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Padres Beat Mets as Monterrey Fans Toast Their Success

August 19, 1996|MARK FINEMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MONTERREY, Mexico — Geraldo Hernandez judges success by the case. And by the upper-deck beer man's standards, Major League Baseball's first regular season series in Mexico truly has been historic.

At the end of the third and final game here between the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets Sunday evening, the third-generation beer man at Estadio Monterrey beamed at his final accounting of the series: 118 cases sold--20 bottles of Carta Blanca per case. At $1.40 a beer, the Padres' experiment south of the border grossed Hernandez $3,304 for three days of hard work. And he was only one of 30 beer vendors here.

"Hey, for baseball, it's fantastic--best I've ever seen," the beefy, tattooed Hernandez concluded of a series that produced 43 runs, including nine homers.

"But, of course, we'd do double the business at a soccer match."

Baseball's backseat to soccer as Mexico's king of sports showed not merely in beer sales but in attendance Sunday afternoon. The Padres reported 22,810 had paid to sear in 100-degree heat and watch their newly adopted team shut out the Mets, 8-0, in the last of what Padre and Major League marketeers billed as "The First Series."

For perspective, Monterrey's 22,461 three-day average attendance beat the Mets' home average of 19,811 through 62 games in Shea Stadium this year. And, in winning the series two games to one, the Padres gave their new "home-team" fans plenty to cheer about.

Standing ovations greeted Ken Caminiti--ailing so severely from his hotel food he was on an IV-drip an hour before the game-- when he blasted a pair of home runs in the third and fourth innings. They roared after Padre starter and winning pitcher Joey Hamilton hit his first career homer. And Rickey Henderson, who conceded he probably has more fans in Monterrey than anywhere in the National League--including San Diego--was drenched with praise for his two singles and two runs.

But Hernandez's upper-deck beer stats helped explain one of the many other things Mexican baseball fans do during the game. No fewer than 70,000 beers were consumed during the three-day experiment.

Monterrey's fans also like to laugh--two clowns masked and dressed as President Clinton and Mexico's President Ernesto Zedillo brought the house down Sunday when they merengued in the stands, where fans swayed to a five-member salsa band. It was a day of family fun.

Not all the fans were local. Elaine and Angus Semple spent 18 hours on a bus from San Francisco to spend their honeymoon at Estadio Monterrey. Her take on the series: "I think Mexico should have a Major League baseball team--they deserve it.

Met Manager Dallas Green wasn't sure just what to make of Estadio Monterrey's fans. "I don't speak Spanish, so I don't know what the hell they're calling us," he said.

"But they're fine. They like their baseball, and they know this game."

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