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Found: Lots of baseball cards

Paul Duggan

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.

Some of the baseball cards. (D.C. Police)

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; 10:13 PM ET
Categories:  Paul Duggan, Unsolved  
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The value of baseball cards has cratered in recent years, so unless there are some rookie gems mixed in there that collection is not worth much at all.

Posted by: buffysummers | October 7, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Nobody said criminals are brilliant. That collection must be worth tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the condition of the cards.

Posted by: shanks1 | October 7, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Based on the cards that are shown, that collection has to be worth at least ten or twenty bucks.

Seriously, the cards shown are not even sold individually any more because they're almost worthless. They're from the early 1980s, maybe a dime apiece if the seller is lucky.

Posted by: frosejr | October 7, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

We hear that the number of cards in police custody is now down to about 600 ... last count.

Posted by: kinkysr | October 7, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

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