Two men were overheard talking at a recent sporting event not long after the recent World Series. One is about 60, the other about half that age
“That was quite a World Series, wasn't it,” said the younger man. “It sure was sweet seeing the Astros win.”

“Yes, indeed,” said the other man, Ruel Seneca, a lifelong fan of the Houston Astros. “Watching the Astros win after all these years was probably a once in a lifetime thing for me. You're young enough that you might get to see it happen again, but I don't think I will.”

Seneca is a consummate Astros fan – and collector of the team's memorabilia. A room in his house looks like a shrine to the Houston team.

It's an obsession Seneca caught the first time he ever went to an Astros game. “My parents took me to see my first game in 1966 when they were still playing in the Astrodome. I still remember how exciting I was seeing that place and being there.”

“I got my first souvenir at that game,” he said, pointing to a button about three inches in diameter featuring an old team mascot named Chester Charge. “I was just a little tyke. I'll never forget that pin. I bought it with money I'd earned cutting grass.”

“I also still have the program from that game,” he continued. Seneca has programs from scores of games, including almost every game Houston played during 1966 and 1967. They cost 25 cents at the time.

He's also got souvenirs from many, many games. Some he bought himself and many given to him as gifts. Many are pieces of history only the most faithful of Astros fans would even know existed. One is a large coffee can featuring the team.

“There are a lot of them that were gifts from my wife Diana and our twins, Skyler and Tyler,” Seneca said. He then showed off his son Tyler's first stuffed animal, Alf from the TV series, and daughter Skylar's first, a Cabbage Patch doll, both sporting Astros jerseys.

“I also had my first teddy bear outfitted with a jersey,” he continued. “Our first grandchild, Charlotte Renee (Seneca) got it when she was born.”

And Seneca is no Johnny-come-lately fan who became an Astros game just in the last couple of years while the team has been doing well.

“I've been a fan even during the down times,” he said, and the Houston-based team has had lots of those. “I used to get picked at about being an Astros fan in those days.”

Seneca has been to many of the Astros games and says he hasn't missed going to at least two games in a season since that first game in 1966.

Some of those games were quite historic. He was there for Hall of Fame Nolan Ryan's fifth no-hitter, a game during the famous pitcher's stint with the Astros. One of three of the balls Seneca"s gathered up from fouls hit into the stands is from that game.

In addition to the three he's gotten after they were hit into the stands – any baseball fan knows the odds of catching a single ball in the stands is high but the odds of collecting three are astronomical – Seneca has about two dozen special collectors' edition Astros baseballs.

His most recent addition was one used during the recent World Series.

Seneca was also at games in 1980, when the Astros were playing a five-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies for the league championship. He said the series got tied at 2-2, but the Phillies moved on the World Series that year after winning the final game.

His massive collection includes every style of jersey the Astros have worn for home games, every wallet-sized schedule from 1965 on, a ton of ticket stubs, including one from the playoff series in 1986 and others from the three All Star games played in Houston.

Seneca's collection includes caps of all sorts (yes, he's already got one from the World Series), batting helmets.

His collection of memorabilia is so large, so extensive, he says there's no way he could put a value on it, but to Seneca, it's far beyond valuable.

“I have no idea of what it's all worth,” he says. “To me, it's priceless because of the sentimental value.”