By Aidan Renaghan
After Vince Greco passed away, his family contacted Ironclad Authentics, which operates an online auction house based in Baltimore, to examine the value of a one-of-a-kind collection of historical Baltimore sports memorabilia. They were shocked to find so many pieces of immense value, including a Pittsburgh Pirates lineup card from Game 7 of the 1971 World Series and a used Brooks Robinson glove from his rookie year, valued at $20,000.
The collection reflects Greco's pioneering use of film that no doubt changed the game of baseball, and a portion of it is currently for sale at www.ironcladauctions.com as part of the Ironclad Legends auction, running online July 11-27.
In the late '50s, the Orioles’ Lee MacPhail approached Greco, a lifelong photography enthusiast, and asked him to film pitchers’ starts. In exchange for each 35-millimeter reel, Greco received game tickets.
The Ironclad Legends auction includes a Pittsburgh Pirates lineup card from Game 7 of the 1971 World Series, a game-used Brooks Robinson glove and a Babe Ruth-signed baseball.
“Whenever they pitched we would take usually the center field and either the first or third baseline, depending on which-handed they were,” said Vince’s daughter, Chele Greco.
“And each pitcher would have their own film.”
The films were a hit with players, who used them to make adjustments, and Vince Greco quickly developed a relationship with many famous Orioles who spent time at the Greco household.
“Jim Palmer actually lived on the same block as we did, so he would come over and look at film," Chele Greco said. "I grew up with a lot of the players’ kids.”
Vince Greco was eventually asked to produce film for pitchers and batters, a job that required the aid of his family.
“There were always multiple cameras in use, so the more kids, the more cameras was the idea,” Chele Greco said. “And my father always said there was no way he could have had this company without my mother. She did all of the billing and the organization.”
In addition to reels that aided the players with their mechanics, Vince Greco was also sent to film other baseball teams, and the Orioles became the first team to use scouting footage for upcoming series. He continued expanding his business to other Baltimore sports, working for the Colts, the Bullets and Johns Hopkins University lacrosse.
Despite the increasing workload, Greco kept a full-time career selling X-ray and professional camera equipment. During the mid-60s, Super 8 home movies became popular, and Greco began to sell equipment to players and organizations.
Instead of money, he asked for gloves, jerseys and other memorabilia. He even had a deal with the Orioles’ organization to trade film equipment for three team-signed balls at the end of each season. His daughter Chele said the deal was for three balls, “because my dad had three children, and he was very, very particular in keeping us even. He never played favorites.
“My father was really a visionary. He kept everything, and he used to tell us this stuff is going to be valuable some day. I have ticket stubs, I have press passes, anything imaginable that was given out.”
By the end of Vince Greco’s life, his collection had become enormous.
“This is a find that would be a collector’s dream,” said Dennis Esken, a professional authenticator who was brought in to examine the collection’s 35 game-worn gloves. Ironclad co-founder Ray Schulte was so impressed by the collection he took it on the road.
“We’re actually displaying them in New York at the All-Star Game Fan Fest and getting tremendous response,” he said.
Schulte is also planning a display in Baltimore, showcasing the highlights at an event at Mothers Federal Hill Grille July 22 that will also feature an autograph signing by Colts legend Lenny Moore.
Esken said the Greco collection has even impressed professionals of a different sort. “Cal Ripken Jr. looked at these gloves,” Esken said, “and he was like a kid in a candy shop.”
Issue 3.29: July 17, 2008