Season-ticket holders quiz Shapiro
Q&A session part of party held at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
CLEVELAND -- Mark Shapiro has had to face the music from local and national media on a number of occasions this season.But it wasn't until last Monday night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on stage before approximately 100 season-ticket holders, that the Tribe general manager had to face the tough questions from those that help fund the team he helps operate. "What's the main reason why you didn't bring Kenny Lofton back for this season?" "How much longer do we have to watch Andy Marte at third base?" "How about the potential players to be named later in the CC Sabathia trade. Who are they?" Cooperative from the start, Shapiro had to draw the line somewhere. "Did Paul Hoynes send you? He asks me that every day," Shapiro quipped, referring to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's longtime Indians beat writer. Shapiro had straightforward answers for most of the season-ticket holders' other questions, most of which he's faced before from the aforementioned media. But on this night (and the night before) season-ticket holders had more than just an opportunity to mimic the working press. Greeted by a large white tent filled with a seemingly endless amount of ballpark food and memorabilia, the 5,000 season-ticket holders who made it to the annual season-ticket holder party had plenty to do, and look at, as they scoured the 13-year-old Cleveland landmark. Mike Mulhall, Indians senior director of ticket sales and premium seating, said an event like this year's party is "huge" in thanking and maintaining the team's biggest core group of fans. "They're our lifeblood," Mulhall said. Mulhall said the Indians had the equivalent of 15,000 season-ticket holders for the 2008 season. Because of the variety of packages and plans the Indians offer, it's tough to gauge exactly how many season ticket holders there are. Four separate 20-game packages is the equivalent of one season ticket holder. That number is up from last year -- the result of coming just one game short of the 2007 World Series, Mulhall said. When the Indians sold out 455 consecutive games from 1995-2001, the number of season-ticket holders had to be capped at 26,000. As for next year, Mulhall said "it'll be interesting" to see how many sign up following this unexpected disappointing 2008 season. But on Sunday and Monday night, outside the rough questions to Shapiro, that was all forgotten as fans of all ages packed the Rock Hall to scarf down hot dogs, check out the exhibits, meet and greet Tribe legends, win prizes and listen to live music -- all free of charge. "We've had great feedback on it," Mulhall said. "It's been a blast." After years of doing a pregame field day of sorts at the ballpark for the season-ticket holders, the Tribe changed venues last season and moved the party to the Great Lakes Science Center. The move was made largely because the Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit "Baseball as America," was stationed there, Mulhall said. So it made perfect sense to move the event right next door for 2008 after the Rock Hall introduced the "Take Me Out: Baseball Rocks!" exhibit earlier this year, honoring the relationship between baseball and music. But even though the location keeps changing, the thing that captivates fans the most hasn't changed. Tribe greats Bob Feller, Gaylord Perry, Joe Charboneau and Len Barker made the rounds and signed countless autographs for Indians fans of all ages at the two-day gala. Perry and Feller held an informal question-and-answer session, drawing a number of laughs for their blunt recollections of their former playing days. Asked if he thinks he would be successful against the hitters of today, Perry, the Tribe's last 20-game winner and notorious spitballer, remained just as confident as he was back in the late 1960s and 70s. "I'd be successful," Perry said. "And I'd be a lot richer." When Feller was asked if he supports the introduction of instant replay to baseball, his reply not only answered the question, but also served as the reason for why the thousands of fans support their team by taking a seat for every home game. "It's a different world and a different game," the 89-year-old Feller said. "But it's still the greatest game in America."
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.