This photograph signed by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax, showing him pitching against the Minnesota Twins in a 1965 World Series game, is part of the collection donated to Colby College. Staff photo by David Leaming

WATERVILLE — It all started when a friend gave Kurt Cerulli a baseball signed by Yogi Berra.

Over the next 15 years, Cerulli collected a treasure trove of baseball memorabilia, much of it focused on autographed World Series programs, ticket stubs and baseballs. He wanted each piece of memorabilia to tell a story. Nearly every signature includes a statistic or phrase evoking a notable achievement.

“I was after particular inscriptions,” said Cerulli, 60, a 1978 graduate of Colby College. “I’m really not a sports fanatic despite the fact that I have a lot of sports stuff.”

Cerulli is the CEO of Cerulli Associates, a financial data analysis firm in Boston. He and his wife, Mary, recently decided to downsize from their home of 25 years. So he called to see if the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, would be interested in his collection, but they wanted only 50 or 60 items. The New England Sports Museum in Boston seemed a suitable place – until Cerulli mentioned the collection to someone in Colby’s development office.

David Greene, president of the college, called Cerulli the next morning.

These 1963 World Series posters and a ticket are part of the memorabilia collection donated to Colby College by alumnus Kurt Cerulli. Staff Photo by David Leamin

“The (sports museum) folks in Boston, they were basically about ready to grab this collection,” said Richard Uchida, Colby’s vice president, general counsel and secretary. “We jumped in and said, ‘We think we can do with this collection something much more marvelous than the sports museum can.’ ”

TELLING ‘STORIES ABOUT AMERICA’

Within a month, the collection had been photographed, catalogued and sent to Waterville, where the college plans to put it on display for the public on Oct. 20, a day after a trustees meeting, and during homecoming weekend on Oct. 28-29.

Colby College Vice President Richard Uchida and Patricia Burdick, assistant director for special collections, look over signed World Series posters and baseballs from Cerulli’s collection on Tuesday. Uchida said he hopes “to work some of the (items) into the curriculum.” Staff photo by David Leaming

The collection is as much a part of America’s social history as it is about baseball. Uchida spoke of using the collection in American Studies courses in the context of its times – World War II, the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement. He cited the important roles played by Curt Flood in challenging baseball’s reserve clause and by Marvin Miller, baseball’s first union leader, in the country’s labor movement.

On Tuesday afternoon, Uchida and Patricia Burdick, assistant director for special collections, showed a sampling of the memorabilia inside Miller Library. Set out on a long table were six open-topped white boxes, each with 16 compartments containing a Rawlings major league baseball inscribed with one or more signatures.

Box No. 1 held a ball signed by Mickey Owen and Tommy Henrich above a date (10/5/41) that linked them in history. The Brooklyn Dodgers led the Yankees by a run with two out in the top of the ninth in Game 4 of their 1941 World Series. Henrich swung at strike three, but the pitch got past Owen and skipped all the way to the backstop, allowing Henrich to reach base. The Yankees went on to win, took a 3-1 Series lead and the Dodgers wouldn’t return to the Fall Classic until 1947 and wouldn’t win it until 1955.

Uchida picked up a program from the 1965 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins.

“Some of the advertisements in these programs are remarkable,” he said, “not just in terms of American Studies, but in terms of economics and culture in the ’60s and in the ’50s and in the ’70s and in the ’80s that really tell stories about America.”

THE BACKDROP OF HISTORY

The 1943 World Series program (Yankees-Cardinals) barely gives a nod to baseball with a round black-and-white photo taken from deep in right field, surrounded by artistic renderings of young men serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

A photograph of Willie Mays is part of a 600-item collection of baseball memorabilia donated to Colby College in Waterville by alumnus Kurt Cerulli, a Boston businessman. Staff photo by David Leaming

It can be enlightening to “be able to look through the programs and figure out, what was America thinking during times of strife?” Uchida said. “How were we thinking about baseball as America’s pastime at a time when we’re at war?”

“It’s really amazing,” said Kate Carlisle, Colby’s communications director, “how these programs reflect, subtly and unsubtly, the backdrop that the games are being played against.”

Cerulli framed the 1956 (Dodgers-Yankees) World Series program cover festooned with signatures and stats of the players, including New York’s Don Larsen (WS MVP, PG 10-8-56), Yogi Berra (3 HRs, 10 RBI), Whitey Ford (Game 7 Win) and Moose Skowron (Grand Slam GM7), and Brooklyn’s Duke Snider (’56 NL HR CHAMP 43), Don Newcombe (’56 Cy Young, NL MVP, 27-7), Carl Erskine (No-hitter May 12, 1956), Clem Labine (Game 6 win, 10 innings 1-0), Ralph Branca and Johnny Podres.

DIDN’T WANT IT TO GATHER DUST

A baseball signed by Boston Red Sox’ Ron Jackson is part of a 600-item collection donated to Colby College by alumnus Kurt Cerulli. Staff photo by David Leaming

Alongside, also under glass, is a ticket stub and photo of Berra leaping into the arms of Larsen at the conclusion of his perfect game, the only one in World Series history. Both men signed both items.

There is more, so much more, upward of 600 items to explore. Sandy Koufax, notably reticent with autographs, signed several items. Cerulli said he nearly always worked through intermediaries to build the collection.

“A big part of it is the energy and the effort involved in the hunt,” Cerulli said by phone Tuesday. “The amount I spent doesn’t add up to all that much. It’s more the sweat equity.”

His Boston office is not bereft of memorabilia. One conference room is adorned with English Premier League soccer items. Another features female athletes. A third is devoted to Hall of Fame pitchers.

But the World Series stuff? That’s all at Colby now.

“We’re not only imagining it here, but downtown (Waterville), and moving around to other venues including possibly to a sports museum in Boston, but also to work some of the (items) into the curriculum as well,” Uchida said. “One thing Kurt didn’t want to do was to have this collection put away in a museum where people could look at it but it would gather dust.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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