Dr. Nicholas DePace's collection includes artifacts such as game-worn apparel from sports greats like boxers Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, including Frazier's robe and trunks worn to a weigh-in before his title fight with Ali in 1971. Frazier is a patient of DePace's and a friend, the doctor said.
Other items in the collection include apparel from Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson and Joe DiMaggio. DePace even has DiMaggio's marriage license to Marilyn Monroe, their passport pictures and divorce decree, he said.
His collection crosses sports, decades and eras, including items from Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Larry Bird; Jim Brown, Joe Namath and Peyton Manning; soccer greats Pele and David Beckham; and the blanket from Seabiscuit, the prize-winning horse. He said he has thousands of items, all with a story and some significance to some sports fan somewhere.
DePace, 57, a cardiologist from Haddonfield, said his passion for collecting started in 1962 when he was 8 years old after attending a homerun derby between Yankee greats Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
DePace said his lithograph card of Honus Wagner, one of the original inductees in the Baseball Hall of Fame, is in relatively poor condition. The same card in mint-condition has sold for $2.8 million. The card became rare when Wagner, a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, had it removed from cigarette packs it was distributed in between 1909 and 1911 after a dispute. Only about 60 of the cards remain, according to published reports. The card DePace bought belonged to the brother of a deceased nun who had kept it in a safe-deposit box since 1936, he said.
DePace now plans to house the card and the rest of his collection in a former bank in the 700 block of Haddon Avenue in Collingswood, next to the borough library. He said the vault safe that remains in the building will help safeguard his collection, which is secured in storage now. DePace also plans to locate one of this three cardiologist offices in his practice on the second floor of the 9,000-square-foot building. He expects the building to ready and the museum opened within the next eight months.
He thinks the collection will help put Collingswood on the map.
"It's an all-American town," he said.