Local TV

Sports Memorabilia Show in a League of Its Own

A Piece of the Game wants its piece of the hot sports relics market 4/08/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

As the sale of a game-worn Babe Ruth jersey
for $4.4 million last year indicates, sports
memorabilia is a major-league business. Veteran
Chicago TV producer Don Dupree is hoping that
prized pucks, gloves and balls have similar allure on
television. Dupree is the creator of A Piece of the Game,
a “Pawn Stars-meets-sports memorabilia on Red Bull”
concept, in his words, that recently debuted on WGN
Chicago and is being considered for a longer run.

The pilot, taped at Chicago institution Harry Caray’s
Steakhouse, saw people show their memorabilia to a
panel of evaluators, who came up with a price and
made them an offer. The show also owes an obvious
debt of gratitude to PBS staple Antiques Roadshow, but
Dupree said the sports hook, and a faster pace, sets
it apart. “I don’t care about seeing a vase,” he said.
“What I care about is a film canister with ‘Babe Ruth’
written on it.”

Dupree features a colorful résumé—he was assistant
news director at CBS-owned WBBM Chicago in 2010,
and before that was a director and producer for the
various Gene Siskel/Roger Ebert/Richard Roeper Chicago-
based movie review shows for 20 years. Dupree
was taking time off work to tend to an ailing sibling,
and thinking about his next project, when he read a
New York Times article about the aforementioned film
canisters: home movies featuring Yankees teammates
Ruth and Lou Gehrig, on a barnstorming tour in Sioux
City, Iowa, following their historic 1927 season, playing
with children and riding a pony in a family’s yard.

Dupree got to thinking he could build a show around
the various buried jock fossils around the country.
“There’s stuff like that in everyone’s attic,” he said.

The Piece of the Game pilot, shot March 4, focuses on
items with Chicago roots, including a giant bat Babe
Ruth had made for a matronly bar owner across from
Comiskey Park, where the Bambino liked to indulge
his yen for hot dogs and beer when the Yankees were
in town, and a ladies’ baseball uniform from the film A
League of Their Own

Another valuable commodity on the show is famed
Chicago anchor Bill Kurtis, who Dupree knew from
their time together at WBBM. Kurtis voices historical
segments—he is not identified, but Dupree notes Kurtis’
voice needs no introduction—that offer context on the
featured items. Kurtis has departed from his first reaction
to the show’s concept—that it was too derivative
of the other relic-evaluation programs. “There are so
many clones to Antiques Roadshow, and I thought, this
is another one,” he said. “My God, it’s not. I like it.”

The newsman said the sports angle makes it stand apart,
as do the “mini-docs” that tell the story of each piece.

Things have moved along apace. Allstate ponied up a
$25,000 sponsorship fee; Dupree said the show’s content—
valuable items that are typically not insured—
made it a logical marriage. Other underwriters include
Chicago media outfit Content Factory and a local furniture
outlet. Dupree said he put in $15,000—and a
year of sweat equity—on the pilot. He said the show
can easily go on the road and focus on Boston, New
York, St. Louis and other storied sports towns in subsequent

Robert Feder, TV critic at Time Out Chicago, likes the
idea. “Don Dupree has assembled a smart and wellconnected
group to advance the project,” Feder said
via email. “I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far, although
I do not know how it’s been received at WGN.”

WGN isn’t yet saying. A Piece of the Game debuted
March 16 with a modest 0.5 household rating, said
Dupree, who mentions very limited publicity (though
Roger Ebert, who died April 4, did plug the premiere
on Twitter), before building to a 1.6 in its most recent
repeat. The program airs before or after Chicago Cubs
games and has run on cable sister CLT V as well.

The ball is now in WGN’s court as to the future of
the show; Dupree said he and station management will
meet this week. WGN management was not available
for comment.

“If we get the green light, we hope to shoot the next
one in May,” said Dupree. “There are so many great
stories to be told.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @BCMikeMalone