People mostly stood. But Mike Seitz of St...

AT FANFEST,

July 27, 1993

AT FANFEST, people mostly stood. But Mike Seitz of St. Paul, Minn., sat. Seitz & Co. was one of the exhibitors, and its product is seats -- rescued from ballparks undergoing renovation or demolition.

The chair seat from a bygone athletic arena is much in vogue, Mr. Seitz reports. He sells many a seat to department stores for mannequin displays, many more to sports bars where the hobby 300-lb. beer wells is testing the furniture they plop down on, and more still to guys who install seat or seats at home in the den, facing the TV screen.

Seitz Seats (great name, that) offers them in three conditions. As-is, the cheapest, may have rust, cracks, peeled paint. In the intermediate grade, gum wads have been scraped off, busted slats replaced, varnish applied. In the top grade, the look is close to pristine.

You should understand that a stadium seat usually ends, vertically, in two metal prongs, for bolting to a grandstand's concrete risers; meaning, it won't stand by itself. For the costlier grades, coat-hanger-shaped platform supports have been attached underneath. -- Seitz & Co. is adept at joinery and ironmongery.

Also, the original row of, say, 20 seats will have 21 armrests. This is, accordingly, the makings of only 10 better-grade, refurbished, stand-alone seats, each with two armrests; the other boards and frames remain for replacement use. If it's an end-of-row and was adorned with distinctive metal logo, the price is higher; for a Camden Yards replica, however, with iron 19th century ballplayer (nicknamed Abner Tripleday) beneath each elbow -- August 1 deadline for Christmas delivery -- Mr. Seitz charges $250. Seat and backrest are of molded plastic, over against the Douglas fir, the elm, the splinters of antiquity.

Some collectors abhor restoration and refuse the usual some-assembly-required shipping. Out west, Bruce Hellerstein, whose collection a sports magazine rates No. 1, insists on original condition, no matter how unsittable. In whatever form, a Seitz chair comes with attached metal certificate of authenticity.

A story of American enterprise here. When Minnesota went big league, in 1961, one casualty was the American Association's St. Paul Saints, whose grand new Midway Park had no more tenant. Three blocks away lived Mike Seitz. In 1981, Midway was being torn down; he asked the workmen for a souvenir. Something stirred in him. Hundreds of purchased seats later, Mr. Seitz was in business: 1772 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, Mn. 55104.

By now, naturally, he also deals in football- and basketball-stadia seating. He publishes a box-seat newsletter.

To some fans, the seat is an abstraction; it's the ticket that counts. Mike Seitz, 40, with his kids Mikie and Christina, came to Convention Center rather than Camden Yards. But if the firm continues to do well, the Seitzes will be able to afford plenty of future All-Star Game tickets.

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