Fans' interest rate compounds at park

MIKE LITTWIN

October 04, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

You've seen the numbers. But here are the numbers behin the numbers.

If they don't always add up, don't forget to factor in the plus or minus 3 percentage points.

OK.

There were 3,567,819 paying customers during this first season at Camden Yards. You knew that.

What you didn't know was that 3,128,211 of them were Washington lawyers. This surprises you, I guess. You probably thought there were no more than 2 million lawyers in Washington.

You also didn't know that 2,612,498 of these paying customers somehow squeezed into the 1,000 bad seats down the left-field line (there must have been that many, or how else do you account for all the complaints?).

Here's an interesting stat: Of the 12,824 who bought standing-room-only tickets, none had Eli Jacobs' home number.

And this: Of the 12,824 bankers in attendance, 85 percent had Eli Jacobs' loan number.

Finally, the fun stat of the day: If you took the number of people who ate at Boog's barbecue and multiplied it by the number of Cabinet members who showed up in a certain semi-barricaded sky box, it still wouldn't equal the number of hours Glenn Davis spent in the whirlpool.

So, what does it all mean?

It means the Orioles were an unqualified success in their opening season at Camden Yards. Actually, that's sort of an understatement. It's hard to quantify that kind of success, except to say the Orioles made so much money they could almost afford to pay their rent on time.

Here's how successful: They sold out 68 of their 80 home games, including the last 59. That means it was sometime back in late May that there was last an unsold seat. By June, fans were having problems getting a ticket for games in August, even for one of those left-field/chiropractor's specials. By August, it was over for the entire season. The ticket folks tacked up the SRO sign and went home.

Is this amazing or what? Think about it. What else could you possibly put in that stadium that would sell out on 59 consecutive dates? Would U2? Perry Como (catch him at the Arena next month; I know I'll be there)? Ross Perot's volunteers? Maybe. But how about the unpaid volunteers?

The people went nuts over the Orioles. (OK, I'd better qualify that statement. Not actually nuts, in the sense of let's get wild. In fact, it was often so quiet at the ballpark, you could hear Brady Anderson's sideburns grow. This is a result of what is known in baseball circles as the Yuppie factor. In my experience, the only time you ever hear a Yuppie yell is when he/she runs out of decaf cappuccino.)

But I digress. The people went nuts at the ticket office, anyway. They went so nuts that Larry Lucchino is talking about trying to add some seats, possibly more bleachers in left field. I know, maybe they could build them facing the Bromo Seltzer tower. The idea of more seats suggests the Orioles believe this was not a one-year, let's-go-see-what-all-the-fuss-is-about- Mabel aberration.

And they're probably right.

This kind of demand doesn't simply disappear. Sure, there were people who came from all over the country just to get a look at the place. Yeah, it's weird. I'm trying to imagine planning a vacation around seeing a baseball stadium. ("Gee, honey, there's old Alameda County Stadium. Can you believe we're actually here?")

But the tourists don't cause sellouts. What caused the rush on Camden Yards was the rush on Camden Yards. It became a hot ticket, like "Phantom of the Opera," except played on natural grass. And the heat stretched from Baltimore down the parkway to oh-so-nearby Washington, from which Camden Yards can generally be reached in under 10 minutes, especially if you hitch a ride on the presidential helicopter.

The point is, the demand didn't stop at the 45,000 who showed up every night. The Orioles could have sold 65,000 tickets. There is serious pent-up demand.

Because seats were so tough to come by, the demand for season tickets, which exceeded 25,000 for this past season, probably will push that number somewhere into the 30s. In fact, the Orioles, who hate the thought of ever turning away a dollar, may actually have to cap the number of season tickets to allow for some live gate.

How long will it last? That probably depends on whether the Orioles continue to contend, which may mean spending money. They've got a chance to make this a substantial love affair, even after the Washington lawyers find something else to do.

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