MLB.com Columnist

Marty Noble

One man's museum

Writer Pepe left a treasure trove, much of which to be auctioned in April

One man's museum

The first nugget pulled from the pile of precious property was a personal phone book that began with Joe Altobelli, the former Orioles and Giants manager, and ended with -- who else? -- Don Zimmer.

In between were entries for Rod Carew, Bob Gibson, Phil Linz, Whitey Ford, Jim Bouton, Larry Hisle, Bob Feller, Charlie Finley, Ron Guidry, Clete Boyer, Marty Marion, Johnny Bench, Joe Pepitone, Sal Bando, Marvin Miller, Ron Santo, Mudcat Grant, Phil Niekro, Calvin Griffith, Phil Rizzuto, Stan Musial, Lee Mazzilli, Brooks Robinson, Joe Black, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman, Robin Roberts, Moose Skowron, Craig Swan, Duke Snider, Willie Randolph, Keith Hernandez, Stump Merrill, Sparky Lyle, Joe Pignatano, Hank Peters, Ryne Sandberg, Ralph Kiner, Bucky Dent, Tom Reich, Willie McCovey, Al Kaline, Ron Blomberg, Catfish Hunter, Ken Kaiser, Rusty Staub, Buzzie Bavasi, Al Rosen, Graig Nettles, Gene Monahan, Stick Michael, Ken Singleton, Tony Kubek, Joe Buck, Darryl Strawberry, Pete Rose, Steve Palermo, Ralph Houk, Seymour Siwoff, Tim McCarver, Jack McKeon, Hal Newhouser, Leroy Neiman, George Medich, Yogi Berra, Jim Kaat, Mickey Morabito, Gus Bell, Elliott Maddox, Barry Halpern, Roland Hemond, Willie Mays, Thad Mumford, Mel Harder, Tom Seaver, Mike Marshall, Lee MacPhail, Paul Blair, Chicken Stanley, Whitey Herzog, Marty Springstead, Ron Swoboda, the widows of Billy Martin and Thurman Munson, Lee Meredith, Mickey Mantle's son Danny and Mick's attorney Roy True, Morganna, some fella named Trump and someone who's entry was in poorly veiled code -- Sandy K.

Just to name a few.

Those names constitute more than a baseball all-star team; they are the makings of decades of a successful franchise. Hall of Famers, MVPs, Cy Young winners and a historic designated hitter. One, Mumford, was a Yankees batboy before he wrote genius dialogue for M*A*S*H. Siwoff, the ultimate statistician, was included, as were Gold Glove winners, several managers and general managers, a trainer, a kinesiologist, two club owners, umpires, a couple of announcers, a labor leader, an agent, a Kissing Bandit, two significant others and one always prospective baseball owner unless he wins the Republican nomination.

The book was among a multitude of items -- most of them baseball-related -- left behind by Phil Pepe, the distinguished, accomplished, prolific and popular New York-based sportswriter who died in December. A treasure trove to be sure, one that Pepe's son, Jim, recently shared with MLB.com.

With so many games played, plus postseason and Spring Training, and so much to cover and occasionally covet, baseball lends itself to keeping "stuff," as George Carlin used to call it. And a writer of Pepe's standing had so much to contribute as well.

Among other saved items saturated with baseball nostalgia is the scorebook Pepe used in 1962, the first year of the Mets (so the notorious exploits of Marvelous Marv Throneberry are documented in Pepe's hand) and the season following the Maris-Mantle home run chase (so portions of the sequel summer can be examined in detail as well).

There was a plastic figurine of Gibson in the off-balance follow-through of his violent delivery. There were scores of clips from Pepe's time with the New York World-Telegram and Sun and his longer and legendary tenure with the New York Daily News.

Hand-written notes from one George Steinbrenner, penned on American Shipbuilding stationery, and one from George H.W. Bush on White House stationery are noteworthy; so too are a 30-year-old, casual correspondence from Trump, a letter from former baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, an index card "thank you" from Rapid Robert Feller, and one gentlemanly note, typed on paper with the words "From the catbird's seat" on it, from the great Red Barber.

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Jim Pepe and his three siblings have all those treasures in their possession, and they intend to keep some items for the family legacy. Others will be made available to the public come April when a silent auction is to be staged at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls, N.J. Proceeds from the auction will fund the Phil Pepe Memorial Communications Scholarship. The scholarship will go to a promising sports communications student.

The family and the museum have chosen April 3, Opening Day for the 2016 Major League season, noting that the Mets play at night in Kansas City and that the Yankees are not scheduled. The time is to be determined.

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The auction is one thing; the collection, the result of six decades of working in sports, is something else. Something extraordinary. And Pepe wasn't an avid collector. During his 80 years, he kept what was important to him; what it might fetch hardly was a consideration. But ...

One of Pepe's books featured characterizations of Mantle by celebrities in all fields. The author requested, received and retained responses from the likes of Dan Rather, Mario Cuomo, Frank Gifford, Meat Loaf, Lou Carnesecca, Troy Aikman, Bill Parcells, Dick Phelps (before he was Digger) and Willis Reed. Those letters are in the pile of precious property.

Though baseball was his primary passion, Pepe covered all sports -- witness the inclusion of numbers for Floyd Patterson, Joe Namath, Bobby Knight, Bill Raftery, Dwight Stones, Angelo Dundee, Connie Hawkins, Larry Holmes, Matt Snell, Bert Sugar, Sam Huff, Dick McGuire, Phil Simms, Bobby Hurley, Red Holzman, Don King, Don Shula, Sugar Ray Robinson and Andy Robustelli. They knew, respected and trusted him. When Pepe columnized about New Jersey resident Richard Nixon -- another name in the book with a 201 area code -- he wrote about baseball, not foreign policy, politics or Rosemary Woods.

Pepe had a story -- or 10 -- about each name in the book and connections so he might contact anyone whose number he didn't have. He had numbers for friend and trumpeter Chuck Mangione, "Where have you gone" Paul Simon and Bob Hope. Pepe had a hand-written letter of appreciation from Sugar Ray Robinson among the dozens of correspondences he kept in his home in Englewood, N.J., not far from the open laptop where he had typed his final words.

Under a deep stairway were copies of books Pepe had written -- Jim Pepe put the final total at 48. One-tenth of the books his father had read would have filled Gleason's Gym.

Notes from which Phil Pepe delivered the "Pep Talk" on WCBS-FM radio for 15 years are in folders, as is a sketch of the renowned writer by the renowned Neiman.

Moreover, there are baseballs, some signed, and photographs, some significant:

• Pepe, dressed in Mets uniform No. 33, and actress Lee Meredith, dressed provocatively, performing in one of the skits presented at the annual winter dinners staged by the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in the good old days.

• Pepe with Tim McCarver, the late Chicago baseball writer Jerome Holtzman and President Bush at the White House after No. 41 had invited then to "talk ball."

• Pepe at Gallagher's in Manhattan with Yogi.

• Pepe delivering a pitch in a backyard game.

Folks who faced Pepe said he had decent stuff, and though he joined the great majority at age 80, he never lost his fastball.

Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.