Brewers fan's massive signed baseball collection destined to benefit Children's Wisconsin
CEDARBURG, Wis. (CBS 58) – Ben Nummerdor is more than a baseball fan who loves to collect memorabilia, he’s also building an impressive representation of Brewers baseball history. The Cedarburg man’s man cave is decked out in signed baseballs from floor to ceiling but as he’ll tell you, his collection isn’t quite complete. His goal is to collect a signed baseball from every Milwaukee Brewers player to ever wear the uniform.
And while the collection is impressive in its own right, what's more impressive is what Nummerdor plans to do with his prized possessions.
On CBS 58 Sunday Morning, Kim Shine visited Nummerdor’s home to see the collection for herself.
“This guy. I can’t find him anywhere," he said about one player's baseball he still needs.
We’ll start this story with what Ben Nummerdor doesn’t have.
“Brandon Kolb, I’ve been trying for a very long time. I’ve had a few different addresses for him and they always come back as non-returnable. So, if anyone knows where Brandon’s living these days let me know," said Nummerdor.
He needs a signed baseball from Brandon Kolb, and just more than 20 other Brewers players.
Then, his collection will nearly be complete, at least for now.
“I have just over 900 of the baseballs signed by various Brewers, almost all Brewers that have ever played," he said.
Nummerdor started his collection with the 1982 team.
But it’s probably not for the reason you’re thinking.
He wanted a display piece for his new home – and he loved the Brewers.
But that project spawned excitement for finding as many autographed team baseballs as he could.
“So, I guess it probably was three or four years into collecting. I’m like, ‘okay, I’ve amassed maybe a few hundred’ at that point and I’m like, ‘well I wonder how many there really are in Brewers history," he said.
So far, 930 players are on the team’s all-time roster.
And as for collecting them all?
A staggering feat, said Tyler Barnes, senior vice president of communications and affiliate operations with the Brewers.
“There are players that just made very brief appearances here throughout the years. You’re going all the way back to 1970 so it’s a difficult thing to do," said Barnes.
And once they learned Nummerdor needed help filling gaps, they offered to step up to the plate.
The team keeps in touch with its alumni so Barnes said some of the signatures will be fairly easy to get.
Others, even for them, will be harder to find.
“You know there are some players that are deceased. There are players that we don’t have contact information for but also I think we can help him moving forward. If he’s unable to reach a player, and get an autograph, it’s something where we can go downstairs, maybe – if the player is still here – get a ball and send it off to him," said Barnes.
Nummerdor’s baseball bug was actually ignited by a Brewers rival – the Chicago Cubs.
A family friend played on the team.
He showed a young Ben around and took him into the locker room to meet some of the players.
“People were in there like Andre Dawson, Ryan Sandberg, Shawon Dunston all those old great Cubs names that we in Milwaukee have learned to revere and hate sometimes, but it was just really cool," he said.
But his heart was always in Milwaukee.
He grew up watching Brewers games, and is making new memories with his three-year-old daughter, Reagan.
By now, you’re probably wondering, how did he get all of these baseballs?
They’ve come from various places as card shows, retailers, antique malls and charity events.
Some, of course, are from games.
“There is a Harvey Kuenn – who was the coach of the Brewers in ’82," said Nummerdor. "I have him on a ’82 game-used, World Series baseball. That’s kind of neat. That’s probably the pinnacle of the collection is that ball in itself.”
He’s also reached out to players on social media …
“One, like Trent Durrington, I got a hold of him through LinkedIn," he explained.
…and contacted others by mail.
“The players, yea, a lot of these people are just like us. They really like a good story, they like to give back to the community. That’s part of almost every Brewer that’s ever come through Milwaukee. Some, you know, when I send out a baseball to their house they’ll send a letter back saying, you know, ‘thank you, it’s great that somebody’s putting this together, it’s for a great cause.”
And that ‘great cause’ is now much larger than Ben himself.
In his own act of giving, Nummerdor is working to donate the entire collection to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
“Well we were really excited and honored," said Christine Baranoucky, vice president of engagement and stewardship at Children’s Wisconsin.
“It’s going to be exciting to be able to share it with kids and families that will be coming into the clinic that we’re planning on displaying this amazing collection in," she continued.
They plan to place the autographed baseballs inside the Children’s clinic in Greenfield.
This is where the sports medicine and orthopedic center is located.
“Well we imagine, and I think this is Ben’s vision as well, is that we imagine the kids looking for player’s names that they recognize and then maybe also the parents looking for names that they recognize, as well," she said.
“You know, have a kid sit down with their mother or father and talk about how they saw Robin Yount, and how they saw Christian Yelich or anybody else play in the game and just take a break from it all," said Nummerdor.
Opening Day, and other logistics, for the collection are currently in the works.
Both Children’s and the Brewers say they’ll help Nummerdor continue to expand it.
“And that gives me a great feeling that it’s not going to, you know, be an end to the collection," he said. "I can keep going, and even after I’m gone I hope maybe somebody else will take up adding onto it.”
Because those are the goals: adding more Brewers players as they come along and preserving a piece of Milwaukee history.
“It’s bigger than I am and it’s something that really something that belongs to the Brewer fans and Milwaukee in general. That’s why I’ve decided that it may not reside here forever. It shouldn’t reside here forever because it belongs to the people, not just me," he said.