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Jim Smiley holds hidden baseball Hall of Fame collection

Crescenta Valley High teacher, former Falcons boys' basketball coach's Hall of Fame baseball collection is something that is rarely seen outside of Cooperstown.

August 09, 2013|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
  • Crescenta Valley High teacher and former Falcons boys' basketball coach Jim Smiley shows off part of his extensive baseball collection.
Crescenta Valley High teacher and former Falcons boys'… (Raul Roa/Staff…)

It was one of those rare days where Jim Smiley pulled his collection of baseball memorabilia out of storage and into his La Crescenta home.

While Smiley hasn’t seen most of the items in quite a while, he only brings them out about four times a year. On a lazy Saturday, he showed off the collection and he’s still quick with a story behind whatever piece is in his hand, how he acquired it, the significance behind it and why it’s special to him.

There’s plenty for Smiley to remember. The current Crescenta Valley High teacher and Los Angeles Dodgers beat writer for DodgersExaminer.com has an item for all 300 players enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“Collecting hall of fame autographs is a way to combine a love of the game, with learning about the history of the game, with having some first-hand documents and it’s a neat way to remain true to the game and delve into the history more,” Smiley said. “It’s a lot [of work] but it’s so enjoyable.”

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Signatures are included for all but three Hall of Fame inductees who’ve debuted since 1900 — Addie Joss, Ross Youngs and Eddie Plank. Smiley’s collection is one of the “most comprehensive Hall of Fame collections outside of Cooperstown,” according to a recent episode of ESPN’s Mint Condition in which he was profiled.

Fellow collector and longtime friend of Smiley, Mark Langill, who is also the Dodgers team historian and publications editor, confirmed that’s no exaggeration on the significance of the collection.

“It is because there aren’t too many people who have the discipline, dedication and resources to do something like that,” Langill said.

Smiley’s interest in collecting was piqued early on when he collected baseball cards with childhood friend, La Crescenta native, Crescenta Valley High graduate and former News-Press sports editor Brian Martin at age 7.

“By high school, baseball cards just didn’t quite have that allure,” Smiley said. “We felt like a transition would be a good idea.”

One such transition was presented in 1984 when Smiley and Martin caught wind of some old checks signed by Cobb being sold in the Valley. The two saved up, made the trek and Smiley purchased one for $40.

“That was kind of the beginning; it was the summer going into my senior year of high school,” Smiley said.

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