A good stadium vendor can make you forget that you're forking over $7.50 for 16 ounces "“ or four bites "“ of fleeting enjoyment. A bad stadium vendor can ruin your ballpark experience and your wallet. If you were to field a lineup of All-Star hawkers, you could do worse than this group.
1. Roger Owens: The Peanut Guy
The Dodger Stadium icon, who celebrated 50 years as a vendor last season, can toss bags of peanuts under his leg or behind his back to fans seated 30 rows away with uncanny accuracy. Owens' vending career began at the age of 15, when he sold soda at the L.A. Coliseum to help earn his family grocery money. By the time Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, the former high school pitcher was hawking peanuts and honing his bag-throwing skills at home. Owens began to showcase his skills in the stands and before long became known as The Peanut Guy. Owens reached celebrity status when he made his first of four appearances on The Tonight Show in September 1976. (Johnny Carson nailed himself in the crotch when he attempted an under-the-leg toss.) The next year, Jimmy Carter invited Owens to toss peanuts at his presidential inauguration festivities. Owens' celebrity has only grown since then. While he continues to delight fans in the second deck along the third base line at Dodger Stadium, Owens has taken his peanut-tossing act to stadiums throughout the country and abroad. In 2004, Owens' nephew, Daniel S. Green, published a biography of Owens, The Perfect Pitch.
2. Walter "Wally" McNeil: The Beerman
McNeil, who took a part-time job as a beer vendor at the Metrodome in 1982, is one of the few vendors to be featured on the NBC Nightly News and in an issue of Sports Illustrated. McNeil developed a huge following among Twins supporters, who came to recognize his shouts of "beer here," in part thanks to the autographed baseball cards picturing himself that he would hand out. McNeil, who worked as an operations manager for a pharmaceutical firm by day, has become a Minnesota celebrity in the 27 years that he has hawked beer during Twins, Vikings, and Golden Gophers games at the Metrodome. He has filmed commercials for local liquor stores and PSAs about the dangers of drunk driving, and if you're so inclined, you can still find his baseball card on eBay.
3. Marc Rosenberg: The Lemonade Shaking Guy
When Rosenberg agreed to work a few games at Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards as a favor for a friend in 1996, he figured he'd be working behind a counter. Instead he was charged with selling lemonade in the upper deck. Three days into the job, Rosenberg became so annoyed with kids yelling to get his attention that he put his tray down and did what any self-respecting guy in his shoes would do: he shook his body "“ violently. The fans loved it and Rosenberg adopted the shaking routine as his shtick. He became accustomed to receiving $20 tips at the ballpark and eventually parlayed his part-time diversion into a second career as a motivational speaker, auctioneer, and performer, appearing regularly at private parties and corporate functions. Rosenberg isn't the only stadium lemonade guy to start his own business: Kansas City's Jesus "Chuy" Gomez launched a concessions business in 2005 after working six years at Kauffman Stadium, where he announced his presence with distinct shouts of "Lee-mo-nade, lee-mo-nade, lee-mo-nade. Wooooo!"
4. Charley Marcuse: Opera Man
For the last 11 seasons, Charley Marcuse has sold hot dogs at Detroit Tigers home games by singing the words "hot dog" in operatic falsetto. Marcuse, who started vending at Tiger Stadium as a 19-year-old, appeared on Good Morning America in 2004 after a few stadium critics tried to silence him. Marcuse's supporters started a "Free Charley" Web site in support of the former acting student and he was eventually allowed to resume his singing routine on a limited, four-times-per-game basis. When he's not making an estimated $400 per game selling hot dogs, Marcuse works for a men's clothing retailer and continues to develop his company, Charley's Food Inc. His first product, Charley's Ballpark Mustard, debuted in 2008 and is currently available in more than 60 stores and restaurants in the Detroit area. Fans at Comerica Park won't find Marcuse's mustard at the concession stands, however, as Marcuse doesn't want to risk offending the vending company that employs him.
5. Brent Doeden: Captain Earthman
For fans in the outfield bleachers at Denver's Coors Field, Captain Earthman is only a phone call away. The veteran beer vendor, who has been described as an "intergalactic space hippie," hands out cards with his cellphone number "“ and a Planetary Location Number to boot "“ to all of his loyal customers. Doeden, who wears peanut earrings, black gloves, and a variety of crazy hats, revealed the origins of his nickname to a Denver Post reporter in 2000. "We were all sitting around drinking, smoking about 24 years ago," Doeden said. "I ended up with a pipe in one hand and a joint in the other and a beer in front of me. And, I said, "˜If it's from the earth, man, I'll smoke it.'" The rest is history, much like the cans of Budweiser that Doeden has carried up and down the outfield bleachers of Coors Field since it opened in 1995.
6. Clarence Haskett: Fancy Clancy
Clarence "Clancy" Haskett has sold beer and entertained fans for three decades at Orioles home games. If you're fortunate enough to get in good with Haskett "“ hint: tip early and often "“ he'll start you a tab. A Baltimore City Paper tagged along with Clancy during a game in 2004 and got to witness his signature move, a backbend over the handrail while handing out bottles of beer. As the slogan goes, "If you want it served fancy, get it from Clancy." In addition to working the local stadiums, Haskett is also vice president of All Pro Vending, a vending management company that won a contract to supply vendors for M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. [Photo via Flickr user Phil Romans.]
7. Perry Hahn: Robo-Vendor
In order to make up for what he calls his lack of natural talent, Hahn put his mechanical engineering degree to good use. The University of Maryland graduate, who works at stadiums in the D.C. area, started to design a contraption to help expedite the beer opening process while working at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium in 1991. His latest version of the device sheers the lids off of two beer cans simultaneously. The Robo-Vendor, as Hahn's fans and colleagues sometimes call him, can open and pour two beers in six seconds. Hahn estimates that he spent $4,500 to develop and patent his device, which once helped him sell 25 cases during a single game. [Photo via Flickr user dontdothisathome.]
8. Dan Ferrone: A Chicago Original
Ferrone made $2 selling soda on his first day as a vendor at Wrigley Field in 1938 and watched the Yankees sweep the Cubs in the World Series that season. For the next 57 years, Ferrone hawked soda, peanuts, beer, and programs at Chicago's baseball mecca before leaving the job late in the 1995 season. During that time, Ferrone, a military veteran who moved into the Oak Park YMCA around 1960, worked 30 years as a Postal Service employee and 11 more at a bank. He began vending full-time in 1981, working both Cubs and White Sox games for several years before eventually giving up his gig on the South Side. Ferrone sold programs at Wrigley Field in the seasons leading up to his retirement and often said he hoped to be the first vendor elected to baseball's Hall of Fame.
9. Leslie Flake: The Beer Guy
Flake tells you everything you need to know about him in his booming sales pitch. He's not the milkman. He's not the mailman. He's not the taxman. He's the beer guy, and he's been a staple at Cleveland Indians home games for years.