City of champions

Baltimore Glimpses

February 15, 1994|By GILBERT SANDLER

LILLEHAMMER, Norway, currently is the center of sports on Earth. But Baltimoreans needn't feel envious or lonely. A number of championships have been held, and records set, right here in the Patapsco basin. For instance:

JUMP ROPE: Laura Prella, a 12-year-old, became Baltimore City jump rope champion in the Great World Series of Jump Rope Sept. 5, 1960. In Patterson Park, she did a breathtaking 81 skips in 30 seconds! Virginia Baker, veteran of Baltimore playground activities, commented, "She probably could have done better, but we limited the time to only 30 seconds. We didn't want anybody passing out." A number of boys entered, too, but none could match Laura.

CADDY: Teddy Patz, a 15-year-old, became Baltimore City caddy champion Sept. 8, 1923, in Easterwood Park. Caddy is a street game played with a six-inch piece of broomstick tapered at both ends (the caddy) and a bat -- the remainder of the broomstick. The batter first strikes down on one of the caddy's tapered ends, sending it flying end-over-end into the air. Then, with a quick switch of motion, the batter swings at the spinning caddy.

From there on, the game follows (more or less) the rules of playground softball. A lucky batter propels the caddy over everybody's head into the outfield for a hit. An unlucky batter propels it through the window of a neighbor.

The Patz record, awarded for the most hits in any one game, still stands, so far as Glimpses knows. But we don't know what the record is. Unlike Olympics statistics, caddy records haven't been preserved for posterity. (Nor do you see much caddy being played these days.)

HOODLES: Frank McQuade, an 11-year-old, became the hoodles marbles) champion of Baltimore on May 14, 1922, in City Hall Plaza. Here is how McQuade's victory was reported:

"Each contestant had gotten his four hoodles, when one of Kohn's sneaks fell short. He let his agate too near the outer ring. McQuade came along, shooting high, and knocked it for a row of loving cups."

By the way, McQuade went on to the national championship in Philadelphia and won there, too!

YO-YO: Carl Pund, a 15-year-old, became yo-yo champion of Baltimore Nov. 14, 1964, in Patterson Park. The contest came down to a sudden-death playoff of loop-de-loops. Mr. Pund recalls, "The other kid was good, but not good enough. On his 17th loop, he fouled his yo-yo cord and was out. I was still going strong. For the record, I could have gone to 300!"

ROLLER SKATING: Evelyn Briggles, a 17-year-old, became waltz and figure skating champion of Baltimore on March 6, 1939, at Carlins Park. Performing with faultless grace in a pencil of light, first she leapt seven feet over five kneeling girls. Then she did a mind-boggling leg spread, pivoting on her right skate while she held her left ankle high in the air with her left hand. Then, in a white-knuckler, she dropped to a crouch and, moving at a good BTC speed, picked a handkerchief off the floor with her teeth. She was judged a champion indeed, the glory of her times. (Check it out, Tonya.)

HULA HOOP: Brenda Wilson, a 12-year-old, became Baltimore City Hula Hoop champion July 2, 1962, in Clifton Park. The kids performed all the stunts that had brought them through the runners-up contests to the finals: the basic "three-minute twirl," the "knee-knocker" and "wrap the mummy." And then the big one, swinging the hoop around one ankle with the other foot in the air, then switching feet without missing a twirl. One contestant after another was eliminated, shattering all previous records and leaving Brenda the undisputed -- and richly deserving -- Hula Hoop champion of Baltimore.

Some purists will look down their noses at these "minor" sports. But it's all a matter of perception. Who's to say that Brenda Wilson's wrap the mummy was any less graceful or athletic than, say, a run of the luge?

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