Baseball program a bargain banquet for stat-hungry fan NEW GAMEDAY IN TOWN

June 21, 1992|By Ashley McGeachy | Ashley McGeachy,Staff Writer

It lists the Orioles' starting lineup -- where not only can you learn that Cal Ripken is making $2.1 million, but also that he "missed the ball on only 10.6 percent of his swings last year."

An issue in early May featured Glenn Davis' picture on a milk carton under the word "missing" and went on to say that Davis was "last seen at Camden Yards on Opening Day" and that he "often refers to rare ailments and carries large amounts of cash."

And, in today's issue, you can read that New York outfielder Jesse Barfield was "just brought off the D.L. (a hot tub accident) . . . and he said 'I'm not hitting my weight. I better go on a serious diet or do some serious hitting.' Calling Slim Fast."

It is GameDay -- an eight-page baseball program that sells for $1 outside of Camden Yards before every homestand. The main selling point of GameDay is a scorecard that is $2 less than the one the Orioles offer inside their glossy, full-color program, but it also contains analysis from Rick Dempsey and Chris Hoiles, team lineups with salaries and statistics about the Orioles and opposing teams.

The editor of GameDay is David Hill, a 25-year-old native of

Alabama who once worked on Capitol Hill. In April, he traded in his business suit for a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and began GameDay.

"It's got every stat you could ever want to know," said Hill, who subtitled the program "Smart Stats for Smart Fans." "When you go to the park, there's not much information. You get the Orioles' stats on the scoreboard, but really the person that listens to the game on the radio or watches it on TV gets more information than someone at the game."

You can find Hill and his entourage of program sellers on the corners of Camden and Howard, Howard and Conway, and Eutaw and Camden streets before every home game, wearing T-shirts with the GameDay logo on the front and a dollar bill on the back.

David Simone, publisher of GameDay, came up with the idea for the program after seeing an article about a similar publication for the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL.

"I felt that there was a need for an independent fan journal for the Orioles," said Simone, a 1981 graduate of Georgetown. "It's for serious fans, with analysis and stats for the game."

Hill said he is a serious baseball fan. He followed the Atlanta Braves when he lived in the South and became an Orioles fan while at George Washington University.

"I really got attached to them the season of '89 when they were supposed to be really bad and turned out to be really good," said Hill, who named his dog "Ripken," after both Cal and Bill. "I went to something like 40 games that season."

The idea for a baseball alternative program originated in Boston. Michael Rutstein started Baseball Underground -- a program about the Red Sox -- three years ago, and it has grown from 12 to 48 pages with advertisements, an intricate scorecard, and a circulation of about 3,000 per game. It, too, sells for $1.

"BU was an excellent scorecard before it was an excellent magazine," said Rutstein, who advised Hill and Simone on GameDay. "I think GameDay was more polished when they started this season and graphically better than we were. They've got a good idea, the kind of thing that every ballpark needs."

Orioles officials might not agree. GameDay is competition for the Orioles program, which has three editions each season and sells for $3. It has more than 100 pages, color photos and a dozen lengthy feature articles, plus lots of information on tickets, transportation, and radio and television broadcasts.

GameDay is also competition for the Orioles Gazette, a newspaper published twice a month by Ted Venetoulis that sells for $2.

"It's not the club's publication, but it is sold inside [Camden Yards] with the club's blessing," said Bob Brown, managing editor of the Gazette and a consultant and contributing writer for the program.

"The one thing that their newsletter does is give current stats at the beginning of each series," said Brown. "I don't think it has much to offer, and I don't see it as major competition."

While the number of GameDays sold is not close to the 3,500 programs the Orioles say they sell, they are increasing with each homestand. Simone said average sales for GameDay, which hasn't been able to sell any ads yet, are 300 a game, though that increased to about 500 a game during the recent homestand against Toronto and Boston.

"GameDay has chosen the most spectacular season to try something like this," Rutstein said. "There is huge interest in the ballpark, the team is playing exceptionally well -- everything is going in their favor.

"But the flip side of that is, if they can't make it work this season, they might not ever. Next year, what is going to happen if the team is in fourth, and they can't make it?"

Hill is confident that GameDay will survive, even though he has had difficulty getting press credentials to games, and Orioles officials haven't cooperated as he would have liked.

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