No matter how Orioles play, fans come to see them 2 million attendance mark reached on 62nd date

August 27, 1991|By Jerry Bembry

Their view was from the outer reaches of the left-field upper deck, where the walk is long, the steps are steep and the view of downtown Baltimore is often better than the view of action on the field.

In essence, one of the last places one would want to watch a next-to-last-place team.

"It's not too good," said Bob Ichnoski from his spot in the next to last row of Memorial Stadium. "If you don't have good legs and a good set of lungs, it's real hard to go down."

But Ichnoski and his friend, Rick Jonczak, made that walk last night, just as many others have over the course of this season. Last night intheir 62nd home date, against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles went over the 2 million mark in attendance, matching the earliest they ever reached that figure. By season's end, the team is expecting the 50 millionth Memorial Stadium fan to walk through the turnstile. After last night, the number was 49,867,791.

It all just goes to show: No matter how bad the team or the view, Orioles baseball is a good sell.

"Even though they're next to last, they go out every night and try their best," said Jonczak, in a seat three rows behind where he used to have season tickets for the Baltimore Colts. "Also, it's a nice stadium and a nice night to go out and watch baseball."

Jerry Kean, who drove from his home in Leesburg, Va., said he makes a trip to Memorial Stadium every now and then "just for a chance to see major-league baseball.

"I'm a Red Sox fan, but I make it up here once or twice a year," said Kean, who is originally from Connecticut. "I'd rather be down in the box seats than [the upper deck], but I just like pro baseball, regardless of where it is."

Despite their strong following, the Orioles had a 24-38 record at home going into last night's game.

As a season-ticket holder, Larry Hoffman of Baltimore has endured every one of the home games from his spot along the third-base line -- and he doesn't have a single regret.

"I just love baseball, and I think a lot of people in this town genuinely love the game," Hoffman said. "There's been some world-class baseball and world-class players in this stadium.

"It's been frustrating with the problems with Glenn Davis and Ben McDonald," Hoffman added. "With those guys right, we could have been competitive in this division."

While Tom Pazzi is from Michigan and has some allegiance to the Detroit Tigers, he has been following Orioles baseball since moving to Maryland in 1982. Pazzi, a season-ticket holder, has made the drive from from Montgomery County between 45 and 50 times this year.

"When I'm not here, it's usually because I'm out of town," Pazzi said. "I think a lot of fans have come out because this is the last season here and they want to catch a game here before it's all over.

"I also like it here because the fans are knowledgeable and they're here mostly to watch the game," Pazzi added. "Some places you wonder why fans come out to watch the game. All they want to do is let out their hostility."

Thomas Benjamin of Upper Marlboro was attending his first game since 1974.

"I work at night, and my father-in-law got me the tickets," &L Benjamin said. "I'm out here because I enjoy the sport. Just because a team is close to last place doesn't mean you can't support them. You can't be successful all the time."

The 2 million club

Last night, the Orioles surpassed the 2 million mark in home attendance on their 62nd home date, tied for earliest in club history. Here are the years they have drawn 2 million, with final home attendance figure (1991 is current figure) and home date on which the 2 million mark was reached:

Year.. .. .. .. .. .. Attendance.. .. .. .. .. .. .. Date

1991.. .. .. .. .. .. ..2,014,332.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 62

1990.. .. .. .. .. .. ..2,415,189.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 63

1989.. .. .. .. .. .. ..2,535,208.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 62

1985.. .. .. .. .. .. ..2,132,387.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 74

1984.. .. .. .. .. .. ..2,045,784.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..74

1983.. .. .. .. ... .. .2,042,071.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..76

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