Look (closely), programs differ slightly

April 15, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

By now, they've perused the table of contents, thumbed through the articles, maybe even fiddled with the baseball-flavored crossword puzzle.

But how many owners of the Orioles' Opening Day program truthfully can say they have combed their souvenir books in search of a pair of parentheses?

In the days ahead, thousands of fans and professional collectors who were able to lay their hands on the coveted game programs may be paying much closer attention to the book's punctuation marks.

The reason?

The Orioles said this week that the 50,000 programs sold Opening Day are not identical to the 20,000 quickly purchased by customers during the Orioles' second and third home games last week.

The difference is a set of parentheses and a single word found on Page 5.

Both the original and reprinted programs list Eric Kvalskvik among contributing photographers. But only the programs sold Opening Day parenthetically credit Kvalskvik with shooting the cover photograph, an aerial shot of the Camden Yards stadium.

The program mix-up may not be a matter of extreme importance to fans who bought their programs simply to leaf through, or to serve as ballpark place mats. But it has gotten the attention of the Orioles and of baseball memorabilia collectors, who often see dollar signs in even the smallest printing quirk.

Team spokesman Rick Vaughn said the Orioles are concerned because they assured fans who purchased reprinted programs that they were buying the same book sold on Opening Day, cover to cover. Due to the omitted parentheses, they weren't.

"We said all along the programs we'd be printing would be identical to the one for sale on Opening Day -- and we meant it," said Vaughn, who added that the team will be offering a program swap.

Fans who bought their parentheses-deficient books Wednesday or Thursday may exchange them for the real thing at the ballpark starting Friday night, Vaughn said. The programs should be brought to the midpoint of the B&O warehouse, outside Gate A, from 10 a.m. until the end of the Orioles-Detroit Tigers game. The exchange area also will be open at 10 a.m. through the end of games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Beginning Tuesday, the exchange area will be open on the Eutaw Street corridor -- between the warehouse and the ballpark -- from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The offer might not be accepted by many fans. Because many fewer programs were printed with the photo credit missing -- the error was corrected after the first 20,000 -- that edition potentially could be more valuable than the original, according to local sports memorabilia dealers.

Then again, maybe not.

"It makes [the reprinted program] more collectible, I guess, but that kind of market is hard to determine," said Lee Sherman, who operates American Baseball Classics at Harborplace. "Is a program from the real Opening Day of the new ballpark more collectible or, in this case, does the oddity make it more collectible? It's hard to predict."

J.D. Clark, of Anything Collectible in Severna Park, cast a vote for the true Opening Day books. "People are going to be looking for the first editions. If they can't get them, they might take the second ones," he said.

The omitted parentheses was strictly a mistake, not an attempt to hype the value of the second printing, according to H.A. "Bucky" Bray III of French-Bray Inc., the Orioles longtime printer that produced the books.

It appears that every fan who wants an Opening Day program, which sells for $3 at the ballpark, eventually will be able to buy one. The Orioles say they already have ordered 125,000 game programs, including those already sold.

"If we need to print more, we will," Vaughn said.

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