Children’s Health Forum

Corrections or additions?

This article by Bart Jackson was prepared for the April 10, 2002

edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

A Piece of the Action

The playing field remains one of the few places where

passion meets business. While virtually none of us may ever get to

stand at the plate and knock one out of Yankee Stadium, we can, as

collectors, grab a little piece of that fantasy through Mickey’s

autographed

ball or Yogi’s tattered trading card. The recent explosion of the

sports collectibles market in the past decade merely reflects the

innocent passion of folks wanting to recall old memories or build

new dreams. Yet, as with any exploding market, there are a host of

new legal considerations.

Offering a rare chance to both meet the athletes, the collectors,

and the officials and attorneys who link them all together, the New

Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) and the Seton

Hall University School of Law, present the 2002 Sports Law Symposium

on Friday, April 12, at 9 a.m. at Seton Hall Law School in Newark.

Cost: $129. Call 732-214-8500.

The following week, get a different kind of insider look at the sports

world from the "Sports Accounting" seminar offered by the

Institute of Management Accountants on Wednesday, April 17, at 6 p.m.

at Good Time Charlie’s. The controller of the Philadelphia Phillies,

John C. Fusco Jr. CPA, will give a workshop that counts for

one continuing education credit. Cost: $25. Call Rebecca Machinga

at 609-520-1188.

At the April 12 Seton Hall Law symposium, Yogi Berra and Hall

of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers will add enigmatic wisdom from

the players’ side. Providing a little insider information and a lot

of history are Sy Berger, founder of the modern baseball card,

legendary collector Barry Halper, and Marty Appel, who

managed the New York Yankees public relations from l968 to 1977.

Finally, to help give all this excitement a sound legal grounding,

sports attorney Mel Narol of the Nassau Park-based Pellettieri,

Rabstein and Altman joins co-moderator Lawrence Bershad of Seton

Hall’s law faculty and Mark Gatto, director of player licensing

for the Topps baseball card company. The latest addition to the lineup

is Bart Oates, a former all pro center with New York Football

Giants, now with the commercial real estate firm, the Gale Company.

Appel offers a single anecdote that shows how much the relationship

between business and sport has changed in recent decades: "So

I am standing there in the locker room in l968 as Mickey (Mantle)

unwraps a new pair of cleats, looks up at me, and says, `Guess this

will be the last pair of cleats I ever play in.’ He then takes the

old ones and tosses them in the trash can," recalls Appel. "If

only I had known. You just can’t imagine what they would sell for

today."

Doubtless, sports memorabilia collecting began with the first discus

tossed at the first Greek Olympics. Babe Ruth’s autograph was traded

for substantial cash even during his career. But what really launched

the entire memorabilia collecting explosion was the auction in 1970

of a few rookie Mickey Mantle cards. They set prices that shocked

even the Associated Press. Details of this event, and of the public’s

love affair with sport can be found in Appel’s new book, Now Pitching

for the Yankees.

From that point on, business entered baseball cards, and the fans,

players, players unions, and even the lawyers, were never to look

on bubble gum cardboard the same way again. Topps attorney Gatto adds

that what drove school yard trading into shows, which became giant

conventions, was technology. Says he: "Ebay trading has just

launched

this business into undreamt heights."

Originally from Bloomfield, Gatto, who holds a law degree and an MBA

from Seton Hall, has the fascinating, if not always enviable, job

of signing players to a Topps playing card contract — and

determining

what each’s likeness is likely to bring down the road. Just how much

will this or that rookie impact Topps sales in the seasons to come?

Sports trading is full of business and legal issues, say Gatto and

symposium moderator Narol:

Valuation . Is an autographed Yogi Berra card in good

condition

worth $500 because, on Ebay, that is what equivalent signed cards

of equivalent legends currently bring in? Or is it worth that amount

because that is how high one wild, online card auction went? The

answer

has an impact on the players and their unions, explains Gatto. Each

player and his union are striving justifiably to get a fair piece

of this ever-expanding pie. "We at Topps have been offering a

standard contract via the leagues, union, and individuals," says

Gatto, "but there being no set standard of worth, all conditions

fluctuate."

Gradation. What exactly defines mint, good or fair

condition?

When that "excellent condition" card you bought over the

Internet

finally arrives with frayed edges, can it really be considered to

be in excellent condition? If not, what is your access to redress?

Authentication and fraud. When a new 1965 Green Bay

Packers

team card is reissued in 1999 by the original company, then sold by

collector as "A mint condition Green Bay Packers 1965 Team

Card,"

is that fraud? What are your sources of redress? Narol also notes

that as prices increase, so do the incidents of forgery and

non-fulfillment

of Web-bought collectibles.

Intellectual property. Sports stars today earn not only

for their deeds, but also for their images. To what extent can a team

or union assume that a player’s autograph or picture is up for sale

or theirs for the promoting? What right does the individual retain

and what are the newest contractual deals being worked out?

There is no end to the complexity of this kids’ hobby, which

happened to turn into serious business. Yet despite all the infusions

of cash, contracts, and negotiations swirling around sports memories,

Narol sees collecting as still innocent and still beneficial. "It

promotes sports and celebrates great athletes," says Narol.

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Children’s Health Forum

Learn about vaccines, asthma and allergies, teen sex,

and child development at a Children’s Health Forum on Saturday, April

13, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the University of Medicine and Dentistry

Medical School, 185 South Orange Avenue, in New Brunswick. There is

no cost, but preregistration is advised, and a box lunch will served.

Call 609-890-9207.

Paul Offit of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will

deliver

one of the keynotes: "Do Multiple Vaccines Weaken or Overwhelm

the Infant’s Immune System." Two Congressional representatives,

Marge Roukema and Donald Payne, will attend the event,

which is co-sponsored by the state chapter of the American Academy

of Pediatrics, UMDNJ, and the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey,

headed by Bob Franks, the former Congressman.

William Gruber of Wyeth Research, Thomas Vernon of Merck,

and Robert Morgan of the New Jersey’s immunization program will

discuss the vaccine question in a panel moderated by Peter

Wenger.

On an early childhood development panel are Michael Lewis,

Steven

Kairys, and Alison Thomas-Cottingham of Rider University.

Barbara Snyder, Robert Johnson, and Norman Hymowitz

will discuss adolescent health. Other panels will cover asthma and

"The Ill Child." Each panel will be given twice, and there

will be an opportunity to consult with panelists and speakers.


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