Print and Go Back ESPN.com: MLB Playoffs 2005 [Print without images]

Sunday, October 23, 2005
Updated: October 24, 11:10 AM ET
Concessionaire's dream is a slow game

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

Lloyd Rutzky might be working a little bit faster than usual on Sunday night.

That's because the 57-year-old vendor, who has been selling various items at Cubs and White Sox games since 1965, knows that Mark Buehrle is pitching for the White Sox in Game 2.

Buehrle is the eighth fastest pitcher in the American League, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Games he has started have averaged 2 hours and 41 minutes. That's six minutes longer than league leader Carlos Silva of the Minnesota Twins and eight minutes shorter than the league average.

"Sometimes you look up and we're through two or three innings in the time it usually takes to get through one inning," said Rutzky, who sold beer for the game against the Seattle Mariners when a Buehrle game was completed in a blistering 1 hour and 39 minutes, the shortest White Sox game since 1984.

Fast is trouble for vendors, who unlike many that they serve, appreciate the extra throws to first base, the meandering about on the mound in between pitches and the impromptu pitcher-catcher conferences.

"A concessionaire's dream is a nice, slow, long game with a two-hour rain delay in the third inning," said Rick Abramson, a former vendor who is now president of Sportservice, which controls the concessions at U.S. Cellular Field. "Obviously, the longer you have to sell, the more you can sell."

Sportservice chief operating officer Jim Houser notes that Buehrle joins a select group of fast-work pitchers including Jim Kaat, who was the last White Sox left-hander to win 20 games (1974 and '75).

Rutzky says he's not sure what to expect financially from Game 2 sales. The White Sox averaged 28,924 fans per game this year, but will pack in about 41,000 per game for the World Series games in the Windy City. That means that there will be more people to sell to, but Rutzky says that will be counterbalanced somewhat by more vendors being in the stands. He also says that while fans attending World Series games likely have a higher disposable income than fans attending average games, "the people attending these games probably don't want to drink as much."

In Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Red Sox, vendors in Chicago sold 11,772 cans of Miller Genuine Draft and Miller Lite, which is reportedly twice the amount sold at an average regular-season game.

"The good thing about Buehrle is that he has to pitch against someone else," Rutzky said. "Let's hope the White Sox can start some rallies."

Land of Oz

You'd be hard-pressed to find manager jerseys in your local sports store, but Majestic Athletic -- the official apparel of Major League Baseball -- has recently signed White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to a deal. Managers are not part of the players' association, so if a company wants to include a manager in its product, it has to sign an individual deal with him. "He's so fiery and colorful that it's a good opportunity for us," said Chuck Strom, Majestic's senior brand manager for MLB apparel. Guillen jerseys have turned out so well, in fact, that Majestic amended Guillen's contract so that it now includes rights to Guillen's name and image on "Ozzieball" T-shirts. Majestic sells only one other manager jersey: New York Yankees skipper Joe Torre's.

Supply and demand

Bobby Mintz didn't go to sleep Wednesday when the Houston Astros advanced to the World Series by beating the St. Louis Cardinals. Mintz, the vice president of operations for Houston-based memorabilia company Tri-Star Productions, stayed up all night, took his son to school and went to the ballpark to get the Astros to sign pieces of World Series memorabilia. Thanks to Mintz's hustle, here's what you can already buy if you are die-hard Astros fan:

Brad Lidge-signed 2005 World Series Ball -- $99

Roy Oswalt-signed 2005 World Series Ball -- $139

Team-signed 2005 World Series Ball -- $1,299

Team-signed 16 by 20 photo -- $1,299

Team-signed Astros jersey -- $1,750

Mintz said the response from Astros fans has been great but admits that he's not sure what the demand will be before the team wins anything. "We're all Astros fans here, but we have to take the emotion out of it because this is a business," Mintz said. "We have to remember the Astros are more of a regional team than the Red Sox were last year."

Tri-Star has an exclusive autograph deal with Astros pitcher Roger Clemens.

Then and now

The last year the Chicago White Sox played in the World Series was 1959. According to Chicago-based Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc., here's how things have changed:

  1959 2005
Avg. American salary $4,743 $39,795
Avg. MLB player's salary $16,977 $2,632,655
Hot dog 25 cents $3.75
Beer 35 cents $5.50

Free radio days

Fans attending Game 1 in Chicago and Game 5 (if necessary) in Houston will receive coupons to pick up a free Delphy RoadyXT satellite radio. The retail value is $79.99, but there's a catch. The radio doesn't work without subscribing to XM satellite radio, which cost $12.95 per month. As part of this deal, the radio can't be redeemed unless fans pre-pay for three months worth of service ($38.85).

Black Betsy redux

Four years ago, a collector bought what was supposed to be "Shoeless" Joe Jackson's "Black Betsy" bat for $577,000 (which was the same price that a person paid for one of those 1924 upside-down plane stamps). Well, with the White Sox in the World Series again, I figured the bat would be sold again. I was right.

I'm still not convinced it's the bat. The reason Babe Ruth's bat sold for $1.265 million in December was because the story -- that he used this wood to hit the first home run at Yankee Stadium -- was perfect. This story is significantly harder to prove. The bat's history is held together by one particular story which explains why the bat, supposedly used throughout Jackson's career, has a 1919 marking on it. For more on this story, check out the piece I wrote on the bat when it was first being auctioned.

Going once, going twice ...

Illinois-based auction house MastroNet will be holding an auction that will include many White Sox items, among them game-used jerseys of Ted Kluszewski (1959), Frank Grube (1931), Dick Allen (1974), Luis Aparicio (1969) and Early Winn (1960). The auction opens Nov. 21 and ends Dec. 9.

Sure handed

Franklin Sports is the official batting glove of Major League Baseball and has a 55 percent market share. But the company has been challenged of late since players have the right to sign their own endorsement deals with other companies. Even still, 13 players, including Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Brad Ausmus, Morgan Ensberg, Carl Everett, Scott Podsednik and Jermaine Dye, will be wearing Franklin gloves during the World Series.

Darren Rovell is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.