Severna Park artist Stephen J. Beshara hoped to turn some heads withhis cover design for the Baltimore Orioles' Opening Day program and induce fans to open their wallets to buy it.
He succeeded on both counts. Last Monday, as ballplayers prepared for the first regular-season game in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, fans snatched up programs faster than you could say Cal Ripken.
A record 50,000 copies of the first Opening Day program -- the entire press run -- sold out before the game against the Cleveland Indians even started.
"The cover was designed to sell," explained Beshara, 31-year-old owner of Beshara Associates, a graphic design studioon Ritchie Highway. "We wanted it to be classic."
Collectors bought the programs, with a crisp, aerial shot of the new stadium and a tasteful copy of the Baltimore Baseball Club logo against a green background on the cover, by the dozens. And scalpers reportedly resold the $3 magazines, titled "The First Opening Day" in Oriole orange, for up to $100, Beshara said.
"This was beyond anybody's expectations," marveled H. A. "Bucky" Bray III, an owner of French-Bray Inc., a family-run Glen Burnie firm that printed the programs.
"It's a new ballpark, a great ballpark and (the program) is a collectors' item," Beshara reasoned. "But I don't think they imagined that 50,000 would be gone, like that, before the game started."
Bray, whose family has been printing the team's programs since the first Opening Day at Memorial Stadium in 1954, had never seen anything like it. The previousrecord was set at the last game on 33rd Street last October, when fans bought 31,000 programs, also produced by French-Bray and Beshara Associates.
The first Oriole Park at Camden Yards programs have proven so popular that the phones at French-Bray rang off the hook for two days after last Monday's game, Bray said. Fans wanted to know how they could get copies of the program.
To meet the demand, Orioles management has asked the printer to get back to work. Two truckloads of paper, about 80,000 pounds worth, arrived at the shop Friday, and today, the presses were to roll again.
French-Bray and Beshara Associates first teamed up on the programs in 1988, when program editor Bob Brown found himself in need of a graphic designer.
Bray recommended Beshara, with whom he had worked previously. Since then, the program has grown from 64 to 112 pages.
Beshara handles typography and layout, selects photos and sometimes creates the cover artwork.
During the last two weeks of March each year, Brown, Beshara and Bray spend 12-hour days huddled in Beshara's Severna Park office, coordinating articles, photos and layout.
They produce the program on tight deadlines to print the most up-to-date information.
Last season, as Beshara was preparing to hand the finished design on the secondedition over to the printer, Brown called to say they needed a new cover photo and story.
"We let go Frank Robinson and hired John Oates," Beshara recalls Brown telling him. "We need him on the cover, with a cover story."
The design/print team is already at work on thenext few editions. Wednesday night's program featured a cover shot of the first run scored at Oriole Park.
Beshara said he expects program sales to remain strong all season.
"The momentum will carry through, but it won't be the phenomenal numbers of opening day," he said.
The Orioles will sell the reprinted Opening Day programs for $5, starting today.
They're available at the Orioles store in Camden Warehouse at the ballpark or by mail, by sending check or money order for up to five programs to Opening Day Program, P.O. Box 33307, Baltimore, 21218.