About those tickets, the info's classified

MIKE LITTWIN

January 29, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

Larry Lucchino said he was sorry.

"I want to personally apologize," he said, "to anyone who has been inconvenienced by the ticket process."

He said it over the phone, so I don't know if the Orioles president was winking or had his fingers crossed, or if his expression was heartfelt. But let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Let's say he is sorry. I'm sure of one thing -- that he's sorry this has ever come up. And he wanted you to know.

Call him up. He's in the book. It'll make you feel better. Well, it'll make him feel better, anyway.

Hey, I'll get the number for you. That's why I'm here. It's 243-9800. Get up close and personal with your team president. Learn firsthand the pressures of dealing with a sometimes-disgruntled public. Maybe you'll understand his problem. And here's a thought: Maybe he'll understand yours.

"We regret that there has been a problem," Lucchino was saying, "but you have to understand that in a move of this magnitude, problems are unavoidable."

Yes, the Orioles are changing stadiums, and whenever any team changes stadiums, some ticket holders get miffed. And the Orioles, for whatever reason, have many such ticket holders.

People get emotional about tickets. We've all heard the stories. People leave season tickets in their wills. They fight about them in divorce proceedings. So, when people used to be in the fifth row behind the screen and are now in the sixth row behind the dugout, they get steamed. And that is unavoidable.

But it's also not the problem. And it's not why Lucchino is sorry, really. I mean it is, and it isn't.

The reason people are really angry is steeped in old-fashioned populism. This is a Tom Harkin issue. It's about fat cats taking the best tickets for themselves. Actually, one fat cat. He owns the club.

I talked to Lucchino for about 15 minutes on this subject, and he brought up ownership many times, but never said the name of the actual owner, who doesn't like to see his name in print, particularly if it's printed next to the word tickets.

Let's try it: Eli Jacobs. Tickets.

What Lucchino would say is that "certain tickets are reserved for the ownership."

Obviously, the owner gets to reserve certain tickets, say for the owner's friends. In Jacobs' case, you wouldn't think this would be a big issue. I mean, how many friends could this guy have?

Once you get past the Cabinet and a couple of CIA guys, maybe the queen and Prince Philip, their friends -- say, Ringo -- and Ringo's friends, and Ringo's friends' friends, and then there's Alan Simpson, who, I guess, has friends, too. Now that I look at it, I guess it could be a problem.

The rumor is that Jacobs has reserved the first six rows of seats between the dugout and the screen on both baselines.

"That's just not true," Lucchino said.

Then how many tickets has Jacobs reserved and in what locations?

"We can't create that and hand it to you," he said.

Why not?

"I think it's fair to point out that no team is going to give you this information -- not just the Orioles," he said. "I can't deny we have kept for the club and the ownership a certain number of seats. It's not uncommon. And you need them. The club has held good quality seats, average quality seats and lesser quality seats."

Of course, it's the quality seats that we're concerned about. What seems pretty clear to me is if that you've done nothing that would get people upset, then you simply release the information. Conversely, if you hogged a lot of good tickets for yourself, the best thing to do is to talk about stadium configuration and how you can't match seats precisely.

This may be a coincidence, but it just so happens that Lucchino loves to talk about stadium configuration. He also says that this is an ongoing process, and that people who have complaints -- I told you, call him -- are being heard and their problems considered. The Orioles are happy to take you to your seats at Camden Yards and show you they're better than you think. If they're not, they want to work with you. Lucchino says they'll be working on it until right up to Opening Day. They want you to like them, after all.

"We're not in the business of alienating our season ticket holders," Lucchino said.

And so, in that vein, the Orioles may be in the process of giving back seats to season ticket holders they were thinking of keeping for themselves. But the fact is, they didn't have to take any of those ultra-prime seats because the stadium has an entirely new category of seats, in the club section. They're expensive. They're exclusive. They're roped off from the riffraff. You get a place to put your drink. For all I know, you can get a massage there. Give those tickets to the politicos and leave the seats near the action for people who really like baseball.

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