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Everybody wants a piece of the streak 2,131: RIPKEN PASSES GEHRIG


If Mike Garrison could only find a way to paint Cal Ripken's likeness on a peanut shell, he would fit in better with the other vendors working at Camden Yards during this week of the breakable streak.

Instead, Garrison looks like a man out of the loop as he hawks snacks and sodas along Lee Street outside the stadium, across from two booths offering a multitude of Ripken paraphernalia that drew long lines more than four hours before the first pitch.

Business for Garrison remains good, especially from hungry fans leaving the stadium after the game, but the Ripken merchandise continued to attract the biggest crowds yesterday.

David Farley, 24, of Pasadena, thought he would beat the rush when he arrived shortly after 3 p.m., but he barely could see the souvenir stand ahead of him.

He had purchased some T-shirts on Tuesday, but decided to grab a couple more.

He doesn't normally spend this kind of money at the ballpark, and "I don't usually bring a bag, either," he said. But this is streak week. Anything goes.

George Campbell, 36, of Perry Hall, was reaping the rewards of Ripken's durability. He tossed aside his third empty T-shirt box, and it was only 3:15 p.m.

At another nearby stand, where programs and Ripken books ($10) were sold, the line numbered 94 people. And they would have to wait another half-hour before it opened, causing some to plop down on the pavement, while others used folding chairs.

Once the gates opened, the lower-level concourse became gridlocked. To get from one end to the other required nimble feet, patience and a good lead blocker.

People stood in lines that curved in all directions but never seemed to move.

Dave Brzuchalski, 32, drove to the park from Pasadena, hoping to return later with a program, but each stand he visited was sold out by 5:45 p.m.

"You should be able to at least send the Orioles a copy of your ticket and your money and get one through the mail," he said.

More of the Rawlings-produced Cal Ripken commemorative baseballs, complete with orange stitching, the streak week logo and a $20 price tag, also were being sold.

And, like the previous day, they left the yard in a hurry.

Tami Andrews, who runs a souvenir stand in the lower-level concourse, was given six dozen balls, just like on Tuesday. And again, they were her hottest-selling item.

"I had all these fans in line and I had to keep saying, 'We're out of balls,' and they were really upset when their turn came up," Andrews said. "But we had other things selling out, too. The 'I Was There' T-shirts and button, the streak shirts, the programs and Cal Ripken books, the Cal pennants. It was crazy."

The Orioles Store also ran out of baseballs shortly after making them available, and fans were told to call (800) 303-4010 to place their order.

Anyone hoping to turn a quick and significant profit on the baseballs may be in for a disappointment. For now, it doesn't appear that Rawlings has any plans to limit the number produced.

Joe Bosley, who owns The Old Ball Game, a sports memorabilia store in Reisterstown, said he received some calls yesterday morning from fans trying to sell him the balls for $30. They were politely turned down.

"I think it's a very nice memento of the streak, one of the nicest, but I don't see any short-term price increases," he said. "People who think it will be worth $80 or $100 down the road, well, it's just not going to happen."

Bill Huggins, owner of House of Cards in Wheaton, said the ball's value would skyrocket if signed by Ripken.

"It would triple, maybe quadruple, in value instantly," he said. "It's a solid $100 ball, at least, if it's signed."

Huggins said, for now, an unsigned ball "is probably going to settle in the neighborhood of $20 to $35. It's similar to the ball for the 1994 World Series that was never played. It went for $19.95, but I saw it selling in USA Today for $30."

Chris Martin, 38, of Westminster, got three of the balls through "a connection." But he wasn't looking for a buyer.

"I'll just hold on to them," he said. "Maybe I'll try for a future signing, but I'm not going to sell them. I'll hand them down to my kids, same as with my ticket."

Among the other Ripken-related products on sale were golf shirts ($40), gold-stamped wallets ($39), caps ($20) with 2,131 printed on them, and baseballs ($12) with the streak number, date and Ripken's name, though "they aren't the official ball," Andrews warned.

Representatives from Nike also handed out a baseball card featuring the portrait of Ripken and Lou Gehrig that appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated For Kids.

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