The Bird is the Word in Baseball, Local Shops

ESPN reports Baltimore Orioles merchandise sales are way up this year. We talked to a couple sports shops to see how they're doing.

Black and orange is all the rage, and that has local retailers seeing green.

The Baltimore Orioles enter this weekend's series against the Boston Red Sox not as spoilers or American League East also-rans, but as legitimate major league playoff contenders.

The team opens public tickets sales Saturday for potential wildcard and American League Division Series games.

Well into football season, nonetheless, the Bird is the word, and business is booming at Wild Bill's in Fullerton.

The team's resurgence "has been a long time coming, because we love the Orioles no matter what," said Neal Houk of Perry Hall, a manager there.

On a Friday afternoon, easily a half-dozen fans, old and young, were milling about the store's collection of Orioles, Ravens and college apparel and other paraphernalia (such as purple hats and boas).

The shop—once just a tent at the corner of Rossville Boulevard and Belair Road and going back to a tent outside old Memorial Stadium—opened a full-fledged retail shop there on Monday, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

ESPN reported earlier this week that the Orioles' resurgence on the field has translated to big merchandise receipts off it. Only the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants have moved more gear this year, and sales of Orioles caps have doubled.

The rise is also credited, in part, to the team ditching the "ornithologically correct" bird—the winged overseer of 14-straight losing seasons—for an updated version of the goofy cartoon bird from the "Orioles Magic" era.

"I think a lot of people like it, but right now anything orange is selling," Houk said.

Two-thirds of the team's online merchandise sales, ESPN reports, are from outside Maryland.

At home in the Baltimore area, shops like Great Moments on the Avenue at White Marsh are bustling. Manager PJ Tebin said it's hard to keep some items in stock.

For days, patrons were asking about some "muscle on Russell" shirt, and the store's staffers had to research what they were talking about. Then when the unofficial shirts showed up Friday morning bearing a Raven and Oriole as the eponymous "muscle," Tebin said he couldn't get them on racks before customers started having at them.

"You have people watch baseball all week and football going on on Sunday," Tebin said. "That energy level is something that we've never experienced, or at least something I've never experienced."

Tebin said he expected the Orioles to be over .500 this season, but he didn't expect a pennant chase. He didn't expect customers to go so wild over that throwback cartoon bird.

"I've been here three years. When I first started here we had merchandise that took two years to sell. Now we're getting stuff in in dozens and we don't keep it in but a couple weeks," he said. "Anything with that logo does not stick around."

You tell us: Have you picked up playoff tickets yet? How deep do you think the Birds can get into the playoffs? How do you think the cartoon bird helped the Orioles' merchandise sales?


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