It’s been nearly twenty years since 12 year-old Jonathan Popovich and his father John were strolling through antique shops in Lambertville, New Jersey.
Like most youngsters, Jonathan was more intrigued with young players like Don Mattingly and Roger Clemens than with dusty old sports equipment. That day, however, the two generations of baseball fans found a 1940s era glove endorsed by a fairly non-descript big leaguer named Bob Usher. They took it home and from that day on, the focus of their shared hobby changed course.
Today, the collection built by John, Jonathan and youngest brother Michael numbers over 500 pieces, ranging from 19th century equipment to 1960s era pennants and they are sharing it through their website, Dugout Treasures.com.
Dugout Treasures is not a commercial sports memorabilia site. The family began in the hobby as collectors and remain true to their roots, despite accumulating an impressive array of ancient baseball artifacts. They do have some items for sale and will trade for items that spark an interest, but their goal is simply to have others appreciate and utilize the collection for various projects.
In an effort to make that happen, the family is making portions of it available, free of charge, to those who want to use vintage sports items for various projects but may not have access to a sizable collection. Photographing pieces is one opportunity as well as loaning items for display.
“We hope to be able to provide as many people and organizations with the resources and knowledge necessary to further their initiatives, publications, advertisements and historical exhibits,” Jonathan Popovich told SportsCollectorsDaily.com.
“We remain, first and foremost, collectors and enthusiasts of basball history. Our hope is that our zeal will inspire others, especially young collectors, to get involved and carry the hobby on into the future. Second, we hope to be able to reach out to companies, organizations, and museums who are looking to bolster their initiatives, articles, books, events, and historical exhibits with vintage memorabila.”
Dugout Treasures supplies many of the exhibits in the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Montclair, New Jersey.
“Our relationship with the Museum began a couple of years ago when we offered our time, resources and knowledge to the Museum’s Director,” Popvich said. “It’s been our great honor that he has taken us up on our offer and we enjoy a close, cordial and collaborative relationship.”
“We have participated in several museum events including educational programs on the evolution of baseball equipment as well as artistic clinics where portioins of our collection have been used as still life displays. Most recently we were asked to contribute items specific to New York baseball of the 1950s as part of their “Heart of the Game” exhibit that features the artwork of Andy Jurinko.”
The Popovich collection includes store model and game used bats, but one favorite is an 1860s era baseball bat Jonathan calls “our first substantial, impact pick up.” The bat, remarkably, was found at a local garage sale.
Two bats relating to Babe Ruth are a part of the collection as well, a 36- inch 40 B.R. model, and a 35-inch, R43 game specification model. Gloves make up a substantial part of the holdings as well.
Among the many themes on the website is a gallery of item photos highlighting baseball during time of War. It’s a subject close to the hearts of the Popovich brothers. Jonathan served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq during 2003 and Michael is currently patrolling the Persian Gulf aboard a merchant marine vessel. Time away makes the brothers appreciate the collection even more.
“We are very selective in our search for memorabilia and focus only on the top conditioned, higher quality items available within our budget,” said Jonathan. “We have amassed the majority of our collection through little more than simple time and effort. We are regulars on the antique show and shop circuit and have been fortunate enough to find some real treasures at bargain prices over the years.”
The thrill of not knowing what might turn up at the next antique shop, flea market or estate sale keeps every collector excited. For the Popovich family, it’s equally satisfying to share those finds with anyone else who sees them just as fascinating and shares the family’s bond to baseball.
“Through these tangible artifacts, we try to provide a unique opportunity to capture the magical memory of a first glove or sharing a late afternoon catch with your Dad. My brother and I have been fortunate to share many of these magical moments with our Dad and it’s truly made all the difference in the world.”