When the time came for New York Mets super collector Andy Fogel to pack up his New York home and move to Florida, his wife laid down the law.
“She said, ‘You can’t bring the large items,’” Fogel told Sports Collectors Digest. “That meant I had to leave behind the Mets bullpen bench I had from when Shea Stadium was torn down.”
She did, however, allow him to bring along the top three feet of the left field foul pole, complete with its fair territory netting. It proudly stands in their Florida garage surrounded by a dazzling array of items rescued from the demise of the Mets former ballpark.
It’s a sea of orange and blue memorabilia — stadium seats, a life-size cut-out of Tom Seaver urging fans to drink RC Cola, and even the dugout telephone system used to call the bullpen.
“I’ve been told by people in the know that I have the most comprehensive collection of items that exist from any one team,” Fogel boasts with enthusiasm and pride.
Because of his impressive Mets collection, Fogel was selected to be inducted into the newly-established Sports Collectors Digest Collectors Hall of Fame in the memorabilia category.
Photo Gallery: Andy Fogel's New York Mets collection
Fogel, who’s retired from the NY Port Authority, is not a rich man but rather a diligent collector who knows how to buy low and sell high.
“I started in 1990 spending $1,000 on Mets items. I kept half of them and sold the other half at a profit and kept going from there,” he said.
Today Fogel has an inventory of items that runs 109 pages.
There are autographed balls from every year of the team’s 60-year history; every edition of Mets yearbooks, including revised, corrected and Spanish language versions; game-used jerseys ranging from a 1962 Gil Hodges to a 2018 Jacob deGrom; and a mind-numbing array of odd, quirky and one-of-a-kind items.
There’s a cigarette lighter that plays “Meet the Mets” with Mr. Met on one side and Shea Stadium on the other in its original box; a straw hat from original Mets owner Joan Payson that she wore to the 1969 World Series; and even the on-deck circle from 2009 at Citi Field.
Fogel has a ready answer to the question of his most prized possessions.
“My top three are a game-used Tom Seaver #41 home jersey, a 1969 World Series championship ring, and a Mr. Mets watch complete with its original case,” he said.
“The watch and case are not worth anywhere near the other two, but it’s just a really cool and rare item. The 1969 ring, which belonged to Mets scout and former player and manager Birdie Tebbetts, is probably the Holy Grail of my collection.”
Fogel further explains, “My wife asked me what they were worth and when I told her, she said, ‘You will not be buried with those items!’”
The Mets have taken notice of Fogel’s collection and toured his home, leading to a relationship that has seen Fogel loan more items to the Mets museum at Citi Field than any other individual or entity, including the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As a result of his generosity the Mets granted him the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a home game on Aug. 6, 2019.
“I joke that I now define my life as before and after the first pitch,” Fogel says.
A prized display in Fogel’s personal Mets museum is a collection of Tom Seaver memorabilia mixed with items from the night of Fogel’s first pitch. It includes Seaver’s game-used shoes and a game ball from his 300th victory, side-by-side with the ball Fogel threw in his first pitch outing, along with the game ticket and cleats Fogel wore for the occasion.
For someone with such a gargantuan collection, it’s hard to believe there’s anything he’s still seeking to add to his treasure trove, but Fogel has a short want list. If anyone out there has a 1967 Mets Old Timers’ Day presentation clock, Andy Fogel is interested.
“You’re not a collector unless you have a want list and you’ve been searching for years and years for things,” Fogel opines.
Fogel’s remarkable collection has been written about in Forbes magazine, the New York Times, and appears in the 2000 movie “Frequency,” where father and son root for the Mets and spend 30 years tracking a murderer.
Fogel’s final statement to SCD put his collection in context for the many collectors of sports memorabilia, especially husbands with long-suffering wives.
“I serve a purpose for the Mets collecting community. Every person who comes to my house can go home and tell their wives that they should be happy that they’re not married to this Andy Fogel guy.’”
And yet, somewhere out there is a wife staring at the Mets bullpen bench in her living room.