Getting a line on ticket sales

Dan Rodricks

August 05, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

As there are a lot of angry people -- people who stewed the entire weekend, people who were so upset they kicked dogs and smeared loved ones with Crisco -- I think we should go over this problem of tickets to the last Oriole game at Memorial Stadium one more time.

Maybe what I say will make those people feel a lot better.

Then again, maybe it won't.

Let's go to the tape . . .

From last Thursday afternoon throughout the night and into the next morning, we had a spectacle on 33rd Street. It was one of those big, goofy community events, like tax deadline night at the main post office, like the last day of the month at the emissions testing station.

This time, an estimated 2,000 people stood in line for tickets to the last Oriole game at Memorial Stadium. The game is Oct. 6, a Sunday, against Detroit.

Yes, the end is near for the dear ole coliseum, and even though this fact has been established for two years, it's as if the news originated on Uranus and is just now reaching parts of Baltimore.

So, as you might expect, people are getting sentimental. They want to be able to say they attended the last game at Memorial Stadium. It's a way of writing ourselves into the footnotes of Baltimore history. Some people crash planes into Memorial Stadium to snatch their piece of posterity; others are satisfied to hold a vigil for historic tickets. In fact, the number of people who will tell their grandchildren they attended the last game at Memorial Stadium has been estimated, conservatively, at 780,000, which is the number of people who today say they were in the stadium when that wayward aviator crashed into the upper deck.

So Thursday, all these people, burning with the desire to share history, started piling up outside the Orioles' ticket office. Of course, the best seats were long gone. There were only about 7,300 left. Most of those had obstructed views.

Still, they came. They stood, they sat, some even slept. Some waited 20 hours for the ticket windows to open.

At 9 a.m., the ticket windows were opened.

By 9:50 a.m., the ticket windows were closed.

There were no more tickets to sell. Only about 150 people got them. The rest went home bellyaching that they had been given a bum deal by the Orioles. And who can blame them? If you'd spent the night waiting for tickets only to be told, just 45 minutes into your morning shuffle, that they were all gone, you'd have felt ripped-off, too. You'd have gone home angry. You might have kicked a dog. You might have smeared Crisco on loved ones. There is no telling what a person in that state might have done.

The people who stood in line felt special. But apparently the Orioles didn't share that feeling. In fact, modern Oriole management might have felt those people were stupid.

According to the club's July 31 press release, tickets to the final weekend series went on sale to the public "at all regular Orioles ticket outlets."

And the ticket office at Memorial Stadium is not, despite outdated impressions, the only regular Oriole ticket office. There's one in Washington, another in York, another in a place called Seabrook. Then there are 46 computer ticket outlets, and a person with a credit card can always order by phone.

That's why the tickets at Memorial Stadium disappeared so quickly. People all around Maryland and Virginia ordered by phone or hit the other sales offices.

The spurned lovers who stood in line at the stadium resented this subversive use of modern technology. I guess they didn't feel there was enough pain involved in hitting the redial button on a telephone. They wanted 20 hours of standing in line to be a condition of attending the last game at Memorial Stadium.

As Colonel Potter used to say: "Horse hockey!"

I'll say one thing for all those souls who stood in line: The Orioles should have cut them a break. When management saw the length of that line, they should have made a special concession and rigged the computers to make more tickets available at the stadium.

But that didn't happen.

It didn't happen because the attitude between Oriole management and Oriole fans has changed forever, as in all of professional sports. This is the age of sky boxes, well-heeled season-ticket holders and people with credit cards buying tickets on cellular phones. This team, like all the other teams in professional sports, doesn't worry about people standing in line, and isn't terribly concerned for the bleacher bums, either. It's the new age, Baltimore. Welcome to it.

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