Reds add Beanie Babies to lineup
He's red and retired

Sunday, June 28, 1998

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Why are grown-ups so nuts about Beanie Babies? They're cute, but they're not made of chocolate. You can't wear them or drive them. This makes absolutely no sense.

Customers nearly mugged each other at McDonald's to get the miniaturized Teenie Beanies. There is documented evidence that some threw away the Happy Meals and just kept the toys. A Web site thoughtfully offered a recipe to recycle surplus food into a burger casserole.

Beanie Babies -- for those of you who have been spending all your time in Barbie's Dream House -- are plush animals about 10 inches long with heart-shaped tags attached to their paws and ears and wings.

They are coming to a baseball stadium near you.

He's red and retired

Aug. 16 will be Beanie Baby Day at Cinergy Field. The first 15,000 fans 14 and younger will get a free Rover the Red Dog. I guess Bernie the St. Bernard was not available. Or maybe they think that the less said about St. Bernards, the better.

Anyway, he's red. Other clubs have had less success finding something that bears any relationship to their teams. The St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees are giving away Stretch the Ostrich, who is still available on the open market.

Rover is "retired," Beanie lingo for "no longer available from the manufacturer for a reasonable price."

Beanies making their maiden appearance in card shops and toy stores cost between $5 and $7. The Reds bought their Rovers directly from the manufacturer, Ty Inc., for $2.50 each. Right now, Rover sells for $30 on the Internet.

Cubby, the little brown bear the Chicago Cubs gave away last year, is listed for $250 to $300, and the commemorative Daisy the Cow Beanie handed out in tribute to the late Harry Caray is up to $500.

Well, if it works for flagging burger sales, why wouldn't it work for a sport that is having trouble filling the seats? A Beanie Baby teddy bear named Valentino gets the credit for a crowd of 49,820 at Yankee Stadium May 17, the afternoon that David Wells pitched a perfect game. The week before, the gate was 16,606.

Valentino will be snuggled up next to Mr. Wells' glove at Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Fans attending the 69th Annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game July 7 will be presented with Glory, a red, white and blue bear. At least 13 major league clubs have announced Beanie Baby promotions.

Is that the sound of Ty Cobb twirling in his grave? Well, he was a famous grouch.

Here's another grouchy thought: The most fanatic Beanie collectors are not 14 years old. Kids are not the ones driving up the price of a Princess Diana bear to $2,000.

The Reds already have heard some grousing from adult collectors who want the team to hand over Rover to the first 15,000 ticket-holders who show up, regardless of age. "We will just have to be firm," Reds spokesman Charles Henderson says.

Good luck to them. I have been present at some of the adult Beanie buying frenzies. It's not pretty.

But here is the thing. The Reds are not going to give Rover to adults. So if collectors want him, they're going to have to come up with a kid. Maybe this will be wonderful. Surely somebody who is willing to pay $200 for Garcia the tie-dyed bear or $175 for Manny the Manatee could cough up a few bucks to take a kid to a baseball game, even if the kid is borrowed.

The Reds are hoping for a sellout on Aug. 16. Wouldn't it be nice to see 54,000 fans in the stadium, including a whole bunch of kids who wouldn't have been there otherwise? Hmmm. A summer day. Baseball. Kids. Maybe even a win.

Now that would make sense.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com

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