Induction day is past and the biggest crowd of the season is gone from Cooperstown, N.Y., but baseball fans by the thousands make it a popular vacation destination.
Collectors visiting Cooperstown for the first time (or the first time since the memorabilia boom began) can find a lot to look at.
The Hall of Fame, of course, is full of balls, bats, caps, uniforms, sheet music and almost anything collectible connected with baseball. It's a great source of ideas for a collection, and the gift shop sells everything from reproduction old-time caps and jerseys to logo coffee mugs and limited-edition crystal.
Bat fanciers should stop at Cooperstown Bat Co. It makes bats for playing, autographing and display and carries a full line of supplies (special pens, racks and tubes). There are special commemorative bats (defunct clubs, famous players, stadiums, major-league teams), and collectors can order personalized models. To see the bats made, visit the company's factory three miles west of town. For information or to receive the newsletter, write: Cooperstown Bat Co., P.O. Box 145, Cooperstown, N.Y. 13326.
There are a half-dozen memorabilia stores -- and a baseball card museum.
Larry Fritsch's card shop, which contains the museum, like Brigadoon, leads a seasonal existence. It is open from the end of May to the end of August.
Fritsch began collecting cards in 1948 and opened his Stevens Point, Wis., store in 1970. According to Marc Wolle, the museum director, Fritsch has about 60 million cards between inventory and his personal collection.
The museum opened in 1987, and this is Wolle's second summer Cooperstown. He spends the rest of the year planning the next year's display.
"It's on a rotating basis," says Wolle, "so you don't see the same cards every year."
He estimates that 50 to 75 people a day visit on weekdays before school ends. Once vacations are in full swing and on weekends, there are 200 to 300 people a day.
This year's collection is strictly postwar, beginning with 1948 Bowmans and including 1990 cards. There are gum cards as well as cards that were once packaged with dog food, people food and tobacco. There are also some boxes and wrappers on display.
For collectors on a budget, Fritsch sells T-shirts of the famous T-206 Honus Wagner card. The rare cards sell for thousands of dollars, the T-shirts for $9.95. The shop also carries a full line of cards and supplies.
Upper Deck went to an expert for its 20-card insert set for its high-number baseball cards. Called "Ted Williams' Best Hitters," features the men the Hall of Famer considers the game's best active and future hitters. Card backs have expanded statistics. Among the active players are Wade Boggs, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Cecil Fielder, Kirby Puckett and Ruben Sierra. Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles is one of the future picks.
Action Packed is honoring eight NFL players for their teamwork on "combo cards." The players are shown together on a card and were chosen for helping their teams reach the playoffs as well as their individual achievement. The four pairs are: Mike Kenn and Chris Hinton of the Atlanta Falcons, Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews of the Houston Oilers, and Jeff Gossett and Jeff
Jaeger and Steve Wisniewski and Don Mosebar of the Los
Kayo's 10-card Heavyweight Hologram set features Muhammad Ali's knockout of Sonny Liston as well as the Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson fight that never was. Cards are printed on gold foil, and production is limited to 35,000 numbered sets. Each set includes a bonus card, some of which are early Kayo prototypes, including the scarce Tyson prototype.
Most valuable cards
Pro Set is predicting. It has selected the AFC players it thinks will be their teams' most valuable players and made special gold-foil stamped cards for them. One of these cards is included in every Series I jumbo pack. The NFC subset will appear with Series II in November.
Hockey cards put on ice
Original Products, Inc., which had planned to ship its inaugural High-5 hockey cards in October, has canceled the series because its license with the NHLPA has been terminated.
Original Products has, in turn, sued the NHLPA and Upper Deck in U.S. District Court charging they conspired with others to reduce competition in the hockey card market. Original Products is claiming that its license was terminated at the request of Upper Deck and seeks injunctive relief and damages.
Maxwell House cards
For auto racing fans who don't get Winston Cup Scene, there's another way to get an order form for Maxwell House's 30-card set produced by Pro Set. Call Maxwell House's consumer number, (800) 432-6333. Sets are $15 each or $5 with two proofs
He's a football hero
Upper Deck is planning a 10-card insert set of Walter Payton in its 1992 low series NFL set. The Payton cards continue Upper Deck's "Football Heroes" series, which began last season with cards honoring Joe Namath and Joe Montana.
Today, Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball card show, Festival Hall, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (expected signers include Jim Palmer), (410) 486-1188.
Today, baseball card show, Pikesville Hilton, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (expected signers are Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson), (410) 542-9483.
Today, baseball card show, Towson Quality Inn (I-695, Exit 26 S), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 239-7446.
Aug. 15-16, baseball card show, Laurel Center Mall, during mall hours.
Aug. 16, baseball card show, Security Holiday Inn (I-695, Exit 17), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 922-8366.