The major-league baseball players are in camp, and schedule watchers have pinpointed the date on which Cal Ripken is likely (barring rainouts and injury) to break Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played.
Ripken is generating media attention and is the cover boy for the American League Red Book and regional editions of baseball preview magazines.
"It's a challenge for people who live outside the Baltimore area," VTC
says Bill Haelig, who has been compiling a checklist of all things Ripken for nearly 10 years. He says he has talked to a collector in Kansas who was surprised that Ripken was on Street & Smith's, because the magazine he bought had Jeff Bagwell on the cover.
Haelig, who lives near Reading, Pa., saw Lenny Dykstra on the cover. "Street & Smith's has been around forever," Haelig says. "This is the first time Cal has been on the cover."
But even hard-to-get current magazines aren't what collectors covet.
"What I'm finding, talking to other collectors, is that there is a huge demand for pre-1991 [material]," he says. "Nobody collected [Ripken] back then. . . . I kind of feel like the grandfather of it because I was collecting way back then."
But many collectors, other than longtime Ripken fans, seem to be staying on the sidelines.
"As he gets closer to his record, you'll see things heat up," says Steve Fritz, editor of SportsNet Today, the news wire of the collectors' on-line service SportsNet. Part of his job involves monitoring SportsNet, which has dealer and collector bulletin boards. "Let's say that Cal Ripken has suffered less damage [to his popularity with collectors] than most baseball players."
That's what Greg Kroll has noticed. He runs Greg's Cards, a mail-order business in suburban Milwaukee specializing in unusual cards. He advertises "oddball" Ripken cards in Sports Collectors Digest and says Ripken is his best seller.
"The strike slowed down interest in cards, but interest in Ripken didn't slow down," he says. "During the strike, I'd say I sold as many Ripkens as [Ken] Griffey, [Frank] Thomas and [Barry] Bonds combined."
Kroll says his customers don't tend to be people starting Ripken collections. Those people, he says, stick to the regular issues and inserts. His customers have decided to try to get ALL the Ripken cards -- including the Denny's holograms, the Burger King set and one from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"I am definitely seeing new names, new customers. . . . I'm anticipating more," he says. "I expect that I am going to start to stockpile his stuff."
Haelig's checklist, which includes Bill Ripken and Cal Sr., is up to 42 pages, 37 devoted to Cal Jr. Send 12 32-cent stamps to: Bill Haelig, P.O. Box 409, Blandon, Pa. 19510.
Topps Series II baseball continues Series I's Cyberstats, which used a computer to give players full-season statistics for 1994. Other insert cards feature league leaders, total bases leaders and Stadium Club first-day issues.
Miracle anniversary photo
The Muscular Dystrophy Association will benefit from the sale of autographed photographs commemorating the 15th anniversary of the United States' ice hockey gold medal. Team ** members signed 1,980 photos. Cost is $198 plus shipping. Call (800) MDA-1980.
Wednesday, card show and memorabilia auction, Holiday Inn-Glen Burnie, preview 6 p.m.
Saturday, card show, Wicomico Civic Center, Salisbury, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday-next Sunday, card show to benefit National Negro League Players Association (expected signers include Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin, Gino Marchetti, Jim Parker, Lenny Moore), Carrolltown Center Mall, Eldersburg (Route 26, one mile east of Route 32), Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., next Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
April 29, card show, Mount Carmel High School (1704 Eastern Ave., Essex), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
CARD OF THE WEEK
Upper Deck and the NHL Players' Association have teamed for the 180-card Be A Player set. Each 12-card pack has a card autographed by one of 178 players. Insert sets feature 20 players who participated in Wayne Gretzky's international tour during the lockout and Roy Firestone interviews with 14 players. (Gretzky is shown.)