If the Orioles are looking forward to a respite from New York-style abuse as the American League playoffs move to Baltimore today, they're likely to be disappointed.
That giant sucking sound you've been hearing lately is coming from hordes of Yankees fans vacuuming up every Camden Yards playoff ticket that hasn't been nailed down.
Free-spending Yankees fans are using ticket brokers, tour operators, hotel concierges and the Internet to invade the Orioles' nest for games three though five of the American League Championship Series. The result could be a repeat of that infamous July series in which Camden Yards sounded at times like a branch office of Yankee Stadium.
"As usual with every Baltimore home game against the Yankees, one-third of the crowd is Yankees fans," said ticket broker Danny Matta, owner of Premier Entertainment in College Park.
So who's to blame for this sad state of affairs?
Us. We have met the enemy and he owns season tickets. Like Lenin's proverbial capitalists, Orioles fans have been selling the rope with which the Yankees hope to hang the Birds.
Matta said all of the season tickets he has sold for prices starting at $100 have come from Orioles season-ticket holders who sold them at a premium over their face value of $35 to $45. "There's no ticket in my inventory that I paid face value for," he said, adding that one-third of those tickets would be sold to New York brokers.
Many Baltimore fans, as well as team officials, were dismayed in July at the prevalance of leather-lunged New Yorkers root-root-rooting for the wrong team during a devastating series sweep of the Orioles.
At the time, Orioles Vice Chairman Joe Foss stressed that it wasn't the team's idea to pack the stands with howling Yankees fans and pointed his finger at season-ticket holders.
Yesterday, Foss expressed the hope that the Yankees' share of the decibels would be down in the playoffs, but he could offer no more assurances than he could in the summer.
"It's certainly the prerogative of the season-ticket holders to resell their tickets if they so choose," said Foss. "It would be our hope that they would sell them to Orioles fans."
But once a playoff ticket leaves a Baltimore fan's hands, it tends to be drawn to New York or Washington -- a notorious hotbed of Yankees sympathizers -- by the magnetic lure of money.
Consider the experience of a Laurel man named Steve, who offered to sell tickets over America Online.
"Orioles fans are the cheapest people on the face of the planet!" he replied to an inquiry by electronic mail. "My average offer from an O's fan is about $100 per ticket for terrace box seats. On the other hand, Yankee fans are paying up to $250 per ticket."
Jack Leibsch II, a Pasadena computer executive, offered 24 tickets for sale over the Internet. He said he ended up selling 12 of them to New Yorkers, 10 to Virginians and only two to local fans.
Dave Boitano, owner of www.ticketmaster.com in San Francisco, said he advertised playoff tickets in Baltimore and Washington. The Washington customers willingly paid $85 to $500 for tickets, but Baltimoreans balked.
"The customers that called us from Baltimore were figuring they could get $45 tickets for $10," he said. "The big spender out of Baltimore would go $50."
Even where tickets were sold at face value, Yankees fans were managing to outhustle their more lethargic Baltimore counterparts.
Leslie Wilson, a spokeswoman for Loyola College, said that when the Baltimore school put its allotment of 300 tickets on sale to students and faculty Tuesday, it was a group of 20 Yankees fans who camped out overnight to be first in line.
"Of the students who got tickets, 80 to 90 percent of them were Yankees fans," she said.
Economist Michael Conte said the relative reticence of Baltimore fans could be a result of the Law of Fading Loyalty.
"Fans' willingness to attend playoffs is in direct proportion to their confidence that we're going to have a winning game," said Conte, director of the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson State University.
But Conte also allowed that there might be an alternate explanation for Baltimoreans' reluctance to pay triple-digit prices for playoff tickets.
"I think that's called sanity," he said.
Pub Date: 10/11/96