CEDARBURG — “I don’t even know where to start. Some of these are just unreal," Ben Nummerdor said as he gazes upon his enormous collection of autographed baseballs.
Ben Nummerdor has one of the ultimate Brewers memorabilia collections. Over the past 20 years or so, he has collected more than 910 Brewers signed baseballs. He is about 27 shy of getting every player who has ever played on the team since 1970.
“So I started probably about 20 years ago, trying to collect the 1982 team. I thought it would make a nice display piece in one of the rooms I had, and from there it just got out of control," he said.
He has everyone from Hank Aaron to Robin Yount to Christian Yelich, and everyone in between. Ben has autographs from the players you never knew were on the team and all the owners as well.
How does he do it? Really, it's quite simple.
"You know things like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, (and) the United States Postal Service," he said.
He simply reaches out to them, sends them a ball, and they return it. It's a matter of persistence and patience.
"And then it was just a bug that bit me, and I thought it was kind of cool. And I found events like Koos for Kids, Brewers on Deck, things like that where you can go and say hi to the players and get their autograph."
Now, just 27 signatures away from completing his collection, he is planning on giving it all away.
"It's a little overwhelming. I mean it's - the collection is bigger than I am, and that's why I want to do what I want to do with the collection. I want to give it back to the city of Milwaukee, the Brewer fans, and the people that are part of this great organization."
All the signed baseballs will be donated to Children's Wisconsin. The hospital said it will go in their orthopedic and sports medicine clinic in Greenfield.
"The time spent there is usually for, you know, not the great reasons. And a lot of people, when they are in that kind of situation, if they could just have a break and get away from it for just a few minutes, you know."
For some children at a sports medicine clinic, it could be inspiring to hear stories about local sports heroes.
"Talk about something different, and I thought this would be just something really cool for a family to sit down and somebody to tell stories about, you know, (Robin) Yount or (Ryan) Braun or (Christian) Yelich."
He said this collection is bigger than himself and it shouldn't be sitting in his basement for just him and his friends and family to enjoy.
Children's Wisconsin said that it wants to make the display available to the public, but hasn't figured out exactly how it plans to display the collection or where it will be inside the clinic.
He doesn't have any more big-name players he needs to snag autographs from. However, there are a few deceased players that he's not sure of how to get signatures from.
As for the valuation, after a brief description over the phone to staff at AJ Collectables in Greenfield, a sports memorabilia store, they said the collection could be worth around $30,000.
It's not about the money, though.
"This is something that the fans should own. This is something that the City of Milwaukee should be able to get to, and it just shouldn’t be sitting in somebody’s basement," Ben said.