Outside stadium, street hawkers gather for a final sidewalk sale

October 07, 1991|By Sandy Banisky and Michael Ollove

Ah, the nostalgia, the heartache, the pageantry -- the cash. Lots and lots of cash.

Inside Memorial Stadium, fans reached deep into their hearts to say goodbye to the old ballpark.

Out on the 33rd Street, they reached deep into their pockets.

Once again and for the last time, the plaza in front of the stadium became a street bazaar -- rollicking, raucous, crawling with customers grabbing up all manner of merchandise while rap music blared over loudspeakers.

It was a laboratory in supply and demand. And for the hawkers, demand would never be greater.

"I cannot keep them on the table," said Eddie Callahan, designer of "The Final Weekend" T-shirts that he was selling from a table across from the stadium.

A few feet away stood Bebop -- short, grizzled and a nonstop talker -- selling bright orange Wave-Goodbye-to-Memorial-Stadium hankies.

"Hurry up, girls," he shouted to two women who had only glanced in his direction. "I only got a few left."

Bebop, 62, said he'd been selling novelties on 33rd Street "since there was a wooden stadium here." But he said he will not relocate his business next spring to Camden Yards, where the new stadium will offer more of the higher-priced seats for a fancier clientele.

"They don't want the stiffs down there," he said. "They want the corporate people. They don't want rabble.

"This stadium," he said, shrugging in the direction of the old ballpark, "this is a stadium for the little man."

But won't "corporate people" buy souvenirs?

"They don't buy nothing," Bebop said. "They don't go nowhere but the bank."

Yesterday, the corporate people would have missed out on an array of souvenirs that ranged from the ordinary -- T-shirts, caps and buttons -- to the extraordinary -- a jar of stadium dirt ($8.95), a stadium lithograph ($95) and gold leaf-trimmed ashtrays featuring the stadium facade ($12).

Most of the peddlers outside the stadium were legal. The scalpers were not. Near the end of the game, police had arrested 10 scalpers outside the ballpark and held them in the stadium lockup.

But before the game began, the scalpers were busily -- and quite brazenly -- plying their trade.

"We're part of history, too," said Larry McBryd, 33.

McBryd said he has been scalping Orioles tickets five years, grossing $7,000 to $8,000 a year. Business, he said, was never better than this weekend. "I been getting double the normal price. A $7.50 ticket is going for $25."

Alongside was Lawrence Barrett, who said he's been scalping tickets since Memorial Stadium's infancy. He's also been arrested 22 times over 32 years, he said, events that clearly didn't frighten him.

"They let you off on your own recog," Barrett said. "Then you go to court, and the judge says, 'Get out of my court.' " Twenty-two arrests, Barrett said, and he's never been punished.

Illegal? Oh, please.

Meanwhile, fans were moving past, packing the gates.

There was Dave McKnight of Charlotte, N.C., whose lifelong devotion to the Orioles was born of a childhood fascination with ornithology.

He had driven to Baltimore from North Carolina without a ticket. "If I don't get in, I'll be happy just to stand outside," he said.

But he didn't have to. A fan with an extra ticket sold one for face value, a gesture that merely confirmed McKnight's belief in the nobility of his fellow Orioles fans.

"The guy is a gentleman, a scholar and an Oriole savant," McKnight said.

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