Sports memorabilia on display at Iowa City hospital

Collection of retired surgeon Ernie Found featured through July

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IOWA CITY — True sports fans will go to extremes to see their teams play.

Ernie Found, for example, once dated a woman because she had access to season tickets for the Boston Celtics.

Found, living in Boston in the early 1980s for his residency in orthopedic surgery, decided with two friends to get season tickets. They went to the box office, only to be told there was a waiting list of more than 1,000 people for the handful of season tickets up for grabs each year.

They learned a hospital secretary, whom he calls Agnes, had an in because another surgeon worked with the team.

“I was single at the time,” Found said. “So it fell upon my shoulders. I had to befriend Agnes.”

Found’s collection of sports memorabilia and memories featuring the Celtics and the St. Louis Cardinals make up a new exhibit, “Stories of a Sports Fan — The Collection of Dr. Ernie Found,” on display now, with additional displays coming April 25, through July in the Fountain Lobby at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City.

Found, 65, retired in February after 29 years at UIHC.

The exhibit was curated by Doris Montag, a freelance curator from Iowa City, who usually focuses on the stories of everyday objects, such as farming implements or sewing tools. But she’s been fascinated to see sports through the eyes of a lifelong fan.

“When you have someone who has all the rings and knows all the years, you know you’re dealing with a serious collector,” Montag said of Found, whose trove of Cardinals World Series rings take up one of seven display cases at the hospital.

Montag has placed magnifying glasses by the rings so people can see intricate details, such as the “rally squirrel” etched into the 2011 World Series ring in honor of a squirrel whose appearance on the field during two games in the National League Division Series was believed by fans to be a turning point for the Cards.

That 2011 ring is special because Found remembers watching the series with daughter, Catharine, in the months after his youngest daughter, Caroline, was killed in a moped collision and his wife, Ellyn, died of pancreatic cancer.

Found grew up a Cardinals fan because the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, who played near his childhood home in upstate New York, were affiliated with the Cards until 1960.

When his son, Gregg, turned 10, Found took the boy and two friends from Iowa City to St. Louis for a game. That started an annual tradition that lasted 12 years, with the youngsters making time each year for this special trip through junior high, high school and college. One of Montag’s displays includes personal accounts and photos from these baseball odysseys.

There’s also a display about the Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, the fan experience — complete with Fitz’s root beer and Cracker Jack — and one about Found’s time playing college basketball. The Celtics display case includes signed photos, pennants and a place mat from a Terre Haute, Ind., restaurant showing the size of NBA superstar Larry Bird’s hands.

“It’s a great venue for this story,” Montag said of the hospital. “People need something to distract them from the reason they are there. It adds to the healing.”

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