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Whitecaps' co-owner finds memorabilia after fire

8:34 PM, Jan 9, 2014   |    comments
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  • Lew and Joe Chamberlin look at the gift Joe gave his dad in 1996.
  • Lew Chamberlin's most treasured gift at Fifth Third Ballpark came from his son Joe

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WZZM) -- So much of the Whitecaps' focus right now is on rebuilding the ballpark. Team co-owner Lew Chamberlin finally got a chance to search for his most treasured piece of memorabilia in his office above home plate.

It was an angry fire, ripping through one third of Fifth Third Ballpark. But in one small gap, it lost its fight. "Hats off to all the firefighters who were there. Because they made a last stand right here," he said.

Their efforts would save Lew Chamberlin's office and most of 20 years of the Whitecaps most treasured memorabilia. "Trophies, some of them survived, he said. All five of the championship rings did.

"Are they all there?" he asked his son. "It's a good thing when you have to count to see if they're all there."

Nearly a week after the fire, this is Lew and his son Joe's first trip back in the office, which overlooks home plate from the first floor.

"Oh this stuff is just frozen," he said, looking through boxes. It's unknown what original schedules, programs, and signed baseball cards will be unsalvageable, damaged by water and smoke.

But Chamberlin can breath a cold sign of relief; he found what he came for. "This is probably one of my most significant artifacts," he said, holding up something his son Joe made him when he was 11.

It may not be signed by the pros, made of gold, or even bronze.
But it's gold to him. "Because it's family," he said. "It was his Papier-mâché version of the old Magic 8 ball.

Chamberlin needed advice. "In 1996 we just had won the Midwest League Championship with our affiliate the Oakland A's. They were considering changing their affiliation from Oakland to Detroit.

"I was really struggling over that decision," he said, "So he created what I call was the decision-maker." Joe wrote notes, telling his dad what to do. Chamberlin shook the Magic 8 ball up, and pulled them out.

"I think one of the answers we put in here a lot was ask Scott Lane, who was the president of the company. What should I do? Ask Scott Lane," they said, laughing.

Chamberlin says most of the notes though, told him to change to Detroit. "It was more or less to assure me more than anything else. And that's why it's so precious to me."

"It's nice to know those little things you do even when you're a kid and you probably don't understand how meaningful they might be." It is a block of ice now; Chamberlin hopes 18 years of memories can survive once it thaws out.

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