"By the second inning," Schwalenberg recalls with a grin, "they were usually buying."

Beer cost 95 cents a pop (it's $7.25 now) and the vendors had to pour each glass bottle individually. No one had thought to cut off sales in the seventh inning to prevent drunken driving. In fact, the vendors sold beers for the road as the fans streamed out the exits.

Schwalenberg eventually moved downstairs and became the No. 1 beer salesman at Memorial Stadium. He formed bonds with regulars who sat in the same seats day after day, year after year. He allowed many to run tabs. Once, a local doctor ducked out of the season's last game without settling his bill only to mail a check to Schwalenberg at the museum, generous tip included.

Other customers asked their "beer guy" to tag along on road trips. A fan known as "Dan the Barking Dog," famous for spooking opposing players with his canine calls, invited Schwalenberg to his Christmas party.

"You really got to know people," Schwalenberg says.

In 1983, he not only got to sell beer at the World Series; he began volunteering at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. That led to a full-time job at the historic house, which later expanded to the much larger Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards. As curator, he gets to inspect all the neat artifacts that people find in the attic.

He'll never forget the day that a guy named Harry Howe III strode into the old museum with a brown paper bag. He pulled out a tiny uniform that his father had worn as a 4-year-old bench mascot for the great Orioles of the 1890s, complete with striped socks and miniature bat.

"I love the oddball stuff," Schwalenberg says.

He unlocks the storage room in the museum's basement and slips on a pair of cotton gloves to handle the latest arrivals — John Unitas' 1958 championship jacket with the quarterback's name stitched on the inside and the batting gloves Derek Jeter wore when he recently passed Ruth on the Yankees hit list.

"I'm even shocked myself sometimes at how excited I get when a new piece comes in," Schwalenberg says.

He might not feel quite the same romance for his night job. The days of knowing all his customers, running tabs and selling out cases in one jog through a crowded section are gone.

But watching Schwalenberg bop up and down the aisles, you'd never guess his age. He rises at 5:30 a.m. to jog most days and plans to run his first marathon this fall. After three decades of hefting beers, he doesn't see any reason to quit soon.

"I guess my body will tell me when it's time to stop," he says. "I still enjoy going to work."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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