Orioles' Winter Carnival attracts 6,050 fans with mixed feelings

January 22, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

The uncertainty of the 1995 season was in evidence yesterday as the Orioles held their eighth annual Winter Carnival at Camden Yards. But perhaps not as much as some may have suspected.

Reaction to the labor dispute that has had baseball shut down since Aug. 12 was mixed among the 6,050 fans in attendance. Those who came for the various events gave every indication that the interest level remains high.

The ones who came to buy tickets did not display the same

enthusiasm, even though it was tough to tell judging by the bottom line. Yesterday's attendance, spurred by the absence of admission or parking fees, almost doubled last year's turnout of 3,200.

And the first public sale of individual game tickets was the same as a year ago. This is the first time the initial sale coincided with the Winter Carnival. The fact the date is six weeks closer to the scheduled opening of the regular season, in addition to the guesswork involved with Cal Ripken's consecutive games streak, might account for the relatively high number of tickets sold.

During "Midnight Madness" last December, the Orioles sold approximately 30,000 tickets. With many more more sellers on hand to expedite sales, yesterday's eight-hour event surprisingly matched that total, even though most of the buyers seemed cautious.

But if the Orioles are forced to use replacement players, something owner Peter Angelos has said he wouldn't do, the VTC fans almost unanimously agreed they would return the tickets they bought. Even though they may not agree totally with the players' side of the issue, neither are they interested in paying to watch an inferior product.

"The Orioles have said we can turn them back if there are replacement players -- and that's what I'll do," said Larry Tuley of Baltimore. "And if they'll let me, I'll walk the [picket] line with the regular players.

"I think the owners are to blame in this thing. Rock stars make $100 million to go on tour, so what's wrong with a player making a couple of million if he can?"

Wayne Christiansen of Rockville said his presence "probably indicates the strike didn't affect him," but also quickly added if replacement players were used, "I will turn them [tickets] in."

Individual game buyers were limited to eight tickets for a maximum of eight games. The most popular seats were the bleachers, as people opted for bargains.

Ripken's streak, which at 2,009 is 121 games shy of Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130, was a guessing game for most buyers. The Aug. 16 game, which on the original schedule is the one that would enable Ripken to tie the record, was the most popular date, with only a few tickets left by noon.

But the Orioles are scheduled to go on the road the next day, a situation the American League has said it would change if the strike is settled. However, there were no guarantees, so Christiansen picked the Orioles' next home game -- Aug. 29 -- as one of the four games he selected.

"I heard they might flip-flop the West Coast trip with the next homestand," he said, "so I figured it was worth taking the chance."

Mark and Patti Graybeal of Parkville made the trip to Camden Yards to purchase tickets for only two games. "We bought a Sunday [June 15] so we could take our parents and two tickets for Aug. 16," said Patti.

"We probably would've bought for more games if it wasn't for the strike," said Mark. "It's kind of frustrating," added Patti. "People are always talking about Camden Yards and how great it is, but we can't show off our image [if there aren't any games]."

As for the strike, for the most part people didn't seem interested in taking sides. "Other than feeling that the fans are the only ones who lose, it's just millionaires fighting against billionaires," said Christiansen. "Ultimately the owners will get something and the players will get something and the fans will be the only ones to lose anything."

But, at this point, nobody seems to know who will play, when they will play, or even if they will play major-league games this season.

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