Scalpers have grown desperate at the Yard

This Just In...

August 20, 1999|By Dan Rodricks

THAT FEELING -- that ole, empty, August ennui -- settles over you like Saran Wrap at Camden Yards. Especially when the home team, 20 games out of first place, plays a team that's 21 games out of first place. And the home team hits no hits and scores no runs through four innings, then only two to win. And attendance is down by 10,000, an acre of empty seats in the upper deck. Those who come stare blankly into the arena. The vendors look desperate.

And Cal's not in the game.

And the $13 million-a-year slugger goes 0-for-3.

And a Miller Lite still costs $4.

And it still hasn't rained.

And there are still six weeks to go.

And April seems like it's in the next century.

Even the scalpers have grown a little desperate this year. Time was when they could make a profit on Orioles tickets. They'd do their brokering by phone, fax and e-mail, selling game tickets to Washington yuppies, conventioneers and tourists at an outrageous (but wholly American) markup.

Four years ago, in the greatest urban anti-crime sweep since Gov. William Donald Schaefer's raid on The Block, the Orioles and the Baltimore City Council cracked down on ticket hustlers, making scalping at Camden Yards illegal and creating a scalp-free zone for the innocents who merely wanted to sell unneeded tickets at face value.

Now who's using the zone? The scalpers, desperate as basement waterproofing guys in a drought.

With demand for Orioles tickets way down, some of the scalpers have been taking large stacks of them into the scalp-free zone in the hopes of getting their money back. This, of course, created a backup in the queue for the zone.

So what did the Orioles do?

A few weeks ago, the organization instituted a new policy: "Each seller will be allowed to sell a maximum of four tickets per visit to the Scalp-Free Zone. One visit per day." The Orioles, in quietly spreading word about the new policy with a handout at the Yard, wanted to make sure the scalpers -- or "ticket brokers," if you want to be dressed-up about it -- didn't monopolize the zone and that fans with fewer than five unwanted tickets got a shot as well. Bill Stetka, spokesman for the team, says the Orioles will be more flexible in one particular instance -- for any charity that needs to sell large blocks of unsold tickets.

Divine intervention?

To call this story a mere coincidence is to demean it. What we have here, friends, is a case of enchanted foo dogs. I'm certain of it. And I'll bet that in her daydreams Pam Snyder, owner of the pair of antique sculptures, regards them as vessels of magical power, too. How else to explain what happened?

The foo dogs, miniature replicas of the type found at the entrances to Buddhist temples, came into Snyder's possession about five years ago when her significant other, Frank Pereny, gave them to her -- with love. Pereny had owned them about 15 years.

"They were the first present he ever gave me," Snyder says.

But, a year later, she and Pereny were having a tough time financially. They decided to sell a lot of their cherished antiques. They went to a show in Washington and sold many items -- including the foo dogs. Snyder felt particularly bad about giving up the mauve-and-gold sculptures because they had sentimental value. "I didn't want them sold, but bills were more important than our antiques," she says. The dogs sold for $1,500.

That was four years ago.

Last month, Pereny poked around an auction house in the District of Columbia, checking out items offered for direct sale. A box piqued his curiosity. He opened it. He found a brass elephant inside, a set of four wooden cups, and a pair of foo dogs that looked instantly familiar, despite a coating of dust.

As Pereny wiped away the dirt, he became excited at the prospect of having stumbled upon the foo dogs he and Snyder had sold in 1995. The design was the same. The color was mauve. The dogs were in part gilded. The convincing detail was the signature on the foot of one of the pair.

Pereny was certain he'd recovered his beloved foo and foo. He paid $90 for them.

The dogs again grace Pam Snyder's mantle at her home in southern Pennsylvania. "The dogs are protectors," she says. "They protected us when they were needed, left us, and came back when they knew their job was finished."

Beach bunch still patrolling

In 1965, when the Ocean City Beach Patrol was wrapping up its summer, a lifeguard named Dutch Ruppersberger had the assignment to sign up a band for the patrol's dance in Salisbury. Days passed, people got nervous. "Take it easy," Dutch said. "It's all set. The lead singer sounds a little like James Brown. Everything will be fine."

Was it ever. The entertainment turned out to be an emerging soulful house rocker named Wilson Pickett and his musical group. "It was the best night we ever had," said John Jarvis, a former lifeguard, now a successful O.C. businessman.

Those same former beach patrol members, movers and shakers in their own right in Maryland's Gold Coast town, are prodding Ruppersberger to run for governor.

"We feel we can bring Dutch the votes down here," said Jarvis, who swears he can still fit into his skimpy OCBP bathing suit. Dutch, who probably can't, remains close to his old buddies and appreciates their support.

But the governor's race is next century, and next month there's another fund-raiser for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in Baltimore, this one a $1,000-a-ticket deal at Della Notte. Ya know what I'm sayin'?

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