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Sports Memorabilia Store Owner Plays His Cards Well

Doug Gross has expanded from baseball cards into more diverse sports memorabilia.

, located in , is stocked with the expected: plenty of baseball cards. There's cards in protective plastic cases and loose cards, autographed cards and non-autographed cards, valuable cards and not-so-valuable cards, rare cards and common cards.

But there's much more there, too. There's autographed footballs, baseballs, hockey pucks and bats. There's framed photographs, plaques and art. Three small statues of Albert Pujols, Lou Brock and Stan Musial stand side by side near a goalie mask signed by St. Louis Blues players that stares out from behind glass like the monster in a horror film. The anomaly of a Leave It To Beaver dinner plate and a Garth Brooks-signed CD tell you that there are surprises here, if you look for them.

Owner Doug Gross started collecting baseball cards when he was a kid in North County, but he said he didn't have a particular goal in mind or any idea that he would eventually own a store devoted to sports memorabilia.

“I went to a little store and bought baseball cards like all kids did,” Gross said.

He began to take collecting a little more seriously as a teenager, but when he returned from serving in the Army and went into his parents basement looking for them, they were gone. He forgot about baseball cards for awhile.

After he got married and had children, Gross' interest in baseball cards began to stir again. “I got hooked again because of my kids,” Gross said. “I had quite a collection.”

Gross and his wife moved to Chesterfield in 1962. He was employed by McDonnell Douglas for 20 years, but when they told him he had to transfer, he balked. “When I was asked to transfer I didn't want to go. So I decided to stay home and open this store,” he said.

The collectible market has changed a lot since Chesterfield Baseball Cards and Framing opened in 1991. Gross said there were 10,000 baseball card shops across the country then, compared with about 1,000 today.

“You can't stay in business just by doing cards. The business has transformed,” he said.

Today, Gross not only sells memorabilia from all sports, but also engraves awards and plaques, performs appraisals and authentication services, provides items for charities and hosts personal appearances and autograph signings by sports stars. He even sells items on eBay.

So what is considered the holy grail of sports memorabilia? “Each sport has its own,” Gross said. “For baseball, it's the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card. There are more rare and more valuable cards, but everybody looks for the Mickey Mantle card.”

Currently, the most valuable item Gross has in his store is a signed Pujols rookie baseball bat, appraised at $4,000. But Gross expects that to be surpassed when one of those holy grails comes rolling in his door Saturday. The item is expected to bring $5,000 to $6,000.

“I'm expecting a Babe Ruth signed baseball to come into the store on Saturday,” Gross said. “A Babe Ruth Ball is up there.”

Each notable neighbor is asked a series of unrelated questions to offer us some insight into what makes them who they are.

What's your favorite movie of all time? My Cousin Vinny

What movie have you seen most recently? Secretariat

What type of shoes do you wear most often? Running shoes.

Is your life a Fox Trot? Tango? Twist? Hip Hop? Waltz? Tango

What's your favorite food? Barbecue

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what single thing would you most want with you? A radio.

What time did you go to bed last night? 10 p.m.

What do you use a computer for? Business

If you could have a conversation with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be? Jesus

What is your favorite TV show? Parenthood

What did you have for breakfast this morning? I've been having yogurt and blueberries.

If you were a superhero, which one would you be? Superman

Who was your role model for life? Ronald Reagan

Would you describe yourself as quiet, outgoing, gregarious, pleasant, or grouchy? Quiet

What's your favorite book? There's too many.

What is your favorite kitchen utensil, tool, or machine? Crockpot.

Each notable neighbor Patch interviews is asked to say a word, which then becomes part of a continuous thread. We'll attempt to make sentences, or possibly a poem, when we have enough words.

Say any word that pops into your head. Why

The thread so far:

Surprise soccer Indian purple love hard going sunshine frolic why helicopter solution happy glitter cars why.

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