They buried a hockey team here today. The funeral for the Baltimore Clippers was celebrated a year ago, when the Southern Hockey League died, and today the club's final possessions were auctioned off to mollify creditors' claims.
It was all there, pathetically piled in the team's old office, from racks of ragged underwear to a framed picture of Gump Embro and Jacques Plante to the coffee cup Terry Reardon used during his long tenure as coach and general manager.
It was sold, too, all except an assortment of 12 multicolored protective cups, for which there was no bidder.
Overseeing the last rite was former Clippers Gil Boisvert, Jimmy Bartlett and Ralph MacSweyn. Only Boisvert Among them was buying, and his reasons for hauling off boxes of gear were hardly sentimental.
"I sold $7,800 worth of stuff to the Clippers and never got paid," said Boisvert, now a concessionaire at three Baltimore ice rinks. "I wanted to pick up my stuff before and charge it off the debt, but they said I had to do it this way, buy my own stuff back. At least I know a lot of guys that will buy these things."
"This is my old helmet," said Bartlett, fingering one of the many artifacts from a team that was born in 1962 and enjoyed a roller-coaster existence of full houses (few) and empty seats (many) in the American Hockey League before folding in 1976 to make room for a short-lived World Hockey Association club.
Bartlett, now 46, plays for Carling National in the Chesapeake Hockey League. He came today to "see how things are, to see some of my old equipment disappear." His No. 7 jersey, beloved by Clipper fans for years, was already the proud possession of a youngster who plays for Benfield in the Capital Beltway Hockey League.
MacSweyn, 35, drove down from his farm in Hawkesbury, Ontario, where he now plays for an old-timers team. "I saw it in the papers," MacSweyn said of the auction, "and figured the farm could wait for a few days."
MacSweyn once played in an exhibition for the Washington Capitals, who were otherwise unrepresented today. For some of the rabid fans among the 100 or so buyers and curiosity seekers, they won't replace the Clippers, either.
"Four hundred people here made more noise than 10,000 people do there," said Phil Fister, wearing a scarf inscribed with the Clippers' name. "It's more exciting to go to Hershey, but I've been spending money like crazy for gas."
Ken Milliken, president of the still extant Baltimore Clippers Booster Club, was wearing an orange Clippers jacket with "I'm a Hockey Nut" patch. He reported that his organization attended Capitals games in groups of "eight to 24 or 30. I like hockey and I'd go anywhere to see it.The capitals have had their problems, but I saw that 4-0 win over Los Angeles and the place was really jumping."
Milliken, like most of the fan types in attendance, had been hoping they could buy some souvenirs on an individual basis, but most of the material was sold in lots.
Dennis Buchman of Randallstown purchased a hockey timer panel "for memorabilia" and 850 cowbells at 3 cents each "so my cousin can give them away as a business promotion."
An interested observer was Jack Martz of Timonium, who wrote the Clippers' fight song in 1962. He didn't bid on the 220 records of the song that were available today.
"I have some," Martz said. "I've been trying to get some information from the flies about the record. I went to see the Caps about doing one for them, but they weren't interested. They could use one."
Buying the records at 10 cents apiece was Jess Douberly, who operates the Hockey Mart in the Orchard ice Rink in Towson. Douberly promptly tendered two to a reporter fulfilling a request from Capitals coach Tom McVie. The Clippers fight song will be added to McVie's pregame tape of marches, presumably to provide extra inspiration for former Clippers Bill Collins, Yvon Labre, Craig Patrick, Bryan Watson and Mike Marson.
Douberly also paid out $140 for rights to the Clippers trademark, after first ascertaining that it was unencumbered legally. There have been hints that the Capitals might place a farm team in Baltimore and auctioneer Abraham Billig used that possibility to spur the bid an additional 30 pieces of silver, after it originally stalled at $110.
"I'm very much interested in hockey in this city," Douberly said, "and I liket the Clipper logo. I'd be willing to seel it to a new team, but I want to be sure a team coming in couldn't make a bundle on the name."
The 10 remaining tattered team jerseys - much of the better equipment vanished while the circus was in town - drew little interest. Nobody searched for memorable numbers like 3(Labre), 4(Patrick), 16(Marson), 18(Collins) or 19(Watson). Andy Blumberg paid $45 to give No. 30 to a collector friend, Rick Frankle paid the same for No. 31 because Blumberg talked him into it, and the other eight were dealt away for $15 each.
One of the highest bids was $615 for an ultrasound machine. One of the lowest was $1 for a cash box labeled "Blades season ticket cash box." Presumably it was the first money ever associated with the box that belonged to the unlamented WHA team.
They buyer was reporter Bob Ibach, who planned to add it along with some Clipper hockey sticks to the Evening Sun's "Hall of Shame," a collection of memorabilia that also represents the soccer Bays, tennis Banners, and basketball Bullets and Claws. Ibach additionally carted off the flag-pole that used to sit on the Civic Center stage.
"This is my 60th year as an auctioneer," said Billig, "and this winds up my career. I've sold practically everything on this earth, from the Emerson Hotel to ball parks to tombstones."
He could not, however, peeddle those protective cups.