STRATFORD, Conn. -- The pangs of desire for baseball begin every year around this time for Stratford’s Bob Wirz. He remains close to the game as an author, journalist and, on occasion, at a sports collectibles show held each month in Fairfield.
But at this time of year, as teams report to their spring training homes in Florida and Arizona, Wirz remembers his long association with the game as the public relations director for the Kansas City Royals and later as the chief spokesperson for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth.
- Who : Bob Wirz, Stratford
- What : Author, former sports executive, fan of collectibles
- Learn more: https://www.facebook.com/CT-Collectibles-Show-1651374698524402/
“My wife and I spend most of March in Venice, Florida,’’ said Wirz, who still writes extensively on independent baseball teams on IndyBaseballChatter.com. “There are 55 players who played in independent leagues in Major League camps this spring. I’m a 79-year-old baseball fanatic who still has a love affair with the game.”
Wirz’s passion for baseball is on display when he visits the collectibles show at the Scandinavian Center in Fairfield. The Center hosts the show on the first Sunday of every month and is run by Milford-based CT Collectibles Show. The next show is planned for Sunday, March 5, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and includes nearly 50 vendors with sports and non-sports cards, coins, comics and more.
Wirz displays an extensive coin collection but also has an extensive selection of sports programs, yearbooks and media guides. He also owns a Bill Dickey model catcher’s mitt but does not offer that at the show.
“The show is mostly baseball, but some of the dealers have other sports, too,’’ Wirz said. “It’s really an eclectic variety. You might find Civil War tokens, buttons, coins, comics and just about anything a collector might want. It’s not something people know a lot about. There are some really nice collectibles at the shows.”
Wirz owns some other noteworthy collectibles. A graduate of the Nebraska, he owns a piece of turf from the college’s old Memorial Stadium and a football signed by the three Heisman Trophy winners from Nebraska and its long-time archrival, the University of Oklahoma. He also owns a valuable Indian Head Penny -- a coin that was in circulation 1859-1909 -- and media guides from every baseball team from 1973-20111. He also owns yearbooks and scorecards, and a baseball autographed by Steve Busby, who pitched the first no-hitter in Royals history in 1973.
Baseball has been a lifetime passion for Wirz, who was President of the Waterbury Spirit independent baseball team from 1995-2000.
“I wanted to work in baseball since I was eight years old,’’ Wirz said. “I went to every Royals spring training from 1969-74. When I was with the Commissioner’s office, President Reagan invited the living members of the Hall of Fame to the White House, and I was a part of that. There must have been 80-100 people there. I was at a table with James Brady, the President’s press secretary. He was shot by John Hinckley a few days later, and he was never the same after that.”
Many of Wirz’s baseball memories are recounted in a book he published late last year. “The Passion of Baseball” documents his long career in the game, including the first game he attended as a 12-year-old boy at Wrigley Field in Chicago to see the Cubs take on his favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs won, 5-4, with three runs in the bottom of the ninth -- and Wirz still has two scorecards from the game.
After leaving the Commissioner’s office, Wirz started his own sports consulting, public relations and marketing business. He has remained close to the game (he is an Associate Scout for the Baltimore Orioles) and believes baseball has been able to overcome the damage caused by the steroid scandal earlier this century.
“You can’t say the fans have moved on completely,’’ said Wirz, who was inducted into the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame this month. “The vast majority of them have put it on the sidelines. Attendance is still great at games. Baseball fans need their sports fix. They may not have forgiven the individual players, but they’ve moved on as far as the sport is concerned.”
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