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Baseball collector displays true passion.

George Abraham, of Santa Aria, Calif., has a goal to build a wall. It won't be a bulwark to defend against attack, or a demarcation to ensure privacy. The purpose of the construction is a symbol of gratitude and joy.

The wall will not be constructed from traditional materials--no wood, stone, rock or concrete will be used. He won't use a hammer, a saw or a screwdriver. No power tool will ever touch the surface of his creation. It will be of modest size, perhaps "20 to 30 yards in length and several feet high. Construction has not yet begun; materials are still being gathered.

There are only certain days on which Abraham can gather his material at the stadium of the Anaheim Angels baseball team. After a game, he scours the stands for left-behind souvenir-soda cups at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Calif. Usually the last fan to leave the stands, Abraham, with the assistance of his family, gathers the plastic that will create a tribute wall to the 2002 World Champion Anaheim Angels.

As Abraham described his plan, placing one cup's lip on top of another, then another cup's bottom on top of those two, and so on, enthusiasm radiated. A man of 50 years exuding the joy of a child.

The intended wall is the latest of Abraham's endeavors. The avid baseball fan has been collecting memorabilia for 13 years from across the United States. He has invested money in a hobby that will provide few financial returns. It is a passion that fills his life with a joy that most people would like to capture, and in the meantime, he has amassed enough memorabilia for his own private museum. As Abraham leads guests into his museum of baseball collectibles, it is clear that it is not possible to fully digest what will be seen during the visit. In the middle of an industrial complex, in the shadow of Angel Stadium, guests have a personal guide who does not charge for the tour. His payment is the joy and awe that he sees on the faces of his visitors who appreciate his efforts.

Each item in Abraham's collection has a story, and he is happy to relay the background of his favorite pieces as he leads guests through his collection. The collection itself is divided into seven rooms, each with a major theme. The first room is devoted to the history of the Anaheim Angels; the second to the childlike aspects of the game; the third to Babe Ruth, of the New York Yankees; the fourth to Lou Brock, of the St. Louis Cardinals; and the fifth to Cal Ripken Jr., of the Baltimore Orioles. The sixth room holds Abraham's collection, of Bobbleheads, and the seventh room is filled with baseball-themed pinball machines.

Three pieces in particular capture the essence of what drives Abraham. In the room devoted to the Cardinal great, Lou Brock, Abraham has a jersey signed by the St. Louis player. No ordinary jersey, it was worn by Brock during the final weekend of his career. Abraham, a native of Missouri, was in the military and stationed in California, so he did not think he would be able to travel east to see Brock's final three games. A friend of his contacted the Cardinal front office and made arrangements for Abraham to spend time in the Cardinal clubhouse before and after the weekend series. Abraham was overcome, standing several feet away from his childhood hero as Brock played his final games.

In one of the other rooms, Abraham has a mounted photograph of Mark McGwire hitting his 70th home run. The photograph is surrounded by 59 tickets from each of the games in which McGwire hit homers during the historic season. In the middle of the photo, an encased baseball signed by McGwire is placed where the ball in the photo makes contact with the bat.

In Abraham's office, there are two photographs that grab a visitor's attention. The first is of Abraham and his three sons celebrating after Darin Erstad, of the Anaheim Angels, caught the final out of the 2002 World Series. Below it, is a photo of Abraham and two of his sons standing in front of the cornfield used during the filming of the movie "Field of Dreams." Airbrushed into the photo are soft, black-and-white photos of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig and Joe Jackson. In the middle of all of them, and in front, is a soft photo of Abraham's father. Three generations of men who loved the game are surrounded by some of the greatest ballplayers in history.

Abraham will continue to collect as the game will continue to be played for generations. More collectors will enter the market-some as a hobby, some for profit. Few will come close to the passion of-Abraham. He may have only scratched the surface, but his efforts have captured a snapshot of one of America's great treasures.

For more information or a tour of George Abraham's museum, contact him by e-mail at BaseballNut714
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Title Annotation:George Abraham
Author:Forcey, Larry
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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