On the day before the All-Star Game, Riechl Mayne was coming to the realization that he and his buddies, so sure of their ability to find seats when they arrived from suburban Detroit Friday, just might find themselves without tickets at game time tonight.
That would mean the end of a five-year success story for the six men from Warren, Mich., semi-pro players in the National Amateur Baseball Federation who annually jet into the All-Star city and manage to score tickets.
But Baltimore is proving tough. The guys' connections with the Detroit Tigers have scattered. The scalpers out there are still talking about $300 and $500 and $650 a ticket. Mr. Mayne's limit is $100.
But look elsewhere for despair.
"We've had a great time," he says in the lobby of the Lord Baltimore Hotel. "The carnival atmosphere, the partying, the male bonding, the getting out of Detroit."
And after five days of All-Star fever, "sometimes the game is anti-climactic," Mr. Mayne adds. Last year, in San Diego, "we had partied so hard in the previous three days, I found myself almost nodding off in the seventh inning."
There are clubs at night, which they like to close, and the ticket search in the morning. Mr. Mayne, who at 37 is older than his buddies, says he checks to see that "everyone makes curfew." Curfew, he adds, is "dawn."
Today, on the streets of Baltimore, the hunt for All-Star tickets -- and souvenirs -- continues.
Meanwhile, the guys are getting phone calls from Las Vegas. That's where their wives and girlfriends headed en masse -- for female bonding and to get out of Detroit.
Anneke Houge has a little something in common with Babe Ruth:
Like the fabled slugger, she is growing up around a saloon.
The Babe lived on top of one. Anneke lives behind one.
Yesterday, the 14-year-old traveled a few blocks from her home near the corner of Pratt Street and King Boulevard to Ridgely's Delight, the neighborhood where the Babe was born.
There, Anneke and other local kids painted the Paca Street asphalt just across the way from Oriole Park at Camden Yards with the logo that said "Ridgely's Delight: All-Star Neighborhood" around a baseball with Babe Ruth's signature.
Anneke painted the "Babe" part of the autograph.
The Ridgely's Delight community association's idea was to get local children involved in something fun while exploiting the publicity that's come to a community, now reborn, that shamed William Donald Schaefer when he was mayor and the area was a slum.
Kenito Cunningham, 9, painted the top point of a blue star in the baseball; Sherman Cooper, 10, painted "Ruth"; Tacaria Gardener, 11, painted the "E" in Ridgely's and worked on the red stitches of the ball; Darryl Brown, 11, filled in the ball with white; and Vasheita Harp, 13, painted the "S" in Ridgely's.
Thick with baseball fans
The community association hopes that neighborhood relationships nurtured yesterday will outlive the time it took to make a splash of color in the middle of Paca Street.
Because when the first strong rains come, the logo will be washed away.
This All-Star stuff is getting serious. At 11:30 yesterday morning, an hour when motorists generally glide through downtown Baltimore, the streets around Oriole Park at Camden Yards were thick with traffic crawling under the midday sun.
Light rail ridership almost doubled, Metro and MARC trains and MTA buses reported volumes far heavier than usual.
From all directions, the baseball fans were converging on the stadium. They pushed strollers down Charles Street, carried pennants across Pratt Street, darted among the stalled cars in mid-block. All this, and there wasn't even real baseball downtown -- just All-Star workouts and a celebrity home-run derby.
How could so many people have the day off?
"Light Up Baltimore!"
Tonight, there is the game. And then there is "Light Up Baltimore!"
Promotions officials are asking offices, hotels and other businesses from Russell to President streets and Baltimore to Montgomery streets to leave their lights on to add to the dramatic aerial views of the city. Hotel visitors will find a flier in their rooms asking them to leave the lights on when they go to the game.
And someone will be watching to make sure all those windows are lighted so long as national attention is fixed here.
"I'm going to be sitting over at the Rusty Scupper [the restaurant across the harbor] with my portable phone," says Pamela Ruff of the Maryland Communications Center. She has a list of contact people for each buildings. "If any of the lights go out, I'm going to be calling my little contact person."
"We called BG&E; and we talked with them over there and they told me if the lights go off in downtown, it won't be because of 'Light Up Baltimore!' "