‘Ain’t the Beer Cold?


Bob DiDonato, 48
years vending: 29 years
products sold: Beer, water and ice cream
day job: Business development/engineer, Thales Communications

“Initially I started for the love of baseball, then got addicted to the competition inherent in vending. Every night, just about every one of us wants to [outsell] all the other vendors. [They] keep running tallies that we check. While we can’t always beat everyone (Clancy is so good it’s extra special whenever any of us beat him), we’ll take anything we can get— the most hot dogs, the vendor who sells the most product in our vending room, individual battles between two vendors, and so on. Usually beer is the best product to take, but on Sundays, it’s a whole new game— water, lemonade and ice cream can outsell beer, so the whole ‘best vendor of the day’ game expands. Other than the [official] list, nobody keeps tabs or anything like that— just a bit of pride on the days that you win.”

“Fancy” Clancy Haskett“Fancy” Clancy Haskett, 51
years vending: 36
products sold: Budweiser and Bud Light
day job: Maryland State Highway traffic engineer, vice president for All Pro Vending

“I started pouring them ‘fancy’ the second-to-last year at Memorial Stadium in 1990. I poured one beer in a cup with one hand and then somebody said, ‘That’s pretty fancy, Clancy.’ And I thought, ‘That sounds pretty cool— Fancy Clancy— and that’s where I got the [nickname] from. So I started pouring one beer in a cup with one hand and styling a little bit with it, and then I just started pouring another beer in the other hand and so I was pouring two beers at the same time with two hands. [The fans] started saying, ‘Hey that’s pretty cool, Fancy Clancy!’ And then I started getting real stylish, pouring beers behind my back, and that caught on.”

Perry Hahn, aka “RoboVendor”Perry Hahn, aka “RoboVendor,” 49
years vending: 31
products sold: “Whatever fish are biting”
day job: Engineer/Inventor

“I made four attempts to build a successful mechanical beer can opener. The current design was first used in 1991 in the closing months at Memorial Stadium. It hurt my sales more than it helped because it was constantly breaking down. Nevertheless, I persisted on this design because I saw a lot of potential. The very last day of that season I sold 26 cases of beer using my contraption. It broke down six times during the game. Each time, I would get out my tools and spare parts to fix the thing, and the crowd would give me a standing ovation when I started to sell beer again. By my reckoning, that was the first time that my device helped my sales more than it hurt them. Early the next season, the fans in the center-field bleachers at Camden Yards started referring to me as ‘RoboVendor’.”

Bill BirraneBill Birrane, 38
years vending: 3
products sold: Beer, ice cream, water, hot dogs
day job: Real estate sales

“You can’t beat the atmosphere. It’s a great workout— I don’t need to go to the gym. There’s great camaraderie among the vendors. There are pretty girls and, of course, the baseball. [One time] a young lady bought a hot dog and asked me to feed it to her. I assisted with the first bite! It’s important to be friendly, courteous and quick. If you can build a rapport with the fans you’ll do even better. … When the baseball season is over I’ll be going back to the gym, but I prefer running the steps with two cases of beer.”

Howard HartHoward Hart, 57
years vending: 28
products sold: Beer, ice cream, water
day job: Vending

“No matter how bad the baseball is, each night is filled with hope. Maybe this game I see a no-hitter, maybe a guy hits three home runs. Maybe the game comes down to the final out, or maybe I see a play unlike any I have ever seen. Maybe tonight an old friend shows up at the park, or maybe I take time to see the joy in the faces of the children. It’s been difficult to do lately— I’m breaking down some physically— and the teams have been of such poor quality. But the beauty is still out there. You just need to pick through the garbage to find it. And, of course, hope springs eternal.”

Jeffrey “J.Jay” HahnJeffrey “J.Jay” Hahn, 38
years vending: 20th for Orioles, 23rd total
product sold: Beer
day job: Systems engineer

“Vending has provided me with the opportunity to travel and see major sporting events— Kentucky Derbys, Super Bowls, World Series, Belmont Stakes, Preakness— most of which I would not have had the chance to even get a ticket. Usually [I don’t watch the game], I get the highlights. I hear the crack of the bat or the roar of the crowd. I look to see the end of the play, then sell more beer.”

Daniel Hahn, aka “Danny the Beer Man”Daniel Hahn, aka “Danny the Beer Man,” 46
years vending: 29
products sold: Budweiser, mostly
day job: Marketing, Mel Schneider Title

“For the past 15 years, I’ve been selling Bud at third base at Orioles games, lower bowl in the northwest corner for the Ravens, and first base for the Nationals. Fans may not get consistency from their teams, but they’ll get it from me. Through the years I may have been able to sell more of other brands due to brewer marketing programs. However, I stay true to Bud. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t. It’s in my fridge.”

Michael KellyMichael Kelly, 31
years vending: 5
product sold: Beer
day job: Baltimore City fireman

“My most memorable game was when I caught a Jason Giambi home run ball with the peanut bag slung over my shoulder and then got a standing ovation from the 30 guys still in the bleachers when I tossed it back onto the field. I also found myself dating a girl for a couple months after I found her phone number written on a five-dollar bill.”

Tim & Katie Lovell”Tim Lovell, 46 & Katie Lovell, 36
years vending: 14 and 13
products sold: Mostly beer
day job: Tim, 7th-grade science teacher; Katie, children’s speech pathologist

Katie: “We met in ’97 at the park and ‘hung out’ for about a year before we became an item. We dated for a while and got married in 2003, with a lot of the vendors there.”

Tim: “It’s nice to go into work together, hang out after the game for a midnight snack or a few beers, come home together, all while making extra money and getting exercise. We usually work in different sections, but if we end up in the same one, we try to split up the section so we can both do well. We may see each other in passing in the aisles or in the vending room, but the faster we move, the more we can sell, so there’s not a lot of time for socializing. We aren’t competitive about sales with each other, we just try to stay away from each other so we can both do well. That’s really our vending philosophy with all vendors. Some games I sell more, some games Katie sells more. It depends on the section for the night, the crowd, our energy level— and some luck, too.”

Greg SchwalenbergGreg Schwalenberg, 58
years vending: 31
products sold: Beer
day job: Curator, Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum and Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards

“I got started by answering a ‘help wanted’ ad in The Baltimore Sun for Memorial Stadium vendors back in 1979. At the time I was working at the Walters Art Gallery [now Walters Art Museum] and could always use a little extra cash. I was going to most of the Orioles home games anyway, so I figured why not take advantage of the situation and make some money at the same time? Unfortunately, you really don’t get to watch much of the game while you vend.”

Robert YoreRobert Yore, 46
years vending: 19
product sold: Beer (usually Miller Lite)
day job: High school math teacher

“One night I was calling out my beer and walking up an aisle out in the left-field lower box seats when I saw a Baltimore icon and the best sports announcer I’ve ever heard, Chuck Thompson. When I got to his aisle, I put down my case of beers, poured one from my case and sent it down his row. I yelled down that the beer was from me and that it was for him, and then stole his famous call by shouting out, “Ain’t the beer cold?” The next day, when he was on WBAL talking about the game, he told the story on air of how a beer man gave him a beer the night before and although he didn’t get the beer man’s name, it was one of the nicest things that had ever happened to him at the ballpark. He’ll never know how much I enjoyed listening to him over the years, but being able to do something nice for him, and hearing that he enjoyed the moment, made me feel good. Even today, I still miss Chuck Thompson.”

Behind the Beers  
No surprises here: the vendors at Oriole Park prefer to hawk beer, since customers are more likely to tip for a cold Budweiser than, say, a cone of cotton candy. But since not every vendor can sell beer, they’re ranked according to their sales over the course of the season. The one with the highest sales volume gets first pick of product and location, and so on until all products and sections are divided. “For each game there are only a certain amount of products to select from,” explains 31-year vending veteran Greg Schwalenberg. “So, if there are only 25 beer cards to select and you are vendor number 26, you will get a less desirable product.”

The vendors at Oriole Park, who work for facilities management and food services company Aramark, receive a 17 percent commission on sales (or 17.5 percent for those who work the tougher upper decks), which works out to be $1.23 per bottle for beer vendors. Although vendors do not receive an hourly wage, good ones can make approximately $200 to $300 in commissions and tips on a busy night with a good team in town. If the Orioles are winning, that usually translates into higher beer sales. “The most I’ve sold in a night is about 25 cases of beer, which was about $550,” says Bob Yore, who’s been vending for 19 seasons. “That’s only happened a few times, and certainly not this year.”

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