Sailing to Major League Sports
Lisa and Bill Walters own and operate a sports store in suburban Baltimore called Wild Bill’s Apparel, where they cover all the major league sports. They also market as vendors for the Orioles and Ravens. They described some of the action while sailing with a family along the York River, south of Williamsburg.
Bill said, “My father was a forefather of stadium vendors back in the late Fifties, when there were only six big vendors all over the country. Back then, we sold a lot of pennants. T-shirts began to become popular in the Seventies. Now all kinds of apparel are popular, especially hats.”
Their most famous player is obvious. “Cal Ripken 2121,” Lisa recalled wistfully of The Streak. “150,000 people were there for his final game. 48,000 were packed inside Camden Yard in every conceivable nook and cranny. Another 100,000 were outside the stadium, getting a sense of being there.” Bill added, “I had the exclusive on Cal Ripken Jr., and it took a lot to get that. He was very well liked.”
Bill is still recovering from successful surgery for a brain tumor 15 years ago. “I used to weigh a lot more. When the Orioles won the World Series in 1984, I took my guy Mickey to BWI to greet them. I gave him some items to sell and threw him over the fence at the airport to get out there with the crowd. Sales is all in the moment, and then it’s gone.” Lisa added of the BWI spontaneity, “You couldn’t do that today, with all the security.”
“Oddly enough, we sell better when the Orioles lose a game,” Lisa said. “When they win, people are satisfied and then become complacent when it comes to apparel. But when they lose, fans seek some comfort in other things like chocolate, food, or in our case clothes.” Bill added, “Win or lose. We got you covered.”
Eventually the dad from the other family came back from the bow of the sailboat, where they were enjoying the afternoon summer breeze. Jim Warner, the father, used to be a vendor at Clemson University while an undergraduate there. He and Bill Walters knew people in common. Sailing is a small world.