Card dealer Joe Ruocco sent me a copy of the wonderful photo collage of the 1956 Yankees shown on this page, and it got me to thinking back and remembering a similar collage from my very first full-time journalism job 30 years ago.
Ruocco, owner of Rock’s Dugout in Wichita, billed as Kansas’ first card shop (est. 1977), has the 4-by-8-foot beauty displayed in his shop. It had once hung at the entrance to Yankee Stadium, but after the 1973 renovation, it ended up at a bowling alley in New Jersey owned by Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto.
Ruocco bought the stunning piece in 1978, a year after he opened his store. As you can imagine, it’s been a bit attraction at his shop, and he’s listened to a long litany of entreaties to sell it. It’s the kind of thing that probably would have to sell at auction to determine its actual value, but it’s instructive to note that Ruocco has turned down a hefty $20,000 offer.
But it wasn’t the monetary thing that struck me when I saw the photo. The collage reminded me so much of a similar one (same size, as best I can remember, and same wooden frame) that was displayed behind the bar at “Little Joe’s” bar in Saranac Lake, N.Y.
Joe Gladd was one of those lovable, eccentric characters who would wind up on everybody’s list of hometown favorites. I was a young bureau reporter working for the Plattsburgh Press-Republican. He had the uncanny ability – in part because of his revered status in the tiny Adirondack community – to convince anyone of just about anything. He even sold me on the whopping tale that Kodak had signed a deal to have all of the film developing in the hemisphere done there in Saranac Lake, with the little Adirondack Airport serving as the receiving point for those millions of rolls. I know it sounds dumb to have bought it, but you had to know Joe Gladd.
Boy, would I ever love to know what happened to the photo collage that graced the back of his bar.