Safran has Gamecock Museum
By Don Barton Copyright Spurs & Feathers May 14, 2003
With even the most ardent Carolina sports fans, following the Gamecocks is an avocation, but with Mike Safran it is more of an obsession, to put it mildly.
The building on Whaley Street that houses Safran's Antiques, Interiors and Collectibles is overflowing with Gamecock memorabilia, such as football and basketball programs, jerseys worn by star athletes, yearbooks, significant magazines, books about Carolina sports, historic newspapers, posters, pennants and a lot of so on and so forth.
Mike inherited his loyalty to Carolina and his collecting zeal from his father (a USC grad) and grandfather, who operated an antique business on Gervais Street in the Vista area.
"My family was in the business of preserving the past, so I probably didn't have a choice," says Safran. "In fact, my degree from Carolina is a BAIS (Bachelor of Arts and InterDisciplinary Studies), which enables you to tailor your curriculum to what you plan to do. I was going into the antique business, so I took courses in histoory and marketing."
Mike's father, Milton Safran, who was on a buying trip, was one of 350 people who perished in an airliner crash near Paris, France, on March 3, 1974. At that time, it was the worst airplane disaster in history.
Mike has been attending Carolina games since he was a child and attended the basketball camps directed by Coach Frank McGuire. After graduation from Dreher High School (1977) and USC (1983), he started collecting things.
"I lived on Kilbourne Road, and our across the street neighbors were the Freemans (Bob and Cornelia), who were Carolina fans. They gave me some game programs and that was the beginning," Safran recalled. Twenty years later, his life has been engulfed by his hobby.
"I was priviledged to know Tatum Gressette, whom I consider to be a truley great man," Safran continued. "You know, he dropkicked a 25 yard field goal to beat Clemson, 3-0, in 1920. I have a yearbook from that year signed by Mr. Gressette, and I also have a copy of The Columbia Record with the story of that game. He was also the founder of the BAM Club, (Buck A Month, which was the forerunner to the Gamecock Club) in 1940, and I have a first year membership card with Mr. Gressette's autograph on the back." Gressette was athletics director at USC and later became the first director of the State Retirement System.
Among the hundreds of programs collected by Safran are: the 1946 (first) Gator Bowl, in which USC played Wake Forest; the 1967 Carolina-Texas football game, won by the Gamecocks in Austin; the 1950 Carolina-George Washington football game in Washington, a game in which Steve Wadiak set a school record with a 96 yard touchdown run from scrimmage; the 1942 Carolina-Tennessee game, which ended in a scoreless tie and was the only blemish on the Volunteers record; the 1982 Hula Bowl program with George Rogers featured on the cover; the final Big Thursday (1959) program, plus an unused ticket to the game; the first basketball game in Carolina Coliseum, won by the Gamecocks over Auburn; the 1952 Oyster Bowl (Norfolk, VA.) in which Carolina scored three times in a span of a minute and 45 seconds to defeat Virginia, 21-14.
Among the Sports Illustrated issues held by Safran are two that feature on the cover basketball star John ROche (1971) and Dallas Cowboys running back (former USC quarterback) Dan Reeves (1972).
Game jerseys of former Gamecock stars in Safran's collection include those worn by George Rogers, Alex English, B.J.McKie, Robert Brooks, Harold Green, Sterling Sharpe, Sheila Foster, Martha Parker, Mookie Wilson, Kevin Long, Clarence Williams, and those worn by Todd Ellis during his short career as a Denver Bronco and with the Sacramento Surge of the World League of American Football. All of those names are familiar to Gamecock supporters.
Safran even has a brick from the George Rogers mural from the now demolished Booker T. Washington High School building on Blossom Street, where dormitories now stand.
In Safran's "museum" is a baseball from the 1975 NCAA baseball regional final game, won by Carolina (4-3) over N.C.State, and souvenirs from the celebration of Frank McGuire's 500th victory and selection to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He has a copy of the October 1986 Boys Life magazine bearing a painting of Alex English on the cover and he also has the original painting. Another rarity in Safran's collection is a copy of a paperback history of Big Thursday, written by Harper Gault of Rock Hill in 1947.
"I leave no stone unturned to obtain these items," Safran explained. "If I can find the stone." A list of items displayed at Safran's establishment on Whaley Street (near Assembly) could go on in perpetuity.
Appropriately, Mike met his wife (the former Janet Kelly) in history class at Carolina, and their two children, daughter K.D. and son Alex, are budding Gamecock fanatics.
Nobody, not even Mike Safran, can give you the details on where Carolina sports teams are going, but nobody is better equipped than Mike to tell (and show) you where they have been.