I had contacted the seller to get clarification on the description included in their eBay listing. The sets I was interested in were supposed to have 28 cards in them, but the listings said 18. A short time later I received a reply, telling me that I was “one nice person” and thanking me for bringing it to her attention; yes, there were actually 28 cards in the team set. She went on to say that she had lost her husband, who had been a scout for the Mets, and was scaling down his collection- something she’s been doing by herself, learning as she goes. “And when people are nice and help me I do appreciate it so much. I try my best and would never cheat anyone and am always honest with people.”
She didn’t mention her late husband’s name and I had no reason to doubt her story. To say I was curious is an understatement. Anyway, I went on to check the other items she had listed and what I found surprised me. While the two sets I was going to purchase were mid-late 80s oddball SGA’s, there were lots of good stuff: vintage singles, vintage lots, oddballs, vintage autos, HOF autos, update/rookie sets, wax boxes. A little something for every collector.
I purchased the two Mariners Mother’s Cookies sets and sent a message to the kind lady, expressing my condolences on the loss of her husband and offered to try to answer any questions she might have about his collection. I never did hear back from her. When the package arrived in the mail, the return address gave me the information I needed to see just who her husband, this former scout, was.
Prior to this purchase, I had never heard of Jerome “Mimi” Alongi. He was a part of a group who are some of, if not, the most unheralded people in the game of baseball. We know the players they evaluate, but do we ever know who these scouts are? Name me five scouts. Okay, how about four. Two? They might be unknown for the most part, but it’s impossible to win championships without them.
He had spent more than 25 years as a Major League scout, working for the Houston Colt 45s/Astros, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies and Seattle Mariners. But unlike most of his scouting peers, Jerome did not have a background in professional baseball; he had been a restauranteur, having inherited, along with his brother, John, the family business. Alongi’s Italian Restaurant in Du Qion, Il. (established in 1933) continues to this day.
A sore back had led him to Hot Springs, Arkansas to try some of the natural hot springs as a remedy for the aches and pains. While there, Mimi met and became friends with Roy Hofheinz, former Mayor of Houston, Texas. “The Judge,” as Hofheinz was known, was one of the men responsible for bringing Major League Baseball to Houston and was the one who first referred to the Astrodome as “the Eighth Wonder of the World.” The Judge also had controlling interest in the Houston franchise and would later hire Jerome as a scout for his expansion team. Thus began his time in the majors.
Mimi had passed away years ago, in September of 2002, at the age of 76. And while there were not many stories to be found online from his time as a scout, I discovered that he had self-published a book in 1996 entitled, Mimi’s Dugout. According to an article in the August 11, 1996 Southern Illinoisan (or, The Southern), the book is a collection of “baseball highlights and oddities” and it noted that Alongi encouraged youth baseball groups to sell the book for their fundraising projects.
The community in which they lived was an important part of Mimi’s life. He often helped arrange and assist in youth baseball camps, many of which featured major league players. He was active in his church, serving on its board. He was also on the Du Qion Parks Board for 20 years, seventeen of which he served as president. But perhaps his biggest impact in his community was with the John A. Logan College athletic program.
Mimi had served two terms, beginning in the early ‘70s, on the JALC board of trustees. A long-time collector, he later organized a card and sports memorabilia show to help raise funds for the school’s baseball program. The first show, held in 1986, featured Ray Fosse as a special guest and was so successful that it became an annual event. At the time of Alongi’s death, the show had raised over $75,000 for the school’s baseball program. So deep was his love for the school that his desire was to buried in its sportswear, something his family obliged.
I can’t help but wonder what will become of my collection once I’ve left this earth. My wife and kids have no interest in my hobby and I imagine there will come a point when my bride decides it’s time to depart with my stuff. It’s my hope that there will be an item(s) in my collection that will bring as much joy to a collector as these two sets from Jerome ‘Mimi’ Alongi’s collection will bring to me.