NEW YORK (AP) _ The thieves that broke into Dave Festberg's shop knew what they were after and made off with $75,000 worth of baseball cards and other treasured memorabilia of the national pastime.

''They knew what they wanted and they took only the best,'' Festberg said.

The thieves used crowbars and sledgehammers to break into Festberg's Baseball and Hobby Shop in Brooklyn, and spent several hours sifting through the memorabilia before stealing several tons of baseball cards.

''They only took the old ones,'' he said. ''They left all the contemporary stuff alone, they left my non-sport cards alone. But I don't have a card left before the 1960s.''

Festberg discoved the burglary Wednesday upon returning from his first vacation since his honeymoon three years ago.

Gone was a bat from the Dodgers-Yankees 1952 World Series. Gone were rare Brooklyn Dodgers yearbooks and gone were tobacco cards of all-time batting champ Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Gone, too, were years of collecting, saving and memories. ''This stuff is impossible to replace,'' said Festberg, who began collecting at the age of 5, stopping only for ''high school, college and girls.''

Five years ago, he quit the Postal Service and opened his shop. ''It was what I loved and what I was good at,'' he said. ''So I decided to take a stab at it.''

Within three years, the store was one of the biggest baseball memorabilia centers on the East Coast, with a growing mail order clientele.

Last week's burglary brought that to an end. Festberg said the store was his only source of income and he might have to close.

Festberg said he can't rely on insurance to replace the value of the stolen property because insuring the goods was next to impossible.

Insurance companies wanted to categorize his business as a greeting card shop, he said. ''They can't differentiate between a get-well-soon card and an early Mickey Mantle,'' Festberg said. ''And there's no way to judge its value.''

He said he hasn't given up trying to get the cards back. ''These guys are probably sitting on all these boxes trying to figure out what to do with all those cards,'' he said.

''Well, I've got news for them,'' said Festberg. ''I'm well-known in the business, and my buddies will help me track them.''