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BASEBALL DUDS STRIKING OUT IN MOST STORES

As the major-league baseball season sputters to an unseemly end, there's not much demand in local sporting-goods stores for boys-of-summer duds.

But heck, that's just deja vu all over again.The hot new minor-league Salt Lake Buzz aside, this has never been much of a baseball town.

"Some of the die-hards probably care," said Todd Tovey, manager of Academy Sports in Midvale.

Which is to say most sports buffs - even the zealous ones - don't.

After all, this was the season of The Strike, when wealthy owners butted heads over money with wealthy players, all to the detriment of the fans in the stands.

"We've heard a lot of comments, a lot of disgust over the way it's happened," said Rulon Horsley, manager of Ed's Athletics in downtown Salt Lake City.

The big marketing winner is the NFL, as shoppers spend sports-apparel dollars on football jerseys instead of baseball caps.

"If you're going to be a fan, you have to have something to root for," said Horsely, noting a significant sales uptick in professional football paraphernalia a month before it was supposed to kick in.

"It's made NFL footballers out of more people," said Shawn Wilson, store manager of Pro Image in the Cottonwood Mall in Holladay, where a bargain can be had on now-passe baseball attire. Pro Image has marked some of its baseball caps down to $12.99, well off the usual $20 price. T-shirts at the store regularly priced $14 are now $9.99.

The chain's store in the ZCMI center has handled the baseball decline similarly, moving merchandise out as the season prematurely ended.

"We got rid of our baseball jerseys, sent them back to the warehouse," said salesman Ryan Jacobs.

Maybe the best baseball-duds deal in town is at ZCMI's downtown department store, where replica major-league hats are $15 and T-shirts that usually cost $18 are going for as little as $7. The drawback is probably in the selection. Marlins T-shirts are still on the rack, in case anyone cares, though more popular team shirts such as the Braves and Giants also are avail-able.

Typical of the Salt Lake market is the Gart Bros. Sporting Goods outlet at the ZCMI center, which stocks only a scant sample of replica major-league apparel. Mailman's, Karl Malone's Sugar House sports-memorabilia store, unlike past seasons, offered very little in the way of baseball attire this year.

John Ricci, manager of the Foot Locker at South Towne in Sandy, said the store is having a sale on baseball apparel, but that it's just part of the seasonal ebb and flow.

For whatever reason - strike fallout or the normal late-summer defections to football - interest has been tepid.

"We just had a Labor Day sale and over the whole weekend we didn't sell a single baseball shirt," said Ricci, who said it's probably a matter of demographics as much as anything.

"This is more of a basketball town," said Ricci, who was pleased to see recently that someone finally bought a San Francisco Giants jacket that had been on the rack for two years.

Originally priced at $100, it went for $39.