Passion for the Game

04/23/2004
Thanks to the passion of a late musician, the collection in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Archives and Information Center is more comprehensive.

"When he really loved something, then he got passionate," reflected Hope Chasin about her brother Jay.

 

Jay Chasin and his sister Hope

Jay Chasin grew up in Manhattan, the lone sports fan in his family. A musician first and foremost, the jazz pianist went on a football collecting crusade during his 20s and 30s. The result was an impeccable collection of information about the National Football League that spanned the sixties and seventies.

Chasin was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma just six months after retiring from Empire State College. After courageously fighting the disease for nearly two years, Jay passed away on November 4, 2002 at the age of 64.

A huge void filled Hope, who was not only Jay's sister but the two were best friends as well. Hope was Jay's primary caretaker during his illness and now was left to take care of Jay's possessions that included the football collection. She only had a few months to clean Jay's apartment that was just floors away from her residence in the same building.

"First I was beside myself," said Hope. "In the back of my mind, I was thinking of the Hall of Fame."

Since she knew nothing about football, she was left to struggle with how to pay proper respect to the expansive collection that her brother, a long-time New York Giants season ticket holder, so diligently and thoroughly built.

Jason Aikens, the Hall's Collections Curator browses through the expansive Chasin collection.
"He was very meticulous," she responded describing the vast collection that also included bound editions of many football publications.

Her first course of action was to contact the Hall of Fame in Canton. When she did not get an immediate response from the museum, she reached out to others in the football community as she needed to place the collection in a short time.

"We receive so many inquiries and requests about collections," commented Pete Fierle, the museum's Information Services Manager who oversees the Hall's archives. "Our collection is so vast that we are quite selective in what we accept. In this case, the list of the collection was so extensive; we were carefully scrutinizing what we might be interested in adding to our archives."

It was a phone call from football historian David Neft that sped up the process for the Hall of Fame. Neft had contacted Fierle to describe the excellent condition of the collection and what it included.

Shortly after Jay's death, one of Hope's friends had read an article about Joel Buchsbaum in The New York Times. Buchsbaum, the NFL draft and scouting guru for Pro Football Weekly was featured in the piece.  So, Hope called Buchsbaum asking for advice as to who might be interested in her brother's collection. Buchsbaum called her back and left a message on her answering machine. 

(RELATED STORY: Buchsbaum named 2003 McCann Award Winner).

Before she could contact Joel again, he died unexpectedly. Pro Football Weekly's Publisher/Editor Hub Arkush flew to New York to help go through Buchsbaum's apartment when he came across correspondence from Hope.

"I knew it was something that Joel would have followed up on," commented Arkush.

 
This 1965 magazine is a sample of what is included in the Chasin Collection.
Arkush soon thereafter contacted Hope to speak with her about the collection that included hand stitched bound volumes of Pro Football Weekly. The volumes have since found a home at the newspaper where they reside in Pro Football Weekly's headquarters outside Chicago.

"She was somebody who was amazingly devoted to her brother," observed Arkush who in turn contacted Neft about the collection.

Neft, who lives in New York City, followed up with Hope. He visited with her and inspected the football collection.

"I thought it was not only one of the best collections of its type that I've seen," stated Neft, "but it was in remarkable condition."

That is when Neft called Fierle to share his opinion about the collection.

What followed was a year-long process of obtaining and cataloging the collection. The Hall of Fame sent a shipping company to Manhattan to bring the collection to Canton. Because of the tight timetable, the moving company had to battle one of New York City's worst snowstorms of the season that blasted the city in February 2003. But they made it.

"It was very sad for me," shared Hope as she watched the movers take the many boxes and filing cabinets that had filled her brother's apartment. "It was like saying good bye to my brother. On the other hand, I felt accomplishment of respecting everything he had done."

"Each year, thousands of documents, books, newspapers, and other material are added to the Hall of Fame's archives," stated Fierle. "However, this collection is truly unique."

It took the Hall's curator Jason Aikens and his intern several months to properly catalogue the collection. The piece-by-piece itemized inventory of game programs, official game play-by-plays, books, magazines, booklets, and other documents fills 40 pages.

"This collection not only supplied terrific backup copies of items that are in excellent condition but it also filled many gaps that existed in our information about professional football during the 1960s and '70s," stated Fierle.

"It just makes me happy because it would make my brother proud," said Hope. "I feel like it's part of him that's there. It makes me feel peaceful because his collection is being taken care of by the Hall of Fame with the same respect that he had for it."

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