Gary Cypres: World's biggest baseball fan

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

Even smack in the middle of the baseball nirvana that is October, one complete with wild comebacks by wild-card teams, the ankle crack heard around the world and a whole bunch more good ol' sporting fun, few can argue with a straight face that the sport remains the true national pastime.

For football is king these days, with the game's physicality and ferocity taking a firmer grasp of the public psyche. Yet while baseball no longer commands the all-encompassing focus of the United States, there is still one area where it rules the roost. And where football, for all its fantasy stranglehold and weekend omnipresence, cannot compete.

[Related: More on 'A Day of Champions']

The world of sports memorabilia collecting is a small one, and it has to be. There are only so many ultra-rare items pertaining to the games we watch with fervor, and an even smaller number of self-confessed lunatics with the patience, quirk of personality and bottomless funds to acquire them.

Gary Cypres is one of them, a former business pioneer who made a fortune providing retail and financial solutions to the booming Hispanic market and then sunk much of it into the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, a 32,000-square-foot treasure trove of all things related to competitive athletics.

Cypres is a sentimentalist. You kind of have to be to put together a collection of that magnitude, but two decades of "obsessive, compulsive hobbying" have given him a deep understanding of what people want, and what they are willing to pay for it.

"The interesting thing is that baseball is still No.1 when it comes to collecting and it is not even close," Cypres told Yahoo! Sports in a telephone interview. "Of course, nowadays everyone is watching football. The NFL is huge and it is the biggest sport in the country.

"But if you just looked at memorabilia and what kind of money things change hands for, you would think it is the other way around. Baseball is still in charge."

Cypres is currently adding to his Los Angeles Dodgers collection in the museum, while also undertaking plans to launch a special section devoted to Jackie Robinson and baseball-themed art.

While his collecting career began long ago with the purchase of an antique tennis racket, it is baseball that has held his attention for all these years.

"There is something about baseball whereby people feel enough of a connection to it to pay what are huge sums of money for items associated with it," Cypres said. "There is more nostalgia, and a lot more history, and that plays into it. When you look back at football, with the exception of great players like Johnny Unitas, the legends of past generations are relatively unknown in today's world.

"But with baseball, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio – they are as famous now as they ever were. There is something timeless about it."

Usually, Cypres' collection can be viewed by appointment only. However, sports fans in the Los Angeles area will get a unique opportunity on Sunday to see the vast range of exhibits at "A Day of Champions," a charitable event hosted in conjunction with Yahoo! Sports that will raise funds for the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program and the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.

To donate, volunteer or find out how to attend the event in downtown L.A., visit Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program.

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