The following article appeared in the May 8, 1998 issue of Sports Collectors Digest. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of author Frank Barning and editor Tom Mortenson.
NOTRE DAME SPECIALIST LARRY ROBERTS HAS THE TICKET
|Imagine that you have worked on a monster-sized jigsaw puzzle for years and as you get near the end realize that 17 pieces are missing. That's how Notre Dame ticket collector Larry Roberts must feel.
Between 1930 and 1997, Notre Dame has played 714 games (336 home and 378 away), excluding the away game against Iowa that was canceled in 1963 due to the assassination of President Kennedy.
I have every home game played in the stadium in South Bend since it was built in 1930, he said. I only need 17 football away game tickets between 1930 and 1969. I need all the help I can get in order to locate the missing 17 away games. I am on a mission.
Overall, Roberts has 727 Fighting Irish individual-game tickets, 394 full tickets and 333 stubs, from between 1910-1997. Even his e-mail address (NDTixLarry@aol.com) reflects his hobby devotion.
He grew up in Mishawaka, Ind. which is approximately five miles from Notre Dame stadium. With eight kids in the family, they couldn't afford Notre Dame season tickets. My father, now deceased, was a very big Notre Dame fan and the whole family would sit around the black and white watching the game on Saturdays, he recalled.
Even St. Monica's, the Catholic grade school that Roberts attended for eight years, reinforced the Notre Dame tradition. Our song books would have the Notre Dame fight song and no music period would pass without my requesting the Notre Dame victory march. No wonder the man is on a mission.
At about the age of 12, we would ride our bikes to the stadium and buy tickets for a couple of bucks from people having extras. It was common back then, to get a free ticket and we never had to spend more than a few bucks. I have collected Notre Dame football tickets since attending my first game which was in 1969 against Northwestern. I made a practice of throwing my ticket stubs into a shoe box. It wasn't until the late 1980s that I started attending all of the home games and cataloging all of my ticket stubs.
Notre Dame programs Also in his Notre Dame collection are football programs. He needs only about 10 programs to complete the home series from 1930 to current. His oldest and most cherished program is the 1907 ND - St. Vincents game played in Chicago. This was ND's only away game that year.
In addition to tickets and programs, he collects:
* ND pennants. He has all the pennants from every bowl game with the exception of the 1925 Rose Bowl.
* Knute Rockne autographs.
* Knute Rockne All-American movie memorabilia. The movie made its world premier in South Bend in October 4, 1940. I have an original banner, movie lapel pin, two tickets to the world premier which was held at three different movie theaters in downtown South Bend. My tickets are to two of the three theaters. The gala event was attended by Pat O'Brien and the movie starred Ronald Reagan. I have the movie program and what is interesting is that they
* Football banquet programs and dinner menus. The oldest dinner menu is from 1922.
* Football press passes. The collections includes more than 100. His favorites are the ones that say "No women and children allowed in the press box".
* Football buttons. Roberts has many and his favorites are the bowl game buttons.
His favorite ticket is from the 1925 Rose Bowl and he proudly points out that it is in mint condition. According to Roberts, I keep this ticket and a few others in the safe deposit box. I especially love this one because the portion of the ticket that the usher kept was the best part of the ticket. It has the
The stub, if your lucky to have just the stub portion, is not too exciting. This ticket is extra special because it was ND's first and only appearance in the Rose Bowl and they won. Notre Dame featured Knute Rockne and the Four Horseman, while Stanford was coached by the legendary Pop Warner and the team was led by the great Ernie Nevers. So a full ticket to this game is especially meaningful.
Next on his favorite list is a full ticket, of which Roberts has two, from the 1979 Mirage Bowl game played against Miami in Tokyo. The ticket features Japanese writing and the yen. I have seen more full 1925 Rose Bowls than I have this ticket and I am always looking for more.
His favorite memory of acquiring an item is when Roberts made an internet purchase of a 1907 Notre Dame football program. My final bid was made with seconds remaining on the clock and it was like winning the football game with
One of his many memorable moments came when Roberts decided to donate his 1920 ND - Purdue football program to the archives. The program contained George Gipp, The Gipper, and I thought that the University should have this fine piece.
Another fond memory came when he received a call from an elderly man from Ohio. He told me that he had six full Ohio State - Notre Dame tickets from the 1935 game. That confrontation is still labeled as The Game of the Century. Both teams were undefeated heading into the clash, the top-ranked Buckeyes were heavy favorites. ND scored late to pull the major upset.
Anyway, the man mentioned that he and his family had to leave town to attend a funeral and was unable to attend that game. I thought that I would have to get a second mortgage on my house, but he said that he did not want to charge me. He was just happy that there was someone out there who could appreciate these tickets.
To put together such a fabulous collection, you need some help. Roberts networks with a tight knit group of about 10 collectors and I would love to meet more. The internet has been a very useful tool in his efforts.
He never misses the National Sports Collectors Convention (this summer it is in nearby Chicago) and Roberts usually runs into two dealers who deal in tickets. The major ticket dealers are Adelson's Sports and Concord Collectibles. I use their prices as guidelines and benchmarks.
I have not come across any major publication which identifies a standard price for tickets. The one thing that I find is that if you ask 10 dealers for an estimate, you will get 10 different opinions, much like going to a CPA, he pointed out. I know of only one major dealer who has published and continues to publish a Notre Dame price list, Bill Farmer of South Bend. His inventory contains primarily programs, tickets and Domes (ND's annual student yearbooks). I use his price guide primarily for football programs.
It is important to remember, he advises, that your hobby should never become an obsession. A hobby should always remain a hobby. When it becomes an obsession, it's time to take a step back and spend some time away. Refresh yourself and regroup.
The hunt is important to this collector. Over the years, he has made contacts with more than 20 individuals who never use all of their season tickets. They range from Fortune 500 corporations, travel agencies and widows who don't use their spouse's tickets. I find it mind boggling that there are people with ND football tickets who don't go to the games.
The people who don't use their extra tickets are afraid to sell them because if the tickets fall into the hands of scalpers and the University finds out or catches a scalper on school property, then the season ticket holder can lose their season tickets, he said. Notre Dame puts out this warning every year.
Many of my discoveries come through my occupation as an auditor for the Defense Department. When you audit accounting records, you can come across some amazing finds.
One of his standard rituals is after every football game, he and his wife Sue walk around the stadium picking up ticket stubs. It is amazing how many tickets we find. You can even get lucky and find full ones.
Larry Roberts does not collect other Notre Dame sports. Occasionally I get calls about basketball items but my wife would kill me if I started another sport. The man on a mission can be reached at 623 W. Mishawaka Ave., Mishawaka, IN 46545; telephone (219) 256-5255
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