You're not going to believe this at first, but I'm going to convince you: The Orioles could outdraw the Dodgers this year.
What? Little old, provincial Baltimore outdraw huge, major market Los Angeles?
Why, the Dodgers draw more than 3 million every year. Last year they put 3,348,170 in Dodger Stadium. (Toronto is in a world of its own; SkyDome attendance last year was 4,001,526.)
Baltimore didn't just open a new ballpark this year. It opened a new era.
Last year at Memorial Stadium the Orioles averaged 32,313 and drew 2,552,753.
The Orioles have played only seven games at Camden Yards, but the returns are staggering. They've drawn 309,533. They're averaging 44,219. And that, for the most part, was in terrible baseball weather.
The Orioles are the hottest ticket in town -- if not the country. People are clamoring to get in, to be part of the party atmosphere. Sitting in the stands, you can feel that.
The O's have 81 home dates. Let's say they have one rainout -- and they may not have that with their new Prescription Athletic Turf, which automatically removes as much as 75,000 gallons of rain water from the field each hour.
If they play 80 games and average 40,000, that's 3.2 million, which puts them in the Dodgers' class. If they average 42,000, that's 3,360,000 -- more than the Dodgers drew in '91.
"I can see us drawing 3.2 million," says Lou Michaelson, the club's vice president for sales. "Our season ticket base [25,000 per game] is high enough for that."
Before the season Michaelson and his staff were whipping boys as season ticket holders complained about new seat locations. You don't hear that much anymore.
"People didn't understand," says Michaelson, "because they hadn't been in the park to see how different it is. There's no comparison between the dugouts in the new park and the ones at Memorial Stadium. Now the people have seen. They come in here every day and walk around and just look.
"We planned and marketed well and created a good sales climate. I don't think attendance will fall off this year or even next year with the All-Star Game."
Marketing majors at area colleges would do well to study the methods of Michaelson and his people.
* Baseball doubleheaders have gone the way of all flesh, but another local spring sport, lacrosse, is offering an unusually attractive twin bill tomorrow night and a tripleheader Sunday.
Tomorrow the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament opens at Byrd Stadium in College Park when North Carolina, the defending NCAA champion, meets Virginia at 6 p.m.
Thirty minutes after that game, Maryland plays a Duke team that is tougher than its five losses would indicate. The winners meet Saturday night at 8 for the title.
Some feel it's a hardship for the ACC teams to play each other twice in a season. Duke lost twice in this tournament last year. It cost the Blue Devils a spot in the NCAA tourney.
But Dick Edell, the Maryland coach, tells me something pro-tourney that's rather persuasive.
"The kids love the ACC tournament," Edell says. "They love to play against the best. The more good teams they play, the more they like it. I think it's important for us to remember who we play these games for. It's the kids. It's not for us coaches or the media or the public."
Well said, coach.
A disappointing ACC tournament note: Virginia has lost its star defenseman, Loyola High grad George Glyphis, for the rest of the season. Glyphis has mononucleosis.
Missing the rest of the season including the playoffs could cost Glyphis a first-team All-America spot. He was second team last year. More importantly, his loss is a severe blow to a 6-4 Virginia team that may be on the bubble when the 12-team NCAA field is chosen.
On Sunday, club lacrosse has a tripleheader at Speer Field, which is the old University of Baltimore field on Rogers Avenue.
At 11:30, it's Greene Turtle vs. Santa Fe (from College Park). At 2 p.m., it will be the strong Chesapeake Lacrosse Club against MAB Paints. At 4:30, the Maryland LC, which probably has the best chance to dethrone club champion Mount Washington this year, goes against the Heroes LC.
There's at least one club game every Sunday afternoon at Speer. Club ball is to lacrosse what the NFL is to football. Yesterday's All-Americans, a little older and more mature, can be found playing there.