Cal card drama shuffles players New owner emerges

item is carbon copy

December 12, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The strange odyssey of the $35,000 Cal Ripken lineup card took several more twists yesterday.

Ownership of the card grew muddier with a new candidate, a New York collector, emerging as the current owner of record -- not former Orioles manager Phil Regan. And the auctioneer, who last week said he was selling the original card, now acknowledges that it is actually the carbon copy used in the game by Regan.

Regan filled the card out on Sept. 6, 1995, when Ripken broke baseball's consecutive game record. He made five carbon copies and took one with him after the game, giving it to his daughter "for safekeeping."

Earlier this year, Regan, who left the Orioles after the 1995 season, arranged to have the card auctioned off through North Shore Sports, a telephone auction service. A collector, Mark Lewis, saw the auction catalog and struck a deal on Dec. 1 to buy the card directly from Regan or his daughter for $15,000.

Lewis decided to let North Shore Sports take bids on the item, and no one disclosed the change in ownership to the bidders. When a Baltimore contractor and collector, Jim Ancell, bid $35,650, Lewis decided to take the profits.

"I didn't think it would go that high," said Lewis, who operates a property tax grievance service on Long Island and invests in sports memorabilia.

But the Orioles went to court on Tuesday and won a temporary restraining order preventing Ancell's purchase from being completed and claimed the card rightfully belonged to the team.

Yesterday, upon learning that Regan had already sold the card to Lewis, the team went back to court. In an emergency hearing, the Orioles asked Cook County (Ill.) Circuit Court Judge Albert Green to take possession of the card, and related items also being sold by Regan -- a card used in the previous game when Ripken tied Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games, and the pen Regan used to fill them out -- for safekeeping.

The judge ruled that an attorney for North Shore Sports may keep the items until the Dec. 21 hearing on ownership.

Chicago attorney Richard Phelen, representing the Orioles, said, chasing a rainbow here Which shell is it under?"

The fact that the cards are carbons, not the originals Ancell thought he was buying, was also revealed at the hearing.

"I'm not sure I would have paid that much if I had known that," said Ancell. "I'd like to learn more of the details."

He said the item is still very rare, with only a handful in circulation.

Lewis, too, was surprised. "I wouldn't have paid $15,000 for a copy," he said.

Steve Ryan, who owns North Shore Sports, said his ads were accurate: these were the cards used by Regan during the game.

The Orioles, too, may re-examine their interest, Phelen said. Initially, the team sought the 2,131 card to have it displayed in the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore, the semi-official museum for the team. But the museum already has one carbon copy. Ripken, too, has a carbon copy as does the Baseball Hall of

Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. A lineup card also went to California Angels manager Marcel Lachemann, who couldn't be reached to learn whether his was the original.

Phelen said he will add Lewis to the lawsuit and is trying to find out who has the original.

One good candidate is Bowling Green State University. Plate umpire Larry Barnett, who worked the 1995 game, donated his copy of the lineup card to the university, which is seeking $1 million for it. No buyers have emerged, and the card is locked away in a bank vault, school officials say.

Bowling Green senior development specialist Ken Frisch said he believes Barnett's donation is the elusive top copy.

Phelen said he will be contacting Bowling Green on Monday.

Pub Date: 12/12/98

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