An obsession yielded fruit for attorney

Tom Kirvan
Legal News Editor-in-Chief

From the time he was 8 years old until he headed off to college a decade later, Gordon Snavely was obsessed with collecting baseball cards.

It was 10-year hobby that paid handsome dividends for the longtime attorney, who specializes in estate planning, probate work, and real estate law.

“If I wasn’t so crazy about baseball, I think I’d go insane,” said Snavely about his love for the national pastime. “There is something about the game that cast a spell over me at an early age.”

So much so that Snavely, who earned his bachelor and law degrees from the University of Detroit, had designs on becoming a major-leaguer when mapping his career plans.

“I was 8 years old when I decided that I was either going to be a first baseman for the Tigers or a lawyer,” Snavely recalled. “It became readily apparent later on that if I was going to eat three meals a day, I better be a lawyer.”

In many respects, it was a smart move, especially since the Tigers were “well positioned” at first base when Snavely graduated from Royal Oak Kimball High School in 1960. Norm Cash, otherwise known as “Stormin’ Norman” to legions of Tiger fans, was hitting his stride as a first sacker, setting the stage for an impressive 15-year career with Detroit. In 1961, Cash led the American League in hitting with a .361 batting average, while also socking 41 home runs and recording 132 runs batted in for the Tigers. Cash, who met an untimely death on Beaver Island in 1986 at the age of 51, was a key part of Detroit’s World Series championship team in 1968 and was immortalized as a power hitter by clearing the Tiger Stadium roof four times over the course of his career.

Snavely, however, did cash in on Cash, collecting a prized baseball card of the 1961 batting champ that he would later sell for a tidy profit.

“I collected Topps cards for a nickel a pack for years,” said Snavely. “I was an only child and I amassed a pretty significant collection that I eventually sold some 20 years ago.”

Among the valuables was a pristine card of Tiger star Al Kaline, a Hall of Famer who won the American League batting title in 1955 at the tender age of 20. Kaline, who spent all 22 seasons of his playing career with the Tigers, was a Gold Glove right fielder known for his rifle arm.

“I had thousands of cards in my collection and I kept them all in mint condition,” said Snavely, who said he attended “25 staight opening days” in Detroit during one stretch of his baseball fascination.

Then, Snavely decided to part with his collection, timing his desire to sell perfectly before the bottom fell out of market due to fan dissatisfaction with strike-interrupted seasons and rampant steroid use by star players. “I wish my timing was as good with some other ‘investments,’” Snavely said with a chuckle.

He used the proceeds from the sale to buy a 1955 New York Yankees World Series ring from a collector and a 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers Rolex watch that belonged to first baseman Wes Parker, a Gold Glover for the National League team.

The baseball jewels are worn by Snavely on occasion, particularly of the Comerica Park variety.

“I usually save them for the big games, especially if the Tigers are in the playoffs,” said Snavely, who last year marked his golden wedding anniversary with his wife Mary Jo. Snavely’s wife, who earned her degree from St. Mary’s College and worked at Bloomfield Hills Middle School before retiring, is a casual baseball fan who accompanied her beloved husband to Comerica for an early June game in 2010.

Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga was on the mound that night and mowed down the first 26 Cleveland Indians who stepped to the plate. He was one batter away from tossing a “perfect game” when fate sadly intervened. “Perfect” suddenly became “Imperfect” when first base umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly ruled that Cleveland’s Jason Donald beat out a ground ball to first, depriving Galarraga of a no-hit jewel.

“We were seated right at first base with a perfect view of the play and Mary Jo immediately said he was ‘out,’” Snavely recalled. “She was right, of course, just as she has been throughout our entire marriage.”