- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

BALTIMORE For Cal Ripken and the Baltimore Orioles, it's 1995 all over again.
Ripken's retirement announcement yesterday and pending farewell tour started an Orioles ticket sales boom across baseball and a media crush unseen in Baltimore since Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak nearly six years ago.
By 7:03 a.m. yesterday, the Orioles sold out the 1,000 remaining tickets for its Sept. 23 clash against the New York Yankees, the team's final scheduled game at Camden Yards. The game the day before sold out two and a half hours later, and by the end of yesterday, fans purchased nearly 25,000 tickets.
The sales total more than doubled a typical day for the club and started the Orioles back on a path toward surpassing 3 million in attendance this season. Baltimore entered last night's game on a pace to draw 2.88 million fans, 15 percent behind last year's pace and on target for the worst draw in a full season at Camden Yards.
Even with the Ripken sales bounce, the Orioles still may not avoid the dubious distinction. But Ripken's announcement came as welcome news to the club's marketers.
"As more people become aware of the news, more fans will obviously want to come out and see Cal and appreciate what a special ballplayer he is," said Joe Foss, the Orioles' chief operating officer. Foss predicts a final 2001 draw of about 3.1 million.
Up Interstate 95, the Ripken sales effect continued. The Yankees, who will play host to Baltimore on Sept. 30 in the regular season finale, sold all of the 20,000 tickets remaining for the game in less than five hours, also crushing normal sales patterns.
"It's going to be a monumental day in baseball history," Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo said. "The fans are reflecting that."
On the secondary market, top prices yesterday for the Camden Yards finale quickly skyrocketed from $500 to more than $3,000. Not only does the game have the Ripken appeal, end-of-season clashes against the Yankees generally sell well anyway, meaning demand has far outstripped supply.
"This is very, very similar to '95. Everybody wants seats now, and nobody has them," said Danny Matta, president of Great Seats, a College Park brokerage. The company is also organizing bus tours for the final series in New York. "But if you're willing pay enough, a good seat is going to be available."
Meanwhile, Ripken, the Orioles and the Tufton Group, Ripken's management group, are furiously drafting a plan to handle the massive media throngs expected during each away series. The Orioles still have trips to each American League city except for Cleveland, Minnesota and Detroit and also will make interleague stops in Atlanta and Florida.
Ira Rainess, Ripken's lead advisor, said Ripken likely will employ the same strategy used in 1995 and during Mark McGwire's 1998 home run chase with one formal news conference at the start of every road series.
But Ripken yesterday seemed uncomfortable with the prospect of even that level of hype.
"The idea of a farewell tour has never sat well with me," Ripken said. "I've never been really comfortable with that kind of attention. I really want to just take this all in and enjoy it."

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