As President Bush gears up to send more armored divisions to the Persian Gulf, Dugout Baseball Cards owner Perry Dodd is planning to send a few big guns of his own--former slugger Reggie Jackson, all-star pitcher Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd and superstar shortstop Ozzie Smith.
The players, of course, won't be boarding jets for the Middle East. But thousands of baseball cards bearing their pictures and those of other sports heroes will.
Moved by newspaper accounts of the boredom of the men and women in uniform in Saudi Arabia, Dodd figured he was staring at thousands of examples of the perfect antidote. So last month, the 29-year-old baseball enthusiast started setting aside cards and soliciting donations from the regulars who frequent his shop in a mini-mall on Prairie Avenue in Lawndale.
"Just hearing about how bored they are over there, I thought it would be an interesting thing (the troops) could do," Dodd said. "Baseball is the all-American pastime. I thought they would enjoy trading them, or just using them to break the ice."
Draped with American flags and sports banners, Dodd's shop is also stocked with bubble gum and beef jerky shaped to resemble chewing tobacco. Visitors speak in low voices so as not to disturb customers who are absorbed in the sports trivia on the backs of cards.
A handwritten sign over a table stacked with baseball cards at the back of the store declares: "Bring a 'peace' of America to the Middle East. We are sending sports cards. Goal--10,000. Any donations are appreciated."
When Dodd penned the sign, he expected that it would take a while to meet his goal. But customers greeted the idea with so much enthusiasm that he now expects to be able to send twice that many--more than $2,000 worth--by the end of the month.
"I wish we could send more," Dodd said. "There's so many guys over there, and I'm not going to be able to get cards to one-tenth" of them.
Dodd isn't the only one in the sports card business hoping to send a piece of America to the troops in Saudi Arabia.
A card shop in Illinois recently donated 800 cases of baseball cards to the Middle East, and Upper Deck, a major manufacturer of cards, expects to be sending baseball and other sports cards for the holidays.
But Navy Lt. Phillip Ishikawa of the Defense Logistics Agency said hobby items such as sports cards are one thing Operation Desert Shield's soldiers just can't get enough of. Such gifts do not go unnoticed, he added.
"The Defense Department appreciates all the help people are sending," Ishikawa said last week. "It's very important psychologically (for the troops) because it lets them know the American people are behind them. The psychological edge of knowing that people haven't forgotten about you is important to your morale."