About 1,000 fans lined up outside Memorial Stadium yesterday to buy tickets to the Baltimore Orioles' final game there Oct. 6. For all but about 150, though, there was only a cruel consolation prize -- tickets to the almost-last games on Oct. hhTC and 5.
The much-ballyhooed sale of tickets to the Orioles' last game before the move next season to the new Camden Yards ballpark went about like this:
At 9 a.m., ticket windows opened.
About 45 minutes later, seats to the Orioles' farewell game were gone forever and ever.
The sellout wasn't a surprise. Orioles fans have been clamoring for tickets for the historic final game for months, about the length of time team officials have been trying to
come up with a fair strategy for selling the 7,300 seats left for the public. (Most of the others in the 53,371-seat stadium had gone to season ticket holders.)
Despite yesterday's crush, tickets to the Oct. 4-5 games didn't sell out. About 4,200 remain for Oct. 4, a Friday night game, and 5,900 for Oct. 5, a Saturday afternoon game. The last series is against the Detroit Tigers.
Those options were not enough to salve the feelings of weary ticket seekers at Memorial Stadium, many of whom had camped out overnight with their lawn chairs, sweat shirts and portable televisions.
"I bet the Orioles took 500 tickets and put them in the drawer so that their employees will be all taken care of," said Stuart Miller of Pikesville, who was visibly irritated after waiting in line for about 15 hours and going away without the seats he wanted most. "For 150 people to get tickets, I mean, that's ridiculous."
Before leaving the stadium, Mr. Miller took his complaint inside the Orioles offices, where he lambasted team officials for the way the tickets were sold. As fans bought their final-game seats at the stadium, others were ordering by telephone or placing orders at three Orioles stores and at 46 computer ticket outlets, mostly in Maryland and Virginia. All tickets were drawn from the same computerized list, negating the advantage many fans thought they had gained by waiting at the stadium.
"It's a joke that the Orioles only sold about 600 tickets here and the rest somewhere else," Mr. Miller said. "If somebody in Washington, Virginia or Delaware wants to be at the last game, let them get their rear end in line with the rest of us at Memorial Stadium. This is where the game is being played."
David Ambrose, who arrived at the stadium at 11 Thursday night and also was shut out of final-game tickets, said he felt misled by Orioles officials who he said circulated through the crowd early yesterday morning assuring fans there were enough tickets for everyone.
"People who sat here all night should have gotten tickets," he said.
Orioles officials disputed that they had made promises about tickets, and they defended the policy of selling by phone and at ticket outlets as well as at the stadium ticket office.
Bob Aylward, Orioles vice president for business, said the team had done everything it could to get the word out about where tickets were on sale.
"If you look at the number of people who also were on line at the outlets and who used the phones, it's clear a lot of people did get the message," he said. "Obviously, other people didn't. I can't explain that."
Although they didn't have final reports, team officials said ticket outlets accounted for more than half of the 7,300 final-game sales. They said there were no reports of lines approaching those at the stadium.
Mr. Aylward said the team considered "all options" before deciding to go with its regional network of locations. He said he had no trouble standing by that move. "Could you imagine the hue and cry from people living in the suburbs if we only operated out of [Memorial Stadium]?" he said, adding, "The objective was to make this fair for all fans."
Not everyone agreed. About 10 yesterday morning, when word started circulating along the ticket line that final-game seats were gone, an odd, frustrated chant went up. Recalling their trials with the owner of another local sports team, a number of fans shouted, "Irsay sucks."