Kendrick proud to show off card collection

D-backs executive puts rare items on display at Phoenix Art Museum

Kendrick proud to show off card collection

D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick takes a walk through baseball history as he passes cases at the Phoenix Art Museum, where his impressive and extremely valuable collection of rare baseball cards is displayed.

The collection memorializes legends ranging from Honus Wagner to Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. The names represent the pinnacle of baseball greatness and the cards can't help but make an impression on virtually any baseball fan. Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Satchel Paige and Walter Johnson are all represented in a special engagement exhibit that runs through April 24.

Kendrick declines to discuss the monetary value of his collection, but The Arizona Republic reported in 2010 that he paid $2.8 million three years earlier for the rarest and most valuable card of them all, a 1909 Honus Wagner card T206, which was pulled out of circulation at the Hall of Famer's request, because Wagner had not authorized it and objected to his image being used to sell cigarettes.

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Although Kendrick said he treasures owning 16 of the 20 top-rated sports cards in circulation, all in top condition, he derives the most pleasure from those that have a personal connection to his life, or represent players who played a transformative role in baseball history and even American history.

A 1957 Topps Brooks Robinson rookie card, while not the most valuable in the collection, has great sentimental value to Kendrick because it reminds him of when he was working in Baltimore for IBM after graduating from West Virginia University.

A 1955 Tops Sandy Koufax card also brings back a pleasant memory.

"I think about when I took my dad to the World Series [in 1966],'' Kendrick said. "That was my first-ever World Series to see in person. It was one of the great events of my life because I was able to take my dad ... He had never seen [a World Series].''

,Kendrick said he had no idea at the time that he and his late father, Earl, were watching Koufax pitch his last game, against the Orioles. Koufax would shock the baseball world that winter when he announced his retirement because of arm woes.

The 1966 World Series also had historic value because it was the first time the Orioles became world champions, Kendrick said.

Kendrick also cited his Jackie Robinson rookie card. Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947, enduring a barrage of racial slurs, and eventually being elected to the Hall of Fame. Robinson is considered a heroic figure in the nation's battle to achieve racial equality.

"Its historical significance is almost unmatched,'' Kendrick said about the Jackie Robinson card, even though he owns other cards that are worth more money. "Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers, as we all know, and as a little boy, I was a Dodgers fan.''

Kendrick also enjoys his 1949 Bowman Duke Snider card for similar reasons. The Duke "was one of my favorite players.''

The baseball card collection also engenders memories of Kendrick's late mother, Woodlyn, known as Woodie, who was a teacher. Kendrick said his mother reminded him of his baseball cards collection in 1990 when he visited her.

Woodie Kendrick stored the cards in the family's basement instead of throwing them out. Although none of the cards in the collection on display at the art museum come from that boyhood treasure trove, the cards' discovery reignited Kendrick's passion for collecting baseball cards as an adult.

"I say she's the greatest mother ever. I should have her card in here,'' Kendrick said.

In contrast, Kendrick said a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card has no personal connection to him because "I'm a Yankee hater from childhood.'' He is still glad he happened to buy such a card at a five-and-dime store in his hometown. A perfect version of the same card is part of the exhibition.

The Phoenix exhibition features The Ultimate Collection: Iconic Baseball Cards from the Diamondbacks Collection. Admission for the exhibition is $8, in addition to a general admission charge that can range from free at certain times to $15.

Jim Walsh is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.