Friday, August 20, 2004

The Cincinnati PostAutograph collector wins ball signed by the Bambino

By Roy Wood
Post staff reporter

Autograph collector Rich Tiberi bought a baseball in a sealed box for $49.95, knowing only that it had been signed by a major league ballplayer.
When he opened the box, he found he had purchased a ball signed by Babe Ruth.

The ball is worth $10,000, said Mark Kinman, a businessman who sold it.

The Babe Ruth ball was the grand prize in a treasure hunt in which Houston-based sports memorabilia marketer Tristar Productions sold 2,025 signed baseballs over the summer.

"It was almost the ball that wasn't. I honestly forgot about it," said Tiberi.

Tiberi, a Northern Kentucky banker who has been collecting seriously for about seven years, said he had been going to Kinman's store, Planet Collectibles in Florence, for about six years.

When Kinman told him he was getting two cases of the baseballs from the Tristar promotion, Tiberi said to save him one.

"I was honestly in there for something else when Mark said, 'Hey, I've got those baseballs,' " Tiberi said.

He thought seriously about passing on the balls, but finally took a case of six of them home.

When he opened the first box, in it he found a ball saying he was the grand prize winner.

"My heart started racing, obviously," he said. "I was standing over my sleeping wife with the ball at 1:30 in the morning trying to decide whether to wake her."

He decided not to.

The next day, he took the ball back to Planet Collectibles and Kinman got on the telephone to Tristar.

"They were pleased it went to a collector instead of a dealer," Kinman said. "They decided to fly the ball out to him."

The ball is worth thousands in part because signatures of the Bambino, who died in 1948, are rare.

Kinman says he knows of one person who bought a Ruth ball at an estate sale -- and has since refused an offer of $18,000 for it.

Tiberi says he's gotten 300 to 400 items autographed over the years and still has most of them -- some displayed in a room in his basement, some in his home office.

Because he's an Ohio State University alumnus, a football signed by two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin is among his favorites. He also has a ticket to the game in which Sammy Sosa hit his 500th homer -- signed by the slugger, of course.

Many of the items are signed to his 9-year-old son Blake or his 7-year-old daughter Cassady, making them worth less on the memorabilia market.

"But I don't do this for monetary reasons," he said. "I'm not going to get on eBay and sell this stuff. The Ruth ball will become my prize possession."

Tiberi has no worries about the authenticity of the signature. Tristar, formed in 1987 to create sports collectible shows, is now widely recognized as one of the top two or three companies in the United States marketing authenticated autographed sports memorabilia.

Tristar officials have just launched a second treasure hunt, says spokesman Brian Ruff. That means a second Babe Ruth ball is out there somewhere.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Telegraph %7C Sport %7C Eriksson and Beckham have a debt to payFor England's players and their coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson, there are no points of the World Cup qualifying variety on offer - the road to Germany 2006 begins in 17 days in Vienna - but there are points aplenty to prove. Just ask Eriksson, who knows the tide of public approval has turned against him. Or David Beckham, desperate to make amends for sub-standard displays and skied spot-kicks in Portugal.

Just ask Nicky Butt, restored to the base of the diamond after fading from contention in Lisbon. Or Kieron Dyer, derided by Newcastle United fans as "over-rated and overpaid" in the local prints yet here afforded a second-half, left-sided chance to parade his abilities to Bigg Market sceptics or potential suitors from other clubs.

Just ask Alan Smith whether he appreciates this rare chance to partner Michael Owen. Or whether Jermain Defoe wants to replace Owen at the break. Or whether Ledley King relishes the opportunity of standing shoulder to shoulder with John Terry in combating the mighty Andrei Shevchenko. Despite all the carping over England, the players are in Carpe Diem mood.

Hopes and fears swirl through English minds. Frustration, too. Paul Scholes was the only member of England's midfield quartet who approved of the diamond and he has retired. Frank Lampard is better breaking from deep, not the forward point of the diamond Eriksson has assigned him to.

Steven Gerrard, Liverpool's vigorous midfielder, should be the heart-beat of Eriksson's team, not shunted out to the left to accommodate Butt and mask the age-old absence of a left-sided midfielder. The left continues to tax English thoughts. Stewart Downing's development at Middlesbrough will be keenly followed. Eriksson would have looked at Wayne Bridge had the Chelsea player not been injured. "It might be the solution in the future," observed Eriksson.

The head coach defended the lack of new faces in the starting line-up, citing the paucity of contenders to the established order. "I don't pick players because I like them as people. Do you want me to drop Gerrard and Beckham? You seem to have forgotten what Beckham has done for England in the last three-and-a-half years.

"I might leave Beckham out if his form dropped off. If I can find a better player on the right than Beckham I would leave him out.

"But can you find one? You have to help me to find better players. If you find them, I'm prepared to listen, absolutely.

"I hope some new young players will come through. That's why I've picked Shaun Wright-Phillips, who has pace, good technique and spirit, and Defoe, who's improving. King was in Portugal. I always hope we will find a new Wayne Rooney - up front, in midfield and at the back."

In the absence of Rooney and Emile Heskey, who felt his hamstring tighten yesterday, Smith starts. "He's unselfish, a good target man and a fighter," enthused Eriksson. "It's good to have temperament like his; you can't kill it completely. Smith is playing more simple, more one-touch, not standing and fighting with the centre-half a lot, which he did in the past. He's already doing better than he did last season."

Tynesiders will certainly admire the commitment levels of Smith, a teetotal man determined to live sensibly off the field so as to be right for match-day. The contrast with Dyer's playboy image is obvious and Newcastle's occasional midfielder can expect a rough reception when arriving after the break. "I don't remember ever having a situation where I had to protect a player from the crowd," mused Eriksson.

St James' will be far from full tonight; even Jimmy Five Bellies and the Fat Slags could comfortably be accommodated on the Gallowgate. Some disaffection does grow with England, yet the main grievance is over the FA's shameless profiteering exercise. Whichever Soho Square suit decreed that £40 is a reasonable ticket price in a region hardly boasting Surrey's affluence should remember the national team belongs to the people, not to the commercial department of the FA.

Interest does remain in England, as seen by the hordes of autograph-hunters congregating at the squad's Northumberland retreat. Beckham, the national icon most attentive to fans, even whipped off his shirt and handed it to a delighted young girl who was shivering on the touchline during training.

However reassuring such moments are, the fact remains that the bond fastening England to their supporters has been loosened. The fans are owed some entertainment from Beckham and company. Eriksson is keeping the faith, even with his captain from 12 yards. "Beckham will take penalties - at least for now."

England v Ukraine
(Man C)
G Neville
(Man U) Terry
(Chelsea) King
(Tottenham) Cole
(Real Madrid) Lampard
(Chelsea) Gerrard
(Man Utd) Owen
(R Madrid)

(AC Milan)
(D'petrovsk) Rotan
(SDonetsk) Chelaiev
(D'petrovsk) Tomitchuk
(D'petrovsk) Nesmachni
(D Kiev)
(D Kiev) Rusol
(D'petrovsk) Fedorov
(D Kiev)

17 August 2004: Owen will be Real deal, says Beckham
17 August 2004: Defoe in a hurry to impress

Next story: Confidence lets Cole shine on international stage

The Football Association

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