- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

YORK, Pa. (AP) - The quest finally came down to this: a black-and-white photo of an oversized second baseman with an exotic-sounding name.

And yet this has always been about more than simply collecting rare signed photographs.

For York Township’s Chuck Bruce, it’s about the challenge and satisfaction of the treasure hunt. It’s about the investment. And it’s about history.

But for Bruce, who will turn 61 in July, a lot of it comes back to the stories and the people he and his wife have met along the way.

Every one of those 8-by-10 photos hanging in their rec room or neatly displayed in binders - photos autographed, authenticated and framed - come to life when the conversation gets going like it did on a recent afternoon.

They give back to him.

Take Napoleon Lajoie, the missing puzzle piece to his stunning collection of baseball legends with 3,000 career hits. It’s a most exclusive and yet varied group, from Cap Anson (1897) to Derek Jeter (still active), from Roberto Clemente (3,000 hits exactly) to banished Pete Rose (all-time best 4,256).

Bruce tracked down and purchased autographed photos of every one of these Hall of Famers except Lajoie, an intimidating middle infielder for his time (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) who was nicknamed “Nap” and “The Frenchman.”

It was a tough get, mostly because he retired in 1916.

Finally, Bruce ran across the right dealer. Lajoie had signed this particular photo twice for some reason - faintly across the bottom, darker on the left side - both times using his middle name: “Larry Lajoie.” The asking price was $12,000 but Bruce got it for $8,000 and considered it a bargain.

Two years before, he gave in and paid $10,000 for his Lou Gehrig but knows he will never touch the holy grail of autographed baseball photos: the infamous and illiterate Shoeless Joe Jackson, which can fetch $100,000.

‘I’m just a people person,’ he said. ‘We love talking and sharing about it.’

Still, there’s a story that goes along with each hero on his wall.

Cap Anson? The photo goes with his signed contract to perform vaudeville shows on the Orpheum circuit after his baseball days.

Cy Young? Bruce got a good deal ($2,500) on a piece of stationary signed by the legendary pitcher, hoping to use it as trade bait to get what he really wants.

Ty Cobb? He’s part of a rare Hall of Fame double: Cobb autographed this photo to teammate Charlie Gehringer.

Walking around Bruce’s rec room is like playing a trivia game. There are signed photos of all nine Pittsburgh Steelers who won four Super Bowl rings and are in the Hall of Fame. He has signed photos of the winning quarterbacks from the first 14 Super Bowls. He has a rare signed photo of Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen.”

But the end of this fabulous run might be nearing, and that’s OK with Bruce, now retired from Harley-Davidson. He knows he will never get every baseball Hall of Famer or even every 300-game winner because some are too old and obscure. (Tim Keefe was born before the Civil War.)

Plus, while Bruce loves the interaction at shows with living Hall of Famers, he laughs about not being able to take any more of this stuff into a retirement home.

All of it is insured, and some of it eventually will go to his nephews.

But the value goes beyond any of that.

Rather, it’s about the memorabilia dealers who have become Christmas card friends. It’s about the trips to shows from Cleveland to San Diego. It’s the adrenaline of working a deal, as well as the search-and-find thrill.

The money is no big deal because he worked more overtime hours at Harley than he can remember to enjoy life now.

“I’m just a people person,” he said. “We love talking and sharing about it.”

So he pointed to the black-and-white of pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, the World Series savior who …





Information from: York Daily Record, https://www.ydr.com

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