Crab Pot patrons find that lottery numbers grow on trees


March 06, 1995|By DAN RODRICKS

Whaddaya know? Balls Maggio's brother invented The Mistake Tree. I made this discovery the other day in Lexington Market -- and will shortly elaborate on it -- while enjoying a lunch of New England-style fried clams at the Crab Pot. Paul Devine runs the place and, knowing of my affection for the fried soft shell clam (snouts and bellies included), he is all the time nudging me to come over for some, tartar sauce and all.

So I go. And I'm standing at the counter, cool air scented with roasted peanuts flowing through the busy doors of the arcade behind me, when Devine starts tapping away at a lottery machine. Sometimes it looks like he has as many customers for Pick 3 as he has for padded oysters.

Next to Devine's machine, I notice a two-foot piece of wood, a standard Hechinger two-by-three, painted black, with several binder clips screwed into it. "Mistake Tree?" it says on the attached card.

Turns out, when Devine makes errors punching his customers precious numbers into the lottery terminal, he clips the rejected tickets on the Mistake Tree. Other customers like to buy the rejects. Now and then, they even win with someone else's botched number combinations.

"Paul, did you invent that?" I ask of the Mistake Tree.

"No, my maintenance man, Frank, did," he says, unwilling to take the credit.

Turns out, the designer and creator of the Mistake Tree is Frank Maggio. His brother, the late Theodore Peter "Balls" Maggio Jr., was a famous character in Baltimore back in the Golden Age of characters -- Mr. Diz, Abe Sherman, the Great Dantini, Rudy The Sun Lies Man, Melvin Perkins, Edith The Egg Lady. They called him "Balls" because he used to scoop up and save balls that had fallen into storm drains, floated down the Jones Falls and into the Inner Harbor; he had thousands of them in his apartment when he died.

I told Frank Maggio he should make more Mistake Trees and sell them to lottery agents. It might be a success, might make Frank as famous as his brother. Then again, it might leave him with an apartment full of two-by-threes.

Advice for O. J.

Mr. Gene Iampieri of Ellicott City wonders: "If O. J. Simpson is so smart, why didn't he hire one of those Baltimore TV lawyers who say, 'If you don't win, you don't pay?' "

Two Baltimore women were discussing the purchase of exercise equipment. "Look in The Sun classifieds," one said, "they're full of ads for them neurotic tracks."

The March 13 Forbes has a two-page, insipid feature on Malcolm Glazer, new owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. De-Glazered Baltimore football fans will appreciate the geeky photo of Mal with his pants pulled too high, sitting at his baby grand. "It's time I got a little fun out of life," he says. Right.

Cruelest cut of all

They'll be lighting candles for the governor's conscience today. Opponents of Parris N. Glendening's cruelest cut -- the $35 million Disability Assistance and Loan Program, which pays stipends of $157 a month to about 21,000 poor and disabled Marylanders -- will hold a candlelight vigil from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. outside the governor's Baltimore office, 6 St. Paul Place. Glendening announced the cut, then let others defend it -- first his befuddled lieutenant governor, then one of his aides -- insisting the state can no longer afford even this meager, temporary and (most of the time) federally reimbursed support for unemployable adults with no other income. This isn't "welfare reform," folks. This is wonk-headed politics that hurts the rock-bottom poor.

Honoring Rosies

Shirley Morrisey, Jackie Ambot and Vera Green, the three proud and dignified women from Dundalk who worked as Rosie the Riveters in Baltimore during World War II and who were featured in a recent Sun story, are busy, busy, busy. They will be interviewed by the Canadian Broadcast Corp. and have been invited to speak at Roland Park Country School. "We are so excited!" says Vera, 71. They and about 150 other Rosies will be honored March 15 at Dundalk Community College.

They agree on one thing

Nick D'Adamo, city councilman from Highlandtown, is very upset with the East Baltimore Guide, his hometown newspaper. Why? 'Cause the Guide broke the story of Lois Garey's appointment to the council before Nick got a chance to make the announcement. "I am going to tell you right now, and I'm not being smart," Nick told editor Jacqueline Watts. "When you call me now through [the] election, I won't be returning your phone calls because you are not working with us on this," he said.

"We agree," countered Watts. "He's not being very smart."

Mystery solved

Thanks to Lee Michaels, morning host and program director at Heaven 600, WCAO-AM, for solving the mystery of the bumper sticker: "Old Shouting John Said Hold My Mule." That's a line from a 1986 gospel song by Shirley Caesar. In the song's narrative prelude, Caesar tells how a farmer named John annoyed church leaders by praising God with great physical and vocal passion during Sunday service. Later, a church leader confronted John while he was plowing his fields and ordered him to behave at services. But John handed the reins of his mule to the man, then broke into shouts of joy. The message of the parable, says Michaels: "Don't hold me back when I praise God."

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