The best way to know the real value of a baseball player, as any modernist knows, is by the current value of his baseball card -- particularly his rookie card.
Cal Ripken's three hits including a homer yesterday and his American League-leading average of .359 notwithstanding, it's the card that tells us Ripken's true worth, and something very interesting is happening to the price of his.
"Cal's [rookie] card has gone up dramatically since last year," said Tom Blair, manager of Jay's Sport Shop in Towson.
"A year ago his card was selling for $14 to $15. In spring training this year it went up to $30 to $35. Right now it's selling for $50.
"The big difference now is it's going for the same price nationally. I used to be able to buy Cal's cards cheap from out-of-town dealers and sell them here for a profit. I can't do that anymore. His cards are about the same price everywhere."
Blair says there's no one card in his repertoire that's a runaway No. 1 seller. He was asked if Pete Rose's rookie card has gone up or down since Pete's personal problems.
"Pete's card hasn't gone up or down," Blair said. "It's still at four-fifty."
"Four dollars and 50 cents?" he was asked.
"Four hundred and fifty dollars," he said. "I think in a few years people will forget Rose's problems and the price of his card will go up."
* Tim Schweizer, managing director at the prestige brokerage of Alex Brown & Son, explains in laymen's terms why it will be difficult to find an owner anywhere, much less locally, who can pay as much as $120 million for the Orioles.
"If this was the early '80s," Schweizer says, "it would be no problem. We could put three guys together for $120 million. You can't do it now because the banks won't lend that kind of money anymore.
"Today, you'd have to find a buyer who could pay cash. Or a buyer who has cash and assets worth $119 million."
* Stephanie Marudas, an 11-year-old Baltimore City resident, was one of the best players -- maybe the best player -- in the Towson Recreation Council's softball league (for boys and girls) this season. But when it came time to select the league's all-star team she was told that, as a city resident, she was not eligible.
That sounds screwy to me: eligible for the season, but not for the all-stars. Her father, Tom, had an interesting reaction.
"That's OK," he said. "It would have been nice if someone had explained beforehand about the all-stars, but the county can have any rules it wants. It's their league. But maybe the city should turn the county's water off for a while."
* There are some interesting mumblings around the Orioles office since the contract of GM Roland Hemond was extended last week for two years, in spite of the team's dreadful performance.
One theory is that O's president and chief executive officer Larry Lucchino, who is not a baseball man, extended Hemond because Roland is a puppet who will not give him any opposition. Another is that the club wanted to send a message to Frank Robinson that he'll not be moving up, at least not for the next two years.
* Hope you enjoyed the relative calm in the Inner Harbor yesterday. Next Sunday the area will be inundated with a capacity field of 2,000 athletes and thousands more spectators and officials for the annual Bud Light Triathlon. Ours is now the largest triathlon on the East Coast.
The athletes -- pros only -- will be competing for $5,000 in prize money and valuable points in the season-long $190,000 Coke Grand Prix.
* Coach Carl Runk, of Towson State, and Dick Edell, of Maryland, both of whom took their lacrosse teams to the NCAA Final Four this year, were challenged publicly by Bob Lumsden at J. Patrick's to a game with U.S. club champion Mount Washington.
Lumsden, retired Poly football coach, is a former president of the Mount Washington Club. Both coaches said they'd be interested in playing the club champs. Time was when Mount Washington was the perennial club champion and annually played Maryland, Hopkins, Army, Navy, Virginia and Princeton.