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Tallant for collecting
Man boasts 50 years of memorabilia
Basement Baseball 1 es
The floor of Johnny Tallant’s basement is painted like a baseball diamond. Past guests include several major league baseball players, including Phil Niekro and Cris Carpenter.
Forsyth County resident Johnny Tallant has a weakness for collecting.

Even at the age of 9, when he unwrapped his very first pack of baseball cards, he had a knack for holding on to “the good ones.”

Now the 59-year-old Forsyth County man has a whole museum in his basement and garage brimming with 50 years’ worth of baseballs cards, ball caps, miniature wooden bats and thousands of other sports mementos.

“People always say to me, ‘You oughta sell all this. How much you think all this is worth?’” Tallant said. “It’s worth more to me to hold on to it.”

He once tried to peddle his wares at a baseball card show.

“I wound up buying a bunch of cards from the guy selling next to me. I bought more than I sold.”

When asked how many baseball cards he owns, Tallant shakes his head.

“I don’t know, a million.”

He has complete sets of cards from 1957-2003, as well as every issue of Sports Illustrated since 1964. But that’s the stuff you don’t see.

Walking into his museum for the first time can be overwhelming. A 20-foot wide baseball diamond is painted across the concrete floor. The scoreboard from a defunct high school baseball stadium rests against the wall, while several Atlanta Braves banners and a 6-foot tomahawk hang from the ceiling.

Wooden shelves and glass showcases packed with posable figurines, baseball gloves, “bobbleheads” and postcards line the room. Pretty much everything has been autographed by somebody.

A banner draped above the museum’s entrance reads, “Tallant’s Baseball Museum.” Every guest gets a tiny keepsake wooden baseball bat inscribed with those words.

“The little baseball bats are a tradition,” said Travis Chaffin, a friend and former student of Tallant’s. “They’re part of the whole experience.”

Tallant coached for 25 years in Forsyth County. He oversaw baseball, softball and basketball teams in Forsyth and Dawson counties, as well as teaching drivers education and social studies at Forsyth Central and South Forsyth high schools.

Central athletics director Jerry Cauley said a visit to the museum is a must for any baseball fan.

“Just being in that environment around all those old cards and pictures, it takes you right back to childhood,” Cauley said. “It’s indescribable.

“Baseball’s like no other sport, and Johnny knows that. Baseball keeps you young.”

Traveling fan

Tallant’s fanaticism goes beyond his home. He’s taken trips all over the country to fulfill his baseball dreams.

He made a journey with friends and family to a cornfield in Iowa, where the movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed. A family photo from that outing sits prominently atop a display case.

Rows and rows of miniature baseball bats help tally his trips to nearly 100 minor league baseball parks across the country. Tallant has also visited 44 major league stadiums.

He tacked a map up in his basement and criss-crossed it with permanent marker lines recording his journeys across the states.

“It just helps me remember. I started keeping track in 1987,” he said.

Tallant said for an autograph-seeking fan such as himself, the best way to get what you’re looking for is to visit the minor league games. Most of his autographed memorabilia came from meeting players in person.

Sometimes, though, the athletes come to him. Major League Baseball players like former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Cris Carpenter and former Atlanta Braves great Phil Niekro have passed through the museum, as well as San Diego Padres catcher Michael Barrett.

Other visitors include Atlanta Braves photographer Walter Victor and Ted Turner’s personal usher, Walter Banks.
Tallant has two original seats from the former Braves park, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which Victor, Banks and Niekro each autographed while visiting his home.

Once I get it, I keep it

Tallant’s Baseball Museum is stuffed with sports history. One visit won’t do justice to the breadth of his collection.

“There’s just tons of stuff here,” Tallant said. “People say every time they come back they see something they never saw before.”

It’s not all your boilerplate collectibles either. He’s got a brick-sized concrete chunk from Atlanta-Fulton County stadium, as well as a handful of dried grass from the park in a plastic bottle.

Further exploration into the museum reveals hidden spaces full of memorabilia, like a storm cellar full of major and minor league baseball caps and the staircase hallway wallpapered with pennants arranged geographically.

“You look at all this different stuff,” Chaffin said. “There’s so much of it, and it just blows you away.”

Tallant said there have been a lot of people come through his museum over the years. Little league teams, neighbors, local coaches, friends of friends and friends’ relatives swing by to see it for the first time.

He’s slowed down on the baseball card collecting for the time being.

“I haven’t bought many cards since 2003,” Tallant said. “It’s getting too expensive.”

But as far as collecting goes, he said he’ll never lose the bug. “I’ve just never got rid of anything. I like saving this stuff. Once I get it, I keep it.”

E-mail Frank Reddy at