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All-Star Fever : Big Game’s Prized Tickets Are Hottest-Selling Items in County

Times Staff Writer

For once, real estate isn’t the hottest commodity in Orange County.

Commercial acreage and ocean-view lots have been supplanted, if only briefly, by printed rectangles of cardboard good for just two things: admission to the 1989 All-Star game on July 11 at Anaheim Stadium and lots of memories afterward.

If you still don’t have a ticket, you’ve got lots of company. Most fans will have to be satisfied with eight days of All-Star hoopla that will include the Orange County Centennial Parade, fireworks, mariachi bands and a Wild West show.

If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket or two--now worth up to $500 on the scalper market--you probably have many new-found friends.

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“This is probably the only time I’ll ever be able to see all the best players from both leagues on the same field,” said Audrey Patton, a self-described Angels fanatic and season-ticket holder who plans to treat seven relatives to choice seats right behind home plate.

“I’m going to give my tickets to family members,” the Yorba Linda grandmother said. “They’re being real nice to me lately.”

A capacity crowd of 64,000 is expected at the stadium for the ultimate baseball exhibition game, a contest that means nothing in terms of season standings but offers plenty of excitement and celebrity. Slightly more than half of the seats were bought by holders of season tickets, and another 15,000 or so went to the commissioner of baseball, major league teams, big advertisers and the television and radio networks that will broadcast the game.

For baseball fans without an uncle at NBC, the odds of getting a ticket were almost 50 to 1. More than 150,000 hopefuls--the equivalent of every resident of Costa Mesa, Irvine and a smattering from Santa Ana--entered a local postcard lottery for a chance to buy four tickets out of the 14,000 remaining.

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“It’s a hot ticket all over the country,” said Jim Small, spokesman for Major League Baseball in New York, which donates a portion of the game proceeds to the players’ pension fund. “There’s only one game, in just one ballpark, and there are always more people who want to get in than there are tickets.”

Small would not say how much the 60th All-Star contest is expected to bring into baseball coffers through sales of $40 and $50 tickets, broadcast rights and souvenir sales, but it will certainly be a bonanza for the host community. Officials in Cincinnati, the site of last year’s game, estimated that the match attracted thousands of out-of-town fans and rang up $21 million in restaurant, hotel and shopping income.

“It’s logical to assume that in Orange County, where there is so much to do, that the revenue would be even greater,” Small said.

The arrival of the All-Star game as a major event is a relatively new phenomenon that Small attributed, in part, to the addition in 1985 of the All-Star Workout and Skills Competition. The workout, which features baseball heroes in home-run contests and other athletic events, gives fans who can’t get a game ticket another chance to see their favorites in action. Tickets for this year’s workout, which cost $5 and benefits local charities, are still available.

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Tribute for Bob Hope

Crowds are also expected for the Centennial Parade on Wednesday, with Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans as grand marshal, and appearances by Hall of Famers and Walt Disney characters. Other promotional events are planned around Angels’ games in the next week, with a tribute on Thursday to entertainer Bob Hope and a Western-style show on Friday to honor Gene Autry, owner of the Angels and a former cowboy film star.

Former President Ronald Reagan, who started his career as radio sports announcer “Dutch” Reagan, will also return to the microphone to announce an inning of the All-Star contest.

For the Angels, this year’s host team, the All-Star game and related events provide a big boost to sales of season tickets that otherwise would have sagged after two disappointing seasons.

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“We applied for this year’s game in 1983, and we’ve been working to organize the events since the begining of 1987,” said Tom Seeberg, the Angels All-Star coordinator. “With all the national attention and exposure, this will be the event of the season. To us, this is like the Super Bowl.”

To Ken Fischer, the All-Star game could be the event of a lifetime.

Fischer, an Orange County native who now lives in New Mexico, still laments missing the last All-Star game held at Anaheim Stadium because he was 14 years old and at Boy Scout camp during the summer of 1967. It won’t happen again: When Fischer’s mother won a chance to buy four tickets this year, he scheduled his vacation for game week in California.

Baseball as ‘Art Form’

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“The only thing that could top the All-Star game in Anaheim would be to see the Angels in the playoffs or the World Series,” he said. “I view baseball as an art form, and these players are the very best at what they do. It will be like watching the best artists in the world paint the best pictures.”

When it comes to the All-Star game, true fans aren’t picky about seats, said Al Barrett, whose game tickets are “just inside the parking lot, in the upper deck, center field.”

Barrett, who lives in Tustin, finagled tickets through a business connection in order to take his 8-year-old son, Jack, to the game.

“It’s the experience--it will be a real show,” Barrett said. “It’s something that I hope my son will remember all his life.

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“This an exhibition game, let’s face it. But if you’re a baseball fan, you’ve got to love the All-Stars. When you get that kind of talent assembled on one field, well, half of these guys have a legitimate shot at the Hall of Fame.”

Even scalpers waxed sentimental.

Kevin McBride of Fullerton, who won a chance to buy eight tickets in the All-Star lottery, advertised to sell the tickets for $75 and $150. They went fast even though four were in the far reaches of right field, where the view is obstructed by a foul pole.

“I doing this because I’m a big baseball fan,” McBride explained. “I figured I could sell these tickets and make a little money and then buy a really good seat.”

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