Through the years, the Cranston Sports Collectors Show that will turn 37 on Saturday at the West Valley Inn in West Warwick, has been a lot of things to a lot of people.
“Take our (Cranston) Mayor, Alan Fung,” said Joe Shekerow, who designed the first show poster and along with Richard Santa Maria has been to and worked all 36 previous shows. “He’s been coming to the show since he was a young boy at age 14.”
Alan Rosen makes a special trip to Rhode Island from his home in Montvale, N.J., and he brings his wallet.
“One day, (Alan) Rosen spent $125,000 during one part of the show then left and by day’s end had spent $248,000,” Santa Maria said. “That was by far the largest purchase ever at our show.”
For dealers and collectors, the show is always new and interesting turf and yet another way of making new business contacts. For sports fans in general, the Cranston Sports Collectors Show is a Mecca. There’s everything for the little kid who wants an autographed football or hockey jersey as well as a large collector/dealer who enjoys trading, bargaining and buying on a much larger scale all in the same day.
The beneficiary of the show is the St. Joseph Men’s Guild and Immaculate Conception Church. In fact, ever since Cranston native and chairman Thomas McDonough had the idea for such a show back in 1976, the Cranston Sports Collectors Show has raised over $250,000 for the Roman Catholic parish that’s located at 237 Garden Hill Drive in Cranston.
This Saturday’s show, which is again being sponsored by the St. Joseph Men’s Guild, will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and occupy just about every possible nook-and-cranny of the West Valley Inn banquet facility. Parking is free and admission is only $3 per person.
“We will have dealers from every New England state,” McDonough announced while also noting that every inch of vendor space is sold out. “I’ve heard from people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and even Minnesota who are coming to set up a booth at the show. Through the years, our show has become a New England legend and valued piece of the sports life in Rhode Island.”
McDonough believes that’s because the show caters to everybody.
“A lot of the dealers and collectors who come here have formed lasting friendships and business relationships,” McDonough said. “For some of them, it’s almost like a reunion weekend. And you never know what sports celebrity my might show up.”
One-time NFL Super Bowl Champion Mark van Eeghen, who starred at Cranston West High and Colgate prior to his pro career and one-time Major League Baseball player and coach Mike Roarke have often been known to attend.
Former Major League Baseball standout Greg Gagne of the and current player Chris Iannetta of the Anaheim Angels, have also attended.
“Greg and Chris come here for a different reason,” McDonough said. “Yes, they are certainly celebs; but they’re also collectors. That’s another thing that makes this show unique.”
McDonough is also proud of the contributions made by the members of the guild, like John Murphy, Ralph Almonte, Bob Venditto, Walter McGarry and Rick Putnam. McDonough’s wife, Pat, also chips in to make the event a success.