Sports museums hold big-league Yards sale

Surplus exhibit items featuring O's, Ravens, Colts find eager buyers


Baltimore sports fans went shopping yesterday - for themselves.

Lined up at 9 a.m.- two hours before the doors at the Sports Legends at Camden Yards museum opened - the most serious collectors of Orioles, Colts and Ravens memorabilia waited to snatch up the life-size photographs, posters and newspapers used in displays in the museum downstairs and at the nearby Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

Though they were more polite than brides who push and shove at the famed Filene's Basement wedding dash, the fans were just as efficient - clearing out hundreds of posters and reproduced photographs of Baltimore's sports triumphs by 2 p.m., two hours before the warehouse sale was scheduled to end.

"This is my black Saturday," said Paul Hocheder, who spent $150 on black-and-white photos and posters to decorate the walls of a room in his Middle River home. He was especially pleased with the photos of Jack Dunn, the Orioles owner who discovered Ruth.

Richard Cress, a Kraft Foods sales representative from Millersville, was outside the museum before 9 a.m. to make sure he was first in line. Looking to add to his collection, which includes yellow seats from Memorial Stadium, Cress found a transparent photograph of the Babe and some especially hard-to-find photographs of the Orioles' stadium at 29th Street and Greenmount Avenue.

Lou Vigliotti bought a $150 photograph of Ruth for his club basement as a holiday present for himself. And although it was about 3 feet by 5 feet, it still met the approval of his wife, Denise, who came with him to make sure he didn't choose "something too big."

The Bel Air couple are members of the museum, which opened in the historic former Baltimore & Ohio Railroad terminal in May, and, as such, were able to enter the sale an hour before the general public. "I think it's great they don't destroy this stuff, that they make it available to the public who will appreciate it," said Lou Vigliotti.

All of the items were once used in displays at either the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, which was founded in 1974, or at Sports Legends at Camden Yards museum. Museum officials decided to hold their first "yard sale" to make room in their warehouse. None of the items was part of the collections at either museum, nor were the items considered memorabilia in the strict sense.

Most of the photographs, for example, were reproductions, said Mike Gibbons, director of Sports Legends at Camden Yards.

But even Gibbons' 22-year-old son, Mike Marx-Gibbons, and his pal, Steve Stern, came by in search of a treasure - well, something to replace the Animal House-type posters from their college days. They found a print of Hank Aaron's famous 715th home run, "complete with a coffee stain," Marx-Gibbons said.

Ken Johnson couldn't resist buying several banners and was eyeing a glass display case, even though his family's "mini-museum" of sports memorabilia is full. "We already have to rotate which jerseys we display depending on whether it's football or baseball season," his wife, Kathleen Johnson, said of the display in their Brooklyn Park home. "We're running out of room. But it's fun. People like to come over to gawk at it all."

The most expensive item offered yesterday was a Cal Ripken Jr. display, which sold for $4,000. The least expensive items were small photographs that sold for $2. Most items were in the $20 range.

The offerings represented 23 years of displays at the museums, Gibbons said. The museums decided to sell the surplus items that won't be used as part of an exhibit again. "We wanted to make an event of it, let people bathe in the warmth of memories that stuff evokes," he said.

Yesterday's event attracted more than 250 people, who purchased more $10,000 worth of display graphics and prints, said Gregg Wilhelm, a spokesman for the Babe Ruth and Sports Legends museums.

"We were expecting the sale to go until 4," Wilhelm said. "But by 2 p.m., we only had a half-dozen items left. I think it was an overwhelming success."

That doesn't mean that the museum will have another sale, at least any time soon. "This pretty much cleans us out," Gibbons said.

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