Baseball fans given new life to show everlasting devotion

From The Cover

Commentary

July 09, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

If you're a truly committed baseball fan - or just a baseball fan who truly needs to be committed - you've probably spent a lot of time thinking about the most appropriate way to honor your favorite team when you head off to that big ESPN Zone in the sky.

So I don't have to tell you that your options have been severely limited by the lack of officially licensed funeral merchandise bearing the logo of your most cherished major league franchise.

Not anymore.

Thanks to a recent licensing agreement between Major League Baseball and a company called Eternal Images, obsessing about your mortality just became a lot more fun ... and carrying your fanatical allegiance to the Orioles or some other major league club officially into eternity just became a whole lot easier.

Eternal Images makes customized caskets and cremation urns, and recently gained permission from MLB to decorate them with the team logo and colors of your choice.

You think I'm joking, right?

"Millions of Major League Baseball fans wear caps, T-shirts and jackets to show their loyalties each day, while others have customized license plates on their cars, and linens, artwork and collectibles such as bobbleheads in their homes," Eternal Images CEO Clint Mytych said in a company press release. "The trend of including baseball in major lifecycle events is growing vastly, from birthdays to bar mitzvahs, weddings to anniversaries, fans incorporate baseball in nearly every aspect of life.

"This new line of team-specific funeral products opens a whole new market for our company - a market that is just waiting for a way to make team loyalty a `final' statement of a great passion in their lives."

I was pretty certain this was some kind of Internet prank until I did a Google search and found out that this unusual marriage of the national pastime and the inevitable time of passing already had been reported in several other respected publications.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney explained Friday that baseball marketing officials had been approached a number of times over the years for permission to use MLB trademarks this way and reluctantly decided that a licensing agreement was the best way to make sure that it was done in a tasteful and respectful manner.

Maybe so, but according to the Bloomberg News Service, MLB will receive an 11 percent royalty from the sale of all caskets and urns bearing team logos, which could add up to some real money because the customized MLB caskets are expected to retail for up to $3,500 and the cremation urns up to $1,000.

Though that might sound mercenary to some, I've got no problem with it, especially considering the upside. Marking the caskets with major league logos will make it easier for St. Peter to sort out all the Yankees fans for transport to a more appropriate location.

I'm sure you were all thinking the same thing I was when news broke that former Orioles bad boy Sidney Ponson was designated for assignment by the St. Louis Cardinals, but apparently there is no tawdry back story involved.

Ponson got off to a 3-0 start, but he lost his last four decisions and his ERA had ballooned to 5.24 before the Cardinals replaced him in the rotation with newly acquired Jeff Weaver, who wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire when the Angels recently designated him for assignment.

Because Sir Sidney has a no-trade clause in the $1 million contract he signed over the winter, he'll almost certainly become a free agent at the end of the 10-day designation period. There appears to be an epidemic of mascot misconduct. Recently, the Chicago Bulls mascot was arrested for allegedly punching a sheriff's deputy at the "Taste of Chicago" festival, and recently the giant frog mascot for the Single-A Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League was charged with misdemeanor molestation for allegedly fondling a female fan.

What are these guys thinking ... just because you dress up like a huge cartoon animal that the rules of decent society don't apply anymore? I guess we should just be happy that the Oriole Bird is such a solid citizen.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who underwent seven hours of facial reconstruction surgery after a motorcycle accident in early June, is feeling good enough to travel to Lake Tahoe, Nev., to take part in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, which will be televised next weekend on NBC.

Lifesize baseball action figure Jose Canseco asked to be traded from the San Diego Surf Dawgs of the independent Golden League to the Long Beach Armada on Wednesday, which came as a total shock to millions of baseball fans around the country who had no idea there was a professional baseball team known as the Surf Dawgs, but are now pretty sure that they could play at that level. peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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