Collector’s passion for baseball counted in 9,000 cards

He doesn’t dwell on them every day. He doesn’t trade them or want to sell them as an investment. It’s more of a “completion” thing, he said.

Summerlin resident Ronald Kerris has about 9,000 baseball cards from 1959 to 1991, kept in 30 3-inch binders . They include players such as Ted Williams, Sammy Sosa and Orel Hershiser.

He also has dozens of All-Star and/or World Series baseballs, each signed by a single player.

“I don’t like team-signed baseballs,” he said. “You get a Joe Schmo who gets traded the next year.”

The signed baseballs are protected in plastic cubes, and he knows where the more notable ones are. When it comes to locating the others, Kerris relies on a list he made. It corresponds to numbered stickers on each cube.

The list was prompted for more than location purposes. It’s so he doesn’t have to decipher penmanship.

“Some of these people do not know how to write legibly,” he said.

His most treasured? The one signed by Mickey Mantle.

The baseball great was in Las Vegas and signed it roughly two months before his death on Aug. 13, 1995. Kerris and his wife, Jo Ann, delayed their vacation so Jo Ann could stand in line and meet the baseball legend. She brought a ball for Mantle to sign.

“He signed it right in front of me,” she said. “I was No. 1 in line.”

Baseballs signed by Mantle can fetch $350 to $1,200, said Marcel Bilak, owner of Legacy Sports Cards, 8125 W. Sahara Ave.

“It depends on if they have a letter of authenticity,” he said.

Kerris has letters of authenticity for some of his signed baseballs but not the Mickey Mantle one.

The collection is kept just off the kitchen, in what was designed to be a large laundry room but was converted into an office. The walls are shelved to contain his collected items.

The couple began collecting baseballs in 1997 after attending a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation 65 Roses event. The 65 Roses reference plays off the way young children sometimes pronounce the disease they’re facing. The signed balls were a fund raiser aspect, available at the event.

“I’m more of a sports fan than he is,” Jo Ann Kerris said. “I cry if my team loses.”

She provided one of the items that complements the cards and balls — a photo of her former employer, Del Webb, talking with Joe DiMaggio.

Ronald Kerris also has been known to collect other items — coins and Beanie Babies. But the baseball cards and signed baseballs usually garner the most attention. The baseball collection, he said, one day will go to his son.

“I don’t know if he wants it,” he said, “but he’s going to get it.”

Jerry Otelsberg, a friend who lives in California, said Ronald Kerris’ collection was very impressive. He should know, since he collected cards as a young man. He speculated on why his friend just stopped collecting one day.

“There comes a point in time when you look at what you’re doing and go, ‘Is it viable?’ ” he said. “You go, ‘It doesn’t pay to continue to collect.’ “

Contact Summerlin and Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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