For Congress, no All-Star sellout Major leagues offering tickets to House, Senate

June 08, 1993|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

Looking for a ticket to the 1993 All-Star Game at Camden Yards?

Forget a scalper. Just check with your congressman.

Major League Baseball is offering members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate the opportunity to purchase two tickets for the July 13 game.

An All-Star Game ticket happens to be a hot commodity in Baltimore. Capacity at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is 48,079, and the game is sold out.

More than 300,000 postcards were received when a lottery was held to sell 6,000 tickets to Orioles' mini-plan season ticket holders and 4,000 tickets to the general public, according to Orioles spokesman Rick Vaughn.

The Orioles' 19,000 full-season ticket holders also were able to purchase seats.

Mr. Vaughn said the congressional tickets were taken from Major League Baseball's allotment.

"It did not have an effect at all on tickets that were available for Orioles fans," he said. "We received every ticket that we were entitled to as the host team."

Not every member of Congress is willing to take up Major League Baseball on its offer to purchase the $60 tickets.

Rep. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican and a former All-Star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, said the offer was improper because the Congress soon might consider legislation to rescind Major League Baseball's long-standing antitrust exemption.

On the letter of invitation from Bud Selig, chairman of baseball's executive council and the sport's de facto commissioner, Mr. Bunning wrote: "No bribe."

He also told The Philadelphia Inquirer: "If that [the ticket offer] isn't legalized bribery, I don't know what is."

Richard Levin, spokesman for Major League Baseball, responded: "It is ludicrous to think that the offer to purchase two All-Star Game tickets constitutes a bribe. It is simply professional courtesy.

"Tickets have been made available to legislators in the past at various All-Star games and World Series, in this way, for purchase. In the past, every commissioner would handle it differently. This is Bud's first opportunity to do this. I haven't read the letter. But in it, he mentions one reason he is doing this is the proximity [of Baltimore] to the seat of government, which doesn't mean he'll follow the same course next year."

How does Major League Baseball allot its share of All-Star tickets?

"It's no real secret," Mr. Levin said. "A lot of it goes to sponsors. X-amount goes to the clubs. Players get a bunch. The players association, they get tickets, too."

In his letter to the members of Congress, Mr. Selig acknowledged there is a "tremendous demand for tickets to the game," but because the event was taking place "so near to the Capitol," a number of tickets had been reserved for Congress.

"It is baseball's policy that the host club's season ticket holders receive their same seat location for the All-Star Game," Mr. Selig wrote. "Under these circumstances, we have done our best to reserve good seat locations from the remaining pool of tickets."

Most members of the Maryland congressional delegation say they haven't seen the letter of invitation. But Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a 2nd District Republican, had, and she was ready to take advantage of it.

"I'm asking those members [of Congress] who won't use the tickets to let me buy them, and people from my area can buy them from me -- all at cost. No profit," Mrs. Bentley said.

"We've already gotten many requests," she added. "It will probably be first-come, first-served. Or first-friend, first-served."

Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a 7th District Democrat, said, through a spokesman, he will decline the ticket offer "to avoid any appearance of privilege or conflict of interest."

Members of the Maryland General Assembly were not offered such a ticket-buying plan.

"Well, it's nice to know we're a Washington team," said State Sen. Julian L. Lapides, a Baltimore Democrat. "The legislature has not been so honored. I think it should be a fan thing, not a political thing, but it doesn't surprise me. Baseball is big business constantly trying to curry favor with the powerful."

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