Sports in his blood ... and house

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

If the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. had a collector's wing, Dave Martin would be worthy of induction.

And if the grand old institution needed a library, he could even provide the material.

A 56-year-old translator who was raised in the Glebe and now lives in Ottawa's east end, Martin is not your typical sports memorabilia pack rat. His life-long passion is more specific.

To know the history of baseball is to sit down and go through his rooms full of newspapers, magazines and yearbooks.

If it was a key moment in the game's time, Martin has a record of it.

"I started collecting in 1965 or '66, right around there," says Martin, sitting at the desk in his den of the modest home he shares with wife Denise and daughter Stephanie. "I used to get the Daily News, and the Sunday News from New York, and that was probably the best illustrated paper. They used to have colour sections, and colour photos and everything else, and I really liked baseball, I always have, and I wanted to keep them.

"Of course I got intrigued by the possibility of doing it day to day."

The collection branched out. In '69, Martin started sending away for various papers from the across the continent. The Oakland Tribune. The Los Angeles Times. The list grew and grew.

"Back then, the papers were really cheap and postage was really negligible. You could send a dollar away and get six papers back."

From there, Martin says, "the collection just mushroomed."

He has thorough documentation of the Miracle Mets' series with the Orioles in 1969.

"I got the Times, the Daily News, the Long Island Newsday, the Baltimore News-American and the Sun," he said. "And of course the next year, it was Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cincinnati Post ... and I kept it going from year to year to year like that, and accumulating and accumulating.

"That's how I got started. I've always kept it going. It was just something I enjoyed doing. I didn't do it with a financial angle in mind. I really wanted to assemble something that was unique."

UNIQUE

He knew not too many people were amassing the same type of collection.

"I would send away for papers and I would always get them," says Martin. "Very seldom did they ever send me back a letter saying they were out of stock.

"I didn't want to do like everybody else. I just like to have the history of the game. To look at papers of the time. When you go back ... a paper of the time is not filtered through the prism of history. People go back and embellish things, and everything else. But when you see (the paper) it's interesting to see how it was written up at the time."

Martin notes that time has interesting effects on a story. Like the Bill Buckner error in the 1986 that cost the Red Sox hope of ending their championship drought at 68 years. Oh, there was the "Buck Blew It" headlines, but no real harping on the gaffe. The more popular angle was the Mets comeback. In the ensuing years, of course, that changed.

Even Joe DiMaggio's 56- game hitting streak was reported without the continuous blare of trumpets.

"It was regarded as somewhat of a curiosity back then," says Martin. "They thought it was something. But so many people have tried and fallen short, it has grown in stature as a record."

Martin's chronicles of the run include two volumes from 1941 New York Times. One of the entire hitting streak, the other from Games 44-56. He also has what reporters and columnists at The St. Louis Post Dispatch and from a few other papers were saying about Joltin' Joe's accomplishments.

One piece in particular has a special place in Martin's heart. In 1991, he went to a dinner held in Toronto to celebrate the 50th anniversary of DiMaggio's hitting streak. In attendance, along with DiMaggio, was former Cleveland Indians third baseman Ken Keltner, who made two strong defensive plays to stop the streak.

Martin brought a page from one of the dailies from that day and had both Keltner and DiMaggio, a.k.a. The Yankee Clipper, sign it for him.

"Joe clipped the corner of the article with his autograph," says Martin. "It's a detail I happened to notice. It was quite neat."

MAPLE LEAFS FAN

About 80-85% of Martin's collection centres around baseball. A Toronto Maple Leafs fan, he has a lot of hockey magazines, including complete sets of Hockey Illustrated, or Maurice Richard's Hockey Magazine as it was known then.

He also has Blueline Hockey Magazine, Hockey Pictorial, Sports Magazine ... and, of course, The Hockey News, from the first issue that cost 10 cents on Oct. 1, 1947 all the way up.

Between 175-200 of the covers are signed by the player who adorns it. While he owns sticks and balls and jerseys and other such artifacts, Martin says his focus is on the written material.

"We grew up in a time when it was a lot slower pace of life," says Martin. "We'd read magazines and imagine things and listen to games on the radio. It was a totally different world. Now, it's all 10-second sound bites and Internet. Last night's game is history."

While some spouses might insist on a spring cleanup that would include old magazines and papers heading to the trash, Denise does not give her husband grief about his hobby.

"She's been pretty good about it," says Martin. "She thinks it's interesting.

"I'm not doing it to make money. I'm just enjoying it and doing it as long as I can. If the time comes for somebody to take it over, well, that'll be a bridge I'll have to cross down the road. I know I'm not immortal. It would be nice for somebody to get it and take it over and continue it in the future."

DON.BRENNAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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