Baseball is a game of nuances. The ballpark’s sights, sounds and smells offer a warm blend of familiarity.
There’s the scent of freshly mowed grass mixing with sizzling hot dogs. The exploding scoreboards. The crunching of peanut shells beneath your heel merging with the cracks of bats and the snapping of leather gloves.
But if you’ve sat down the right-field line at U.S. Cellular Field anytime in the last nine years, there’s an added trademark to that list--singing.
And we’re not talking about the National Anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” or “Sweet Caroline.”
More like Mark Reiner. Or the singing beer man, as he’s known throughout sections 110 to 120.
From afar, he looks like any other vendor. He dons a neon yellow windbreaker. He lugs his plastic tray up and down the aisles with a fatigued waddle.
But as he gets closer, the difference is heard loud and clear.
“Young man, won’t show me an ID. I said young man, or else I will flee,” Reiner sings to the familiar tune of Village People’s “YMCA” as he hands a 20-something-year-old a Miller Lite.
This is what the 58-year-old who doubles as an art teacher does. He puts flare to the traditional cry of “beer here.” Reiner adds a jingle to his customer-seeking call.
And with nine years of perfecting under his belt, he puts a personalized touch to his tunes.
“Mommy’s all right, daddy needs a Lite,” he sings to the melody of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” while pointing to a family sitting in Section 114.
The father obliges, happily forking over the necessary $7.75 for a cold one.
Business has been good for Reiner since he started singing. He’s developed regulars who only buy from him. Fans snap pictures as he patrols. On occasion, he gets tips without making a sale.
“It’s called romancing the sale,” said Reiner, who talks as fast as beer pours from the 16-ounce aluminum pints in his tray. “It’s helped get me a lot of costumers. I like to say I charge you for the concert, but the beer is on me. And it all started as a fluke.”
It began in 2004. It was an unusually cold September Sunday afternoon. Sundays, according to Reiner, are the worst days for vendors.
Reiner was climbing the corner seats in right field when “Now batting, right-fielder, Maaagglio Ordonneeezzz,” blared over the public address system.
The crowd began to chant the once-familiar, “Oh-wee-oh, Magglio!”
Reiner hated that chant. He scoffed, turned to the crowd and belted back, “Oh-wee-oh, Miller beer!”
A couple of folks laughed. Someone immediately flagged him down for a brew. A part-vending, part-song-rewriting era was born.
"I'll just hear a song and put a twist on it," Reiner said. "I don't sit down and think about it, they just come to me."
What started as a twist on Ordonez’s chant soon turned to a tribute of Reiner’s love for 1960s music.
Beatles-beer spoofs are a favorite of Reiner’s. From “all you need is Lite” to “we all work in a yellow shirt that’s green,” there’s rarely a song-less moment as Reiner swarms the stands. And there’s rarely a moment when Reiner’s not boasting an ear-to-ear smile as he sings, even after all this time.
Reiner’s been a beer vendor since 1973. When he first started, he was selling brews for 65 cents. The wear-and-tear of vending has led to a hip replacement and constant soreness in his lower back and knees. But the pain doesn’t hinder Reiner’s love for what he does--it only adds a slight limp to it.
“I just love it, even after doing it for so long. I’ve had a blast,” Reiner said. “I’ve met a lot of wonderful people. I’ve seen people from all walks of life. It’s humbled me. I just try to do my job every day, and if I can entertain, make someone smile and have a good day, I’m happy. I’m sociable, what can I say?”
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