Presidents and ballplayers and cops walking a beat call him Uncle Phil.
Forty-two years on the Baltimore City police force, 18 years running security at the city's stadiums, Lt. Phil Farace knows something about big sporting events.
Uncle Phil thought he had seen it all. And then comes the 64th All-Star Game, which rolls into town like a long-awaited cold front Tuesday night.
"Everything is All-Star now," he said. "It means a happy day for everyone. They get to see the people they've never seen before. It means rubbing elbows with politicians, vendors, policemen, Oriole brass, ticket takers and ushers. And yes, even the stars. And it's all happening in the best ballpark in the country -- bar none."
This is big.
It may not be a Super Bowl or a heavyweight boxing championship, or even a World Series. It may not even be a gathering of 30,000 square dancers for a 1985 national show, the city's all-time convention draw.
But Baltimore, the state of Maryland and the Orioles have turned a midseason exhibition game matching 28 players from the American League against 28 from the National League into a weeklong celebration of everything baseball and everything Bawlmer.
This is Baltimore showing the country that it's big league.
And it's also Baltimore cashing in, a retail bonanza as more than 100,000 spectators attend the workout, the game, and FanFest, a baseball merchandiser's paradise spread across 400,000 square feet at the Convention Center and Festival Hall.
So you've got 25,000 pounds of hot dogs being devoured at FanFest, and 5,000 hotel rooms filled.
The big number: $30 million.
That's the amount in direct spending the All-Star Week is expected to generate for the city, according to the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association.
"I think it's theater more than real baseball that attracts the fans for this," said Wayne Chappell, the association's executive director. "I think it's pageantry. The country has a love affair with sports. We are a society of hero-worshipers and we like to see stars, and those stars are going to descend upon Baltimore."
And you've got national television, a home-run hitting contest and old-timers' game on ESPN tomorrow night and the big show for three-plus hours on CBS-TV Tuesday night.
"What's this mean?" Gov. William Donald Schaefer said. "National headlines. National prestige. Television everywhere. Events night and day. I did this when I was mayor. If you have an event, you make it a big event."
Looking for the meaning of the All-Star Game?
You can find it in the faces of National League players who will enter the country's most celebrated new stadium for the first time.
"The warehouse?" said Barry Bonds, of the San Francisco Giants. "What is the warehouse?"
He'll find out.
You can hear the meaning of the All-Star Game in the noise made by the fans lucky enough to claim a ticket that is going for upward of $1,000 on the scalpers' market.
"Just getting to the game means everything," said Lindsay Dripps of Lutherville. "I'll be cheering for any Oriole out there."
She'll find two: shortstop Cal Ripken and pitcher Mike Mussina.
You can see Baltimore's blue-collar grit on display, too, as thousands of vendors, cab drivers, bus drivers, restaurant and hotel workers, sanitation workers and police officers pull overtime shifts All-Star Week.
Regina Brunson, a stadium vendor in the middle of a 14-day stretch selling $4 bottles of imported beer out of huge metal tubs at the Eutaw Street entrance at Camden Yards, will watch the All-Star Game . . . on a television monitor 100 yards from her stand. She'll also pour more than 400 beers All-Star night.
"If the All-Star Game is anything like Opening Day, we are going to be really, really busy," she said. "The people I like to see here are the first- timers. They come in here and say, 'Oh, wow, we've arrived.' "
Jina Hall will be outside the stadium, selling peanuts.
"Business has really been tough this summer," she said. "But we're all having a good few weeks down here. This may help everyone break even for the year."
Kathy Downey, who runs the Tied Together pushcart at Harborplace, is hoping to sell out her collection of sports ties this week. She has ties for every Major League Baseball team and National Football League team, with one exception.
The Indianapolis Colts.
"Anyone who wants that team's tie, I just tell 'em, 'I burned it,' " she said.
Long nights, lots of cash
For Mick Kipp, an assistant manager at Pickles bar across from Camden Yards, the All-Star Game means 20-hour days, sleepless nights and lots and lots of cash.
"Day of the game, we'll do 20 kegs of beer," he said. "For the city, the bottom line is big bucks. After that, it's image. Everything else after that is secondary."
The dancers at the 408 Showbar on The Block are also getting into the All-Star spirit.
"We'll have a bullpen," said Sheena Sullivan. "We'll have the girls in the All-Star act. Something clever. Something sedate. They have a baseball card. We'll have a drawing card."
Of course, not everyone is caught up in All-Star fever.
John Waters, the director who turned Baltimore kitsch into movie art, said: "I don't know what the All-Star Game is."
Just look. And listen. And watch.
Baltimore is all dressed up in summer. The baseball capital of America.