Years from now, when Memorial Stadium is merely a memory and the new home of the Baltimore Orioles is no longer state-of-the-art, someone will tell you that he was there. For the last weekend on 33rd Street. For the last game. For the last pitch.
What the fans might not tell you is that they didn't see much. Especially if they bought tickets from John Ruley.
"There's a lot of interest," Ruley said yesterday. "We have tons of partially obstructed seats. But nobody wants to sit in them."
Ruley, a broker with Ticket Action of Silver Spring, said business has slowed quite a bit this week, as the good seats, going for anywhere from $45 to $65 apiece, were gobbled up. Tim Ryan, lTC who operates Ticket Finders in Greenbelt, said that he has sold box seats to Sunday's game for as much as $150 a pair.
"They seem to want the best or the cheapest," said Ryan, who still had a "couple of hundred" partially obstructed-view seats remaining for the last game. "They either say, 'Give me a box seat, and I don't care what I pay for it,' or 'I just want to get in the ballpark and I don't care where I sit.' "
Ryan said that the final game at the old Comiskey Park in Chicago was better for business, and that fans in Baltimore were caught by surprise when the 7,000 tickets that went on sale Aug. 2 were gone within an hour. "Baltimore is not a town where a lot of things sell out," said Ryan, who also sells packages to sports events through his travel agency.
Because ticket scalping is illegal in Baltimore -- it's the only place in the state where it is against the law -- most of the buying has been done through brokers. Though brokers who charge a handsome service fee have been the best -- and perhaps only -- source to the general public for final-game tickets, fans who wish to attend games tonight or tomorrow afternoon still might be in luck.
Rick Vaughn, public relations director for the Orioles, said yesterday afternoon that 2,000 tickets remained for tonight's opening game of the final series against the Detroit Tigers, and 3,500 still were available for tomorrow. Larry Cosh of Sykesville said he hopes the number of tickets he still has left goes down, too.
Cosh's wife tried to surprise him by buying tickets for the final game, but found the telephone lines jammed the morning they went on sale. So she bought four tickets for tonight and tomorrow. Not exactly an I-was-there kind of thing. Sort of I-was-almost-there.
And Cosh is stuck with four tickets to one of those games. In fact, Cosh said that, as the final series of the 1991 season approaches, he probably would give up his original plan of selling the tickets together by selling them individually. Or he might come down from his asking price ($20 apiece) by working a better deal for all four. Cosh put an ad in The Sun this week to sell the tickets.
"As the time gets closer, I'll have to do something," said Cosh, who probably is better at selling snow-blowers to airports (his real job) than he is at selling a piece of Baltimore baseball history.
Cosh said that he has friends coming from as far as Texas for the final weekend with hopes of seeing the final game. And those who have called so far -- "about a half-dozen," he said -- usually want to know one thing.
"Why do we want to get rid of them?" he said.
Phil McNamara, an accountant from Ellicott City, wasn't trying to make a killing on the 22 tickets he had returned from clients who obviously cared little to see Cal Ripken's final Memorial Stadium at-bat. He said he sold his lower box-seat tickets for $12 to $15 each. He should have included umbrellas. "Now, it looks like it's going to rain," he said.
Ticket brokers around the state could take a bath Sunday. Considering the weather forecast, which is calling for steady showers, and considering the game will be televised locally (Channel 2), watching it from the comfort of one's living room might be better than being there.
Then there is the matter of counterfeit tickets. Is the final weekend, and particularly the final game, an event worthy of making up phony tickets? It might be, so the Orioles are not taking any chances.
"I'm not aware of anything like that going on," said Vaughn. "But we have definitely beefed-up security to help the ticket-takers."
If you were shut out in the ticket quest back in August, this is definitely a who-you-know-and-how-well-you-know-them kind of event.
"I'm sure you're not going to find a lot of Average Joe Orioles Fans there who don't have season tickets," said Cosh, the snow-blower salesman. "It's unfortunate."
Vaughn himself got "40 to 50 calls" from close friends and long-lost relatives (or is that close relatives and long-lost friends?) looking to attend Sunday's game. By now, he is quite popular with some, and totally forgotten again by others. The problem, as they say, runs throughout the organization.
It could be worse, of course, if the Orioles were one of those teams whose attendance was commensurate with their finish in the standings. Or if Memorial Stadium weren't one of those special places. And, of course, it could be better. What if the Orioles still were contending in the American League East? Or, better yet, in the playoffs?
"If they were in the playoffs, and this could be the last game," said Ruley, the ticket broker, "it would be huge."