Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In the Cards Collector Shares Images of the Great American Pastime

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In the Cards Collector Shares Images of the Great American Pastime

Article excerpt

Carefully organized in a red three-ring binder, each one of Jim Haller's baseball cards tells a story.

There's his 1954 Topps card featuring Curt Roberts, the first African-American player ever to play for the Pirates in the major leagues. His 1953 Carlos Bernier card depicts the man believed to be the first nonwhite player in Pirates history. Then there's his prized 1953 Ralph Kiner card - "the Cadillac of cards back then," Mr. Haller, of Shaler, said - a keepsake that piqued an interest that became a lifelong obsession.

These collectibles are more than just 2.5-by-3.5-inch pieces of firm paper; they're remnants of the past that illustrate the history of baseball and his beloved Pirates.

An avid student of the game, Mr. Haller's cards are the centerpiece of a presentation he has been giving for nearly three years and will give again Sunday at West Overton Village and Museums in Westmoreland County as part of its parlor talk series. The talk, titled "Growing up with Baseball in Pittsburgh," details the history of the Pirates organization, with a particular focus on an eight-season stretch from 1953-60 when his fandom first sprouted and developed.

"To me, it's still our national pastime," the 70-year-old Mr. Haller said. "It's the greatest game in the world. I know football and love the Steelers and Penguins and all that, but the Pirates are my team."

Mr. Haller's PowerPoint presentation lasts about 45 minutes and he spends a few minutes per slide, something that can be difficult given his deep passion and knowledge.

He has been giving the talk for only a handful of years, but the roots of the presentation go back much further. Growing up on the North Side, Mr. Haller often visited a drugstore down the block from his house. There, he was mesmerized by a collection of baseball cards on display in a glass case, particularly the Kiner card that was so coveted by other boys in his neighborhood.

The cards were an introduction to a sport by which Mr. Haller quickly became transfixed. He played on recreational teams and later at Oliver High School, but his formative years were spent playing with other kids in his neighborhood. …

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