With police in abundance and sellers asking for more than $1,000 for good tickets, scalpers were playing it cool last night outside Camden Yards.
Like the long-haired man in his mid-20s who approached people along Russell Street, motioning discretely to a compatriot inside the stadium fence -- presumably safe to -- into the crowd if a police officer appeared. He wanted $300 for two tickets.
That was too much for Paul and Karen Randazzo, who were stationed on the fringe of the scalp-free zone along Russell Street with a sign reading: "Hello from Chicago (my kind of town). Need two tickets."
"We don't have a lot of money. We'd like to keep it under $100 for both of us," Paul Randazzo said.
But he was impressed with the scalpers' style nonetheless. Also impressive was the gentleman who "knew someone" with tickets and led them around the corner, where he turned out to be the seller.
The pitch was delivered in an obscure code that made no overt mention of dollars: "One for six, two for 10," he said.
After some oblique back and forth, Paul Randazzo confirmed that the man wasn't talking about $60 and $100. More like $600 and $1,000.
"They say it is Charm City. It doesn't seem very charming," Paul Randazzo said.
Such were the eye-popping prices being requested for one of sports' toughest tickets. And judging from a carnival of handmade signs and pitiful pleas, it was definitely a sellers' market.
But with Baltimore's anti-scalping law threatening jail for selling and buying above face value, sellers had to be discreet. Three people were arrested by the beginning of last night's game, down from 14 for Tuesday night's game.
One man wandered among the throngs of ticket sellers along Russell Street with a sign saying he needed a ticket. But he quickly was reselling them, in one case after leading a customer to a gasoline station mini-mart across the street.
Buyers were generally more open. One young man in a tie-dyed T-shirt and Grateful Dead cap carried a sign cribbed from a Dead tune: "Need a Miracle."
Another man hoisted a two-sided sign, reading "Can't afford two" on one side and "Need one" on the obverse. Another hopeful buyer had two signs, one reading "Cal fan needs 1 ticket" and the other offering proof of his fanaticism: "Cal for President."
Michael Pijuan, 31, from Wilmington, Del., walked the crowded sidewalks holding up a single finger and said, "My wife's expecting a baby. You can have it if you give me a ticket."
Among those getting his wish -- and parting only with money, not progeny -- was Scott Colle.
"This is going to be mine and my buddies' vacation this year. Usually we go down to South Carolina and golf," said Colle, a Baltimorean who paid $500 for a pair of upper deck box seats and was looking to buy another for an employee.
"There's always somebody who has a buddy who didn't show up," said Colle, who got into the All-Star Game in Baltimore for $75.
Seller Dan Warren of Washington said he was paying between $200 and $300 per ticket and planned to charge $750 each.
"Soon as I get it, I'll get a customer," said Warren, who was walking along Conway Street across from the stadium yelling, "Paying top dollar for your tickets. Paying top dollar."
Not willing to pay top dollar was Janet Lally who, with 9-year-old son Brett, held up a sign saying "We'll trade $ and Ripken cards for two tickets. Help us see Cal in 2,131."
She had called sellers advertising in the newspaper and was shocked by the prices being asked: $400 and up. She was hoping to get a pair of tickets at face value, but was willing to toss in a nine-card set of Ripken cards given out by Burger King.
"This is a Cal Ripken kid," she said, pointing at her son.
Steve, a 29-year-old Washington lawyer who declined to reveal his last name, said he got a pair of 10th-row bleacher seats in late July by responding to a newspaper ad and paying $200 apiece.
"It's more special than any single game could be," Steve said.
As the game started, Paul Randazzo was still ticketless. A hoped-for drop in prices after the game started never materialized.
"I figured we'd have to wait until the game started. But I had not anticipated the number of buyers. I didn't think the prices would stay this high," he said.