Image: Playoffs merchandise
Charles Rex Arbogast  /  AP
As baseball memorabilia sales hit record levels, Manny Flores hangs more Chicago Cubs jersey on the wall at the Sports World merchandise store across the street from Wrigley Field in Chicago.
updated 10/4/2007 12:14:56 PM ET 2007-10-04T16:14:56

Combine popular players, big markets, a team on a hot streak and a trio of long-suffering cities desperate for a World Series champion and what do you get?

If you're Major League Baseball, a problem. But at least it's a good one to have.

The traditionally moribund Phillies, the lovable loser Cubs and the sometimes hapless Indians are in the playoffs. So are the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels while the Colorado Rockies are riding a furious late-season rally and flying high off a win in a wild-card tiebreaker.

And their merchandise is selling so fast that Major League Baseball is having a hard time keeping up.

"We never give out numbers, but suffice it to say it is at a record pace, for sure," said Howard Smith, Major League Baseball's senior vice president of licensing, said Tuesday. "We're struggling to keep up with the demand as we speak."

With a regular season that went down to the final weekend — and beyond, in the case of the Rockies, who needed a one-game playoff to win the wild card — the confluence of big markets, rabid fan bases and potential storybook endings is pushing memorabilia sales.

The urge to buy was strong in the playoff cities on Wednesday.

The Phillies store at Citizens Bank Park was doing brisk business in the hours before the Phillies-Rockies game with lots of fans picking up practically anything bearing the NL East champions logo.

Josh Cramer, 25, was buying a Ryan Howard batting practice jersey to add to his collection. He already owns a Chase Utley road jersey as well as a Mike Schmidt retro jersey.

"I've been wanting to get another one for a long time and this seemed like the perfect time," Cramer said.

Across the street from Coors Field in Denver, the store Sportsfan still hadn't received Rockies wild card T-shirts or hats. Assistant manager Clayton Reed said the phone has been ringing off the hook from people requesting the merchandise.

"We're not used to this stuff in September. We did the last ordering probably about a month or two months ago," he said. "So, yeah, it's really hard to keep stuff in here on a constant basis."

At Sports World, across the street from Wrigley Field, sales of Cubs memorabilia were brisk. Employees stuffed division championship T-shirts and hats into priority mail boxes to meet demand from online orders.

"Internet sales are through the roof," said Earl Shaevitz, one of the store owners. "We can't even keep up with it, selling all over the country and to Europe."

For franchises with traditionally strong sales like the Yankees and Red Sox, that isn't unusual, according to Mike May, the director of media relations for the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

But it could get bigger if one of the Cinderella teams win the Series.

"In these other markets — Phillies, Cubs, Rockies — whatever's not nailed down is going to go," he said.

The Cubs could bring an end to their 99-year title drought and break the Curse of the Billy Goat. In the season they recorded their 10,000th loss, the Phils are trying to win the city's first major championship since the 76ers won a title in 1983. The Rockies could capture a fairy tale World Series title after winning 14 of their last 15 games just to make it into the playoffs.

And Cleveland has a chance to win its first pro championship since 1964, when the Browns won the NFL Championship.

In a year with relatively ho-hum playoffs, MLB might see the postseason produce about 5 percent of its merchandise sales, said Smith, the league official. This year, it could be as high as 20 percent.

While the league does not release sales figures, the manufacturers association reported total sales of MLB merchandise was $3.1 billion in 2005, the last year for which figures were available. That was up from $2.9 billion in 2004, when the Red Sox won the World Series and touched off a buying frenzy that lasted into May, Smith said.

May said fans just get swept up in the excitement and have to be a part of it.

"When people get caught up in the excitement of a winning team, especially in the case of the Red Sox and White Sox (the 2005 World Series champs) who had not tasted victory in decades, people feel, 'If I don't buy now, I'll never get a chance to buy them as a winner, because it may be just as long before they win it again.'"

Nancy Gehman, a Phillies season ticket holder since 1994, understands that feeling completely. She has been waiting a long time to see the Phillies get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

"It's been 14 years," said Gehman, who was buying an NL East champs shirt and two hats. "We enjoyed just coming to the game, even those ones where nobody was in the stands."

She was buying the hats for her daughters, who already had shirts they picked up for a rally on Monday.

"They didn't have a lot of this other stuff yet," said Gehman, who also wore Phillies "P" earrings.

Her husband, Denny, wearing a retro Richie Ashburn jersey, said they had just spent about $110 on new their new duds.

"But we're not done yet," he laughed.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

Data: Latest rates in the US

Home equity rates View rates in your area
Home equity type Today +/- Chart
$30K HELOC FICO 2.78%
$30K home equity loan FICO 5.78%
$75K home equity loan FICO 4.54%
Credit card rates View more rates
Card type Today +/- Last Week
Low Interest Cards 13.57%
13.57%
Cash Back Cards 17.91%
17.91%
Rewards Cards 17.15%
17.15%
Source: Bankrate.com