Orioles fans cry foul over playoff tickets Seats gone in minutes to campers' disbelief

September 07, 1997|By Ken Fuson | Ken Fuson,SUN STAFF

That was some contest they staged Saturday morning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. There were tension-filled moments, dramatic turning points and plenty of catcalls directed at the officials.

For the victors, the spoils were even better than a sweep of the New York Yankees -- the chance to buy a ticket to a Baltimore Orioles playoff game.

But it wasn't easy.

"This is horrendous," complained David Calvin of White Marsh. He and his wife, Mary Beth, had stood in line since noon Friday. "This isn't even funny. We slept out here. We deserve to get tickets."

The Calvins joined about 600 people waiting in a line that stretched from the ticket offices on the north side of Eutaw Street to the parking lot on the south side. Many had camped out for a day or longer, some since Wednesday night.

Fans with lawn chairs, water jugs and pizza passed the time watching the Orioles trounce the Yankees on Friday night, playing cards and then returning to the television to see Princess Diana's funeral.

Their goal was a ticket to the American League Division Series. If the Orioles win their division -- and the prospects look as good as seeing Cal Ripken's name on today's lineup card -- Baltimore will be host to the third, fourth and fifth games of the division series next month. As of today, Seattle would be host to the first two.

But as the Calvins discovered, camping out for tickets -- braving a cold night and a concrete floor -- was no guarantee of actually securing a precious ducat. Tickets to the third game of the American League Division Series went on sale about 11 a.m. and were sold out in 20 minutes.

The only thing that could have prompted more jeers was if Jeffrey Maier, whom Oriole fans will forever remember as the New York boy who stole the ball and a playoff game against the Yankees last year, had shown up.

"I can't believe we waited in line for 24 hours to find out they had sold out the first game in 15 minutes," said Susan Carapico of Fallston.

Complaints were directed at anyone wearing an Orioles identification card. Although a person could buy only four tickets to each playoff game, fans said a ticket broker hired people to stand near the front of the line, and he walked away with a 2-inch-thick stack of tickets.

Others griped that the Orioles gave a head start to buyers who called Ticketmaster or traveled to about 70 ticket outlets. Several said people left the line and returned to their spot when the rules prohibited it.

"The fans support the team all year long, and now the fans can't get tickets to the playoffs," said Sharon Schaffer of Reisterstown. On this day, the man in the hot corner was Joe Foss, vice chairman of business operations for the team.

He said 18,500 tickets were available for the three games -- 4,300 for the third game, 6,800 for the fourth game and 7,400 for the fifth. The reason fewer tickets were available for the first game in Baltimore is that season-ticket holders had first crack at them. Not as many season-ticket holders bought seats for the fourth and fifth games, which won't be necessary if one team sweeps the first three.

Tickets went on sale simultaneously by phone, at the outlets and at the ballpark, Foss said. A half hour later, he ordered sales stopped by phone and at the outlets, giving the priority to people who had camped out.

"Our intention here is to be fair and let everyone have equal access, even those people who live far away and can't be here," he said. "We feel it's important to give everybody an equal opportunity to buy tickets."

Although the fans were upset when tickets for the third game sold out so quickly, their concerns abated when those in line learned they had a good chance of getting tickets for games four and five. Of course, they'll get a refund if the games aren't played.

"When you get a situation where everyone's interested and excited, rumors and concerns get started," Foss said. "We're trying to be as fair and equitable with the distribution of tickets that is as humanly possible."

Like most fans, Christopher Rudolph of Glen Burnie was initially miffed with the ticket-selling situation. Then he and his girlfriend, Sandy Leo, finally made it to the front of the line.

"I'm much happier now that I've got them," he said. "But they definitely should make provisions for people who stay out here all night."

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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