General Manager Hank Peters, taking a "wait and see" attitude toward the effect of baseball's strike, estimated today the Orioles are losing as much as $100,000 for each game not played.
The Orioles had expected crowds of between 20,000 and 25,000 for the 10-game home stand that would have opened tonight and run through June 25.
But Memorial Stadium was empty except for a rally in the parking lot led by self-appointed Oriole cheerleader Wild Bill Hagy.
Hagy, a 42-year-old cab driver whose antics made him a favorite in the 1979 World Series, led 200 fans who gathered outside of section 34 (the first-base side) in singing baseball songs. Hagy was then the first to sign a five-foot-high petition to end the strike, citing the fans' "inalienable right to watch major league baseball."
The petition demanded that Commissioner Bowie Kuhn "take the reins away from the bumbling idiots and return a sense of sanity to the negotiations before irreparable harm is done to our national pastime."
Tonight, the Orioles, who were on a nine-game road trip when the strike began Friday, would have played the Texas Rangers. By Monday, however, the players had scattered across the country, from New Hampshire to Hawaii, and Peters announced the club's arrangements for ticket refunds.
"I wish that this were September and we were announcing ticket procedures for the league playoffs and World Series," Peters said. "But, hopefully, the strike will end soon, and we'll still be able to make playoff plans."
An Oriole ticket for a canceled game can be exchanged for a ticket to any future home game this season or submitted for a cash refund at the stadium advance sales window. Tickets purchased from Ticketron should be exchanged at Ticketron facilities.
The 5,215 season ticket-holders have been informed by mail of their exchange options, Peters said.
Depending on the length of the strike and terms of its settlement, missed games may or may not be made up.
The Orioles stand to lose between $120,000 and $150,000 gross for each canceled game of this home stand, according to Peters. The average ticket price is $4.50, and Peters estimated that each person spends an additional $2.50 at concession stands and on souvenirs, as well as more for parking.
After the city of Baltimore, the American League, the visiting team and the concessionaires were paid their shares, the Orioles would have netted between $80,000 and $100,000 a game.
Some of the revenue lost by the teams will be recovered through a $50 million insurance fund and an $11 million mutual aid contingency package. The insurance fund will begin paying $100,000 for each game not played after June 24 until the fund is exhausted, about Aug. 1.
The owners' contingency fund, built by each team contributing a small percentage of its gross revenues, could provide another $575,000 to each of the 26 clubs.
Based on a crowd of 20,000 at $5 a ticket, the insurance fund by itself would give each team the equivalent of gross receipts from 19 dates, approximately $1.9 million.
For most teams, including the Orioles, that amount probably would cover the cost of running a minor league system, and possibly the salaries of the manager and coaches. Peters told Earl Weaver and his five coaches Monday to take the week off.
"The players are on their own as far as keeping in shape goes," Peters said. "We trust they'll stay fit. How well this 'second season' goes (when the strike ends) depends on the players' physical condition."
Steve Stone, the only Oriole on the disabled list, will continue to receive daily treatment at the clubhouse by team trainer Ralph Salvon. Stone will not draw a paycheck, however.
Monday was the last payday for many players, most of whom are paid on the 1st and the 15th of the month. Nor, until the strike is settled, will there be any more paychecks for the 750 or so part-time ticket sellers, ushers, extra ground crew men, concessionaires and souvenir vendors who work at Memorial Stadium on game nights only.
Pimlico has offered free grandstand admission to anyone having a ticket for an Oriole home game that would have been played during this race meeting. CAPTION: Picture, Oriole faithful protest baseball strike with rally at Memorial Stadium. The club estimated losses of about $100,000 a game and announced ticket refund arrangements. By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post