The largest private collection of sports memorabilia in the country now has a permanent home at FAU
What do two popes, seven presidents, LeBron James and Oprah Winfrey all have in common? They all signed baseballs for Avron B.Fogelman.
Over many years, Fogelman, a noted baseball enthusiast and former owner of the MLB’s Kansas City Royals, amassed hundreds of pieces of priceless sports memorabilia that would eventually amount to what is certainly the largest private collection in the country—perhaps in the entire world. Spanning more than 100 years, with items from as far back as the “Negro Leagues” of baseball and as recent as Super Bowl LI, the collection is a comprehensive snapshot of sports history—and general American history—from the early 20th century through the early 21st century.
Originally from Memphis, Tenn., longtime Boca Raton resident Fogelman became enamored with Florida Atlantic University when he participated in its lifelong learning program. Seeking a permanent home for his formidable collection of sports memorabilia, he partnered with the university to create the space within the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence that has become the Avron B. Fogelman Sports Museum.
The timing of Fogleman’s donation was kismet: The first seeds of the museum’s inception were planted during the planning stages of the Schmidt Complex, a brand-new, world-class facility on FAU’s campus just west of the football stadium. The museum opened in early 2020 as the anchor of that complex, and thanks to Fogelman’s donation, artifacts celebrating some of the greatest athletes in MLB, NBA and NFL history now reside on campus at FAU. Admission to the museum is free of charge, and it is staffed by student docents from the university’s museum studies and public history programs.
“I had many requests and opportunities to display my sports artifacts at other well-known institutions,” Fogelman shares, “but I was so impressed by President Kelly and his vision for what my collection could mean to FAU and to South Florida that I realized how fortunate I was to find a home for it at FAU.”
A wall inside the museum’s largest room is inscribed with the phrase “every signature tells a story,” which is something of an understatement when taking in the grandeur of the collection on display. It includes jerseys, autographed baseballs, hats and other relics from the illustrious careers of such greats as Cal Ripken Jr., Mickey Mantle and Kobe Bryant. Highlights include the original 13 rules of the game of basketball, as typed in the late 1800s by James Naismith, a World Series trophy, a game-used Babe Ruth jersey, and hundreds of baseballs signed by MLB greats. Gridiron artifacts include a football signed by the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins team, and jerseys and footballs autographed by both Manning brothers.
But perhaps the museum’s greatest asset—and certainly its most intriguing—is the inclusion of baseballs signed by cultural magnates from Harry Houdini to Jack Nicholson. More than just a sports museum, the collection captures the intersection of Fogelman’s remarkable reach and love of sports with towering figures of American history, many of whom personally addressed their autographs to Fogleman with “best wishes.”
“Of course, this was curated by Mr. Fogelman himself,” says Michael Horswell, dean of FAU’s Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, which oversees the museum. “He collected with a real purpose in mind, and that was to tell American history through the lens of sports and sport history. So when he collected, he collected items that really tell us the social history of our country.”
“I always felt that a very enjoyable, creative and approachable way to provide one with a history of our last 100 years in our country would be through sports,” adds Fogelman. “This sports museum is an educational experience, and there is no better place to enjoy that experience than at a college campus.”
“It’s just another feather in the university’s cap to have this first-class facility for our students and certainly our student athletes,” says Horswell. “This is a first-class exhibition. And as we grow our sports reputation, this museum is just going to help solidify that and provide visitors with something else to do while they’re on campus before or after the games. … It’s just a wonderful academic asset for our university.”
IF YOU GO:
777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton; Inside the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence
Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thursday, 5 – 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday, 12 – 6 p.m.