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“There’s no point in having a Renoir in your basement if you don’t let the public see it,” John Hamilton told the Business Journal in 2014, around the time he was in the process of closing down his labor of love, the Newport Sports Museum.

Hamilton, a protégé of Don Koll who went on to run real estate firm Hamilton Co., opened the Newport Center museum in 1996 to share his collection of game-worn jerseys, equipment and related sports items and literature with the public. At one point, the collection topped 10,000 items and included signed baseballs from every World Series Champion from 1940 to 2013.

Admission was free, to encourage children to attend.

He sold off much of the collection around the time of the museum’s closure. “It’s a very difficult decision; it’s a very emotional decision,” he said at the time. “I am not going to live forever.”

Hamilton died on Aug. 5 at age 78, from complications of the coronavirus. See page 7 for more on his life.

After the museum’s closure, Hamilton’s sporting interest continued in full force. Along with his support of USC’s sports program, he served as chairman of Newport Beach’s Pacific Club and helped oversee the club’s awarding of the Lott IMPACT Trophy. It’s named after San Francisco 49ers great Ronnie Lott and given to the college football student-athlete who makes the biggest impact on his team on and off the field.

Mike Salmon, the former USC and NFL linebacker and current partner at CRE brokerage Madison Street Partners, was recently named chairman of the Pacific Club’s IMPACT Foundation, succeeding Hamilton. The foundation runs the award event and has raised more than $1.6 million for charities and scholarships since 2004.

“Pound for pound, John was one of the toughest people I ever met,” Salmon said. “He would give you the shirt off his back. He was so passionate about college athletics and about our country.”

What’s hot in the auction market these days?

Nice desks for at-home workers sick of using their kitchen tables, and just about everything else, says Abell’s VP Joe Baratta, who notes people are putting money they aren’t using for vacations this year into buying all types of items for their home.

Despite the lack of in-person auctions, it’s been a blowout year for Abell thanks to their online sales, said Baratta, who entertained a small group of diners at the Pacific Club last week.

The event, held outdoors and with socially distant tables, was hosted by Whittier Trust EVP Greg Custer and his wife, Inger. Guests included Riordan, Lewis & Haden’s Murray Rudin, Squar Milner COO Deborah Harrington, YMCA of Orange County CEO Jeff McBride, KPMG Managing Partner Mark Clemens, and Albrecht & Barney founder Richard Albrecht.

Attendees were encouraged to bring antiquities and other items for Baratta to appraise. With Hamilton in mind, I brought my dad’s signed 1960s Cincinnati Reds baseball, featuring Frank Robinson, Billy Martin and the rest of the team.

Sports memorabilia wasn’t Baratta’s specialty, so he passed on giving it an immediate valuation.

I’m pretty sure Hamilton would have said it’s priceless.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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