Just because boys grow up doesn’t mean they have to let go of all of their toys. Read about three life-long collections right here in Appanoose County.
Dann Derby attended his first St. Louis Cardinals baseball game on his sixth birthday.
He remembers it like it was yesterday.
“We had great seats — we were sitting behind the Cardinal dugout,” he says. “It was scalding-hot temps — over 100 — and people were passing out in the aisles.”
Derby was sitting on his mother’s lap when the Cardinals took the infield. Shortstop Dal Maxville looked right at him and overhanded a ball to him.
“To this day I can see it coming at me,” he says. “I caught it, and it just did something to me. It was just like magic, and I fell in love with that team right then.”
Derby’s Cardinals collection has ballooned over the years since that moment in time. When he was a child, he says, he was happy with pennants for souvenirs, but now he likes more personalized souvenirs, like balls used in games he attended or confetti he picked up off the ground when the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series. Some of his most prized possessions are pairs of stadium seats from the old Busch stadium.
He holds up a game ball.
“I can see the grass on it, the black where the bat hit it,” he says. “This ball went and hit the outfield wall, and you can see the mark where it hit the outfield wall.”
Derby says he averages about four games a year. His goal is to attend 163 games in his lifetime because there are 163 games in a season. He is up to 102 right now.
Derby owns the Blue Bird Family Restaurant, and one of the most difficult things about attending games is that he has never closed the Blue Bird on a Saturday or Sunday in 21 years of ownership. The night the Cardinals won the World Series, Derby couldn’t get out of St. Louis until 2 a.m. because of the traffic and didn’t get back to Centerville until five minutes before the restaurant opened.
“I had to open the restaurant and work for nine hours on no sleep,” he says. “It was worth it.”
He has attended all but one of those 102 games with his father.
“We don’t have many shared things in life that we are interested in except the Cardinals, so that keeps us together,” he says.
A big part of Derby’s collection is clothing. In fact, he doesn’t own a single piece of clothing without a Cardinals logo on it. Even his dress shirts have Cardinals logos.
“I do see the humor in it,” he says with a laugh. “It is hard to justify.”
Derby works hard to keep the clothes in pristine condition and says he has shirts from as long ago as 1982 that look brand new.
“I don’t wash them, believe it or not,” he explains. “I spray them with Downy Wrinkle Releaser then spray them with Febreze. If I wash them, the red becomes pink, and I don’t want them anymore.”
Last year, Derby bought a new shirt while at a game where he was sitting behind the dugout. He wiped his hand across the dugout to get dirt on it, then wiped his hand on his sweaty shirt.
“My wife says, ‘Wash the shirt, it is dirty,’ and I say, ‘No, that is Cardinal dugout dust!” he says. “I am really into having it be as authentic as I can get things.”
Derby says his relationship with the Cardinals goes deeper than any individual players, or whether the team wins or loses.
“It is the tradition,” he says. “It is the smells at the ballpark, the beautiful green grass at the ballpark. It is like being a kid again, even at 56. When I walk in that ballpark, I feel like I’m that 6-year-old kid sitting on my mom’s lap.”
When Gary Stickler was 4 or 5 years of age, he received some football cards for Christmas. For some reason, he says, he didn’t destroy them.
He seemed to like them, so his parents bought him some more. His sister made him binders in art class to organize his favorites.
“It’s expanded from there,” he says.
Today Stickler estimates he has about 200,000 football cards, and about 20,000 cards for other sports. He has three closets full of cards plus part of a sunroom. His dream home, he says, would include a room for the collection.
About 2,000 of the cards are for one athlete, Bo Jackson, who was Stickler’s childhood hero because he played both professional football and baseball.
The first Bo Jackson item Stickler received was his rookie card for football, and then one for baseball. He then started collecting other Jackson items, including posters, jerseys, helmets and a signed football. He even had a Bo Jackson game for the Gameboy.
Stickler’s 5-year-old son Gradey is starting to collect football cards now, too, and because he learned to count to 200 in kindergarten, he can help his dad put cards in order.
“For some reason, he’s a Bears fan,” Stickler says, shaking his head. “I can’t quite picture why. But he knows I really like the Packers, and he somehow got a Bo Jackson card in his thing for Christmas. He said, ‘I’ll trade you this for five Bears cards.’ ”
Stickler has started cataloging every card he has on an online service and has entered about a quarter of the collection.
“It’s a stress reliever, and it gives me something to do in the cold winter months,” he says.
About 90 percent of Stickler’s collection consists of “commons,” just regular cards that aren’t worth much. Some of the more valuable cards are those that had limited production runs and cards that include patches of players’ jerseys.
The Internet has changed the world of card collecting, Stickler says. Collectors can buy grab bags of cards online on sites like eBay or shopgoodwill.com and search for treasures. Stickler once bought a box online for $4.99, and the third card he pulled out was worth $2,500. He sold the card on eBay and used the money to fund his hobby.
Stickler does some buying and selling on Beckett.com, a popular site for sports card collectors, but not much. For instance, he has an acquaintance on Beckett.com who is into former Major League Baseball player Mark McGwire, so Stickler lets him know if he gets a McGwire card, and the friend lets him know if he gets a Jackson card.
Stickler says he plans to give his collection to Gradey someday.
“Hopefully he will either keep them or it will give him a head start on what he wants to do in life,” Stickler says.
Chris Maddaleno isn’t exactly sure how many 1:64-scale model trucks he has, just that he has more than 200.
“I get a little carried away with things,” he says.
Maddaleno has been driving the real thing for a living for 49 years. Companies often gave out the model trucks as promotions, and he is sure that’s how he got his first one, though he can’t remember which one it was.
“I really liked them, so I just sort of went from there,” he says.
His favorite trucks are displayed on wooden shelves in his home. They include trucks for regional companies like Kinze Manufacturing, Earl May and Pella Corp. He also has one signed by Larry Hagman from the TV show “Dallas.”
Maddaleno often hauls for Iowa Steel & Wire in Centerville, so he created trucks with loads that look like the steel coils and flat sheets that Iowa Steel & Wire produces.
Many of the trucks were produced by the toymaker Ertl Company in Dyersville, and Maddaleno attended the toy show there several times. He also has visited a factory that makes model trucks in Mount Joy, Pa.
Maddaleno says there was a craze for collecting the trucks for a while, but their value as collectors items hasn’t necessarily stayed high. Just like with other collectibles, though, the rare items are the most sought-after. One of his trucks, a McDonald’s truck, has a mismarked package. About 10 years ago, someone offered him $150 for it because of the error.
Maddaleno says he hasn’t bought any new trucks for quite a while because he ran out of space. He is actually thinking about selling them in the future because they are difficult to maintain.
“I take them down once or twice a year and wash them off and polish the wood because they really pick up the dust,” he says. “If they would self-clean, I would probably keep them longer.”