Ed Bilz set up camp at Memorial Stadium at 8 a.m. today. He was dead-set on giving his sons a chance -- maybe their only one -- to see a National Football League game in Baltimore.
"This may be their only shot to see a football game," said Mr. Bilz, a highway equipment operator for Carroll County. "At least I'll be able to do for them what my father did for me -- take me a football game."
Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. tomorrow for an exhibition game between the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints. The game, which organizers hope is a sellout, is scheduled for Aug. 28 at the stadium. Baltimore has not hosted an NFL game since the last appearance of the Colts on Dec. 18, 1983.
Bilz was one of about 15 people who had gathered at the stadium ticket windows by 9 a.m. to secure a place in line. Some
were erecting tents and laying out sleeping bags.
The combatants for next summer's game didn't matter. Football -- any football -- was why they were willing to brave icy winds and predicted temperatures of 15 degrees for tonight.
A sellout at the game will "help the hopes of getting a football team back to Maryland," Mr. Bilz said.
His wife, Anna, and sons, Joe, 7, and James, 8, weren't with him as he prepared to pull an all-nighter on the stadium parking lot to buy more than 20 tickets at $25 each. "My wife, she told me, 'I've always heard about people like that. I never thought I'd know one.' "
Wayne Sawyer of Pasadena, a "mean 16" years old, dragged on a cigarette as he explained why he it was so important for him to suffer unforgiving weather for an exhibition game between two out-of-town teams.
"I haven't been to a football game in a long time," he said. "It's just being out here that's pretty neat.It's an experience. It's worth the wait."
He and several buddies were first in line, arriving at 4 a.m. They planned to buy 26 tickets for friends and family.
"The cold doesn't bother me," said his uncle, Jim Brumage, 29, a carpenter from Parkville. "I think the public wants a team. Everybody wants one."
Willie Davis, 27, a home-improvement contractor from Essex, said, "I really don't want to stay overnight," Still, he was one of the first in line. He was wrapping himself in a blanket on a cot. He had $500 ready to drop for 20 tickets.
Davis and the others may have plenty of company.
"I'm looking for maybe 1,000 people out here tonight," said Calvin Mayfield, 31, a demolition worker from Cherry Hill.
Frank Velenoski, 60, and his buddy, Bud Hitzelberger, 72, both ticket information workers for the Orioles, were outside directing the fans. Both were amused.
"This is an exhibition game. It don't mean nothing," Mr. Velenoski said. "I couldn't figure what they were doing here in January."
"I could see it for a Super Bowl game," added Mr. Hitzelberger.
A small line of Oriole fans was also forming. Single-game tickets for the 1992 baseball season went on sale today.
Organizers of the football exhibition already are nearly halfway to their goal. So far, 26,000 tickets have been sold through mail order. Sales of another 32,000 tickets are needed for a sellout.