South of the 10 Freeway on Main Street in Los Angeles, a lowkey-looking, 32,000-square-foot warehouse houses the massive collection of sports artifacts that is the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, and its renowned accumulation of Dodgers mementos. Though it's a private, invite-only museum for now (that's changing soon), ESPN recently stopped by to take a look at the "world's largest collection of Dodgers memorabilia, with an emphasis on the team's New York roots" and found some real gems, including what could be considered the "birth certificates of the team."
The museum started as a hobby for Gary Cypres, the one-man force who slowly amassed a collection big enough to fill a giant warehouse (there are more than 10,000 items connected to a variety of sports, including football and the early days of cycling). His "modest" collection received a boost in 1985, when the company he owned was acquired by another business and he came into some money. In 1992, he bought a site not far from LA Trade Technical College where a shopping center had been burned down during the LA Riots in 1992, and built the industrial-looking building that became the museum.
Cypres is a native New Yorker, though he's lived in LA for more than 20 years; maybe it's that sort of dual citizenship that gives him a "special affinity" for piecing together the Brookyln-era history of the Dodgers. He's done a really good job of it so far: "Many sellers of Dodgers items, aware of Cypres' collection, bypass the auction process and go directly to him." His collection has garnered nods from Dodgers management, with previous owner Peter O'Malley calling it "the best [collection] that I know of." Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was apparently even talking with Cypres about putting in a Dodgers museum at the stadium back when he still owned the team. ("The current ownership, Cypres said, is more interested in duplicating old artifacts than acquiring authentic ones.")
Cypres's collection starts at the very beginning, as it includes the "birth certificates" of the team: the request letter that the president/cofounder of the Brooklyn Dodgers wrote to the National League to make the team an official league member, and the acceptance letter sent by the National League. There's a Babe Ruth jersey too—presumably from the time in 1938 when Ruth was hired as a first base coach by the team (he never played a game for them).
This substantial collection took Cypres more than two decades to get together, and he says that he plans to eventually put it all into a trust so that it stays intact for decades to come. "The Dodger collection cannot be replaced. There are no duplicates of what I have. Gloves, balls and bats can be replaced, but the history of a franchise which took me 25 years to assemble, that's impossible to replace."
In 2013, Cypres expressed interest in unloading the whole museum-worth of items, but he seems to be holding onto it for now at least. This coming February, he's planning to open the museum to the public for the first time since a six-month stint in 2008. (It didn't go all that well before, but Cypres has since learned a lot about how to run a museum.) He's also trying to get together a collection of Los Angeles Rams memorabilia from the team's long history here—"in case the franchise moves back from St. Louis."
· Why so much of Dodgers' Brooklyn history resides in Los Angeles [ESPN]
· 57 Years of Cheering on the Dodgers in Los Angeles [Curbed LA]
· LA's Professional Football Heyday, From the 1940s to the 1980s [Curbed LA]