All-Star anticipation in the air as fans hit downtown Baltimore 1993 OUT OF THE PARK

July 12, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Jack and Jeff Lucas are adopting the total immersion approach to All-Star baseball fanaticism.

At FanFest in the Convention Center yesterday, they reveled in a swirl of pricey autographs, embroidered T-shirts and real-life heroes spread out over three floors of the massive building.

And the Lucas brothers came with what Jack called a big-ticket extravagance in mind.

Jeff, 32, planned to spend almost $600 for an autograph of every living major leaguer who hit 500 home runs or more during his career. He can, of course, name them. Each of the 14 signatures is on a separate baseball, and all are mounted on a single plaque.

Jack, 40, is thinking he might spend $275 for a Joe DiMaggio-autographed ball. The Yankee slugger is a reluctant signer, he observes.

Jack works for Oracle, a computer software company, in San Diego, where last year's game was played. Jeff is from Chicago, where he and several members of his family sell construction materials.

Last year, the brothers went to the game in San Diego on tickets purchased at $200 each from a scalper. This year they sent postcards to the Major League ticket lottery and won. They paid $60 each.

And they're finding other ways to control costs. They're moving to a bed and breakfast before the All-Star rates go into effect at their downtown hotel, and they're not eating the official All-Star food.

"Expensive -- and not very good," says Jeff.

But they did have an excellent seafood dinner at the Inner Harbor on Saturday night and, overall, they think they'll manage on about $30 a day for meals.

Wearing shorts and a black White Sox shirt, Jack stood in line for an hour and 20 minutes to get an autograph from former St. Louis Cardinal outfielder, Enos "Country" Slaughter, who was the game's best-known hustler before Pete Rose, and from Sammy Haynes, one of the old Negro League players.

The signatures obtained from the living mean even more to him now. At a baseball memorabilia show recently near his home in La Jolla, Calif., he got one from Don Drysdale, the Los Angeles Dodger pitcher and Hall of Famer who died suddenly a short time later of a heart attack.

All-Star freebies

Fans like Brian Blanchette, 19, in from Pawtucket, R.I., collected many free items and bought a few items as well: He got a small replica bat after buying a regulation-size model. He had a magazine called Diamond, a few bubble gum-style player cards, bags of sunflower seeds and several raffle tickets on limited-edition photographs of major league stars or autographed hats.

He said he did not find the frenzied pace of FanFest chaotic or distracting at all.

"It's not very often that everything comes together at the same time," said his friend, Brad Hendricks, also 19. "A baseball fan's dream," he called it.

And oh, yes, about The Game: Brad actually may go. His father, he said, had "scored some tickets." Brian, less fortunate, is going to today's Old-Timers game and home run-hitting contest.

In the vicinity of the Convention Center, commerce in food and drink was brisk as well.

One menu offered familiar fare, dressed up for the ballpark: Taste O' Outfield Oysters, Caught on the Fly Clams and First Round Drafts.

Elsewhere

Further out in the city, in South Baltimore, for example, the game might as well have been in Seattle.

Oriole Advocates All-Star 5K road racers came through early in the morning, with 1,100 registered pavement-pounding participants. Just 836 managed to go the distance. Temperatures were in the mid-80s then -- hot by road-running standards, but refreshingly cool in a city where highs by the afternoon exceeded 100 degrees for the fifth straight day.

And that was the closest thing to baseball excitement.

A boat called "Strike III" pulled into the Harborview Marina off Key Highway, but no one knew what sort of strike the owner had in mind. It was scheduled to leave today, seeming to eschew any closer involvement with the big game or attendant festivities.

At the "Sno-Asis," a snowball stand on Lawrence Street near Fort Avenue, only an occasional local had shown up by midday. Too bad. Visitors might have tried a number of exotic flavors, including blood orange, fireball, Polynesian and the ever popular tutti-frutti.

No real snowballs were available downtown, claimed Sno-Asis counterman, "Jim," who would not serve up his last name. He was only there on weekends, he explained, and not authorized to speak for the owner.

He did say this: It is unlikely any of the downtown types would offer authentic shaved ice. Most would have something as crude as smashed ice cubes.

"They take big ice cubes and break them up into smaller ice cubes," he said, rolling his eyes.

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