Fans Fancy Vendor

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August 07, 2005|By Barbara Evans | Barbara Evans,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For 16 years, Clarence Haskett's day job has involved managing traffic flow during roadwork construction for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

But in the evening, during the Ravens and Orioles seasons, the traffic engineer transforms into "Fancy Clancy," the "hardest-working beer vendor." He can sling two cartons of 16-ounce beers up stadium steps while holding a wad of money in his hands and yelling, "Who's due for a cold brew?"

At a recent Orioles game, Haskett had the motion down to a science as he worked between Sections 10 and 26 behind first base.

At 46, Haskett, of Pikesville, has been a vendor for about 30 years. He worked at the former Memorial Stadium selling hot dogs, popcorn and soda.

Haskett's daytime job, where he teaches traffic-control classes, provides him with stability, but it's his seasonal job that allows his people skills to shine.

"It's fun," he says. "I get to talk a lot of stuff. Every event is different. Every time I know I am going to a sporting event, I get charged up."

He earned the name "Fancy Clancy" after he perfected a technique -- pouring two beers in cups behind his back -- during the late 1980s, when he sold beer in cans.

When one of his customers saw the feat, he said, "That's pretty fancy, Clancy." And the name stuck.

Haskett's 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame is easily noticeable when he enters his sections at Camden Yards: the flap of his black and orange baseball cap turned back just like the sleeves on his orange Orioles T-shirt.

His bulging arms are the result of going to the gym about three times a week so he can "hustle" the cartons up and down the stairs.

"He's fantastic," says customer Mike Niederhauser, who with Haskett works for the highway administration. "I've been to a lot of ballparks around the country and he hustles. I have never seen anybody at any ballpark that hustles the way he does."

Niederhauser, 47, adds, "Back in the day, he was carrying four cases at a time when everyone else was carrying one."

Not only is physical prowess a necessity for this job, Haskett's personality is a key ingredient as well.

"I am part of the show," he says. "People think they are coming just to see a baseball game, but they see a vendor at his craft talking jibber-jabberish, running up the stairs fast and doing his thing."

There is a serious side to what Haskett does, however. He says vendors are trained to know when customers have had too much to drink.

In 1996, Haskett and his partner, David McDonald of Baltimore, formed All Pro Vending and two years later their company garnered the contract to oversee all of the vending for Ravens games at M&T Bank Stadium. Some of their national jobs have included Super Bowls in Florida, Atlanta and New Orleans, the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders' Cup, NBA All-Star games and NASCAR events.

Most vendors wear an apron to hold their money, but Haskett prefers to carry the money between his fingers.

"That way, I can handle the money quicker," he says.

He runs about 18 to 20 tabs, for some of his choice customers. He doesn't always remember the totals, but the customers are faithful with their payments.

"One time I ran a tab for this guy in August," Haskett says. "I saw him in line at a game in December and he gave me $90 that he owed me. "

John Ware, 57, of Montgomery County is one of Haskett's tab customers. "I love him," he says. "He's like my cult hero."

The roar of the crowd and the smack of a bat or snap of a football are a backdrop to what he does.

"Every once in a while I can catch a big play on the big screen," Haskett says.

During an Orioles game against Detroit earlier this season, he had one leg wrapped around the handrail, arms were outstretched over several customers, as if he were about to fly, and then he threw a couple of pitches: "If you want it fancy, buy it from Clancy. Don't stand in line, buy mine and step right up and buy a cup."

He then lifted the box of beer over his head with one hand and zipped to another part of the crowd.

"It gets lighter with every sale," he says.

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