By Larry Hartstein
DARIEN - Every year except ,1939, Major League Baseball has issued tens, sometimes hundreds of press pins, to reporters covering its all-star game. That, year, however, only one pin was made for the event.
A pin designed especially for Lou Gehrig was presented before the game to the chronically ill Yankees captain, who two months earlier had removed himself from the lineup after playing in a record 2,130 consecutive games.
Daniel Lovegrove of Darien is the new and extremely proud owner of the Gehrig pin. He bought it at a New York City sports memorabilia for $41,800 with the help of a loan from his parents. "I've read everything I can about Lou Gehrig," Lovegrove, 25, said. "Day in, day out, he was on the field. He played with cleat wounds. One time he got beaned in the head, but the next day he was in there. He played hard all the time. To me, Gehrig is just incredible."
Shaped like a baseball diamond, the pin measures almost I inch square and boasts a six-point, 14-carat diamond at each comer in the baseline. Its value stems not from the diamonds, but from its hallowed place in baseball history. Gehrig's wife, Eleanor, gave the pin to the nurse who cared for him until his death in 1941 from a rare type of paralysis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which has been called Lou Gehrig disease since his death.
Lovegrove, who graduated from St. Basil's Preparatory School in Stamford before attending the University of Utah, does not think of the pin in terms of investment value. He has no desire to sell it. Lovegrove says Cooperstown, N.Y., is where the pin truly belongs, and he plans to loan it to the Hall of Fame after completing some unfinished business.
The Gehrig pin up close.
"I want to bring it to the White House and show it to the president," he said. "He was a captain and a first baseman, too."
If Lovegrove does not sound like a typical collector, generally interested only in an item's protit potential, it is because he is an intense baseball fan fascinated by the game's memorabilia.
"Someone showed a press pin to me once, and ever since I've been hooked," he said. "They're very special. They were at the game, down there in the locker room next to Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig. If the pins could talk, the stories they could tell would be unbelievable."
The Gehrig pin is only one of Lovegrove's valuable collection, which includes autographed baseballs and Super Bowl pins as well. His World Series press pins with team logos, among them a 1927 Yankees pin, would probably gamer hundreds of dollars at most auctions.
The pins were first used the way press passes are today, allowing a writer covering a game to enter the stadium. Over the years the pins became symbolic, although Major League Baseball continues to issue them at the all-star game and for post-season play.
Lovegrove prefers to talk about the games the pins honored, not the large amounts of cash they are worth.
"The money shouldn't be the important thing," he said. "I don't want to sell or invest. I want to help people build collections."
To that end, Lovegrove plans to open his own business, "Recollectics," in Darien within eight weeks. The business would be a way for new collectors to begin.
"From memorabilia you can recollect. You can learn history that you can't get out of a textbook," he said.
With the long hours he has devoted to the study of collecting, Lovegrove will probably make a good teacher. Much of the research was done the past two years, which he spent mostly on crutches while incapacitated by a defective hip that was redesigned.
The recently concluded rehabilitation delayed his enrollment at the Gemological Institute of America in New York City, but Lovegrove draws inspiration from a hero who faced greater setbacks.
"Gehrig put his life on the line for the pinstripes," he said. "He was the epitome of a ballplayer ... No one can ever have a complete collection of pins without the Gehrig pin. Other collectors may say it's not a press pin, but it's very special to me anyway."
Stamford ADVOCATE, Saturday February 14, 1998. Volume 168, No. 308.
Reprinted by permission Stamford Advocate. (c) 1998 Stamford Advocate.