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Unflappable in Anaheim : Ticket Director Has the Disposition of an Angel

October 06, 1986|JOSEPH N. BELL | Bell lives in Santa Ana. and

The day after the California Angels clinched the American League Western Division championship, a man who was all brisk business called the Angel ticket office and asked for ticket manager Carl Gordon. Asked if he knew Gordon, he said, no, but he was a close friend of Angel Manager Gene Mauch. So he was connected with Gordon's assistant, Fred Klengenmeier.

"I went to school with Gene Mauch in Desert Hot Springs," the caller said, "and I'd like to get 20 playoff tickets. I know Gene would want me to have them."

"Fine," Klengenmeier said, "let me connect you with Mr. Mauch's office, and he can call us and authorize the tickets."

Long pause.

"Well," the caller said, "that might be a problem."

"What kind of problem?"

"I haven't seen Gene for about 20 years. There's a chance he won't remember me."

He didn't.

This ploy was a variation of the "I'm an old friend of Gene Autry" routine that is heard frequently these pennant-winning days in the Angel ticket office--and gets the same response as that given to Mauch's "old friend." Except once in a very great while, it's true.

Like two weeks ago, when a man called in for tickets and identified himself as the brother of Angel owner Gene Autry's wife, Jackie. The operator connected the caller with Carl Gordon, who didn't know Jackie Autry had a brother. But as an ex-banker who learned early to be cautious, Gordon politely suggested the caller contact the Autrys directly. A few minutes later, he heard from upstairs. It really was Jackie Autry's brother--and he got the tickets.

He paid for them, however. Gordon stressed that there aren't any freebies at playoff or World Series time--by order of the baseball commissioner. "Every seat has to be paid for--including the owner's box," Gordon said. (Jackie Autry corroborated this. "We pay for 24 seats," she said, "but we only put 20 people in the box so Gene can see better.")

These calls are typical of the current frenetic scene in the Angel ticket office. The reason, of course, is the Angels' third division-winning effort in the club's 25-year history. "Suddenly," Carl Gordon said, "we're hearing from dozens of friends we didn't know we had, or business connections who only call once a year--at playoff time. A sure tip-off is when they ask directions to the stadium."

But these are problems Gordon embraces happily--and seems uniquely equipped to handle. Donald Pries, director of the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau and a former Baltimore Oriole executive, calls Gordon "unflappable in a paranoid business"--which is precisely the way he comes across.

A tall, thin, sartorial man with carefully combed graying hair, rimless eyeglasses and a soft voice, Gordon resembles the banker he used to be. He spent 15 years with the Bank of America before he began moonlighting as an Angel ticket seller when the team moved to Anaheim. He joined the Angels full time in 1969, and became director of ticketing and customer service in 1972.

Fifth Time Around

This is the fifth time during that span Gordon has had to deal with post-season ticketing--but on two of those occasions, the Angels were left with several hundred thousand useless playoff tickets. And on all four previous occasions, the World Series tickets ended up in the incinerator.

Under baseball rules, every team in contention in early September has to print playoff and World Series tickets. The order goes directly to the ticket companies from baseball commissioner Peter Uberroth. The cost of unused tickets ($6,000 last year for the Angels) is split between the commissioner's office and the losing team. "If we win," Gordon said, "we pay the whole thing." He thought that over a moment, then added: "And, of course, we're happy to do that."

Anaheim Stadium seats 64,000 for baseball, and well over half of those playoff and World Series seats go to season ticket holders. The Angels' 17,500 season tickets are second only to the Dodgers among major league teams. Each season ticket holder is entitled to buy post-season tickets up to twice the number of season tickets he holds--and this option is exercised almost 100%. (For the first time this year, the playoffs will be the best four out of seven games, and by the luck of the draw, the Angels will be at home for games 3, 4 and 5 in both the playoffs and World Series.)

Must Buy Both

Tickets come in strips of six--three playoff and three World Series games per strip. Season ticket holders can't buy one or the other; they must buy both. The tab is $195 for each strip of six tickets--$25 for playoff games, $40 for Series games. Refunds for games that aren't played can be picked up at any Security Pacific Bank branch.

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