The inevitability didn't subtract from its significance. As the Orioles went about winning their sixth consecutive game with a 4-1 decision over the Seattle Mariners at Camden Yards, paid attendance for one of the most disappointing seasons in team history eclipsed 3 million.
And for once, the Orioles could brag they tied the Yankees.
The defending world champs joined the fourth-place team as the first franchises to pass the milepost this season. An announced Camden Yards crowd of 44,891 pushed the Orioles to 3,032,891 with club officials projecting a season-ending figure of approximately 3.5 million.
"It has become sort of a cliche, which makes it no less true, that the Orioles organization is blessed with the best fans in baseball," said chief operating officer Joe Foss. "The ballpark is 8 years old so I think the novelty has worn off. Certainly the on-field performance has been disappointing for a second consecutive year as far as the club is concerned, ownership is concerned and fans are concerned. What [3 million] represents is this area's love for baseball."
The Orioles have drawn more than 3 million in each of seven full seasons since the 1992 unveiling of the civic centerpiece. The players' strike of 1994 cut that year's attendance to 2,535,359, which represented a record average of 46,951 a game.
By selling about 3.1 million tickets before the season's first pitch, the Orioles were guaranteed of reaching the mark before the team left spring training. Increasing numbers of no-shows do not affectthe count since Major League Baseball counts attendance as tickets sold. Neither the Orioles nor the Maryland Stadium Authority discloses turnstile count.
The Orioles remain the only franchise to have drawn at least 3 million attendance in every full season since 1991. Yesterday marked the first time in their history the Yankees have reached the figure.
Orioles officials maintain no decision has yet been made regarding next year's ticket prices.
Pub Date: 9/13/99