Donruss will add swatches to cards By Darren Rovell @ ESPN.com
NEW YORK -- Some will call it an act of desecration, others will say it's simply the state of the business.
A Babe Ruth game-worn New York Yankees home jersey from 1925 was cut on Monday by a card company that will insert swatches of the jersey into packs.
The company, Donruss, purchased the jersey -- believed to be one of three Ruth pinstripe jerseys in existence -- at an auction last summer for $264,210.
One ceremonial 1-by-1 inch cut of the jersey was made by Donruss president and COO Bill Dully, with Ruth's daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, assisting at the ESPN Zone in New York City. The jersey will immediately go back to the company's headquarters in Arlington, Texas, to be sliced and diced into 2,100 pieces.
"When I first heard about it, I had reservations," said the 86-year-old Stevens, who noted that she was comforted by the fact that full jerseys are on display both at the Hall of Fame and the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum in Baltimore, Md. "But, now I realize that it's going to mean so much to people that get these cards, that get the jersey, it's going to make it real special."
The company plans to put pieces of the jersey on cards that will be inserted into baseball card sets through 2006. The jersey has no number on the back, as the flannel predated numbering by four years, and has "G.H. Ruth" sewn inside the collar.
Greg Schwalenberg, curator of the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum, which currently is displaying a 1930 Ruth jersey on loan, wasn't excited about Donruss' intentions. Schwalenberg said he knows that the act is a demonstration of the reality of the high-priced sports memorabilia market.
"Because items like this sell for so much money, it's getting hard for us to get people to donate stuff now," Schwalenberg said. "Who wouldn't want to try to turn it around and make a lot more money off it? But since it's hard to educate the public with a piece of jersey, we certainly wouldn't endorse something like this."
Jay O'Neill, a baseball memorabilia collector from West Des Moines, Iowa, stated concerns about how far the industry is willing to go to create collectibles.
"I don't mind including swatches from current players," he said. "There are hundreds, if not thousands of game-used articles available for each player. But only three Ruth uniforms! All in the name of the almighty dollar! What's next? Cut up a Revolutionary War uniform of George Washington for Donruss' 2004 Great Presidents series? Maybe pieces of an original Declaration of Independence?"
Dully, noting that the creative sales ploy could draw detractors, remains undeterred.
"There's always going to be controversy," Dully said. "But something like this is just the reality of the free market and the reality of capitalism."
The first opportunity to get a Ruth jersey card will be in Donruss packs in November. Dully said that company officials had faith that Donruss could make a return on its investment from the Ruth jersey based on previous success of putting the cut-up jerseys of legends in their packs.
Donruss previously has inserted pieces of a road Ruth flannel in its packs, and also has used diced-up jerseys of football legends such as Doak Walker, Red Grange and Jim Brown.
"The bottom line is that items like this were once only available to a couple of people and now it's available to everyone in the United States," Dully said. "People from Tampa to Indianapolis to Sacramento can now hold a piece of Ruth's pinstripe jersey."
Prices for packs with the Ruth jersey inserted will range from $2.99 to $150.
------- I think this might be good for Ruth and baseball fans but I don't know. Cutting up an old jersey worth a lot of money? Well, I guess the fans who get the pieces will be happy.
It's like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain!
Yeah, it just seems wrong to destroy one of only three Ruth pinstripe jerseys in existance. What if something happens to one of the other two? It's a shame that, apparently, nothing can be done about it.
From what I've seen (and I haven't really been an active card collector in years, so correct me if I'm wrong), the "swath" cards started mainly with bits of bats, and I have to assume that in most cases they used bats that were already broken, so it made sense to just use the pieces. (Of course, they also didn't have anything like the same level of historic importance.)
Just the idea that there are packs of new cards (assuming that "packs" is an accurate characterization) that list at $150 is more than a bit disconcerting.
From what I saw on ESPNews, they have straight 10 or 12-card packs that go for $2.99, up to huge sets for $150. Kinda like a CCG, if anyone here plays them.
Sometimes I ask myself why I watch WWE after all the crap it's given me. HLA, necro, HHH, and so on. And then it hits me. That one simple phrase that can be modified and used for anything that gets you down, yet makes you keep coming back.
Every episode has the potential to be the best one ever, and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss it after sitting through this shit.
As a big fan of another stagnating and some say, dying collectible/hobby industry (comic books), I can see what they're trying to do here, but I'm not sure this will achieve the desired results.
The excitement around these cards will create a clamour for them and Donruss is hoping that a new generation of collectors will be born from it.
However, the tenaciousness of "collectors" will bite them in the ass on this one I believe. I think these "collectors" will stalk groceries, gas stations, and department stores where these cards will be sold and buy up every box they can find. Reacting to the lack of supply and the huge demand, the specialty card shops will then charge outrageous prices per pack because people won't be able to find them anywhere else, thus the new generation of hobbyists they're hoping to generate, won't be able to afford to start and will grow frustrated with such a confusing and expensive hobby.
Maybe I'm too pessimistic.
That being said, I disagree with what they're doing to the jersey. I certainly understand it from an investment in cultivating their business aspect, but you can't treat everything as an opportunity to make money. There are some things that are bigger than most of us and deserve to be preserved in their original form.
Thank god I don't work daycare anymore. Those kids had me hooked on football/basketball/baseball/and hockey cards. Comics are an expensive enough habit.
"You have the right to suffer. You have the right to feel pain. If you wish to have an attorney present, I'll hurt him too!" - The Big Bossman
This sickens me. As a longtime baseball card collector, I can tell you that the inclusion of the Babe Ruth cards won't add much interest to the casual collector since the odds are so long of getting such a card, and the hardcore collectors that shell out for anything will pay that money for the sake of getting just about any card that's rare.
One that I was especially disheartened to see was in Upper Deck hockey a couple years back...the company found a genuine signature of Lord Stanley (namesake of the Stanley Cup), chopped it off the letter it was on, and stuck it in a card. Sure, that made the card a one-of-a-kind item, but wouldn't the letter be the very same?
I realize this is the way of the business, but it's still sad. I don't mind the idea of using memoribilia to sell cards, but why not use the redemption route? Instead of cropping the Babe's jersey into tiny swatches, why not put just one card in one pack out there somewhere that entitles the bearer to the jersey itself, fully intact? You can't tell me that wouldn't be the ultimate chase card, or that it wouldn't be worth the small cost to the winner to go pick it up given how much the jersey just sold for.
I don't know about you, but a small piece of old fabric isn't worth that much to me. I'd take it, but it's not high on my list. But it'd probably make my year to open a pack of baseball cards and find out I just won a jersey worth a quarter of a million bucks.
I grant that the weaseling and teh hem-hawing the players are doing does not make for good p.r. but I chalk that up to the traditional disdain to ambush journalism that some media outlets are fond of doing.