Old ballparks are a draw for collectors, too


Fans seem to have a special spot in their hearts for old ballparks. They try to get tickets to Fenway Park if they're in Boston or Wrigley Field if they're visiting Chicago. And the latest in new parks is to have them evoke the old.

Collectors are finding a place for the old parks, too.

Thanks to Ballpark Classics, they don't need a lot of room.

Ballpark Classics, a sports marketing firm, sells and licenses photographs and drawings from the archives of Osborn Engineering, a Cleveland company that has been building or remodeling stadiums since 1909. Among its most famous sports projects are the Green Monster at Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field's lights, Michigan Stadium, Lambeau Field and Cleveland Stadium.

Steve Kozel, a lifelong collector, read about Osborn and got an invitation to examine the archives. A history major who "printed a set of baseball cards for Rochester in 1981 [the set with Cal Ripken] to help finance my last year in college," he realized the value of the archives and suggested a partnership dedicated to organizing, preserving and marketing the company's heritage. tTC The result, about a year and a half ago, was Ballpark Classics.

"They've saved pretty much everything from the 1920s on up and some choice items from 1909, when they started doing ballparks," Kozel says. "[The first day in the archives] I was like a kid in a candy store. . . . I'm not close to [finishing] inventorying."

What Kozel found, besides architectural drawings, photographs and blueprints, were Opening Day tickets, programs and letters and contracts signed by Knute Rockne, Tom Yawkey and Jacob Ruppert. "It's quite a privilege to be the first person in 70 years to see some of these images," Kozel says.

For the collector, Ballpark Classics offers limited edition posters, architectural drawings, photographs and original design drawings. Prices start at $20. For information, call (716) 256-6475.

"There's one doctor in Tennessee who has his whole office done in blueprints and drawings of Yankee Stadium," Kozel says.

Finest Basketball II

Topps Finest Basketball Series II, available this week, has 110 basic cards, including Magic Johnson. There are three insert sets, plus a Refractor parallel set.

Help the Babe Ruth Museum

The Babe Ruth Museum is preparing an exhibit celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Orioles' 1966 World Series victory and is looking for 1966 Orioles memorabilia. Collectors interested in lending items to the museum should call Kelly Leso at (410) 727-1539 by April 15.

Ripken the coin

Two new streak commemoratives take the long view. Enviromint's "2131 & Counting" coin and metal card mark Cal Ripken's continuing streak. There are coins in silver, 24-karat select and gold and cards in silver and 24-karat select. Call (800) 299-MINT.

Going die-cast

Press Pass is branching out from auto racing trading cards to die-cast vehicles. The first die-cast product will be a numbered box set commemorating Bobby Labonte's Coca Cola 600 victory. The set contains a 1: 64 scale hauler in 1996 paint with the Coca Cola 600 logo, a 1: 64 scale Interstate Batteries car and a holofoil card. There will be 1,996 produced. Look for them in April.

Baseball pairs

Highland Mint is pairing more baseball stars of the past and present in mini Mint-Card sets. The first set, produced last year, had Ripken and Lou Gehrig. The first for 1996 has four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux and Cy Young. . . . Highland Mint will begin reproducing basketball cards from Fleer/SkyBox this month. Also due are Mint-Cards of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley and medallions of Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux.

Coming events

Through Oct. 31, exhibit featuring items from Cal Ripken's record-breaking streak, Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 727-1539.

Today, "Senators of Griffith Stadium Reunion" card show (expected signers include Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Vernon and Jim Lemon), Essex Community College, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (516) 676-3302.

April 13, card show and auction to benefit Cub Pack 447 and National Kidney Foundation-Maryland, St. Philip Neri School, Linthicum, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., (717) 456-7014 ext. 4072 days, (410) 789-1488 evenings.

April 19-21, Olympic Dream Tour (memorabilia and hands-on exhibits), State Fairgrounds, Timonium, April 19-20, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., April 21 noon to 7 p.m.

Pub Date: 3/31/96

Card of the week

The second edition of Pinnacle Zenith Football can be viewed as the last of the '95s or the first of the '96s. There are 150 basic cards plus three insert sets, including one of noteworthy events.

Look for them in April. (Shown is John Elway.)

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