PARTYING SHOTS: Yes, dear friends, it's that time of year again when this columnist fills you in on some of the bashes, balls and benefits that are coming up in the next few months in our beloved Big Crab.
So, without further ado, we invite you to dust off the old tux, dig out your party gown, grab your checkbook, and get ready to rock and roll. There's a party going on and you're invited!
SPORTS TOPPERS: Cecil Fielder, the first American Leaguer to hit 50 home runs since 1961, will be among the honored guests at the head table of the 38th annual "Tops in Sports" banquet scheduled Jan. 11 at Towson State University's Towson Center.
The dinner and program will be emceed by former New York Met-turned-broadcaster Ron Swoboda. Hall of Famer Willie Stargell will receive the Retroactive Babe Ruth Crown Award at the banquet.
Also expected to attend are Cal Ripken Sr., Cal Ripken Jr. and Bill Ripken. Cal Sr. has been named winner of the Edwin A. Rommel Award, presented annually to an individual for long and distinguished service to baseball. Tickets are $40 and proceeds benefit the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and the WBALKids Campaign. Call 242-3552.
SAVE A HEART ushers in the new year with a 20th anniversary reception, dinner and show Jan. 14 at Danielle's Bluecrest in Pikesville. The gala honors Gary Goldberg, the foundation's new president, and features "An Evening of Musical Theatre" featuring lyric baritone Riccardo Chiapetta and pianist Cyrus Ginwalla, who have successfully collaborated on such productions as "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Once Upon a Mattress." Tickets are $50. For reservations, call 653-3131.
LET FREEDOM RING is the fifth annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which will be held at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. Sponsored by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Maryland Commission on Afro-American History and Culture, the evening will feature Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt Schmoke, the BSO, the Morgan State University Choir and a Baltimore premiere of Hannibal Peterson's "African Portraits."
The concert is free but tickets must be picked up in advance at the Meyerhoff box office. Because of the high demand, organizers are asking that you limit your requests to only two tickets per person, which will be available Jan. 7.
GET OUT YOUR most fantastic chapeau and head over to the "Madhatters Ball" to benefit United Cerebral Palsy Jan. 19 at the Governor's Club, and you could win yourself a prize -- or at least garner a few laughs. You wouldn't believe how some Big Crabcharacters turn on the creative charm in this festive black-tie dance.
Chaired by Susan Knott and Dennis Connelly, the evening's festivities will be emceed by the always festive Rhea Feikin, who'll be sharing the honors with Richard Sher on Channel 13's "Weekend with the Stars" telethon to benefit the cerebral palsy group Feb. 2. Tickets are $75 and can be reserved by calling 484-4540.
THE BALTIMORE REGIONAL Burn Center Foundation Inc. is hosting its annual Baltimore Burn Ball Jan. 23 at the Harbor Court Hotel. Jane and Frank Gabor, co-owners of About Faces Day Spa at Kenilworth Park, are chairing this year's event.
Dr. Andrew Munster, director of the Regional Burn Center and world renowned lecturer and scholar on care of the burn patient, serves as honorary chair of the ball. For reservations, call 550-0895.
"AROUND THE WORLD" is the theme of this year's Casino Ball at the Baltimore Museum of Art Jan. 26. Games, light fare and open bar will be featured as you dance to the music of the Fabulous Grandeurs.
Tickets are limited, so make your reservations early. The ball has sold out the past three years. Call 396-6363.
BOOK PASSAGE FOR the Pride of Baltimore II's World Tour Gala Jan. 26 at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel. The Pride's annual gala features an international theme celebrating the first half of the European campaign.
The evening will feature the musical entertainment of the popular Crystal Strings as well as a video travelogue highlighting the Pride's trip. Gala co-chairs are Mike and Susan Chesser. Tickets are $175 per person. For info, call Liz Barnes at 625-5460.
A HEARTY CROWD usually turns out for the annual Heart Ball, which is slated Feb. 2 at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel. The theme for the night's festivities is "Rhythm of the Heart" with dancing to Tony Berry and New Money.
The Heart Ball is chaired by a committee headed by Piper and Marbury partner Joanne Pollak and Care First President David Wolf. Tickets are $200 per person and can be reserved by calling 661-8000.
THE BALTIMORE COMMITTEE for Shaare Zedek Medical Center Jerusalem is hosting a champagne reception and annual concert featuring the piano duo of Stanton and Sternfield Feb. 3 at Beth Tfiloh Congregation. For ticket info, call 655-8553.