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  • Bill Chastain

Standing Room Only

Time to dispel an old belief: Sports writers are not the guys to ask for good seats.

Friends and acquaintances have forever asked me about tickets to games, but truthfully, I never knew my capabilities in that area until a Cardinals-Braves game in 1992.

In the 1970s while attending Georgia Tech, I could buy a $3 ticket to sit in the outfield of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and by the end of the game I could be sharing a chew of Red Man with Ted Turner in his box next to the Braves’ dugout. If you had a big party that needed to buy tickets, the old joke applied where the guy asked the Braves’ ticket manager if he could buy 30 tickets to a game. After the guy is told he could be accommodated, he asked the ticket manager what time the game started. The ticket manager replied: “What time’s good for you?”

However, once winning became the norm at the “Chop Shop,” procuring Braves tickets became a trying endeavor.

Working some connections, I got tickets for some friends and me to the above-mentioned Cardinals-Braves series in Atlanta. Thus, my group of five would be sitting pretty, right?

Wrong. My connections landed us in center-field seats for the Friday night game.

84px-Bob_Uecker_2011_CROP “Right down in the front row.”

Quickly I became “Ueck,” short for Bob Uecker of Miller Lite fame. If I only had a nickel for every time I heard “right down in the front row” or “he missed the call” followed by hysterical laughter.

I persevered, though I might not have had I known what was in store for Saturday night’s game.

Miller_Park’s_Uecker_Seats Present day “Uecker Seats” at Miller Park

After picking up Saturday night’s tickets, a quick examination of their location sent my heart reeling. These tickets didn’t say clubhouse level, box seat, reserved, or even general admission. Printed across the front were the saddest three words in a spectator’s vocabulary: “Standing Room Only.”

A debate on whether we should just go to some sports bar to watch followed before we grudgingly headed for the grave yard known as “SRO.”

We passed a somewhat abridged food court near our section, where I got the feeling they were serving beanie weenies, sardines and cheap wine instead of the more traditional ballpark fare. Aluminum cans only, no cash accepted.

Gaining altitude – I wiped away several nose bleeds – we finally reached our seats, uh section, that felt like being sent to the penalty box. Huddled in a 10 foot by 30 foot area, we had a splendid view of I-75, but like the elderly gentleman said after falling down the stairs beside us: “I can’t see.”

Nor could we.

Trying to make the best of the situation we propped our feet on a counter running through the middle of the area and sat on the top wall of the stadium. By the second inning, an usher arrived wearing a tag on his chest identifying him as “Paco.”

“They spotted you from center field, you can’t sit there,” he said.

We should have known better, for the unwritten rule of the SRO section is: You can’t be comfortable.

I longed for the pampering of a press box.

In the middle innings we grabbed some unoccupied seats, but late arrivers showed up two batters after we sat down – go directly to SRO, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Alas, we took solace once the heavens opened, sprinkling those in seats for the remaining four innings while we stood under cover. The rain didn’t dampen my friends’ zeal for directing SRO zingers my way for the duration of the trip.

My friend Bobby Maxwell’s departing words to me: “See ya Seats.”

Few have asked me for tickets since.

bchastain19@gmail.com

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©2020 by Bill Chastain. Photo credits: Jill Doty Photography