Irv Zeiger actually ordered his first season tickets for Los Angeles Dodger games when the team was still in Brooklyn. The owner thought he was a nut. But Zeiger got them and he still has the ticket stubs from the first opening day game ever played at Dodger Stadium in 1962.
He hasn't missed an opening day game there since -- a streak that goes back 43 years, a streak that will be broken this Tuesday when the Dodgers play their 2005 home opener.
Zeiger won't be in his seat Tuesday. He'll be staying at his home watching the game on television. It's not because he's ill. It's because he's heartbroken.
Zeiger's had at least four season seats right behind the Dodger dugout for all those years. He was in them for Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965 and Kirk Gibson's World Series home run in 1988. Last season, he paid $16,000 for them -- $4,000 a ticket.
But when Zeiger got a phone call this winter from the Dodgers ticket office, he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"I thought she was kidding," Zeiger said. "And that's exactly what I said to her, 'You got to be kidding.' And she kind of giggled over the phone and said, 'No, that's the price.' "
The price to get four tickets behind the dugout this year would be $120,000 -- nearly eight times the old price.
The reason? Four rows of new seats have been built in front of Zeiger's old ones. The dugout is now 30 feet closer to the field. The new seats also include great parking and gourmet food. And the Dodgers say they need the money.
Greg McElroy, a Dodgers vice president, makes no apologies for the new $30,000 season ticket price.
"It's a very expensive business to run," he said. "And if you want to field the best team, you're going to have to pay for the best players."
Inflation is a fact in baseball. The average salary of a major league baseball player this season is expected to be more than $2.5 million. That's more than double what it was 15 years ago. Baseball ticket prices have also more than doubled in that time, up 120 percent while the consumer price index has risen only 45 percent.
Russell Adams, who writes about baseball for Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal, said the Dodgers' price hike is not unreasonable, but that there definitely is a rich-fan/poor-fan sports ticket reality in stadiums and arenas today.
"It's not just baseball, and it's not just the Dodgers," Adams said. "The average fan really does not have access anymore to the best seats. It's just too expensive to run a club, and it's too expensive to give those seats away or sell them for cheap.
"Dodger Stadium is one of the older stadiums which is why they're doing this," he added. "But all of the newer stadiums are centered around how many luxury suites, how many club seats they can offer. Because that's where the money comes from."
The Dodgers do have some cheap seats. There are about 10,000 of them at $6 each in the bleachers and the highest deck behind home plate. But in a $20 million stadium renovation, the team added 1,600 expensive seats this season and has had no trouble selling them.
"The demand was greater than our supply," the Dodgers' McElroy said. "We needed to add this type of inventory because we have a high-end user here that demands special services and value.