For Bob Szwajkos, baseball is more than just an American pastime; it’s his family’s pastime.
The openly gay Bucks County attorney began collecting baseball cards and other memorabilia as a child, continuing a tradition his father started nearly 80 years ago.
A portion of the Szwajkos Family Baseball Card Collection is currently on display in Citizens Bank’s Hall of Fame section and will be open for guests with Hall of Fame box seats during Gay Community Night at the Aug. 4 Phillies game.
Szwajkos said his love of the sport began when he was young and immersed in baseball culture.
“I was raised in Rochester, N.Y., a half-mile away from Rochester’s Red Wings baseball stadium, so if we didn’t have the game on the radio, we could hear it,” Szwajkos said. “As a kid, my father took us on vacations to Washington, Cleveland, Buffalo, Toronto and a variety of places for games. We’ve always been baseball fans.”
Szwajkos’ father started collecting cards, programs, news articles, hats, pencils and other game-related items in 1933, a tradition Szwajkos has upheld and even passed along to his own son.
This is the first time that a portion of the family’s extensive collection has gone on public display.
The exhibit features about 150 cards depicting baseball players, managers and executives who’ve been inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, including former Phillies players Robin Roberts, Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton and other notables like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The display contains a series of 1933 Goudey cards, the first “bubble-gum” baseball cards ever issued.
Szwajkos said he and his family have been friends with Phillies president and CEO David Montgomery and his family for years, and that the exec has been pressing for a public exhibit of their collection.
“Dave has been saying for years and years, ‘We’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do this,’ so we finally are,” he said.
Once Szwajkos started preparing the collection this past spring, however, he realized how tedious the process of showcasing such a large collection is.
He had to research and organize all of the cards and then seal each one in a plastic case, each of which is held together by four screws, inciting what Szwajkos called “baseball fatigue.”
Despite the exhausting undertaking, Szwajkos had already started planning for his next display, which will focus specifically on Phillies players.
Szwajkos encouraged all members of the LGBT community to come out and show their own Phillies pride at the Aug. 4 game.
The Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia, of which Szwajkos is a member, started the Gay Community Night in 2003 and the event continues to be a success each year.
“This is one of the big social events of the season. The first year the Phillies said, ‘If you can sell 250 tickets, we’ll name the night after the community,’ and we sold about 1,000,” he said. “The Phillies have welcomed us back year after year after year; we throw out the first ball and sing the national anthem. It’s a very good relationship and it’s great that the Phillies recognize that the LGBT community is a very important part of their own community.”
The Gay Community Night game begins at 7:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia.