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Carpenter takes famous collection to TV with Cold Pizza visit

FIREBRICK, Ky. - John Carpenter is going from a big hometown celebrity to the Big Apple.

Carpenter, who grew up in Wheelersburg but now lives in Firebrick, is recognized by Ripley's Believe It or Not as the owner of the world's largest personal sports memorabilia collection.

Carpenter's collection is well documented in the Tri-State and he currently has a display at the Highland Museum in Ashland, Ky. But this week he will gain greater fame as a guest on the ESPN2 morning show Cold Pizza.

The collection was featured in a small piece a few years ago as ESPN crews came to Carpenter's home. But this time he'll be driven by limousine to Columbus Airport where he will be flown to New York. He will stay at the hotel New York, New York which is located next to the ESPN studio where Cold Pizza is taped.

Approximately 43 million viewers watch the show on a daily basis.

"(ESPN2 officials) said they were really interested in my collection and they called to say it was great," Carpenter said. "I said I enjoyed showing it to them and they asked, 'Would you like to do it again?' I said, 'Yeah,' and they said they liked me so well they asked if I could come (to New York). They said the boss wanted me to go there."

The collection consists of more than 5,000 items and is still growing.

"I haven't really counted it lately. I still get stuff almost every day," Carpenter said. "ESPN is really impressed by it. They said they had a lot of feedback on (the collection)."

The collection started very innocently in 1975 by Carpenter's mother, Patty Clay. Her boss was a friend of Nick Buoniconti, the Hall of Fame linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, and got the player's autograph for her.

Buoniconti's son Mark had played with her boss' son at Virginia Military Institute.

"That's the one that started it all," Carpenter said.

After the first autographed item, Carpenter began to seek more and more of the same.

The collection has brought unexpected attention to Carpenter. He has spoken on the telephone about the collection with such men as the late Joe DiMaggio, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and even current President George Bush who is a former owner of the Texas Rangers.

Local people can view the collection locally at the Highland Museum in Ashland.

"The people at the Highland Museum have been good to me," Carpenter said.