After mounting a legal battle, the Orioles apparently have failed to prevent one of their former managers from selling the lineup card he filled out for the game in which Cal Ripken Jr. broke the all-time record for consecutive games played.
An out-of-court settlement has been reached between the Orioles and ex-skipper Phil Regan that allowed him to sell the souvenir.
Neither side is disclosing the details, but a Virginia man said he recently paid more than $40,000 for the card, as well as the one used in the previous night's game -- when Ripken tied Lou Gehrig's record -- and other assorted memorabilia from the event.
"I spent my life savings," said Warren Fitzgibbon, 38, an Alexandria resident and financial analyst with Fannie Mae in Washington.
He said he flew to Chicago last week to retrieve the material and now is storing it in a safe-deposit box. He declined to say precisely how much he paid, but said it is more than $40,000. The most valuable item, the lineup card for Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game, went for a price "in the ballpark" of the $35,000 that another collector offered at auction but later withdrew, he said.
The cards were filled out by Regan on Sept. 5 and 6, 1995, when Ripken matched and then beat Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played. In December 1998, Regan offered them for sale through Northshore Sports, a Chicago-based auction house. A Baltimore contractor, James Ancel, was the high bidder at $35,650.
However, before the auction was completed, the Orioles went to court and won a court order blocking the sale, saying the items rightfully belonged to the club and that Regan -- who by that point had been fired by the team -- was in possession of stolen goods. The team filed a lawsuit and vowed to reclaim the card and put it in a museum.
Regan argued that the team had never asked him for the cards, which in other games are routinely left in the dugout for cleanup crews to discard.
The matter has languished in court ever since as settlement talks proceeded on and off. Ancel withdrew his bid when he learned the cards Regan used were carbon copies and not the original, top versions.
Generally a manager makes three copies of the lineup card, using carbon paper. One goes to the home and visiting team manager and one to the plate umpire. For Ripken's 2,131st game, however, five copies of the card were made with a ceremonial pen.
Regan kept the pen, as well as the bottom, cardboard version, upon which he inked in changes made in the lineup during the game. The other copies were distributed to the umpire, the manager of the visiting Anaheim Angels, Ripken, and the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore. The original, top card is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The plate umpire for the 2,131st game, Larry Barnett, donated his copy to Bowling Green University, which put it up for sale to raise money for its athletic programs. Ancel -- the original bidder for Regan's card -- paid the college $20,000 last year for Barnett's copy of the Orioles and Angels lineups as well as his tickets to the game, and a program for the game autographed by Ripken and the four umpires who worked the game.
"I got a pretty good deal. I'm happy with the copy I have. It is extremely legible and has notes from the umpire," Ancel said.
A lawyer for the Orioles, Tom Krebs, declined to comment, saying the settlement included a confidentiality clause. "I cannot get into details," he said. A spokesman for the team did not respond to a request for comment.
Regan, who was fired by the Cleveland Indians as pitching coach at the end of last season, was unavailable and his attorney declined to comment.
Fitzgibbon said he made his check out to an attorney for Regan, suggesting an agreeable distribution of the proceeds was found between the team and manager. He said his understanding of the agreement was that there was a "win-win" for both Regan and the Orioles.
Fitzgibbon said he has a small collection of Ripken memorabilia that he has amassed largely by attending games and waiting in line for the player to autograph tickets and other collectibles. He has never before spent so much on an item.
"He's always fascinated me because of his approach to the game. He doesn't seem to have the superstar self-image and he interacts with the fans," Fitzgibbon said. "It amazes me that he is so down to earth."
Ripken's willingness to mingle with the fans reminds him of the minor-leaguers Fitzgibbon used to see when attending games in Arkansas as a youth, he said.
Fitzgibbon said he has no plans to sell the card for profit, but might consider loaning it for display to a museum -- such as the Babe Ruth museum, which is interested because of the manager's notations on his version.
"I would be interested in talking about some long-term loan," he said.