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Abram Shorin, Godfather of Bazooka Joe, Dies

May 31, 1990 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Abram Shorin, whose love for the Brooklyn Dodgers helped create a multimillion-dollar business when he took a nephew’s suggestion to put bubble gum and and baseball cards together, has died at age 91.

Shorin died Monday in Miami and was to be buried in New York on Friday.

He was the last survivor of four brothers who founded the Topps Co. Inc. in 1938 in a Brooklyn warehouse. It became the world’s largest manufacturer of bubble gum and baseball cards with sales of $246 million last year.

″He was the last of the old-time entrepreneurs,″ said his son Robert.

″They started from nothing with some very old machinery. They came up with modernized equipment and innovative products as well.″

Along with brothers Joseph, Ira and Philip, Abram Shorin gave American consumers Bazooka Joe and ball players on cardboard.

″Everybody in Brooklyn in those days loved ‘Dem Bums’ in Ebbets field,″ Robert Shorin said. ″And, one of his nephews came to him one day and said, ’Uncle Abe, why don’t you put baseball cards in your gum?‴

Topps began marketing bubble gum in 1947, spokesman Kenneth Liss said. The baseball cards, packaged with the bubble gum, came along four years later.

″Baseball cards had been around for a long time, since the 1880s,″ Liss said, ″but most of them were packaged with cigarettes.″

Abram Shorin had gotten his start in the leaf tobacco business, but believed that cigars would become a thing of the past as cigarettes gained in popularity. He switched to gum because it was sold through the same distributors, Robert Shorin said.

The Bazooka Joe comic strip character, in his blue baseball cap and black eye patch, was invented in 1953 to accompany those little chunks of pink bubble gum that took about a half hour to soften up.

Robert Shorin said his father was among those involved in creating Joe. Liss said Bazooka gum is sold in 55 countries and the comic strip is translated into eight to 10 languages.

During World War II, Topps took a patriotic turn in its advertising, coining the slogan: ″Don’t Talk, Chum. Chew Topps Gum.″

″That was sort of our version of ’Loose Lips Sink Ships,‴ Liss said.

Before the comic strip, the bubble gum was manufactured in a funnel shape, like a humorous musical instrument, called a bazooka, made by entertainer Bob Burns. His invention also gave its name to the armor-piercing gun.

Neither of Abram Shorin’s sons, Robert or Philip, is involved in the company. Topps chairman is Arthur T. Shorin, a nephew and son of Joseph Shorin.

Abram Shorin also is survived by a daughter, Joan Hart, and six grandchildren.