What’s ale-ing baseball? There’s no beer man!

I remember the Ballantine scoreboard in right-center at Connie Mack Stadium.

I remember Ballantine Blasts by Wes Covington and Johnny Callison.

And I remember vendors with heavy cases of bottles, climbing through the steep left field bleachers yelling, “Hey getcha cold beer!”

Yo, beer man! Over here!

Ballantine and Wes and Johnny are gone from Philly. So too, sadly, is the noble beer vendor.

They stopped selling beers in the stands at Veterans Stadium a few years ago. In an attempt to crack down on rowdyism and underage drinking, beer vendors were required to check IDs of everyone who purchased a cup. The plan failed when spectators griped about the hassle and vendors found it took twice as long to sell a rack of beers. The stadium decided it would be easier to sell all beer at concession windows.

Here’s a modest proposal: Bring back the beer vendors.

Running back to the concession area for a brew takes at least a half-inning, thanks to long lines. Not long ago, it took me seven outs to wait my turn.

But grabbing a beer without leaving your seat is more than just a convenience, it’s part of baseball’s hallowed tradition. The earnest shout of an eager beer vendor, the careful hand-to-hand passing of a cold brew down a long row of fans – these are sacred rituals, as important to the game as the seventh-inning stretch and booing the opposition.

I asked Jim Bell, who operates three Red Bell pubs at the Vet, if he has considered hawking beers in the stands. He told me it’s out of his hands, the stadium makes the rules.

“We probably wouldn’t do it, though,” Bell said. “By the time the fan got the product, it wouldn’t be the right temperature or it would lose its head. Besides, I’ve seen surveys that show people actually enjoy getting up and stretching their legs for a good beer.”

Maybe, but in Seattle, vendors sell Pyramid Hefe-weizen and Red Hook ESB in the Kingdome stands, and fans don’t complain about flat beer and cramped legs.

Bring back the beer man!

That’ll be my cheer on Wednesday when Joe Sixpack serves as lifeguard at Bleacher Beach (the outfield cheap seats) for the Phils’ afternoon game against the San Diego Padres. Stop by my lifeguard stand in Section 639. I’ll have freebies for beer fans.

Beer radar.Keep your eyes peeled for long-missing bottles of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. A small shipment of the tasty Chico, Calif., brew arrived in town this week. If you’re lucky, you might find a case at your distributor’s this weekend.

The ale, a longtime cult favorite in the region, has grown so popular, the brewery can no longer keep up with the demand. “We just can’t make enough,” said Steve Harrison, Sierra Nevada’s marketing director. “Most distributors are probably getting a third of what they need.”

Industry sources say California retailers – primarily large supermarket chains – are getting first dibs on the beer. Whatever’s left comes east.

Edward I. Friedland Co., the brewery’s local importing distributor, has been besieged by phone calls from local bars and distributors desperately seeking the bottle-conditioned ale.

“This is killing me. I apologize to all the beer drinkers of the world,” Ed Friedland told me. “Our last shipment was eight weeks ago. I ordered a trailer load, about 1,400 cases.” But when the truck showed up Tuesday, it carried 400 cases.

Friedland said he’ll ration the brew to his customers: 15 cases for distributors, 5 for taverns.

The shortage should ease by November, when the brewery opens its new 200-barrel brewhouse. With any luck, the expansion will also bring Sierra Nevada’s incredibly hoppy (and potent, at 9.6 percent alcohol) Bigfoot barleywine-style ale back to Philly.

For those who miss out on the new shipment, Friedland suggests looking for the pale ale on tap (it’s still available in kegs). Or try something similar, like Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady, Victory Hop Devil IPA or Brooklyn East India Pale Ale.

Beer Radar

Yard work.The local breweratti hoisted more than a few pints of Yards Brewing Co.’s latest, unkegged this week at Brownie’s Irish Pub (46 S. 2nd St., Old City). Yards Brawler is the Manayunk brewery’s first filtered beer. Intended to be served with nitrogen (a la Guinness Stout), it’s smoother than the familiar Yards ESA, with a nicely bitter hop finish.

Over a pint, Brownie’s manager Kurt Decker told me some patrons mistakenly believe he’s Joe Sixpack. “I told them if I were Joe Sixpack, I’d plug my own bar a lot more often,” he laughed. For the record, though we look similar, Decker is not Joe Sixpack; he’s my second cousin, Bud Wiser.


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