Some uniformly different collectibles are at Ball 4

MEMORABILIA

March 20, 1994|By Ruth Sadler

Sharp-eyed baseball fans may have noticed that teams get new uniforms every year. They may have wondered what happens to the old ones.

A lot of them are purchased by Ball 4 Sports of Jarrettsville, which sells them to collectors.

Barry Wolfsheimer and Ed Starleper started in 1981 with an ad in Sports Collectors Digest, seeking jerseys to buy. Wolfsheimer had gotten interested in shirts after swapping some old cracked bats (from his youth, when he hung around Memorial Stadium) for jerseys through an SCD ad.

Tom Grieve, then a minor-league official for the Texas Rangers, answered the ad, and they bought "hundreds" of shirts for about $15 each. Wolfsheimer says there were old Washington Senators flannels and newer shirts worn by Gaylord Perry, David Clyde, Buddy Bell, Toby Harrah and Jeff Sundberg.

The Rangers have been selling shirts to them ever since - and that connection has gotten them shirts from other teams as people involved in the sale have moved to other clubs or through word-of-mouth.

They're in Florida now renewing acquaintances and looking for uniforms to buy.

Ball 4's inventory includes uniforms from the Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, Montreal Expos, Atlanta Braves. Wolfsheimer says it's been harder to get Orioles uniforms because the team has been auctioning so many for charity. He says the New York Yankees are storing uniforms from 1970, but the team won't sell. "They will just not get rid of them," he says. "We're actually trying to buy anything we can."

Wolfsheimer sees collector interest in uniforms growing. Ball 4, rTC which opened a store in Bel Air in November, also carries pants, helmets, gloves, jackets and bats.

"What we have found lately," he says, "is that a lot of people who have been collecting cards ... are getting out of it ... and getting into uniforms." People will wear them, hang them on the walls or dress up mannequins.

Pants, which have player names embroidered in them, are growing in popularity, he says. "[Collectors] can get them far cheaper [than shirts], and it is actually a part of the uniform that was in a game."

Wolfsheimer advises new collectors to "be very careful.... There are a lot of bogus uniforms." He says players' uniforms are of a better quality than the replicas and suggests collectors know who they're buying from, getting letters of authenticity when possible. He thinks beginners should stick to lesser-known players because most counterfeit jerseys are of stars. He suggests setting collecting goals, such as getting one jersey from each team. "I have a guy in Iowa," Wolfsheimer says, "who only collects people who were originally from Iowa."

Generally star players' jerseys command the highest prices. But, Wolfsheimer points out, shirts of Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Rod Carew are in the $800 range, while one of Juan Gonzalez recently went for $2,100 and one of Montreal rookie Cliff Floyd sold for $900.

Donruss Series 2 baseball

Donruss' baseball second series, includes two new insert sets, featuring last season's longest home runs and the players with the best batting averages in the 1990s. Other insert sets are continued from Series One, and Orioles fans can find Jeffrey Hammonds among the Rate Rookies and Cal Ripken in the Most Valuable Players. This series' Elite cards are John Olerud, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Mike Piazza, Jack McDowell and Andres Galarraga.

World Juniors in Parkhurst Two

Parkhurst Series Two features two subsets of players who were in the recent World Junior Championships, those from Europe and those from North America. The 270-card series will have a shorter print run than the first series. Insert cards include reprints of old Parkhurst cards, exchange cards redeemable for a set of Calder candidates insert cards and green-foil "Emerald Ice" versions of all cards.

CARD OF THE WEEK

SkyBox has produced a card set based on the movie "Blue Chips." There are 90 cards, plus two insert cards each featuring Shaquille O'Neal, Anfernee Hardaway and Matt Nover. A seventh insert card, a foil card showing O'Neal making the game-winning dunk, is available by mail (for $6.99). NBA collectors, beware: This is a non-sport set.

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