Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The 1886 World Series: Help Wanted

Wanted-To-day, 20 waiters at Sportsman's Base Ball Park, Grand ave.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 23, 1886

I just thought this was really neat. It's an ad that appeared in the Help Wanted section of the Globe and speaks, I think, to the size of the crowds that were coming out for the series.


Richard Hershberger said...

OK, but what does it say? I honestly don't know. I very much doubt that waiters were used throughout the crowd, so these would be for some sort of premium audience. What fraction of the crowd would be paying for this, and what would the ratio of waiters to premium spectators be? Heck if I know. We should also keep in mind the possibility that these 20 waiters are supplemental to staff which was already hired. So what this looks like to me is a last-minute scramble to staff up, but whether this is due to a particularly large anticipated crowd or to generally poor planning seems an open question.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

My first thought when seeing the ad was that they were hiring people to sell beer and liquor in the grandstands. If memory serves, this is how they served beer, etc throughout the stands. I'd have to go look it up but I think they had guys walking through the stands with trays of mugs of beer and glasses of whiskey. Call them waiters or beermen or whatever but I think that's what we have here. But, as you say, it's tough to tell.

I don't see it as a premium service but an agumentation of regular service. I've worked in the resturant business for a long time and this is the kind of thing that we do on a regular basis. If you know you're going to be busier than normal or that you have some kind of event that is going to drive the volume of business higher then you increase your staffing levels. That's what I think was going on. They were getting big crowds and their normal staffing level was unable to keep up with the demand for beer, etc. So you get more guys in the stands and you sell more product. As you said, it's a last-minute scramble to staff up. Did they have a large, permanent staff to work the stands or did they rely on temp labor to augment a smaller, core staff? We don't know.

You can say that it was poor planning going into the series to not anticipate the overflow crowds that they were getting at Sportsman's Park but I don't know if that's true. They may have been running these ads throughout the series and I just missed them. I did see another one for the Browns/Maroons game that was played the Sunday after the series ended. So this may have been the way that the club staffed up for larger crowds. It's possible that this was the way they normally augmented their staff.

David Ball said...

I have never read very much about it, but I do believe I have seen at least one reference to waiters carrying drinks through the stands. We have people carrying drinks and food all over the ball park now, of course, we just don't call them waiters.

We've been seeing that interest in this series was very intense in comparison to the comparatively low-key response to the previous year's, so it wouldn't be surprising they needed extra help. It's certainly an interesting little find.

Richard Hershberger said...

I incautiously assumed that "waiters" were something other than what we would now call "vendors" but upon reflection I agree that this was unjustified. We do sometimes have waiters at ballparks today. This is most obvious in luxury suites, but I have been to minor league games where there is wait service at the reserved field level seats. The service consists of the waiter going to the concession stand and getting your food for you, which while unnecessary is nice if you are into the game. I tip them well, on the few occasions I use them.

Off topic, but it seems like there are fewer vendors roaming the stands than when I was a kid. On the other hand, modern ballparks have more, and more varied, concession stands. I remember as a kid at Dodger Stadium you figured that a trip to the stand would take an entire inning, what with standing in line. They have since figured out that making it hard for people to hand you money is not good business. In any case, this may explain there being fewer vendors in the stands.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

At Busch, I've never had a problem finding a vendor. Whether I'm in the bleachers or right behind first base, they bring beer and soda around at least once a half inning. Plus popcorn, cotton candy, etc. And they built plenty of concession stands in the place. You walk out of any section and onto the concourse and there's a concession stand either to your left or right. Plenty of bathrooms, too. As far as the amenities are concerned, it's a much better experience than old Busch.

The upper deck is a bit different, I think (although I've only sat up there twice in five years). If I remember right, there were fewer vendors than down low. You get what you pay for I guess. But in general, as far as Busch is concerned, they seem better at getting your dollar than they were in the past.