The brazen theft of Oriole tickets


A note in last Friday's column about the alleged larceny of Oriole tickets from a season subscriber prompted a telephone call from the alleged victim, Rick Richter, who confirmed the incident and provided colorful narrative.

Furthermore, a congenial sergeant of the Baltimore Police Department's Oriole Park detail verified the existence of a report on the confrontation -- Offense No. 92-1720938. He also remarked that, while it might seem unusual, tickets certainly have changed hands illicitly before. In some cases, the sergeant related, tickets swiped in burglaries have been used by burglars to gain entrance to Oriole games, a foolish choice that has frequently aided police in making arrests.

The sergeant's story -- and the one I will relate in today's column -- reminded me of an earlier incident from my Guilty But Mostly Stupid File. It involved a break-in at a home in an affluent New Orleans suburb a few years ago. Taken were two season passes to games of the New Orleans Saints. Considering that the perpetrators might use the passes, two detectives decided to stake out the box where the seats in question were designated. Sure enough, the burglars showed -- wearing jewelry they also had obtained in the burglarly.

The recent case involving Oriole tickets might one day qualify for the Guilty But Mostly Stupid file -- that is, should the alleged perpetrator be found guilty. Right now, says Rick Richter, it could best be described as "amusingly stupid."

This amusingly stupid tale, related in full by the victim, might also further evidence the tenacious demand for Oriole tickets in this fabulous opening season at Camden Yards.

Mr. Richter's story goes like this:

He had planned to attend the June 21 Father's Day game between Baltimore and New York, and had invited his boss, the owner of an electrical supply company in Baltimore County. On Friday, however, Mr. Richter learned that his boss would be unable to attend. Mr. Richter says he announced this to some co-workers, and that's where the plot thickens.

Mr. Richter, a member of the Fantastic Fan Club, kept all his tickets -- two box seats for 12 games -- in an envelope on his desk at work. The seats were in Section 372, upper level, left field.

When he left work for the weekend, Mr. Richter took the envelope of tickets with him. Friday evening, he discovered that the tickets for the Father's Day game -- and only that game -- were missing.

Let us generally describe Mr. Richter's reaction as one of surprise and anger, then resolve. He had a suspicion about who might have purloined his tickets -- a recently hired co-worker, about 33 years old -- and he resolved to prove it. "I wanted to nail the guy" is how Mr. Richter put it.

Saturday morning, June 20, Mr. Richter notified the director of the Fantastic Fan Club and was told he would be issued passes. "They called them season-ticket overrides," Mr. Richter said. "If I showed up with them, they would override the original tickets." Mr. Richter was instructed to "grab an usher and a cop" before entering the box during Sunday's game.

"And I filed a theft report with Baltimore County police because that's where it took place," Mr. Richter said. "I didn't mention any names [of suspects]."

On Sunday evening, Mr. Richter took his 9-year-old son, Bobby, to the game. He intentionally arrived late. "The third inning," he said. "That way, whoever had my tickets would be settled in and would think I wasn't coming."

As he made his way to Section 372, Mr. Richter spotted the suspect; he was waiting for eats at a concession stand.

"I hid so he wouldn't see me," Mr. Richter said. "Then I contacted an usher and a cop. The officer verified with Baltimore County that there was a theft report on file. . . . The usher went in with my passes and asked the [suspect] to show him his tickets. He pulled them out, showed them to the usher, then the usher said, 'Come with me.' . . . So he walked out with the usher. He came to the concession stand and . . . there must have been six cops. . . . He looked scared.

"He made eye contact with me and said, 'Rick, what's the problem? I was gonna pay ya.' That infuriated me. I said, 'You stole 'em.' He knew they weren't for sale. He just took 'em. He didn't leave me a note. I said to the cop, 'Take him away.' "

And charge him with audacity!

A spectator who had been seated near the alleged ticket thief during the first three innings of the game heard him remark, "These are lousy seats!"

"So later," Mr. Richter said, "when he was in handcuffs waiting to go to Central District, I told the cop arresting him what he had said: 'These are lousy seats.' And the cop said, 'Oh, yeah? If you think those seats are lousy, wait till you see the one you're getting now.' "

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