Open season? For some, it's wait till next year April Fools' Day rainout is no joke to fans who can't return

April 02, 1996|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN STAFF

The electronic sign on Russell Street greeted many fans as they drove up to the ballpark like a cruel April Fools' Day joke.

"Opening Day -- April 2nd," the sign said.

For the second time in club history and the first time since 1972, the Orioles' Opening Day was postponed because of rain. The false start disappointed some fans who won't be able to return for today's makeup game, but delighted downtown merchants, as most people made the most of their rainy day off.

At Pickles Pub near the ballpark, a bar stool was a hard thing to come by around lunchtime. The place was jammed with wall-to-wall people.

"As you can see, we've got a great crowd," pub manager Shari Valatkas said, "and we'll do it all over again tomorrow."

Bill Croom and Fred Moehle saw the electronic sign as they drove up and headed straight for the pub.

"The way we see it, we win both ways," Croom said. "We get to come back tomorrow."

Moehle and Croom, who run a Starbucks Coffee shop in Alexandria, Va., were watching the Atlanta Braves play the San Francisco Giants on ESPN and drinking a few beers.

"I think [President] Clinton didn't want to get his hair wet, so they had to postpone [the opener]," Moehle said.

Clinton, who was scheduled to throw out the first ball, was described by the White House as "extremely disappointed" about the rainout.

But the president rejuggled his schedule and will be on hand for the festivities today. "He's really looking forward to being at Camden Yards," said Ginny Terzano, a White House spokeswoman.

Some fans, unable to get another day off, will not be as lucky as the president.

Steve O'Neal and his father, Dennis, drove more than two hours from Winchester, Va., to attend their first Opening Day together. They left the house at 10: 30 a.m. and did not hear the news until they saw the sign at the ballpark.

"This is my first Opening Day, or would have been," Dennis, 56, said. "It's a disappointment."

The O'Neals are salesmen. They cannot get another day off and will be forced to trade in their tickets for a future Orioles game. They had their hearts set on Opening Day.

"I asked them if we could trade them in for Opening Day next year," Steve, 31, said. "They said that's not possible."

Sykesville's Paul and Becky Sliwak have been buying partial season-ticket plans for seven years but have never been lucky enough to get tickets for Opening Day. This was going to be their first one.

They were forced to trade in their tickets for an Aug. 12 game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"We're going to the aquarium. We might as well," Becky Sliwak said. "We're not happy about it."

The O'Neals and the Sliwaks were taking up temporary refuge from the rain at the Orioles Baseball Store at the ballpark.

A few brave fans such as Chuck Ruth of Dundalk chose to wait out in the rain for autographs. Ruth already had gotten signatures from Chris Hoiles, David Wells and Bill Ripken. He had a five-minute conversation with Ripken.

"We said, 'Bill, let's play some ball.' He said, 'OK, where?' " Ruth said. "Nobody had an answer for him we were so stunned."

Ruth has been coming to Opening Day with his three brothers since 1974. They will be back at the ballpark today for their 23rd straight opener.

"This is the one day when we put our animosities aside and the brothers just enjoy being at the ballpark together," Ruth said.

Yesterday also was a family affair for Bruce Kauffman and his two sons, David and Mike. The Kauffmans drove up from Springfield, Va., but are unsure if they can make it back today.

"We're going to try," said Kauffman, a mathematician for a defense contractor. "I have one son on spring break and another who's in school."

David, 10, and Mike, 8, sat inside the Inner Harbor eatery stuffing their faces with pizza. They were wearing Orioles hats and had their baseball gloves tucked away in a plastic bag.

Mike, a third-grader, said he wouldn't mind missing another day of school.

"I want to see the president throw out the first ball," he said.

David, a fifth-grader, said he's more interested in the game.

Their father is unsure if the tow boys wll get their wish.

"I don't know," Kauffman said. "But this is extarodinary situation.

Pub Date: 4/02/96

Ticket exchange

Fans can use their Opening Day tickets today or exchange them for one of 12 future home games, Orioles public relations director John Maroon said.

vTC Tickets can be exchanged for the following games:

Kansas City, tomorrow.

Kansas City, June 21-23.

Boston, April 16.

New York, April 30.

Texas, June 18.

Toronto, July 16.

Minnesota, July 24. Milwaukee, Aug. 12, 14.

Chicago, Sept. 11

The games are subject to availability and tickets can be exchanged only for those of equal face value.

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