Tuesday, 29 November 2016

TSN Misses The Story

In my storage area, I still have boxes of old hockey cards. These cards are from around the time I was in junior high - middle school for all you new-age kids - when I was collecting my favorite idols in picture format on rectangles of cardboard. Admittedly, the hockey card market was once flooded by various manufacturers - Upper Deck, Topps, O-Pee-Chee, Score, Pro Set, and more. Certain companies had special cards, and various companies partnered with larger companies for promotional sets such as those found at Tim Hortons and at McDonald's. Needless to say, there were a lot of manufacturers who got out of the business once the demand began drying up, and this is one of those stories.

The staff at TSN's BarDown site posted an article about sports cards today, so I'll throw a stick-tap out to them for bringing this to light, but the video you'll see below was actually posted to YouTube on November 16. Filmed by a pair of videographers who call themselves Detroit EXP, it seems these two explorers wander into abandoned and seemingly uninhabited buildings in Detroit. In the video, they explore an old building that once housed the Cadillac Stamping Plant.

But there's more to this story. After the video - it's nearly 20-minutes long - read on for some additional information for which apparently TSN's crew never bothered look. If you only want to see the part where they discover the cards, skip ahead to the 16-minute mark.
It's actually some pretty incredible footage that these two urban explorers filmed inside the old stamping plant. Granted, they're technically trespassing, but their footage takes you all over what was once a thriving plant filled with workers.

The problem is that this story is old news. On August 20, 2015, Daily Mail in the UK ran a story with a headline that read,
According to the report, "[m]illions of the Topps cards were packed away in dust-covered crates, with thousands more strewn over the floor of the derelict building." The pictures on the Daily Mail article show way more detail and information than the footage from Detroit EXP as well. The article states that the cards are "from all of the Major League Baseball of the time as well as hockey cards from the NHL and Ontario Hockey League and even NASCAR". Sounds like a pretty good haul for those who can back a dump truck up and sell them as a packaged lot.

But the story doesn't end there.

Four days after the Daily Mail's story was published, Patrick McNamara from Daily Detroit picked up the story and dug really deep. McNamara contacted a gentleman named George Kruk who had his own sports card and memorabilia shop in Rochester. Kruk "identified the collection as one that used to belong to Hub Hemmen".

McNamara pressed on with this new information.
Hub (short for Hubert) Hemmen had passed away 2013. Hub ran a business called Hub's Tool and Machine on 9 mile, in Warren Michigan. In the Eighties, Hub's tool and die business suffered the fate of many others in the region, and the business failed.

According to Hub's son Greg, he was a wheeler-dealer type, and he knew that as the business began to fail Hub had gotten really into sports cards. The tool and die business had faded away but the space was used to store a large amount of cards.
Now we seem to be getting somewhere with this story. Greg and his father had become estranged, and Greg didn't know a lot about the cards stored in the factory. That led McNamara to pay a visit to "Major Automotive, LLC, next door to Hub Tool and Machine" where he spoke to Reginald, the Operations Manager of the automotive shop.

"His shop was filled to the top with cards. I remember when they were cleaning it out. It took weeks to get all the cards out," Reginald told McNamara.

But, again, the story doesn't end there.

McNamara followed up on a story done by CBS Detroit where a man named John Hemmen claimed his uncle had stored the cards in a warehouse. The warehouse at the time was owned by the Ivan Doverspike Company, a company that "reconditions and remanufactures used automatic screw and spindle machines". There is video of a user named therustymitten looking at this building from the outside as far back as July 14, 2009!
Imagine being that close to a major discovery and not even knowing it! This story could have been written six years earlier had "therustymitten" simply broke into the abandoned building. There's no proof that he or she didn't break in once the camera went off, mind you, but I'm quite certain he or she did not. Otherwise, this story would have broken long before 2015.

In any case, McNamara tracked down John Hemmen and spoke with him!
John Hemmen, cousin of Greg and nephew of Hub, used to work with Hub at the machine shop, and he remembers stowing the cards in the 90s. John had moved to Florida to find work when he saw the writing on the wall for the Tool and Die business.

In the 90s John had come back to Michigan for a two-week visit, as he did nearly every year, and his uncle Hub asked him if he could help him move some stuff out of one of his warehouses to a new location. Though on vacation, John agreed to help Hub, who had been like a father figure, and taught him the Tool and Die trade.

"He felt kind of bad, so Hub gave my wife some money to go shopping, and I spent 3-4 days hauling the cards from the warehouse to the plant," said John Hemmen.
And that's the story of how the cards got to the warehouse. Of course, you're probably asking why they're still sitting there and perhaps why didn't Hub sell them before he passed on? Well, John answered that question very succinctly: "Hub suffered from dementia later in life, and he probably wasn't able to keep track of all of his assets."

So the only question left to answer is who owns the cards now that Mr. Hemmen is gone? According to the laws of the land, the building's owner owns everything inside the abandoned factory. We know Mr. Hemmen didn't own the factory, so someone else is technically the new owner of a vast amount of sports cards. Mr. McNamara also identified this person, and the factory belongs to Bill Hults! And that, readers, is the end of this mystery of the crates of sports cards in an abandoned factory in Detroit.

I'm not sure why this is the second example in a week where major news outlets are only carrying a small piece of a story. Context and background play a massive role in telling a complete story, and by only giving half the story - as seen in the Gavrilov story from the KHL - or small crumb of a story as seen above, news outlets like TSN are doing a major disservice to its readers. I want to give huge credit to Patrick McNamara for solving this non-mystery over a year ago as his sleuthing work answered all of these questions in August 2015. He's the real hero in this story.

And I want to heap shame upon TSN for not being able to use a search engine to tell the real story that happened in Detroit with these sports cards. Whoever the "BarDown Staff" was that worked on this story need a serious lesson in investigative journalism and vetting of a story. Or at least how to use Google. But I guess sensationalism news generates great story clicks when all is said and done, right?

BarDown? More like LetDown.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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