|Wednesday, October 3
Updated: October 12, 3:37 PM ET
Call of Fame a shameful disappointment so far
By Darren Rovell
On paper, the concept looks pretty cool, but so did New Coke.
Call of Fame, the $5-per-minute phone service for fans to speak to former Major League Baseball players, has been embraced about as well as Coca-Cola's idea to change its soft-drink formula.
Instead, only a small roster of 10 former Dodgers and 10 ex-Cubs, all lesser-known players, has been answering calls.
"We're doing some reorganizing right now," said David Marshall, comptroller of Professional Athlete Systems. "We're bringing in some pretty heavy people within the next 30 days, so we're definitely not going out of business."
Marshall admits his company's current sales volume is weak. Approximately 1,700 10-minute calling cards, at $49.95 each, have been purchased since the concept started 3½ months ago. The poor results are due to the fact that the company has spent less than $80,000 on marketing while it has paid players more than $1 million, Marshall said.
After fans call to register and make their initial payment, they receive the card by mail in about a week. The fans then call the toll-free number and choose a team. But that last step has been impossible for the past few days, because the main number has been busy.
According to the Call of Fame brochure, Dodgers fans can get Steve Garvey, Don Newcombe or Steve Sax. Cubs fans have a chance of getting Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins and Joe Niekro. But such ex-players as Dennis Lamp and Jody Davis are answering the phone most of the time. Garvey and Jenkins work five to 10 hours a month, while others work 40 to 120 hours per month, Marshall said.
The company also had plans to roll out a football division with regional vice presidents in 27 NFL cities, including Franco Harris in Pittsburgh, Anthony Munoz in Cincinnati and Gale Sayers in Chicago.
Anna still a hot seller on Web
The shirt was part of a 10-day auction on her Web site, Kournikova.com, in association with the Sanex WTA Tour. The money collected for the item will be donated to United Way's Sept. 11 Fund.
The shirt was purchased by Yasuo Kawashima of Fukuoka, Japan, who told ESPN.com he would have bid up to $5,000. The Kournikova fan said he will frame the shirt and put it in his room.
It is not known what match Kournikova wore the outfit, or whether she had either won or lost in it, confirmed Patrick McGee, vice president of athlete marketing for Octagon, her management agency. McGee said only one or two of Kournikova's match-worn outfits are in circulation from other charity auctions. An autographed 2½-by-4-foot replica of a Lycos billboard of Kournikova will be the next item auctioned on Kournikova.com, said Ben Sturner, spokesman for Lycos.
Ichiro has it made in the shade
The Japanese hitting sensation, who broke Major League Baseball's 90-year-old rookie record for hits in a season, has worn Oakley sunglasses the past five years, Maddox said. He also said Suzuki might appear in print advertising but will not appear in television commercials to pitch the new line. The sunglasses are expected to retail for $200.
Oakley has signed three other athletes to endorse separate lines of signature sunglasses: cyclist Lance Armstrong, golfer David Duval and race car driver Rusty Wallace.
"Sales will go through the roof," Maddox predicted. "In Japan, he has Michael Jordan status. The sunglasses have always been associated with Ichiro. It's part of his style."
Oakley sells footwear, apparel, watches and goggles, but sunglasses make up 74 percent of its business, according to recent Goldman Sachs market research.
Suzuki agreed to a one-year deal with Upper Deck in mid-August. The company will make his exclusive memorabilia trading cards and also will sell authenticated Suzuki-signed items.
Firebobdavie.com perpetually "under construction"
Demand for the site might be the highest with Notre Dame getting off to its worst start in school history. Schlidt bought the site after Notre Dame's 41-9 loss to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl last season with the intentions of beginning a campaign to fire head football coach Bob Davie. But Schlidt said he "soon realized that a site wouldn't affect the people that make the decisions."
Schlidt, who was a sports reporter with Notre Dame's student paper, The Observer, during the first years of Davie's Fighting Irish tenure, said he'll likely reserve the site for another year, even with nothing posted, so that no one can take the Web site name.
What's in a name?
"The guy in the store said he was selling a lot of Buzz hats because people thought it was Georgia Tech," said Tammy Purves, Georgia Tech's director of client communications. "Any time you have similar merchandise being sold in the same location it could be confusing to the consumer."
The uniforms of the Salt Lake City Buzz were worn by players in "Major League III: Back to the Minors," a movie featuring Scott Bakula as manager Gus Cantrell. It could be argued that the national popularity of Salt Lake City Buzz apparel could be partly attributed to the movie, although sales came nowhere close to those experienced by the Durham Bulls after the release of the movie "Bull Durham," starring Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon.
The Salt Lake City franchise changed its name to the Salt Lake Stingers this past season, though its official Web site remains www.buzzbaseball.com.
Georgia Tech ranked No. 30 in licensing revenues during the 2000-2001 fiscal year, according to data from the Collegiate Licensing Company, which maintains most of the marks of colleges and universities. The school ranked No. 27 the year before. Purves said the school had spent the licensing revenues it received over the past couple years on the case.
"I would be sad to see Carl step down as owner," former Twins CEO Chris Clouser told ESPN.com in his first comments about the team since he resigned last December. "While it won't be good for baseball, I understand the economic challenges that he faces."
Pohlad reportedly has a net worth of $1.8 billion and is ranked No. 110 on Forbes' recent list of 400 Richest Americans. In 16 full seasons as the team's majority owner, Pohlad's Twins have gone 1,421-1,583, a .473 winning percentage. They won World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.
Darren Rovell covers sports business for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.