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CROWE'S NEST

He hopes to do right on wrong Dodgers tickets

October 16, 2006|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

Saul Turteltaub knows it was an innocent mistake, knows that his heart was in the right place, knows that he meant no harm.

So why does he feel so lousy?

Why is he "inconsolable," as he wrote in an e-mail to The Times?

Because of the boy.

Visions of the boy haunt him, remind him of his grandsons.

He'd like to make this right.

He'd like the kid to know that Saul Turteltaub is not a cheat.

And all Turteltaub did was unknowingly sell a pair of worthless tickets to a couple of strangers, a man and a boy, depriving them of attending a Dodgers playoff game against the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium.

But wasn't that enough?

He said he's "guilt-ridden."

*

Some background: Turteltaub, a 74-year-old semi-retired writer-producer, has shared two field-level season tickets with a friend for more than 30 years. For the playoffs, the partners exercised an option to buy two additional tickets for seats on the reserved level, giving them four tickets in all.

It was decided that Turteltaub would use them for the Dodgers' Oct. 7 game against the Mets, Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

His partner dropped off four tickets at Turteltaub's Beverly Hills home, and Turteltaub planned to attend the game with his wife, Shirley.

He offered the cheaper seats to friends but found no takers.

"And then started the chain of events that has left me inconsolable," Turteltaub wrote in a lengthy e-mail to The Times.

At the stadium, he decided, he would sell the extra tickets for face value, which he believed was $40 for each. In all his years of attending games at Dodger Stadium, Turteltaub said, he had probably been approached hundreds of times in the parking lot by would-be ticket buyers asking whether he had any extras to sell.

But he never did.

This time, arriving just as the game was about to start, he was stopped by a man and a young boy -- "nice-looking guy, blondish hair, wearing a maroon T-shirt," Turteltaub said of the 40ish man. The boy, he said, was about 10.

Asked about tickets, Turteltaub pointed to the price printed on the cheaper pair. The man offered half price, $20 apiece, and Turteltaub accepted.

"I looked at the boy, who I assumed was his son looking up at his dad, and felt it was more important to me to make a hero of his father than to make the extra $40," Turteltaub wrote. "The game had just started and I was sure the two had begun to feel the disappointment of not getting in."

Unbeknown to Turteltaub, the tickets he had just sold the man were not good for that game, or even that series. They were not for Game 3 of the Mets series. They were for home playoff game No. 3 at Dodger Stadium in the NL Championship Series, which of course was not played after the Mets swept the Dodgers. And the face value of reserved-level seats for the Oct. 7 game was not $40.

It was $15.

His partner mistakenly had given him the wrong tickets.

To his dismay, Turteltaub made this untimely discovery only moments later when he and his wife presented their tickets at the gate and were denied admission.

They were directed to a troubleshooter, where they waited in line for about 15 minutes while the Mets scored three first-inning runs. Turteltaub explained the situation, computer records confirmed that he was a season ticket-holder and minutes later he and his wife were in their seats, enjoying the game.

But his thoughts kept drifting back to the man and the boy. He'd last seen them outside the stadium, running for a stairway leading to the upper levels.

"The thought came to my mind, 'Jeez, that poor guy who bought the tickets with the kid, they're not going to get in, and No. 2, he's going to think I tried to rip him off,' " Turteltaub said in a phone interview. "If that's what he wants to think, it's not as bad as the fact the kid couldn't get into the game."

Believing he would not be able to find the man he inadvertently fleeced, Turteltaub did not go looking for him that day. But in the days and nights that followed, he kept rehashing that day's events and was consumed with guilt.

He would like to find the man in the maroon T-shirt, perhaps through this column. He wants to refund the money, offer him tickets to a game next season. He wants to make this right, wants to sleep better at night.

"I've got this $40 that I certainly don't want, and don't need, for selling something that was worthless," said Turteltaub, a humorist who has worked on more than 30 television shows, among them "Sanford & Son," "That Girl" and "The Cosby Show."

"It's a little moral thing that bothers you.... I didn't do anything terrible, but I felt bad about it and then I had the thought of the kid going home and his mother saying, 'Did you enjoy the game?' 'No, Mommy, Daddy bought these tickets from this guy and they were no good.' "

On Sunday, Turteltaub said that he and his wife would donate $40 to the Dodgers Dream Foundation, a charitable program that "places special emphasis on helping traditionally underserved youth," according to the Dodgers website.

But that won't relieve his guilt, nor end his sleepless nights.

He wants to find that man.

And the boy, of course.

*

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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