Boyne City resident and former minor league ballplayer Leon Vercruysse has been collecting an assortment of baseball memorabilia for 25 years, most of which he now plans to donate.
The collection includes signed baseballs and jerseys, among other items, that will be split between the Boyne City Historical Museum and the Boyne District Library; while a few items will be given to a family member of Vercruysse’s.
“I have two sisters and a brother—neither of them are Detroit Tiger enthusiasts but they watch the games and stuff,” Vercruysse said. “But they’re not that up-to-date on the Tigers. Basically there’s nobody in the immediate family that I’d leave it to, other than certain pieces of it.”
Vercruysse said he got the idea to donate his collection after seeing an article in the Detroit Free Press about a man who donated his collection to a library in Detroit.
Baseball has played a major role in Vercruysse’s life, from the minor leagues to playing at the Tigers’ fantasy camp for 20 years straight to playing on General Motors’ company team.
“I’m not a total stranger to baseball. Right after World War II, I got in the minor league for four years… I was in North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee … up until I was almost 25 years old,” he said. “So I started going to fantasy camp—I was planing on going for one year and I ended up going for 20 straight.”
According to Cliff Carey, Director of the Boyne District Library, the memorabilia given to them will be scanned and on file on a computer that the public would be able to access and look at.
“He (Vercruysse) has some autographed baseballs and things like that that would probably go, and a uniform that would probably go to the museum,” Carey said. “But he has a lot of autographed pictures from former Tiger baseball stars. He also has some letters and things he’s gotten from the tigers over the years.”
Carey added, “We have a computer that’s dedicated to research and stuff like that and we would put that on that computer so people can come in and they can see the pictures and read the letters.”
The museum will display the signed baseballs, a jersey signed by Tigers players and other memorabilia.
“We’ve got a spot at one of our showcases that we’re going to put it in so we want to block it off,” said Michele Hewitt, Historical Commission Board member. “We’ll have it in a display case. We will have his stuff in there.”
According to Hewitt, the museum has nothing like this on display. She said they do have old photos of baseball teams from the early 1900s but this type of display will be unique to the museum.
“I think people are going to enjoy it. We get people of all age groups that come through here and we do school groups … some in the fall and we always get some in the spring,” Hewitt said. “I think the kids will be excited to see the new display. A lot of kids and adults are excited about baseball. I think they’ll show some real enthusiasm about it.”
Look for an update on this story after Vercruysse donates the items and they are ready for viewing at both the library and the museum.