D-backs' Ziegler has passion for collecting
AUG 06, 2012 12:46p ET
Brad Ziegler received national notoriety when he tweeted a picture of J.J. Putz hamming it up with an autographed Justin Bieber trading card in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ clubhouse earlier this season. The shot went viral, and through Putz’s generosity the card generated $11,040 for charity at auction.
It was a funny photo, but Ziegler is dead serious about collecting.
Not only does the side-arming situational specialist collect double-play grounders (he has induced 12 this season, the most among major league relief pitchers), he also collects baseball memorabilia. It is not a fad. It is becoming a lifestyle.
Ziegler has about 600 autographed baseballs and 45 autographed jerseys from players in the Hall of Fame, and he has so many baseball cards that he could fill the spokes of every bicycle in his hometown of Odessa, Mo.
Not that he ever would.
Ziegler’s collection includes cards autographed by Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Lloyd Waner, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Elmer Flick, Edd Roush, Ty Cobb and Eddie Kamm. Eddie Kamm? A collector might know he was the first player to have his minor-league contract purchased for $100,000 and was a master of the hidden ball trick.
Some of the autographed cards from deceased players are made when documents with a player’s signature — a blank check, a dry cleaning receipt — are discovered and the signature is transferred to the card.
For Ziegler, it is not about the monetary value.
“The history that it represents is way more valuable,” said Ziegler, 32.
“The idea that I can be sitting in my kitchen and have a piece of history in my hand like that is pretty phenomenal.”
Ziegler and D-backs managing partner Ken Kendrick are kindred spirits. Kendrick’s card collection, which includes rare Honus Wagner and Mickey Mantle cards, recently was displayed at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“It is like a fraternity. It’s an interesting little subculture of baseball. I’m delighted we have a player who enjoys doing this,” said Kendrick, who talked collecting with Ziegler in spring training.
Ziegler’s immersion came early, waned when he attended Southwest Missouri State and started his professional baseball career, and picked up again with a valuable find last winter.
When Ziegler was growing up, he received a full set of Topps baseball cards every Christmas from his grandmother. Like many kids, Ziegler played games with them. He placed the cards on his bedroom carpet, set them up position by position, and using a marble as a ball in simulated games, with the players/cards running the bases. He knew the numbers on the back by heart.
“My mom will tell you (that) at the time I could tell you every statistic for every Kansas City Royals player in the mid-80s, and it was all from baseball cards,” he said.
Ziegler added bits and pieces to his collection in high school, grabbing any card he could find of stars such as Dave Justice, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr. He took a break while in college — “mostly because I couldn’t afford it,” he said — but picked it up again when he got into pro ball in 2003. He still has some Ryan Howards and Albert Pujolses from that era.
Ziegler expanded his reach to include autographed baseballs and Hall of Fame jerseys as he established himself in the major leagues in 2008. He did not return full-time to cards until he pulled a rare Babe Ruth card last winter. Companies have acquired bats used by the Babe at estate sales and the like, and Topps melded a shard of one of Ruth’s bats onto the card to create a collector’s item.
“That’s when I really got back into it,” Ziegler said. “I talked to my wife (Kristen) about it, and she’s let me have some fun with my hobby. I just have to let her go shopping a time or two.”
Ziegler has persuaded teammate Wade Miley to become interested in his hobby, and it is not unusual to find Ziegler on the Internet in the clubhouse or on the phone in the hallway before D-backs games, searching for cards he would like to add to his collection or selling others that he does not need.
He has become so involved that he is a minor partner in a business, livecasebreaks.com, in which he and his partners buy sets of cards from companies such as Topps, Panini and Bowman, auction each major league team to the highest bidder, and open the packs on a live webcast. The bidder who paid for the D-backs gets all the D-backs’ cards in the “break,” as it is called. And so on. The webcasts are done most Saturday mornings when the D-backs are home. Ziegler provides commentary, and there are trivia contests.
“It’s been fun to see people’s reactions,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler plans to keep his collection, and pays it due attention. The Babe Ruth cards, like all his valuables, immediately are put into a thick case that will not break. He hopes someday to display it in a baseball connoisseur’s man-cave in his dream house.
“Make it to where I bring a guy buddy down there to go play video games or whatever, and he wants down there, he is like ‘Whoa, this is awesome.’ That’s the reaction I want to get,” he said.
“I would love to pass them down to my kids.”