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FOUND: Lots and lots of baseball cards

Baseball cards

Some of the baseball cards found. (Courtesy of D.C. police)

News releases e-mailed by the D.C. police tend to have a sadly familiar ring.

In just the last few days, for example: "Homicide in the 1100 block of First Place NW." ... "Homicide in the 5300 block of Dix Street NE." ... "Homicide in the 600 block of Harvard Street NW."

Then, at 1:37 p.m. Wednesday -- coinciding precisely with the scheduled start time of the first game of Major League Baseball's 2010 playoffs -- this arrived:

"Police Seek to Reunite Collector with Baseball Cards."

Indeed. Let's take a break from murder.

The cards, at least 1,000 of them, most from the 1970s and '80s, and each in a protective plastic sleeve, turned up June 24 in an undisclosed type of container on a patch of grass near the Tennis Center in East Potomac Park in Southwest Washington, police said. The collection has been gathering dust in a property room since a patrol officer stumbled upon it.

D.C. police records show no reports of lost or stolen baseball cards in the city in recent months, Lt. Nicholas Breul said. "We only checked D.C.," he said. "We want to get the word out in Maryland and Virginia, if that's where they were stolen, so hopefully the owner can be reunited with these things."

Anyone trying to claim the collection will have to recite a pretty long roster of the ballplayers in it, to prove ownership. Breul wouldn't allow a reporter to look through the stacks, and only about 20 players are visible in two photos he made public.

Ahh, but they're enough to put a grin on the face of a fan of a certain age.

Johnny Bench, Steve Carlton, Gary Carter -- all inducted years ago into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And others long gone but not forgotten: Toby Harrah, a stalwart infielder of the 1970s Texas Rangers; Aurelio Lopez, a bullpen workhorse of the 1984 world champion Detroit Tigers; and Fred Lynn, the American League rookie of the year and most valuable player in 1975, before frequent injuries garnered him the derisive nickname "Fragile Freddie" from fans of the Boston Red Sox.

And look, there's Oscar Gamble. Remember the enormous Afro he grew in the early '70s, in Philadelphia and Cleveland? It was the size of a beach ball.

And there's Bill Lee, a.k.a. "Spaceman," an iconoclastic cult hero to college-age Boston fans in the late '70s, a quintessentially flaky southpaw who once boasted of sprinkling marijuana on his breakfast cereal -- before the buttoned-down Red Sox brass exiled him to the Montreal Expos, in whose uniform he is (sadly) pictured in the card collection.

And Reggie Smith, Ron Davis, Brian Doyle -- we could on. And on.

Police said the owner should call the public information office at 202-727-4383 between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. on a weekday.

"My suspicion is, someone just grabbed them out of a parked car," Breul said. "Then they looked in [the container] later, rifled through them, and said, 'Aww, it's just a bunch of freakin' baseball cards -- no use to me.' And he just pitched them."

--Paul Duggan

By Paul Duggan  | October 6, 2010; 7:13 PM ET
Categories:  Offbeat, Unsolved  
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