'Baseball' series spawns merchandise


Ken Burns' 18 1/2 -hour documentary "Baseball" begins tonight on PBS. The merchandising has been under way for some time and will continue long after the show ends.

The first group of collectibles was offered by public broadcasting stations, which aired a preview show during their summer fund raising. Those included caps, tote bags, the series' companion book and theme music recordings.

General Motors, the series' sponsor, has issued a 14-page catalog for its employees and customers. Some items will be available through other sources: the coffee-table book, the set of videocassettes of the series and Upper Deck's 90-card companion card set. One item exclusive to the GM catalog is a nine-card "dream team" of all-time players. It features Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Satchel Paige, Hank Greenberg, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron, and none of the photos appears in the 90-card set.

Other series-related products in the catalog include T-shirts, key chains, coffee mugs and facsimile-autograph balls.

Each Upper Deck 90-card set will contain a special card, depending on where it is purchased: Ruth (retail outlets), Michael Jordan (direct mail), additional Mantle card (QVC), autographed Mantle (Upper Deck Authenticated).

The documentary may end next week, but the merchandise won't.

According to Sheryl Shade of Baseball Licensing International, which is handling the series' marketing, PBS will include "Baseball" merchandise during its Christmas pledge period. She says that other licensing proposals are being considered and that there should be new items when PBS rebroadcasts the series next March. She says some of the proceeds from the series will go to the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

New from Bowman

Topps is focusing on newcomers and prospects in a new set, Bowman's Best, coming in late September. It is a 200-card set available in seven-card packs. Bowman's Best Red cards feature veterans and stars who emerged as rookies. Bowman's Best Blue has rookies and prospects. The 20-card mirror image subset matches players from the red and blue sets by position on each card.

Calling all collectors

Finish Line, which produces NASCAR trading cards, got into the prepaid phone card business with cards of five NASCAR drivers. Its second series had 10 cards. Its newest cards feature the Tour of America cycling circuit and the 25th anniversary of Talladega Superspeedway. Call (800) 676-3226.

Brooks for your wall

Brooks Robinson's uniform is the subject of a new baseball lithograph from Bill Goff Inc. All copies are signed by the artist, Bill Williams, and numbered. Ebbets Field and Roberto Clemente are also featured in new lithographs. Prices are $140 and $160. Call (800) 321-4633.

Football coins

Highland Mint's football lineup of silver medallions features Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, Jerry Rice and Thurman Thomas. Eighteen coins will be produced over the next 12 months. Each will have the player's likeness, name, number and signature on one side and his team logo and statistics on the other. In honor of the NFL's 75th anniversary, mintages will be limited to 7,500.

Coming events

Today, card show, Eastpoint Mall (I-695, Exit 38 west), noon to 5 p.m., (410) 574-4365 or (410) 255-1317.

Oct. 1, sports memorabilia auction, Christie's East (502 Park Ave., New York), (212) 546-1119.

Oct. 7-9, NBA Jam Session Mall Tour, Eastpoint Mall.

Oct. 7-9, first world collectors fair, Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland (has days devoted to coins, stamps and memorabilia, plus auction by Christie's).

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