This Butler County basement has one of the most unique baseball collections around

Ron Zemko poses wearing a catcher’s mitt in the “glove room” of his basement. His baseball glove collection has outgrown that room, however and some of his 245 gloves are displayed on the floor against the wall of other parts of the basement. CONTRIBUTED/BOB RATTERMAN
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Ron Zemko poses wearing a catcher’s mitt in the “glove room” of his basement. His baseball glove collection has outgrown that room, however and some of his 245 gloves are displayed on the floor against the wall of other parts of the basement. CONTRIBUTED/BOB RATTERMAN

A Butler County basement holds one of the more unique memorabilia sets around, which has been part of its owner’s efforts at collecting items for decades.

Ron Zemko of Oxford has a basement full of memorabilia from the sport he loves, but baseball gloves hold much of his attention. Mixed in among the posters, banners, bats and other items are 245 gloves.

“In 2008, there were 150 gloves in my collection and I had pretty much decided to get off the glove collecting bandwagon, but it’s like an addictive drug. I went to an antique mall and found a Johnny Temple glove. No. No. It ends up in the car going home with me,” he said with a laugh. “A hundred and fifty, I just couldn’t stop. The walls were full, I just started lining them up on this table. I had a row of five leaning against the wall. Then, another row. Soon the table was full out to the end and I had nearly 200. Then, I quit. But 200 led to 201 and 202.”

Those first 150 gloves took 30 years to collect, but he has added nearly 100 more in 13 years, with a big piece of that coming this past spring. A regular at the Oxford Senior Center, he was approached there last spring by a woman asking if he was interested in seeing some gloves she had collected.

He went to her home to find the gloves spread out on paper in her garage and that day added 38 more to his collection. She kept only two – one she had used to play softball and one her late husband had used as a college baseball player. Zemko actually took home 47 in six bags, but in evaluating the find, he designated nine as “undesirable” while sorting, cleaning and oiling the collection.

“In calling a glove desirable there are three factors. Condition is important. The glove has a player endorsement stamped by the manufacturer, especially if it is a Hall of Fame player or a famous player it enhances the value. Third is more subjective. If it is visually appealing. Some characteristics make it more appealing,” Zemko said. “I evaluated the 47 and found nine undesirable. The other 38, I meticulously worked on them while watching Major League Baseball games on TV. This spring, I went from 207 to 245 total in my collection. She did not accumulate them at random. She had a good eye.”

Those gloves then got in line on the floor along the wall of a basement alcove with his collection of 120 old-time pennants and his ping pong table.

All of his gloves are recorded in both a photo album and a spreadsheet. The photos show both the front and back of each glove with pertinent information and assigned a number. The spreadsheet records information such as the manufacturer, player endorsement, general condition and other facts.

While Zemko’s main collecting passion is baseball gloves, he does branch out. He said he has a collection of just under 400 pint beer glasses in a cabinet under the bar in his basement, which started with a goal of collecting them from every major league team. He has a collection of 120 pennants on the walls of one of the basement alcoves, all of them the old-style wool/felt ones not the modern mass-produced versions.

For a change of pace, he also has a collection of old-time shaving brushes on a display upstairs from his basement baseball haven.

He does not put a price-tag value on his collection, saying only, “Like everything else, they are worth what someone is willing to pay.” The most he has paid for a glove in his collection is $30.

Meanwhile, he says the end of his glove collecting is near, but then he has told himself that several times in the past, when the collection reached 150, then 200.

“I’m telling myself between now and when winter comes, I will add five more to be at 250,” he said.

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