August 14, 2014
Brady Blade poses with a portion of his memorabilia collection. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
The tour began the moment the door to Brady Blade’s basement swung open. The glass cases with carefully organized memorabilia from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1960 World Series waited at the bottom of the stairs, but Blade first showed off the charcoal drawings of those players that lined the stairway. He didn’t want any part of his prized collection to be overlooked.
“My life is about this,” Blade said.
Blade, a former athletic director at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High, has built his collection over 20 years. It’s unique in its specificity; every item is associated with the 1960 World Series. A retiree with no children, Blade said collecting the memorabilia is more of an obsession than a hobby. Though he doesn’t know what will happen to the historical items once he and his wife are gone, he isn’t finished expanding it.
“I started slow 20 years ago, but then I got more and more and more,” Blade said. “I’ve got a lot of stuff, and the stuff I want now is specific stuff, and it’s very expensive.”
He has a couch and a TV in his private basement museum in the Maryland suburbs. Naturally, a Pirates game is on, and it’s where Blade will watch the Pirates-Nationals series that begins Friday at Nationals Park.
Blade was a Washington Senators fan growing up, which meant he hated the Yankees. He listened to Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and the Pirates on his radio. It’s considered one of the most dramatic finishes to a World Series — the only Game 7 walk-off home run. New York had tied the score at 9 in the ninth, but Bill Mazeroski responded with a home run in the bottom of the inning. Blade joyfully celebrated with his father.
Figurines, baseball cards and a license plate are a small part of Brady Blade’s collection of Pirates memoriabilia. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
After the Senators moved, Blade gravitated toward the Pirates. His wife’s family lived in Pittsburgh, so they drove there regularly on weekends. He would stop by a store with Pirates memorabilia lining the walls and buy something. Eventually, he started participating in auctions and eBay sales.
The most valuable item in Blade’s collection is Bob Friend’s 1960 World Series trophy. Blade declined to reveal how much he paid for it, but several memorabilia stores and auction houses said comparable trophies have been sold for anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. The trophy sits in a custom case, the platform under it illuminated with the flip of a switch.
Blade got the trophy in an auction. He wrote Friend, a pitcher for the 1960 Pirates, a letter asking why he would part with it. Part of Blade’s collection is Friend’s handwritten response, which said he wanted the trophy to be with someone to remind them of the 1960 team.
“People usually take pictures of me with this,” Blade said, carefully cradling the trophy like a baby.
Blade won’t be forgetting the 1960 Pirates anytime soon. Every inch of wall space in the basement is devoted to the World Series. Roberto Clemente has his own section. The plate umpire for the series, Bill Jackowski, has a special section that includes his World Series ring. Mazeroski’s signature is everywhere. Bats, signed baseballs, a pair of Dick Groat’s shoes and old ticket stubs all have their place. Still on the wish list is a player’s World Series ring; that would usurp the trophy as the most expensive item.
Blade said he has met every living player from the 1960 champions. When he met Friend at an event with players from the team, Blade introduced himself as the guy who purchased his trophy.
“He turned to his wife and said, ‘This guy got the World Series trophy. He’s going to take care of it because he’s a great fan,’ ” Blade recounted. “I said, ‘Yes, I will. I’ll take care of it.’ ”