Just the ticket? Fans cheer, jeer

Orioles: Fans who paid dearly to see what they thought would be Cal Ripken's final home game are left steaming. Others who bought tickets to a seemingly meaningless Sept. 16 game have suddenly hit the Ripken lottery.

September 23, 2001|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Baseball's upended schedule has reversed the fortunes of thousands of Orioles fans. Some, who had expected to attend Cal Ripken's last home game tonight, won't. Others who had figured to see a meaningless late-season game will instead witness his final bows.

In New York, what was supposed to be the All-Star's last appearance in uniform becomes merely another stop in his goodbye tour. Some people who had planned to attend the sold-out, Sept. 30 game at Yankee Stadium have instead donated their tickets to charities.

The financial consequences for Orioles fans depend on whether they hold tickets for today's game here against the Yankees, or one against the Red Sox that was supposed to be played Sept. 16. The Boston game was rescheduled for Oct. 6 and, barring any more unforeseen events, should include Ripken's final at-bat.

Many fans hold tickets worth a fraction of what they paid brokers to get them. Others find themselves with $30 tickets that brokers price at $2,500.

"I will never go see another Orioles game again," said Gregory McCoy, a computer consultant from Bel Air whose family skipped a vacation to afford $1,425 for three tickets to today's game. A broker has refused a plea for a refund.

"I'm annoyed not so much for the money, but we are not going to see Cal's last game," said McCoy, referring to his wife and 5-year-old son, Carter. Jennifer Schaefer-McCoy saw Ripken's first game and wanted to see his last, too.

McCoy contends the Orioles should have executed a swap, admitting holders of tickets dated Sept. 23 on Oct. 6, and admitting holders of tickets dated Sept. 16 today. Never mind the problem of Yankees fans finding themselves watching the Red Sox at Camden Yards.

When Major League Baseball lengthened the season to make up a week of games postponed because of the terrorist attacks, it was left to individual teams to apportion the tickets, said Katie Feeney, vice president of scheduling and club relations.

The Orioles, like most other teams, decided to honor tickets to each postponed game on the day the game is made up. That means fans holding tickets to a postponed Red Sox game will see the Red Sox.

"We are in a no-win situation and we've taken what we think is the fairest, most logical way of dealing with this," said Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka. "I know some people have paid a lot of money to see Cal's last game and that's unfortunate."

To make tonight's game memorable for ticket holders, Stetka said the team plans a ceremony in which Ripken will join retired Orioles great Brooks Robinson.

The Orioles have not profited from the rescheduling because tonight's game and the rescheduled finale were nearly sold out before last week, Stetka said. In fact, there are too few Oct. 6 tickets to accommodate all the VIPs.

When the revised schedule was announced Sept. 17, about 1,500 tickets remained for the finale against the Red Sox. A few were sold on the Internet before the Orioles shut down sales, Stetka said.

Brokers are now seeking top dollar for the game, which combines the appeal of Ripken's last game with his last home appearance. The Web site of Great Seats Inc., based in College Park, lists bleacher seats at $500 and box seats for $2,500.

Among the lucky who have tickets for the finale is Ray Unger of Columbia, a partial-season ticket holder who got four tickets to the Sept. 16 Boston game. He plans to use three, sell the fourth and donate the proceeds to disaster relief.

"We have a lot of mixed feelings. We want to see him, but what a way for this to happen," Unger said.

Mark Pallack of Westminster, a longtime fan who attended the team's last game at Memorial Stadium as well as the first at Camden Yards, happened to have Sept. 16 tickets obtained as friends and family divvied up season tickets earlier this year. "I'm elated. I understand the people who paid a lot of money and are upset. I would be, too. But I don't think what the Orioles did is bad," Pallack said.

Peter Jacobsen, president of Executive Tickets, a ticket brokerage in Columbia, said the reshuffling hasn't produced a windfall. He had sold most of his Sept. 16 inventory before the schedule change. Conversely, he still has tickets to today's game, some still on hand, worth less than he paid.

"I'm short on the 6th and long on the 23rd," he said.

He had a pair of skyboxes for the Sept. 30 game at Yankee Stadium, which he has donated to New York police.

Charlie Caputo, national trustee of the New York Fraternal Order of Police, said his members, who have suffered greatly in the disaster, have little interest in baseball at the moment. But he is passing along the skybox tickets to a Special Olympics event.

Sports radio personality Nestor "Nasty" Aparicio had arranged a chartered bus to Yankee Stadium for the game at $250 a person, including tickets.

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