Blood, Sweat and Beers

The first triple play ever at Coors Field happened during the bottom of the fifth inning of a night game on June 14.

With runners at first and second base, Colorado Rockies batter Edgard Clemente hit a sharp ground ball to San Francisco Giants third baseman Bill Mueller. Mueller quickly stomped on the bag and threw the ball to second baseman Jeff Kent, who, it appeared, simply used the back of his glove to ricochet the speeding white dot toward first baseman J.T. Snow.

As Clemente crossed first base, umpire Brian Gorman hesitated as if momentarily deceived by the sheer novelty of the play--and then, almost reluctantly, raised a clenched fist to signal Clemente out.

Nearly 40,000 Rockies fans booed Gorman's call. But pure baseball fans--regardless of whom they were rooting for--valued what they had witnessed: an around-the-horn triple play. Inside Coors Field. On Flag Day.

It was a good night for celebrating.
Out in the left-field bleachers, the scruffy Captain Earthman hauled his bucket of Budweiser and served up two cold brews to a pair of Hispanic customers. "Dos cervezas, por favor!" joked Captain Earthman.

Up in the third deck, Shellie Marino, a vendor whose badge reads "Beer Goddess," had politely yet efficiently sold three cases of Coors before the end of the evening.

And in the aisles behind home plate, where the cash-rich season-ticket holders sit, Bob the Beerman, beer vendor of beer vendors, shouted, "Bob the Beerman is here, the Sultan of Suds, the Baron of Brew, cold beer here! Bob the Beerman is here, the Sultan of Suds, the Baron of Brew, cold beer here!"

Beer fans everywhere are familiar with the chant, thanks in part to a string of television commercials that use similar phrases to promote Coors Light beer. They also recognize Bob's green baseball jersey and the large buttons pinned to his chest that announce his products--beer, peanuts, Cracker Jacks--as well as one homemade laminated blue badge that reads: "Bob the Beerman."

At a game the next night, a man sitting with a woman ten rows behind home plate raised a finger to order a beer.

"Is that a beer finger I see?" Bob the Beerman called out.
"It is," the man replied, delighted to do business with Bob the Beerman.
Bob dropped to a knee in the aisle with his back turned to the field and asked if the couple had seen the triple play the night before.

"No, we didn't," the woman said, as if she didn't care one way or the other.
Bob the Beerman teased the man about his expensive-looking sweater. In the next breath, he asked, "You need any Cracker Jacks or peanuts to help wash down the beer?"

The woman took a second look at Bob and wagged a finger. "You're...Bob," she said.

Bob the Beerman smiled, poured a beer, then turned an ear to the sound of a baseball leaving the bat. "Ground ball to the left side of the infield?"

The woman checked the field, then looked at Bob, amazed.
"That's right!" she said.
"I can call the entire game without even seeing it," he boasted.
Of course, Bob was making a little joke. It wasn't really true.

In one Coors Light Beer Man commercial, titled "Beer Mime," the beer vendor wears a white face, black tights and a beret. The beer vendor mimes to a customer--a baseball fan--that he wants to sell a beer. The customer grows impatient with the lengthy routine. Just give me the damn beer, man. Finally, the mime drops the frosty beer and begins, slowly and painfully, acting out remorse. The message is that beer vendors will go to great lengths to sell a beer.

Coors Brewing Company has spent more than $100 million in two years on its beer-vendor ad campaign, which, with the exception of the mime spot, portrays vendors as rambling, ha-ha, poorly educated geeks who are eager to make the fans' experience at the ballpark entirely unique. In most of the commercials, the beer vendor is overweight and balding, a rumpled blue-collar guy who has a charming, albeit annoying, knack for gibberish.

But among the real-life beer vendors at Coors Field are teachers, a high school principal, a jeweler, a lawyer.

For the majority, the job is a part-time excuse to get inside the ballpark, work for two hours and walk with $125 on a good day. Good days are hot day games, when the stadium is full of customers who are thirsty and generous. On cold, drizzly weeknight games when the Rockies are playing, say, the Milwaukee Brewers, vendors hope for $50 to $70. For each $4.25 beer he sells, the vendor makes 72 cents in commission, but as a rule, beer vendors don't share how much they take home, so even these figures are ballpark. But unlike in the mime commercial, beer vendors rarely spend more than three seconds trying to convince a fan to buy a beer.

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Justin Berton