Collectors grab baseballs from phantom Series

MEMORABILIA

January 08, 1995|By Ruth Sadler | Ruth Sadler,Sun Staff Writer

There was no World Series in 1994. But there were World Series baseballs -- and they have become popular collectibles.

According to Scott Smith, director of marketing services for Rawlings, which manufactures the balls for Major League Baseball, the balls sold as souvenirs are identical to the ones put in play.

Smith says these are sold to authorized Rawlings sporting goods dealers, who sometimes resell them to hobby dealers or sell them by mail order.

He would not disclose production figures but says, "It is not a numbered collectible or a limited edition. . . . We never intended that they would be limited."

Smith says some collectors may have gotten that impression because, when the World Series was canceled, Rawlings' supply of World Series balls was publicized. He doesn't deny the figure -- 5,000 -- that was used.

"We only had 5,000 on hand," he says, "but always intended to produce more balls."

How many, Smith says, would have depended on who was in the Series. When teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees play, Rawlings makes more balls to meet a greater demand than when teams with smaller followings play.

What surprised Rawlings was the demand for the '94 ball, without the draw of the teams.

"In our opinion, it speaks highly of baseball," says Smith. "That people still love baseball or they wouldn't be buying it."

How much is a ball from the phantom World Series worth? They've been advertised for $17 to $49.

Smith says Rawlings set its price to dealers in April and has held it. "We had an obligation to our dealers to hold our price," he says. "What they do with them afterwards we have no control over."

He says the catalog's suggested list price is $226.70 per dozen, or about $18.89 per ball.

Cards you can play with

For the second straight season, the United States Playing Card Co. has asked former coach Mike Ditka to put 54 top NFL players in a deck of cards. He picked four rookies, including top draft picks Heath Shuler and Marshall Faulk.

Cards have color action pictures, the player's name and position, team logo and card suit and rank. There are also two cards giving Ditka's comments on the players he chose. Pack box flaps contain a message that the NFL, NFL Properties, NFL Players Association and Quarterback Club disapprove of gambling.

NASCAR metal cards

Highland Mint, which has been reproducing baseball, football and hockey cards from Topps and Pinnacle, will be offering replicas of Press Pass Winston Cup cards. The first will be of Dale Earnhardt in silver and bronze. Other new cards are of Nolan Ryan, Drew Bledsoe, Teemu Selanne, Sergei Fedorov and Jeff Bagwell.

Fit to be hung

Baseball fans with room on their walls might be interested in RTC four new prints from Bill Goff Inc. They show Mickey Mantle hitting a home run, Wrigley Field's exterior and still lifes of New York Giants and New York Mets uniforms. Call (800) 321-4633.

More than a photo

Cal Ripken and Rafael Palmeiro are among the 96 major-leaguers featured on SuperSlam Sports' Statuegraphs.

The Statuegraph is a postcard-sized photo that has the three-dimensional depth of a holograph. Call (714) 729-4253.

Mickey on metal

Highland Mint is bronzing Mickey Mantle in replicas of card No. 7 from Pinnacle's 1992 Mantle tribute set. Cards will be available in bronze, silver and gold.

Coming events

Saturday-next Sunday, Bird Expo, with some proceeds to benefit Grant-a-Wish Foundation, Pikesville Armory, (expected signers include Al Kaline, Yogi Berra, Jeffrey Hammonds, Mike Mussina and Frank Howard), Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., next Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 574-4365.

Jan. 20, sports card and memorabilia auction, Holiday Inn Timonium Plaza, 6:30 p.m. (inspection begins at 5:30 p.m.), (410) 435-2495.

CARD OF THE WEEK

The Muppets aren't being locked out of the NHL. They can be found on an 80-card set from Cardz called The Muppets Take the Ice. The cards show team histories, positions, equipment, rules and hockey terminology. (Shown is Gonzo being hooked.)

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