Dear Mr. Baseball:If I recall, the Crown Central sign on...

MR. BASEBALL

June 09, 1994

Dear Mr. Baseball:

If I recall, the Crown Central sign on the left-field wall at Camden Yards used to have a picture of fans reaching for a ball. Why has that been changed?

Lou Christian

Baltimore

Dear Lou Christian:

Either you've got a sharp eye for ballpark advertising or you're one of those petroleum company stalkers we've been reading about in the news so much lately. In any case, you're on the mark with your Crown Central observations. The original, short-lived sign did, in fact, feature fans straining for an airborne baseball. This quickly was ditched for the current version -- the company logo accompanied by a catchy Crown slogan.

According to a Crown spokesman, company officials thought the original sign was a bit confusing, particularly the panel caption: "Bye-Bye Birdie." Did that refer to the Orioles? A home run? A passing condor? The present design eliminated all confusion.

Sometimes, outfield signs are nixed because light colors can camouflage baseballs that bounce off the outfield panels, but that was not a concern in this case.

Dear Mr. Baseball:

What day next year will Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played, and how will the Orioles sell tickets to the game?

M. Mazzone

Baltimore

Dear M. Mazzone:

Thanks for your excellent, if slightly premature, question regarding Cal Ripken.

The first thing to remember is that Cal is not there yet. As of this morning, he has played in 1,953 straight games. He needs 178 more -- more than an entire season without a miss -- to pass Gehrig, the legendary Stalking Horse.

With that disclaimer, Mr. Baseball can report the following: Until the schedule for next season is designed, nobody knows what day or against which team Ripken will go for Gehrig's record. The American League scheduling guru has pretty much conceded, however, that the game will be at Camden Yards.

As for ticket arrangements, Orioles public relations director Charles Steinberg says team officials have just begun to think about how to handle demand for seats.

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