An Opening Day Primer on the "New" Orioles

PLAY BALL!

April 01, 1996|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,SUN STAFF

Maybe it's the fact that this has seemed like the coldest, longest and certainly snowiest winter ever. Or that we haven't had a full, spring-training-to-World-Series season since 1993. Or that even now, the golden glow of Sept. 6, 1995, still has us all cockeyed and tingly about baseball, our prodigal pastime.

Whatever the reason, Opening Day arrives in Baltimore today to find us downright upbeat. We're pale, we're restless, we're ready: Baseball '96!

Hereabouts, we have particular reason to anticipate the season: Just about every baseball pundit is picking the Orioles to win their division this year. With a new manager and new stars joining familiar favorites, this year's Orioles are generating that thing called buzz.

On the newsstands, it's The Story of O with baseball publications en masse featuring a cover photo of mighty Cal Ripken, and the team he's expected to lead to greatness this year. Of course, hope springs eternal every Opening Day in Baltimore. But this promises to be an interesting season if only for all the new faces.

Here, then, is a crash course -- consider it your personal spring training -- in what they'll be talking about in Birdland this year.

THE STREAK, REDUX

Call your travel agent and book a flight to Kansas City for the June 13 game -- when Cal Ripken is scheduled to break yet another streak -- Sachio Kinugasa's 2,215 consecutive games with the Japenese team Hiroshima Toyo Carp. With the America-centrist view of baseball, of course, this event will hardly approach the hoopla of last year, when Cal broke Lou Gehrig's record. But that means tickets are still available: as of last week, just 12,500 of the 40,600 tickets for that game had been sold.

MY KINGDOM FOR A TICKET

Baltimore's own seasonal affective disorder, ticket angst, will worsen this summer.

By today, as many as 3.02 million of the total 3.7 million tickets for home games were expected to have been sold. Part of the crunch comes from the record number of season tickets sold this year -- 27,900.

Translation: Slim pickings if you didn't plan ahead.

Weekends from June to September are essentially sold out. Best bets: games in April and May, before schools let those pesky kids out, or the 183 bleacher and standing-room tickets that go on sale the day of the game (except today).

NO MORE, NO LESS

If you do manage to get in, you'll find prices the same as last year -- at least for a statistically typical family of four that pays for average-price tickets, parking, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, two game programs and two twill baseball caps. The total: $113.57. That price tag makes a trip to Camden Yards the eighth most expensive outing in the majors; last year, it ranked second.

AN OLYMPIAN, ALL-STAR EFFORT

You might think you're in Atlanta or Philadelphia as you troll for souvenirs at the ballpark this summer. Amid all the usual Calphernalia and mini bats, you'll find souvenirs from the Olympics, being held in Atlanta this summer, and the All-Star game, in Philadelphia this year. The Orioles' concessions are run by Aramark, also supplying those mega-events.

HIGH-PRICED ROOKIES

This year's rookies may not command big salaries just yet, but save their baseball cards. Davey Johnson's 1965 Topps card (showing him with outfielder Paul Blair): $8 to $16

Roberto Alomar's regular rookie card: $2-$5 His special 1988 Score Rookie card: $15 to $30

Cal, of course, Cal "topps" them all: One particular rookie card is worth from $225 to $325; others are $35 to $75.

ORIOLES RETURNING TO THE NEST

Among the new faces on the field, three are less new: manager Davey Johnson was the Orioles' second baseman during those glory years of the late '60s and early '70s. Mike "Devo" Devereaux, an outfielder, dates back to the near-great Why Not? 1989 team.

And, of course, everyone's favorite kid brother, Bill Ripken, is back home where he belongs.

Pub Date: 4/01/96

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