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O.J. JERSEY FLAP SHOWS NO SIGN OF GOING AWAY.

Byline: Dennis McCarthy

If anyone thinks the name O.J. Simpson doesn't still push people's buttons in this town, you should have been answering my phone Tuesday and Wednesday.

More than 200 people called and left messages offering insights, insults and bids after the column I wrote Tuesday on a Woodland Hills family aiming to sell a USC football jersey O.J. wore in his great game against UCLA in 1968.

The idea was to give the money to a charity, most likely a shelter for battered women.

The public reaction was overwhelming. Nobody could agree on anything. Verbal barbs and bullets were flying all over the place.

A lot of callers, mostly male, were willing to pony up $100 to $200 for the jersey just so they could throw a party - and burn it.

A couple of people thought it should be donated to a charity, which could then pin it up on a dartboard - and sell darts at $20 a pop to throw at the jersey.

But a lot of people also thought O.J. is still getting a raw deal in the media - and that his old jersey should be given back to him, not auctioned off for charity.

One guy threw some pretty interesting, colorful names at me for being anti-O.J., then proceeded to spend the next minute belching steadily into my phone until the tape ran out.

Hands down, he got my vote as the most unique caller.

Most O.J. supporters just chose to yell. One woman was screaming herself into such a fit about how O.J. was railroaded, she had to pause to sit down.

But those were mainly the fringe reactions. The majority of callers were legitimately interested in bidding on the jersey O.J. wore in the 1968 USC-UCLA game.

The bids ranged from $25 from a guy who said he was one of the working poor to $12,500 by a guy who didn't return my call to see if the offer was legit.

I doubt it, since all the sports memorabilia people I talked to were telling me O.J. stuff is hard to move these days. A few callers, though, disagreed.

``I've got one of the best O.J. collections around,'' said Al Beardsley of Burbank. ``I turned down $8,000 for a signed O.J. jersey. There's still plenty of O.J. memorabilia interest out there.''

Beardsley said he'd like to bid on this jersey. But he couldn't go too high because he's saving most of his money for O.J.'s Heisman Trophy, which goes on the auction block in February, along with 100 items seized from his former Brentwood home.

The number of people interested in buying the jersey, and the intense reaction of many of the callers, was surprising and startling, said Pat Moore, wife of Gene Grobman. Grobman and his brother-in-law, Mitch Kaye, have shared O.J.'s jersey these past 30 years.

Kaye, a student physical therapist with the USC team back in 1968, said he took O.J.'s jersey from the locker room after the UCLA game and gave it to his sister-in-law as a wedding anniversary gift.

He said O.J. didn't object to his taking the jersey. Kaye offered to return it to him in early 1994, but before they could meet, the slayings of Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman occurred.

Although a lot of people thought the two families shouldn't be trying to auction off the jersey and should just give it back to O.J. or USC, Moore said she's glad they went public trying to sell the jersey.

``This jersey is important,'' she said. ``During the (Simpson) murder trial, some charities that help battered women came about or survived because more people became aware of this terrible problem and got involved.

``If by selling this jersey, and giving the money to a battered women's shelter, it continues to help shed more light on this problem, we'll all feel very gratified.''

As far as what happens to O.J.'s old football jersey next, it's up to Moore, her husband and brother-in-law.

An offer to auction it off at a major fund-raiser for a nonprofit organization in the Valley at the Skirball Center fell through Wednesday when the auctioneer balked, saying it would be a mistake to include any O.J. memorabilia in the auction.

Instead, I will be giving Moore the names of other local charities and organizations that called and expressed an interest in auctioning off the jersey at their fund-raisers.

Also, I will give her the telephone numbers of individuals who seemed serious in offering a legitimate bid for the jersey.

I'll let you know what happens.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 3, 1998
Words:791
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