Good deals are in the baseball cards

February 22, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MAUGANSVILLE -- Like a cart pulled by a horse, the prices of some baseball cards have tumbled along with the fallen stars of the steroid age.

Gary Care of Green Spring, W.Va., pointed to a Mark McGwire rookie card on the table before him.

The same card selling for $200 or $250 when McGwire swatted a record-breaking home run in 1998 now has a price of $25.

Anything related to Barry Bonds, the all-time home run king who, like McGwire, is suspected of steroid use? You'd be lucky to give it away, Care said Sunday at a sports card show at the Maugansville Ruritan.

Many fans expected Alex Rodriguez to capture the career Major League home run record and make it "pure" again -- until word got out recently that he, too, has used steroids.


At his booth, Bob Westbrook of Mechanicsburg, Pa., was selling a Rodriguez card with a scrap of jersey attached.

"I'd probably ask 20 bucks," Westbrook said, "and if I got 15, I'd probably dance."

For several hard-core buyers and sellers, the Maugansville card show is a can't-miss place to find what you need.

Ray Humbertson of LaVale in Allegany County, Md., said he stops by to get Pirates memorabilia. Dealers know what to put aside for him.

On Sunday, he gave Care $20 for a baseball signed by 1960 National League MVP Dick Groat, the Pirates' shortstop when Bill Mazeroski played second base.

Humbertson said his father rooted for the Pirates whether they were at the top or bottom of the standings.

He and his wife, Bonnie, another lifelong Pirates fan, go to Pittsburgh a few times a year to see a game and a theater production.

With so many players in so many sports, the affect of baseball's steroids scandal might be negligible on the card market.

The flagging economy, though, might be tougher to overcome.

Philip D. Fradiska of Phil's Cards in Cumberland, Md., said his sales dropped 20 percent to 30 percent in the last year.

Care said he keeps his business steady by anticipating demand. For the Maugansville show, that meant having plenty of Baltimore Orioles cards and memorabilia.

Sports chatter filled in the gaps between transactions on Sunday.

Care noted that steroids weren't illegal when McGwire and home run star Sammy Sosa are thought to have used them.

If cheating or law-breaking are barriers to baseball's Hall of Fame, Care asked, what about the drug problems of Hall-of-Famers Orlando Cepeda and Ferguson Jenkins?

Fradiska said Pete Rose, who was banned from baseball for betting on games, should get in the Hall of Fame and McGwire should not.

Rodriguez? He's not sure.

Westbrook said he's not too concerned either way; his main sports interest is college football.

In baseball, "whoever is a hot rookie" -- which means a rising card price -- "is who I root for," he said.

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