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10/25/07 11:57 PM ET

If you've got a ticket, you've got game

Fans go to great lengths to get into ballpark for World Series

BOSTON -- Richard Gere entered through Gate D at Fenway Park with his 7-year-old son, Homer, Thursday night, and they had something almost as good as an Oscar.

World Series tickets.

"I've never been to anything remotely like this," the longtime actor said as he walked from the gate through the main concourse and through the ghosts of Fall Classics past two hours before Game 2 between the Red Sox and Rockies. "It's a big deal. This is the second one for my son, but the first one of these since he became a big fan himself.

"I've been going to baseball since Mickey Mantle. The Mick was my guy. That's what the World Series means to me. It was Mickey Mantle. Now we're here in this setting, and you just think, 'I'm at the World Series.' "

All of this is about a thin strip of heavy paper stock, meticulously designed, colorful and loaded with important data from seating location on the front to the fine-print rules on the backside. For players, the ring is the ultimate object that you work toward all year. For fans, the World Series tickets are what you work toward all year.

It is all about the World Series ticket.

Best thing in the world

What does a World Series ticket mean?

"The world."

John Ippolito of Leominster, Mass., put it so perfectly.

He was waiting for the gates to open at Game 2 along with his 13-year-old son, Steven.

"It's a time to get goosebumps," Ippolito said. "Especially with the Red Sox. The tradition is unexplainable. It's in the air."

Then something interesting happened. John mentioned to MLB.com that his son is a Yankees fan. Suddenly, all of the love that binds a father and son was up against all of the rivalry that is Red Sox vs. Yankees. They each laughed at the thought, and you could hear a thousand conversations that have gone down between them.

"After the 2004 World Series, he got into [Derek] Jeter," Ippolito said. "He's a good role model. That's the only reason I condone it."

He said to Steven: "How mad have I gotten at you?" Steven laughed. Oh, it was hard, those times Steven wore a Yankees cap into the house. But not even Red Sox vs. Yankees can wreck this idyllic scene. They had World Series tickets together.

The 30th anniversary of glory

You never forget your first World Series.

Especially when you play in it.

"It was 1977, with the Dodgers," Dusty Baker said, roaming the foul ground during batting practice. "I remember that it was live. Especially being Dodgers-Yankees. At that time, it didn't get any bigger. The two most historical teams."

In Game 3, the first World Series game at Dodger Stadium since the glory days of the mid-'60s, Baker smashed a three-run homer to bring in Reggie Smith and Steve Garvey. It would be the only runs that Mike Torrez allowed in a complete game, and the Yankees would go on to win that game and the series.

Baker has been around the World Series plenty since then -- the following year between the same teams (Yanks won) and in 1981 between the same teams (Dodgers won). He was there as a Giants hitting coach in 1989, came about as close as one could without winning as the Giants' manager in 2002, then came as close as one could without returning as the Cubs' manager the next year. The Reds just hired him, hoping he will lead them back to this best-of-seven splendor.

He has been there with an actual ticket, and sometimes he wrote his own ticket.

"There's nothing like it," Baker said.

Return on investment

Dave Carlson of Centennial, Colo., had his World Series ticket in the familiar Taco Bell lanyard that fans are wearing around their necks for this event. He showed it to a visitor: entrance at Gate D, Section 20, Loge 129, Row FF, Seat 6.

"That's a little more than 20 rows up behind plate, a dream come true," said Carlson, wearing a Todd Helton No. 17 home jersey and standing on Yawkey Way before Gate D opened. "I wouldn't miss it. I dropped everything. I landed at 5:56 yesterday morning. Sunday night, I got on the Internet, used my miles on Frontier Airlines, and got my butt here from Denver. Through a friend of a friend I landed tickets.

"With the amount of money I've spent on the Rockies over the years, I need a little ROI. So I'm here."

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Return on investment. That's what it means to be a fan at the World Series. Carlson, who works for a Denver software firm, said he was a Rockies season-ticket holder "until five years ago, when things went bad." Now, he said, "slowly over time, Dan O'Dowd and Clint Hurdle have put things together. Obviously, I want to see my team win, but more importantly to show support for my team. Game 1, that was loud. It was so loud. You had to yell. I was talking to my wife on my cell phone, and she said it sounded like the mouth of a lion."

'We just love the game'

Those five words were a familiar refrain among many who were interviewed before Game 2. They came from different MLB outposts, where they supported other clubs by summer, and simply wanted to be where baseball's ultimate showcase event was held.

Those words were uttered by Malcolm McGowan, who was here from Washington, D.C., with his 8-year-old son, Chris. They are Nationals fans. But Chris opened his jacket to reveal one of those familiar green T-shirts that read: "GREEN MONSTAH," and then said of his first World Series experience: "It's awesome!"

"This was just to bring my son up," McGowan said. "I was able to get two tickets from my company, which is a law firm that works with the Red Sox, and was a chance to get my son here. It's a thrill, really. For me, it's all about the fact that he'll look back and remember this. It's the kind of thing he'll tell his son about."

Ben Jamieson of Pittsburgh is the same way. He's a Pirates fan. "I'm a baseball fan," he said, correcting the interviewer. He had just driven into Beantown one hour earlier. "Do I follow the Pirates? Sure. But I'm a baseball fan. I was fortunate enough to have a friend be able to come up with tickets. It was pretty exciting to find that out. I didn't believe him when he first told me. We're pretty pumped."

Tom and Donna Lyons drove here from Philadelphia. They went to the 1980 World Series when the Phillies won their only world championship, and Tom recalled, "It was wild back then. I also remember that the ticket had a $60 face value." Donna added, "And they were right behind the dugout!" These tickets cost $300 each, and the couple prepared to head into the ballpark to watch the same Rockies team that eliminated their Phillies in an easy three-game National League Division Series. "I didn't expect the Phillies to beat them because their pitching staff just isn't there yet," Tom said.

A mother's love

Two fans were standing behind the Rockies dugout as their team took the field for batting practice. They were wearing home jerseys with "HAWPE" and "11" on the back. Suddenly a woman with a purple jacket came over to them.

"I had to tell you I liked your shirts," the woman said.

They shared a hug.

"It's the neatest feeling," Paula Hawpe said as her son, Brad, was out on the field. "That's why I came over. We're here from Fort Worth. There was this one time when I went to Denver to see Brad play, and I saw all of these people wearing Hawpe shirts. It was Brad Hawpe Shirt Night. I told my husband, 'All of these people are wearing Hawpe shirts,' and he said, 'Why should that surprise you?' "

Hawpe, the Rockies right fielder, got her a ticket. For those two Rockies fans, Boston University students Chris Bianchi and Kelsey Musslewhite, there was a little more effort involved in acquiring this World Series ticket.

"We slept out three nights for tickets for Games 1 and 2," said Bianchi, a junior broadcast journalism major whose parents are from Colorado. "I'm pretty much broke now. But I can say for the rest of my life that I was at the first Rockies World Series. It's priceless. It's a memory I'll cherish forever, no question."

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, said Musslewhite, a freshman from Greeley, Colo. "It's hard to believe we're actually here."

They headed for their seats. They were $150 apiece. They were in Section 23. They were at the World Series. "Worth every penny," Bianchi said.

Road to the World Series

The guys back on the road construction crew in Maine are all over Shawn Braley.

"They all hate me," he said. "They all hope it snows right now."

He was down here from Bangor, a four-hour drive, and holding his World Series ticket proudly. He loved just feeling it. He was standing in the field-box area behind the Red Sox dugout, while the guys in red were taking batting practice. Manny Ramirez was going opposite field, lashing ball after ball to the wall as Braley spoke.

Braley found out only on Tuesday, workout day, that he was coming to the 103rd Fall Classic. He was here with three family members, two from Bangor and one up from Tampa, Fla. It was courtesy of his wife's parents.

"My wife called me and said, 'Can you get time off from work?' " Braley said. "I said, 'Oh, yeah.' Not even a thought. Especially for the World Series.

"Just being here gives you an adrenaline rush, I guess."

You have a road construction guy. You have an iconic actor. What threads them together is that thin strip of thick paper stock, hung proudly around your neck in a lanyard, your ticket to paradise. World Series tickets.

They are one of the true common denominators between the modern game and its relatively ancient past. Tickets were needed to see the games at the turn of the last century, when the World Series was born. They have changed in look and feel, and today they can be acquired online, but it's still all about the ticket.

"Yes," Gere repeated, "this is a big deal."

The movie "American Gigolo" came out in 1980, the year the Phillies beat the Royals. "An Officer and a Gentleman" was in 1982, the year the Cardinals beat the Brewers. "Pretty Woman" was in 1990, the year the Reds swept the A's. "Chicago" was in 2002, the year the Angels beat the Giants. If you have a ticket you can see the show.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.