A small scandal has surfaced in area drug stores, one so minor only Little Leaguers have yet to notice. But it's the kind of thing consumer boycotts are made of.
It seems that two major retailers - Drug Fair and Peoples Drugs - have been selling old baseball bubble gum cards as new. Some of the cards are two years old.
Scattered reports from around the area show that baseball cards with pictures of New York Yankee manager Bob Lemon in his old White Sox uniform are being put into circulation along with the brittle, two-year-old sheets of gum.
At Drug Fair, the buyer in charge of bubble gum purchases said he was unaware the old cards were being sold. But the buyer, who requested anonymity, said the cards would be recalled from the stores and returned to the manufacturer. He added, however, that the recall would "take a few weeks."
Louis Schecter, the bubble gum buyer at Peoples, gave assurance sthat his store only used the old cards for off season trades. Peoples, Schecter said, "never sells old cards during the season."
But last week at least two Peoples stores - one in Virginia and one in the District - were still selling the old cards. According to the store managers, however, the cards were sold out by the end of the week.
The Topps Chewing Gum Co., sole producers of the baseball cards, says it's not responsible for the old cards being sold as this year's edition. In a telephone interview from the company's headquarters in Brooklyn, Ruby Glozer siad that "unsuspecting children buy the cards not knowing what they are getting."
Glozer said the stores are not breaking any laws by selling old cards "but the average kid doesn't know a 1979 card by looking at the outside of the package."
Drug Fair store managers in the area report that during the past few weeks their shipments from the warehouse have been the old cards. The manager of the Drug Fair store at South George Mason Road said his shipment of two-year-old cards came from the company's warehouse "less than two or three weeks ago."
Baseball Hall of Fame historian Bill Haber, the man who actually write the stories and statistics on the back of ht baseball cards says he's upset by the news that the old cards are being sold. "The only cards that should be on the market are the ones with Topp's baseball insignia on the left of the card's face," Haber says.
The new, 1979 cards can be identified by the yellow wrapper. The 1978 cards are wrapped in red and feature a catcher on the front while the 1977 edition comes in a blue and red wrapper.
As for the condition of the bubble gum after two years in any colored wrapper, the Ford and Drug Administration says not to worry. An FDA spokesman said "the gum may be stable, but so long as it has not been contaminated it is of no great concern."
Whether it's healthy or not one St. Louis collector described the aging gum as something "like chewing broken glass. It never breaks, it only punctures the roof of your mouth."
Deespite the concern from the hall of fame, buying two-year-old baseball cards doesn't have to be traumatic. As 12-year-old Little League shortstop Chris McHugh of Marlboro notes, you can always trade an old card "to someone who didn't know it was old." CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, The Washington Post