ANNAPOLIS -- After complaining of the punches thrown his way by the media and the legislature this year, Gov. William Donald Schaefer finally got a chance to put on the boxing gloves yesterday.
Presented with an oversized and personalized set -- the words "Gov. Schaefer" imprinted on one red glove and 'Keep punchin' " on the other -- the governor watched as more than 100 devoted fans rallied in his support in front of the State House.
"He's got to keep punching and let everybody know he's the boss," said Al Florio, 55, a former fighter, boxing promoter and cocktail lounge owner from Arbutus. "Sometimes he's right and sometimes he's wrong, but either way, he's the man for the job."
No stranger to political controversy, Mr. Florio said he has taken similar pairs of gloves to past rallies in support of such embattled figures as former President Richard M. Nixon and former Maryland Govs. Marvin Mandel and Spiro T. Agnew.
Governor Schaefer's supporters said they were concerned that the governor may have become a tad depressed by recent criticisms.
"I would be," said Virginia Baker, Baltimore's 69-year-old former recreation department doyenne. "Every day I get some praise or award for my work and suddenly everybody is critical of me? I'd feel pretty low."
The hourlong morale-lifting effort, which Ms. Baker helped organize, in-cluded appearances by a costumed Captain Seaweed (in admiral's suit and green, oversized head) and Baby Driftwood (a small brown log with eye holes).
Other attendees included representatives of the institutions that have benefited from the reincarnation of Baltimore or state support in recent years, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Morris Mechanic Theatre, Pier Six Concert Pavilion and the Baltimore Orioles.
"We already got our funds, we didn't have to be here," insisted Ralph A. Bufano, executive director of the future Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, which has received $2 million in state funding during Mr. Schaefer's first term.
He nevertheless showed up in suit and tie for the noon rally. "We're here because he's supported us for the last three years and he supports the arts," Mr. Bufano said.
Mr. Schaefer seemed genuinely touched by the showing and told the crowd that he had never felt discouraged by his problems, only a "little bit off-balance."
"We still have time. We'll get back on balance," Mr. Schaefer told well-wishers. "They can kick us and they can discourage us . . .but we can get up again."