Tom Fuller, center, poses with his grandsons Justyn Goebel, 6, left, and Jayson Goebel, 7, right, and his dog named Grady Sizemore, in his garage full of Cleveland Indians memorabilia at his home in Oregon.
It all started for Tom Fuller with a trip to Cleveland's Municipal Stadium with his grandfather and brother to see an Indians' game when he was in junior high school in the late 1950s.
While at the game, Mr. Fuller purchased a Chief Wahoo bobble-head doll. Little did he know then about the path he was setting out on.
A few of the Cleveland Indians bobble head dolls in the collection.
To date, Mr. Fuller has collected more than 300 Indians' bobble-head dolls, along with countless other items of Tribe memorabilia.
Displayed in his personal sports bar in his Oregon garage are lineup cards from Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, autographed baseballs from legends like Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan, a game-used bat from Carlos Baerga, and miniature replica Hall of Fame plaques from most of the Indians enshrined at Cooperstown, among many other keepsakes.
A few of the bobble head dolls, and an old Chief Wahoo cutout.
"The people that have been here - their eyes pop when they see [the collection]," Mr. Fuller said.
He estimates the value of his premium collection at $8,000 to $14,000.
Empty space is also becoming a premium at the Fuller household.
"He's proud of his collection," said Mr. Fuller's wife, Janice. "[But] we're running out of room in the garage."
A ticket to the 1948 World Series involving the Cleveland Indians, in the collection owned by Tom Fuller.
When the two first met, Mr. Fuller had about 25 bobble heads. Now the total is more than 12 times that.
"One section [of the garage] is nothing but bobble heads and pictures," Mrs. Fuller said. "I support him, and it keeps him out of trouble."
Ask Mr. Fuller to list the most-prized piece of his collection, and he comes back to the story of that first bobble-head doll that has become "the centerpiece of everything."
"We sat in the upper deck of old Municipal Stadium about 35 ZIP Codes from home plate," Mr. Fuller recalls from the day spent with his grandfather, Joe Horvath, and brother, Dan.
"It was Ball Day, so I got a ball from that game and the Chief Wahoo bobble head. If I had known then what I know now, those things are worth a couple hundred dollars a piece, and I've repainted it a couple times over the years."
Since that afternoon, everything in Mr. Fuller's life has come to revolve around the Indians it seems.
His fantasy teams are named after player-manager Lou Boudreau from the 1948 world championship team, his license plate reads "Mr. Wahoo," his Springer spaniel is named Grady Sizemore Fuller, and his e-mail alias is "chieftjfwahoo."
And he plans to have a tree trunk in his side yard carved into a resemblance of the old Chief Wahoo that sat atop Municipal Stadium.
Mr. Fuller catches every Indians' spring training game from his VIP seats in the first row behind home plate just eight seats over from the Indians' dugout.
From that unmatched vantage point, he converses regularly with players and coaches walking by and members of the SportsTime Ohio pre-game show who broadcast directly in front of his seats.
He also takes a trip every year to Yankee Stadium to watch his beloved Indians and has organized about 25 bus trips to Cleveland Indians' and Detroit Tigers' games for East Toledo VFW posts.
So don't expect Mr. Fuller's collection to stop growing anytime soon.
"Over the years, it just kind of grew and grew and grew," Mr. Fuller said. "I think it's because my grandfather took us to our first game. That really planted the seed in me, and I really like the Indians."
Contact Zach Silka email@example.com or 419-724-6461.
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