September 2007

How old was Luke Appling when he homered out of RFK Stadium? Ask Jerry Glenn

Author: Paul deVere

True Story. A kid and his mom walk into Legends Sports Gallery. The young man is asking about a North Carolina Tar Heels basketball bracelet he’s ordered. Jerry Glenn, the store’s founder, and one of the team of four who run the extraordinary shop, checks behind the counter to see if UPS has made a delivery. He checks. No dice. The kid is crestfallen but politely thanks Glenn for checking while walking out of the store with his mother.

“These crazy things here, they pay the rent,” Glenn said laughing, pointing at a post filled with bracelets that look like the red stitched seam on a baseball with small logos of MLB teams attached.

Two minutes later the UPS driver shows up with four boxes, for which Glenn signs. On his way out the door, the driver bumps into the kid who is rushing back into the shop, his mom trailing behind.

“We saw the truck. We thought maybe …” The young man’s voice trails off anxiously. Glenn checks the packing slip.

“Tar Heels?” Glenn asks. “Says it’s in this box. Go ahead, open it,” he tells the kid.

The boy’s eyes light up like it’s Christmas, and he digs in.

“They’re the latest fad,” Glenn explained. “I can’t keep enough in stock. I think every boy on Hilton Head Island has one.”

Called “Gamewear,” the bracelets also cover other ball sports, like the NCAA Tar Heels basketball team and, as the new owner proudly displays, the bracelet looks like it’s made out of a basketball skin, showing off North Carolina’s logo and its light blue and white colors.

The top-selling, ten dollar bracelets are a good example of Glenn’s philosophy for the jam-packed sports memorabilia shop: “Have something for everyone who walks in—whether it’s a dollar post card or a $400 autographed picture,” Glenn said.

A quick look at the inventory backs Glenn up. From the display of the venerable Topps sports trading cards to a beautiful Ted Williams display, including a large portrait of the “Splendid Splinter,” a jersey, ball and bat, fans will find something that memorializes their home team.

“If somebody comes in from Texas, I have Astros. If somebody is from Seattle, I have teddy bears of the Mariners. I have all kinds of stuff from every team,” Glenn said.

Glenn is also proud of the direct relationships he and the store have developed over the years. “I was one of Ted Williams original dealers, said Glenn. In these relationships he includes Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Bobby Cox. Of Cox, with whom Glenn and wife, Audrey, recently spent time, Glenn said, “He’s the nicest guy.” According to Glenn, the relationships, developed over 20 years, allow him to go directly to the source for autographed products.

Baseball, which is the sport that is the most represented in Legends Sports Gallery, is a true passion for Glenn. Raised on Chicago’s south side, it was only natural that he became a White Sox fan. “When I was a kid, I had rheumatic fever. I was paralyzed for nine months. I listened to ticker tape ball games. That’s all I could do. I knew everyone’s average. I could tell you what Luke Appling did. He was my idol.”

According to Glenn, one of his biggest moments was later in life when he met Luke, a week after he hit the home run in the Cracker Jack Old Timers All Star Game [Appling was then 77] in RFK Stadium. “He said it was the biggest thrill of his life,” said Glenn. “I said, ‘Come on, Luke, you hit .388 in 1936.’ He asked me how I knew that, and I said, ‘You still have the highest batting average of a shortstop ever,’” Glenn said, smiling.

Glenn also told Appling what kind of gum he chewed: Juicy Fruit. “‘How do you know that?’ he asked. I told him I was a ten-year-old snot-nosed kid. I leaned over the dugout, and you were going to eat a piece of gum. I asked for a piece, and you gave me a piece, and I saved it all my life. And he laughed and said, ‘That’s the best story I’ve ever heard,’” Glenn recalled.

Though baseball memorabilia and decor items make up about 80 percent of the store’s sales, Legends Sports Gallery is expanding into new territory. There is now a gallery devoted to contemporary golf and tennis memorabilia, and the store has developed special relationships with representatives of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

In addition, due to his relationship with his former employer, Nabisco, Glenn was able to get the rights to old labels from the early 1900s, including the original Oreo label. He had Giclée prints made and created the “Confectionery Collection.”

Back to baseball, Sports Legends will feature a new line of large Topps cards, labeled “Turkey Red,” by famed sports artist and friend, Dick Perez, with 51 new players.

When Glenn had a bout of illness—which has since passed—he and wife, Audrey, decided to sell the store to daughter, Lori, who shares her father’s passion. They also brought in well-known islander, Lou Perella, to work on the store’s website. Lou is ably assisted in this by Lori Tuten.

“We’re really a team,” Glenn said with the same enthusiasm showed by his young “Gamewear” customer. “I’m 76 but feel like I’m 39. I just can’t wait to get here every morning.”

*Legends Sports Gallery
1505 Main Street

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