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Fire Guts Popular Sports Bar

Hundreds of collectibles are destroyed at the museum-like Legends in Long Beach, including a bat, jersey and photo signed by Stan Musial.

June 22, 2005|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

Memorabilia from baseball great Stan Musial and other professional athletes and Olympians went up in flames Tuesday as a fire gutted a popular sports bar in the upscale Belmont Shore area of Long Beach.

More than 50 firefighters battled the blaze, which was reported shortly after 5 a.m. at Legends sports bar and restaurant, which displayed hundreds of items of sports memorabilia.

After the fire was extinguished about 8 a.m., the owners sifted through charred and waterlogged rubble in hopes of salvaging some of the signed photos, bats, jerseys and other items. But nearly all of the memorabilia was ruined.

"We had things that cannot be replaced -- shoes, jerseys, boxing gloves, you name it," said RayAnn Rotondo, 43, who operated the business with her husband, Gene, 56.

Firefighters were able to save a few items, including a basketball autographed by Larry Bird.

"We found a few bats, a few pictures -- that's about it," Rotondo said "We're removing the pictures from the frames so they don't stick."

Many of the items were autographed. "We had a bat, jersey and photo signed by Stan Musial, all in one display," she said.

The collection also included some offbeat items.

"Lithuania couldn't afford uniforms for one of the Olympics, so the Grateful Dead purchased the uniforms for them. They were tie-dyed in psychedelic colors, and we had one of those," Rotondo said.

Many of the items were bought by her husband, a nostalgia hound, and others were donated by athletes.

Firefighters had a tough time quelling flames at the two-story brick building in the 5200 block of East 2nd Street.

"It was a very hot fire, very smoky, very tough to get to, because the flames had made their way into the attic," said Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Paul Rodriguez.

Before the roof caved in, crews tried to save some of the sports items in the museum-like interior, including autographed photos of baseball players in the Hall of Fame.

"The owners had bolted and secured items to the walls. We tried to pry some of the stuff off, but we just couldn't do it," Rodriguez said.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation, but officials did not believe it was arson. Rodriguez said the building dated to the early 1900s.

Rotondo and her husband are already planning to reopen in the same spot. "The landlord wants to rebuild," she said.

About 50 employees were put out of work by the fire.

According to its website, the bar had 20 high-definition plasma screen televisions and nine high-definition big-screen monitors.

"It's real, real popular," said Maria Gonzalez, an employee at Sweet Jill's bakery, two doors down. "There's always a crowd."

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Times staff writer Alicia Wittmeyer contributed to this report.

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