Gary Cypres sits at his desk in the midst of the world's greatest sporting treasure trove and reflects upon a question he has heard countless times.
It is what everyone wants to know when they meet Cypres, a 68-year-old business tycoon who has amassed an extraordinary collection of sports memorabilia valued at more than $32 million. Why does he do it? Why did he start? And why so much?
Cypres began picking up rare sports items 20 years ago, buying an antique tennis racket from a dealer in London and catching the collecting bug instantly. Two decades later, he has filled 32,000 square feet of space with an extraordinary array of shirts, jerseys, cards, rackets, golf clubs, books, bikes, bats and balls from all corners of the globe.
" 'Why?' is a very good question when it comes to all this," said Cypres, who founded the Sports Museum of Los Angeles five years ago, where his treasures can be viewed by appointment only. "Maybe I have a distorted gene.
"Certainly it is excessive behavior and could be destructive in any other circumstance. But the reality is that I can afford it and I like it. I like finding the stuff, I like having it and it gives me great joy to be able to display it."
The range of exhibits is, at least for any sports fan, simply breathtaking. While the public at large rarely gets a chance to see items such as a $2 million Honus Wagner baseball card or a rare Babe Ruth uniform that the slugger wore on a tour of Japan, this weekend provides a unique opportunity in the Los Angeles area.
"A Day of Champions," hosted in conjunction with Yahoo! Sports on Nov. 6, will see Cypres' museum open up to all and provide fans with the chance to get up close and personal with some spectacular vestiges of sports history. The charitable event will raise funds for the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.
"When people ask me what my favorite time is, I tell them it is like asking who is your favorite child," Cypres said. "But obviously some of the special pieces involving some of the iconic names in world sport hold a special place in your heart. Those are the most interesting and exciting – and normally the most expensive.
"It doesn't stop, though. As any collector will tell you, there is that special feeling about the love of the chase. I love seeking out rare items or digging through a flea market on my travels and finding something different that adds to the collection."
Parts of Cypres' collection have been loaned to various teams and institutions. More than 4,000 square feet of space at the Staples Center is set aside during basketball season to host some of his hardwood collectibles, and the Los Angeles Dodgers recently displayed a selection of pieces dating back to the team's past days in Brooklyn.
For Cypres, who made much of his fortune providing retail and financial services to the Hispanic market, the collection has truly been a labor of love.
"I am still involved in business, but this takes up a lot of my time," he said. "You won't hear me complaining, though. I get to spend my time in the presence of sports history and living the dream of any sports fan. A lot of my items don't just tell the story of sports, but of American life in a different time. It has cost me a lot of money, but that is a privilege that you can't put a price on."
To donate, volunteer or find out how to attend A Day of Champions, please visit the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program home page.
- Los Angeles