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May 17, 1999|LARRY STEWART

What: Laker B-Ball Bammers

The big bad burly Lakers are hot, and Wayne and Rick Salvino of Salvino Inc., a sports collectibles company in Corona, are hoping their five-set edition of bean-bag bear Lakers will be too.

The bean-bag bears carry the names of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. The names and numbers are embroidered on the bears, which have no resemblance to their namesakes.

They are just bits of fabric wrapped around material that feels like polyvinyl chloride pellets, similar to Beanie Babies, the toy fad of the '90s. Beanie Babies that retailed for $5 to $7 were fetching $5,000 or more on the collectibles market before the fad began to fade.

The suggested retail price of the B-Ball Bammers Laker five-bear set is $39.75, or $7.95 a bear. They are available through Salvino's distribution network, which includes gift shops, department stores and collectible shops. The Salvinos also have a web site at

We're not saying B-Ball Bammers will match the Cabbage Patch Doll or the Beanie Babies in popularity, but these things are cute, cuddly, inexpensive and squishable, and they are designed to fit in the hands of small children. They are nine inches in length, although there is an 11-inch Abdul-Jabbar Signature Series Bammer.

The Laker set is an offshoot of a series of Bamm Beanos, which had the names of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Cal Ripken Jr. embroidered on them.

A teacher at Camino Grove elementary school in Arcadia recently discovered the popularity of a McGwire Bamm Beano and a Bryant B-Ball Bammer. The teacher for years has offered prizes to her students, who can "purchase" the prizes with tickets earned on merit, and the McGwire and Bryant bears sold for more tickets than anything ever had. "The kids went nuts for them," the teacher said.

Salvino Inc. was formed in 1989, producing hand-signed baseball figurines as part of what was called the Salvino Collection. It later grew to include figurines from other sports.

The first Bamm Beanos were unveiled at the 1998 baseball All-Star game in Denver, and those led to baseball Big Bammers that were 18 inches in length. They included McGwire, Sosa, Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez, Griffey and Mike Piazza.

The Bryant and Abdul-Jabbar B-Ball Bammers are yellow with purple lettering, the West and Chamberlain Bammers are purple with yellow lettering, and the Johnson Bammer has a multi-colored tie-dye pattern.

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