Sports Conversation Art: Telling Tales with Treasured Memorabilia

Part 2 of Scherer's 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers "Sports Conversation" memorabilia collection
Part 2 of Scherer’s 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers “Sports Conversation” piece
Courtesy Neil Scherer

Everyone in America, even those who are less than excited about athletics, knows someone who is mad for certain baseball or football teams, worships great players or is hypnotized by the magic of sports now and throughout history. And, it turns out, when presented right, these things can capture the imagination of people who never knew they could care about Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, the mighty Brooklyn Dodgers, or Walter Payton and the Chicago Bears — all of whom have deeply nostalgic, and often heroic, stories to tell.

Some of our greatest, most dramatic moments have taken place on baseball diamonds, basketball courts and football fields over the last century, and Manhattan-based art dealer Neil Scherer has an incredible knack for telling them through arrangements of treasured historical ephemera, autographs and images he calls “Sports Conversation Art.”

"Sports Conversation Art" tribute to the 1938 NY Football Giants
“Sports Conversation Art” tribute to the 1938 NY Football GiantsCourtesy Neil Scherer

A selection of these fascinating pieces will be on view at Ashawagh Hall in Springs (780 Springs Fireplace Road) this weekend starting Thursday, October 13 and continuing through Monday, October 17.

These tangible records of powerful achievements, and the deep love and appreciation so many have for the subjects contained within, are a must-see for sports fans and those who enjoys Americana, history and relics of the past.

Neil Scherer with his Sports Conversation Art
Neil SchererCourtesy Neil Scherer

Neil Scherer Explains Sports Conversation Art

“We’re trying to relive these wonderful historical moments,” Scherer says, explaining his one-of-a-kind pieces. He points out, for example, a framed collection of objects chronicling Yankees great Mickey Mantle’s still unbeaten record of 18 World Series home runs, which will be on view in the Ashawagh Hall show.

“What we did was, besides having a wonderful image of a young Mantle staring at you in the center of the piece, we have the tickets from every World Series game Mantle hit a home run surrounding the image,” he says, “And if that’s not enough, we have the autographs of the pitchers he hit the home runs off of under each ticket. So we really feel that we do something that’s really special.”

The picture, of course, is autographed by Mantle himself, and the story is completed with the all-star’s number (7) and various small plaques describing the meticulously composed items under glass.

Mickey Mantle World Series home runs are chronicled in this "Sports Conversation Art" piece
Mickey Mantle World Series home runs are chronicled in this “Sports Conversation Art” pieceCourtesy Neil Scherer

Scherer, who is also a lawyer, says some of his unique creations can take years to put together as he combs the marketplace hunting for and authenticating each important element to tell its story. Mantle’s 18 home runs were hit across 16 games in 12 World Series from 1951–1964, and Scherer has reached back through time to find paper tickets from all of those games.

In the age of digital commerce and cellphones, he explains that physical tickets, known as “hard tickets,” are being phased out at many stadiums, which has added to their value to collectors. “…whether you go to an opera, whether you go to a ball game, everything is in the phone, and I personally hate that, but it’s made the valuations of my pieces grow quite a bit over the last couple years because you can’t get a vintage ticket,” Scherer says, though value isn’t at the core of what he does.

“Some of the great sports dealers will sell 5,000 Derek Jeter autographs for $99.99 (each), and that’s great, and they probably do better than me, but I kind of like the one-of-a-kind type of thing,” he says of his special niche in the world of sports memorabilia.

"Sports Conversation Art" piece honoring Babe Ruth's three World Series home runs
“Sports Conversation Art” piece honoring Babe Ruth’s three World Series home runsCourtesy Neil Scherer

“My pieces are not inexpensive,” Scherer admits, noting that his Sports Conversation Art pieces typically sell for $15,000 to $120,000, depending on what’s in them. For some perspective, however, he points out that a Babe Ruth bat can sell for close to $1 million.

Meanwhile, one of his far less expansive Babe Ruth pieces includes the Babe’s photo and autograph, tickets from the two World Series games when he hit three home runs (in 1926 and 1928), score cards filled in during the actual games by fans who were actually there, newspaper articles and autographs from the pitchers who threw the home runs — plus the umpire’s autograph because he made a vital call that kept Ruth in one of the games when others may have called a strikeout.

Scherer notes that an umpire’s autograph might be a lot cheaper than a signature from someone like Ruth, but it’s also much more difficult to find, and this one was particularly elusive.

Another piece, featuring the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, has so many elements he had to make it into a triptych. “We have all the autographs of all the players — that’s a given. We have all seven tickets when they beat the Yankees, that’s kind of a given. But what we do, is we try to have some interesting things,” Scherer says, noting that the piece has a bus sign for the line that stopped at Ebbets Field in Flatbush, architectural mockups for a new Brooklyn stadium (which might have been built if the Dodgers stayed), an original pennant, player photos and more — and everything is original from the time.

None of Scherer’s pieces contain scans or reproductions.

Michael Phelps Chinese Olympics "Sports Conversation Art" piece with collected memorabilia
Michael Phelps Chinese OlympicsCourtesy Neil Scherer

The volume of things contained within his Sports Conversation Art, and the stories told, would be difficult to fully list in detail, so they must be seen and experienced to grasp the electric energy they produce.

“When you see my show and people are going around it, you’ll hear the word ‘wow’ quite often. And to me, although it’s a simple word, it shows it connects with the person viewing the piece,” Scherer says, describing hearing that word as a “shot of adrenalin” and a “thrill” for him every time. It’s not often someone comes up with something truly new and all their own, and he’s clearly proud of what he’s accomplished.

“I never imagined that when I came up with this idea in a four-floor walk-up in Manhattan, that it would resonate so well for so many different types of folks and types of opportunities,” he adds, noting that he’s excited to bring his amazing creations to the Hamptons.

Harvard vs. Yale painting by Harold V. Schmidt
Harvard vs. Yale painting by Harold V. SchmidtCourtesy Neil Scherer

In addition to his Sports Conversation Art, including tributes to Roger Maris, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, the 1946 St. Louis Cardinals, the 1938 NY Football Giants, and more, Scherer is bringing some original sports paintings by Harold V. Schmidt and Ben Ganz to Ashawagh Hall this weekend. He also accepts commissions.

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