The Jim Irsay Collection

Indianapolis, Indiana

After Tulsa there was no time to spare as we had to make the 900 miles to Indianapolis in a day and a half. On display at the Colts’ new home at Lucas Oil stadium was the magnificent Jim Irsay Collection. I had spoken to Jim’s assistant about our national tour and visit to Indianapolis, and they reserved us a premier parking spot right at the very front of the stadium. Myself being a Baltimore native, this was a bittersweet day for me, with so many Colts fans in their blue sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats bearing the “Baltimore Blue & White” Colts insignia. It was nice there were a number of exhibits featuring players from the Baltimore era, Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti, Alan Ameche, and Johnny Unitas. Of course, when your team was the winner of the single greatest game of football ever played (the pre-Super Bowl 1958 NFL Championship Game), where the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants in sudden death overtime 23-17 thanks to an Ameche 1-yard run for a TD, you have to name the prior city if you want to lay claim to that great win!

But we didn’t drive 900 miles to only talk about the Colts. We went to connect with Beat fans and see Irsay’s magnificent collection of pop culture artifacts and memorabilia, which not only includes Jack Kerouac’s Original Scroll, which Irsay bought back in 2001, but he also had on display the “Red Shark”—Hunter S. Thompson’s flashy ’73 Chevy Caprice—Thompson’s 1958 copy Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums (complete with the 21 year old Thompson’s handwritten notes), a signed first edition of Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL, Ringo Starr’s original drum kit from the Beatles, Jerry Garcia’s Tiger guitar, along with guitars owned by dozens of other famous rock & rollers, including George Harrison, John Lennon, and even the “Dylan’s Gone Electric” Fender Stratocaster from the 1964 Newport Festival. (Jim really digs guitars!)

There was other great stuff, too. A Declaration of Independence, a folding pocketknife presented to Abraham Lincoln in 1864 with the words “Liberty” and “Equality” engraved on the blade, the only known copy of the 1941 Atlantic Charter Agreement signed by both FDR and Churchill, the top hat Harry S. Truman wore to his 1949 Inaugural, JFK’s rocking chair and a Stetson hat he was to have been presented on the afternoon of November 22, 1963 in Dallas.

The funniest part of the day: I was standing beside the Scroll waiting for Scrollkeeper Jim Canary to finish a conversation with a fan when a family of five walked by, glanced at the Scroll without missing a step, and I swear I heard this exact conversation, verbatim:

12 year old kid, pointing to Jack’s Scroll: “Hey Dad, what’s that?”
Dad, not breaking stride: “That’s the Declaration of Independence.”
Mom, jaw drops: “I didn’t know it was that long.”

The Jim Irsay collection is still on its world tour. Keep a lookout for it!