So I went to the ballgame this past week. It is my second visit to the new stadium. I first really missed the old stadium during this visit. I don't know. The predictability and access of the old stadium were perfect. At the old stadium you could walk around the entire stadium and never take your eyes off the game. On the second level terrace. The downstairs loge seats you could walk around nearly the entire stadium except for a brief walk behind the bleachers. But you could keep an eye on the game almost the whole time as you walked around the outfield. It was a nice setup.
It was a particularly nice setup for being a portable vendor. Back in 98, during the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire I worked as a "portable vendor". I am always game for a side job, and besides, the ticket prices were getting out of hand that summer.
I would often go with Darren, Fee and/or Pablo, my bosses at the time. We would usually score tickets from a downtown suit who would come to lunch, but often we hustled tickets from scalps for below face on the streets outside the stadium. But this year we were getting squeezed for the casual scalp tickets
So I went down and applied for a job. I talked to the main bossman of all the vendors. He was a cop or retired cop or something and this was his side gig. I never actually met him. I talked to him on a speakerphone in an office while he was in another room. It was strange needless to say, but I was hired on the spot. Granted they were hiring pretty much any warm body at this point for nearly every game was selling out. It was an odd way to be hired, for I was given a book of guidelines, training manual and such the size of a small city's phone book and was told to read the book and report for work the next day. The whole process was rushed. No real training for me, just throwing me in. And I had no person I could physically identify as a boss, just a voice like Charlie on Charlie's Angels.
I took a cursory look at the manual considering the circumstances of the hiring process. It was full of HR bs, but there were some amusing highlights. I was not allowed to call women such things as "dames" "toots" or "babe". Highly amusing. And then there was a very specific restriction spelling out that there is absolutely "no gambling or games" allowed in the locker room. Strange. Strange indeed.
The next day I went in through the official employee entrance through the southside entrance where the loading docks were. While being the official employee entrance, I am fairly sure the baseball players went through another entrance. I wound my way through the bowels of the stadium to the locker room. The locker room was brightly lit with fluorescent light and filled with old metal lockers on one side of the room and cages on the other end. Everyone was lined up at the cages and I stood in line with them. The crew was a rowdy lot of young and old. The old timers were a real trip. Real pros. The young cusses were a mixed lot. Some were gamers while others seemed sort of indifferent souls. All made for a colorful experience. I would tend to listen to the older guys. Some of them were flat out nuts, but would make bits of sense. Others were rather saavy and percipient. A generally convivial crew in all.
We all lined up to get our polyester shirts, not unlike the nasty ones I wore as a driver for Domino's. Stretched out, holes, torn, incorrectly listed sizes. But they were durable and had probably been around since the previous World Series appearance. The only part of the uniform I was allowed to keep was a nice red mesh hat that I still wear to this day. This was before vendors were allowed/instructed to wear Cardinal ballcap. This was just fine with me. I liked the red mesh hat. At least I didn't have to wear a Cardinals cap.
So I put my clothes in one of the unlocked lockers. I had neglected to bring a lock, but I wasn't too worried for I didn't have much to put in the locker. All I had was beat up helmet, some jeans, some boots and a small bag with relatively worthless items in it. I chatted with this one guy who was recently divorced and selling beer. I figured beer was the best assignment, so I needed to sell beer. I had always wanted to sell beer. They were the biggest hustlers. I tried to figure out which beer was best to sell. Bud Light was the big seller. That was obvious. Then Bud, then Busch.
But selling Bud Light was almost too easy. So as we all lined up to get our product assignment I managed to get the old man behind the cage to assign me Busch. It was the stadium's namesake. It made particular reason to take pride in the product. It seemed there was only a handful of other Busch beer vendors, besides I was a new kid and it was easier to take the weak seller. I couldn't be picky, but there was no need to be. I was selling the namesake of the family. This was a good strong tradition in this town. Selling beer at a baseball game. Selling Busch beer at Busch Stadium.
So as we waited in the locker room for the go ahead to hit the seats the guys started to crowd around. There was a definite culture and social order to the locker room. There were guys who were in the know, and the ones who were not. So I tended toward the guys who were the most comfortable in the room, the most social. I then chatted with some of the experienced guys trying to get a handle on how the pickups for the beer worked, the whole commisary situation, the general rues. Then I noticed something exciting happening in the corner. It was a game. A small game, maybe three or four guys. Dice. I hadn't seen a dice game this close since I was in Meacham Park when I was younger. I was fascinated by this game, but I didn't get a chance to watch closely for the doors to the stadium opened and we were off to the commissaries to pick up our first load of beer to sell.
Selling beer at Busch was a real hustle. We hawked and ran. We would run up and down the aisles. I had to figure a pitch. I was familiar with the many different pitches while I was a fan.
"Anybody want a sodeee? With a free straw?"
That was always a good one.
"Itsda Bud, itsda Bud, itsda Bud man heyer!"
"Bud, Bud Lieyeet!"
There are some more great ones, but they only do well verbally.
But I needed my own pitch. I thought about what a great beer Busch is, and what sort of person wants an ice cold Busch beer.
"Who here's a mountain man? Raise yo hand! I gotcher icecoldBuschbeer right heyra!"
"Brewed with pride! On the southside! Getcher icecoldBuschbeer right heyra!"
"Official beer of Busch stadium!! Getcher icecoldBuschbeer right heyra!"
I would circle around the upper decks, where the business was the best during sold out games. While sales were weaker downstairs I would also troll the rich seats as well. There were no restraints on where we could go in the seating, but we had to report back to the assigned commissary. It was fun for I could keep an eye on the game, talk to people who I knew at the game, sell beer and make a little scratch. I would crouch down and take some extra time and chat with my friends. Time was money, but it was worth it to take a minute. I could catch a few extra glimpses of some at bats, catch up for a second, pour some beers, chat some more, watch a play and then move on.
The crowds were always fun. Sometimes a little rowdy.
"Hey beer man! You got Bud Light?"
I looked up and saw a crew of college looking kids.
"I gotcha icecoldBuschbeer right heyra!"
"Noooo! We want Bud Light! You got Bud Light?"
"C'mon ladies, who here is a mountain man!? Are you a mountain man?"
They would laugh. But they would rarely order.
Busch was a fun job. I got to see the whole home run race up close. I made some cash. I got to see the underside of the stadium. There are more stories to that job, but those will be for another day. But the next year I made a big move.
Next installment: So I got my free agent waivers and signed with my home team.