Dr. Morton Langsfeld III, “Mickey” to those of us who were lucky enough to be his friends, passed away in late summer. It was a shock, one that will take a long time to get over. Mickey was one of those guys you just always expected to be around. We graduated from Cheltenham High School together -- and he loved “Dear Old CHS”. He was the driving force behind our regular class reunions and pretty much responsible for jump-starting a moribund Cheltenham High Alumni Assn.
Mickey, who was a dentist and maintained a practice (that lasted over 100 years in the same family and started by his own grandfather), was a man of considerable talent and, mostly, that talent was expended on behalf of others. To list all his interests would consume more space than I have here. But he will be missed by legions of us. A Cornell and University of Pennsylvania dental school grad, he was also an Air Force veteran and a longtime Eagles season ticket holder.
One day, when I still lived in Abington, I came home and my father-in-law Vince DeMarco said, “Some guy stopped by and dropped off a baseball hat for you.” The guy was Mickey, the hat was a Philadelphia Athletics replica and it was autographed by 1952 American League MVP Bobby Shantz. When I called to thank him he said, “When I got it, I figured you’d like to have it.” And I did. Mickey lived in Meadowbrook and was one of those people that made you feel like you were the most important person on the planet. RIP, my friend.
My series on autographs has generated several interesting responses. One came from a regional auction house that had (are you ready?) six signed Babe Ruth baseballs. The owner of the business told me he had found them buried in a storeroom and wasn’t even sure where they originally came from. He wondered if I’d look them over, they had no paper work. I did. Four of them were terrible, one was pretty good and the other was well worn, stained, and marginal, but good enough to be a low cost, legit, entry in to someone’s collection. Even though there are just eight letters in the Bambino’s signature, it is one of the most frequently forged, I was able to match them against some extensive exemplars in my files and, more importantly, against a 100% legit Ruth signature in my own collection.
A local businessman called me, made an appointment, and showed up at my house with seven storage bins full of autographs, cards and sports memorabilia. “I didn’t know what to do with them”, he said. He had gotten divorced, moved a couple of times and now had no idea what was worth keeping and what wasn’t. He has remarried and his new spouse suggested him “do something” with them. We spent several hours together making decisions.
Most of his items were not autographed, some were his boyhood collection, and some were little more than fancy souvenirs. A very few were game-used and some were simply colorful connections to Philly sports teams. Among his autographed things were some personally acquired ones and others that were items purchased at area golf tournaments and charity events in silent auctions. Some of them were fine but others appear to be well crafted forgeries. I have seen that before. Best advice is if you don’t know the origins of the items, don’t buy them.
A lot of what he had were cards from all sports -- some unopened boxes, but mostly from the 1980s on up. Sadly those cards just don’t have a lot of value. Yes, there are some collectible rookie and star cards in them, but mostly they are worth pennies. Price guides give you values for those, but the trick is finding someone to actually buy them. He had some pre-1980 cards (from his childhood) that were good. He also had some stadium give-away bobble heads. But since so many are given out now there is little chance any will become scarce or, for that matter, very valuable.
I had no sooner finished with that collection when a man from Drexel Hill presented a very similar one to me. “Can you sell this for me?” he asked. I said I doubted that I could. He was disappointed. “I spent years putting this together,” he said. I asked if it was fun, he said that it was. I told him that was the value he got from it. His fun.
I mentioned this to my friend Steve McKenzie at Knuckleball Sports in Horsham and he told me that he gets collections like these all the time and (a.) doesn’t buy them because there is no market and (b.) is still sitting on several of those collections he did buy. Advice? Put them away for the Grandkids and thirty or forty years from now they may be worth something.
I have carried a small pocket knife with me for many years. It measures less than three inches long (is less than a half-inch wide), comes in handy for opening things and it is second nature to my pocket along with my keys, pen, comb and change. Well, it was until we went to a Phillies game this summer and they wouldn’t let me in to the ballpark with it. If I didn’t want them to confiscate it I had to walk all the way back to our car in the parking lot. I walked back. That reminded me of the time I went to an Eagles game and it was raining and, regardless, they confiscated my umbrella and said I could get it after the game. Sure I could. Life, as we once knew it, stopped on 9-11.
Listen to Ted Taylor on WRDV FM (89.3) Tuesdays from 8 AM to Noon and Wednesdays from 10 pm – 1 am or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org