set To Go To Auction

In a story that could easily be the stuff of collectors’ dreams, a man known as “Southside Bobby” has recently unveiled a treasure trove of over 3,000 autographed items from the biggest names in sports during the 1950s and ’60s. This incredible collection, which had been carefully stored away by Bobby’s mother for decades, features signatures from baseball and football legends like Hank Aaron, Jim Brown, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Johnny Unitas, and Ted Williams. The items will soon be available for bidding at Heritage Auctions.

1960 Topps Mickey Mantle autograph card
1960 Topps Mickey Mantle autograph card. (credit: Heritage Auctions)

What makes this collection truly remarkable is the fact that Bobby and his father spent more than a decade personally gathering these autographs, mostly in the Chicago area. Unlike many collectors who continue their hobby into adulthood, Bobby stopped adding to the collection in the early 1970s, making it a true time capsule of the golden era of sports.

The autographs were primarily obtained on trading cards, photos, and Hall of Fame Plaque postcards. The collection includes substantial groups of signed 1959, 1960, and 1961 Topps baseball cards, as well as dozens of other signed baseball and football cards from the years Bobby was actively pursuing them. These “period” signatures, often in blue ballpoint pen, capture a moment in time when the athletes were still active and before the widespread use of black Sharpies at memorabilia shows.

Bobby’s dedication to the pursuit of autographs is evident in the stories he recalls. At Wrigley Field, his favorite spot to secure Chicago Cubs autographs was on Clark Street near the left field entrance, while visiting National League players were often found on Clark and Sheffield Avenue near the home plate entrance. Hotel Del Prado and the Conrad Hotel by Hilton were also prime locations for catching players as they headed to and from breakfast or boarded the team bus to the ballpark.

1961 Topps Roberto Clemente autograph card
1961 Topps Roberto Clemente autograph card. (credit: eBay)

One of the more challenging autographs to obtain was that of Luis Aparicio, a Venezuelan-born Hall of Fame shortstop who spoke little English at the time. After failed attempts at Comiskey Park, Bobby located Aparicio’s room at Hotel Del Prado and, despite his nerves, knocked on the door. Aparicio’s wife graciously took the cards to her husband, who signed them for the young collector.

The collection also features signed Hall of Fame Plaque postcards, which Bobby acquired by contacting the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. The office would share the personal mailing addresses of retired players, allowing Bobby to send autograph requests along with self-addressed, stamped return envelopes. This method yielded signatures from legends like Mickey Cochrane, Dizzy Dean, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Rogers Hornsby, George Sisler, Pie Traynor, and Paul Waner.

Bobby’s collection serves as a reminder of a bygone era when the barriers between professional athletes and fans were much lower.

“The environment surrounding the players at that time would be hard to imagine for a young person today,” Bobby tells Heritage Auctions. “Most of the sports figures were playing for the love of the game in those days. The respect and appreciation they showed the fans was heartwarming.”

Ted Williams autographed photo
Ted Williams autographed photo. (credit: Heritage Auctions)

The story of Southside Bobby’s collection is not just about the autographs themselves, but also the memories and the father-son bond that created them.

“Opening the boxes after all those years really transported me back in time,” recalls Bobby. “I became consumed by it for a while as the memories started to flow.”

Heritage will begin auctioning off Southside Bobby’s collection in the coming months.

HobbyListings editor Matt Higgins contributed to this report.

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