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Ernie Harwell’s memorabilia collection is at risk

Jun 9, 2011, 9:33 AM EDT

Ernie Harwell

A sad story from the Detroit News: Ernie Harwell’s personal baseball memorabilia collection — which is reputed to be worth millions and contain stuff collectors and fans would love to see — is being mismanaged by the Detroit Public Library, to whom Harwell entrusted it:

He entrusted it to the library and dreamed that one day his legacy would become a destination. But 10 months after he died at 92 last year, library executives have laid off the primary caretaker of his collection, further limiting access to the appointment-only exhibit that saw only 500 visitors last year.

Now, historians and Harwell confidantes worry his collection may be at risk in a system plagued with accusations of mismanagement and overspending.

Stuff is sitting in boxes in the basement, uncategorized and uncontrolled. There have been thefts in the past and no way of knowing if things are being stolen now, due to the lack of organization. And even if those concerns are remedied, the fact remains that the exhibition of the memorabilia is poor and access is difficult at best for library patrons.

I have much love for the city of Detroit due to my family’s history there, but no amount of civic pride should blind us to the fact that Detroit is in no position to care for this kind of collection when the city’s very survival is a far more pressing matter.

What a shame.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Jun 9, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    Okay, Craig and interested others: Something must be done about this. My project is to find and petition the Baseball Hall of Fame and anyone else I can think of to guard this history. He was the 1981 receipient of the Ford Frick award, so maybe I can find some interest there.
    Tigersfanrob is in Ireland at the moment but will lend a hand when he returns.
    As we can see by the atrocious way the city of Detroit handled Tigers Stadium, we need to do something.
    Any other ideas will be welcome.

    • CJ - Jun 9, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      Get a plant to work a the library and, if it’s THAT uncontrolled, lift one piece at a time and funnell it (pro bono, of course) through back channels to where it belongs…Cooperstown.

      Just sayin’

      • yankeesfanlen - Jun 9, 2011 at 10:43 AM

        Unfortunately, Tigersfanrob is something of an Inspector Clouseau.

    • trevorb06 - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      Although I live in Minnesota I would love to help. Anything I can do?

    • The Rabbit - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:41 PM

      The question(s): Were these items bequeathed to the City or was it a gift? If bequeathed, what were the provisions of Ernie Harwell’s will? Did he leave these treasures to the City of Detroit/library? If to the City/library, do the terms of the will allow it to sell the collection? Is it even addressed? (I’m not a lawyer but I’ve dealt extensively with asset transfers, foundations, and trusts during my career.)
      If it can be sold, you have to be careful here. You don’t want to see the colllection broken up and sold on E-Bay. Given Detroit’s financial position, the Hall may be able to acquire them.
      If not available for sale, then you’ll need a benefactor, foundation, or corporation to preserve the collection in Detroit. The city is not going to spend the money and given its current finances, maybe it shouldn’t.
      How you proceed depends on these answers.

  2. heynerdlinger - Jun 9, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    You’d think that the Tigers organization could find a couple million dollars to throw at the library in exchange for this collection.

  3. yankeesfanlen - Jun 9, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    Have sent a notice and e-mail link to historical dept. at HOF. Some pizza money will help, good idea heynerdlinger, will work that angle.

  4. skerney - Jun 9, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    What?! I thought Detroits public infrastructure was all aces these days!

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