ONCE there was another Cal playing for the Orioles...

Noted in brief

March 16, 1997

ONCE there was another Cal playing for the Orioles: left-handed, and an outfielder, but a favorite with the fans. Cal Abrams, this was, the team's leading hitter in 1954.

In that first year of the Orioles' return to the American League, they lacked for offense (52 was the whole team's homer total; afterward, the fence was moved in). With his team playing most of the season in last place, it was nice having one man who could hit -- Abrams, in what turned out to be the high point of his eight-year career, batted .293.

Cal Abrams, who was from Philadelphia, later moved to Florida; he died there recently, at 73.

There was something else. The anti-discrimination and equal-opportunity eras were only on the way, in 1954. The American League's preference in executive names, for its new franchise, ran to Miles, Keelty, Iglehart, rather than Hoffberger and Krieger, even though the money to buy the failed St. Louis Browns had come from the latter families.

A question mark hung over the Orioles, whose player list included a lone, seldom-used, token African American, and who hadn't even made a contract offer to Satchel Paige, the year before a strength for the Browns.

It was nice having one man in the Oriole batting order every day who was Jewish.

ONE OF THE memories of Soviet life was summarized in a popular saying: "The state pretends to pay us and we pretend to work."

Many people still manage to goof off. But successful Russians realize that free enterprise is based on hustling. That means that they have less time for vodka-soaked friendships where deep discussions endlessly explored the depths of the "Russian soul." Among the go-getters, business meetings and cellular telephone calls gobble up their days.

This has created a new class of wealthy women who seldom see their millionaire-businessmen husbands. They fill their lives with facials and make-overs, massages, shopping and workout sessions in gyms with personal trainers.

"To be honest, I am very lonely," complained a 41-year-old, trained as a pianist but married to a busy CD record tycoon.

Such laments underscore the difference between the old Soviet system and capitalism. Under communism, top executives (always men) had lots of free time. They were glad-handers and party-goers (as well as party hacks), who were whisked from one ceremony or lavish banquet to the next in a black limousine. The really serious work and decisions were handled by deputy directors, all professionals.

For this reason, infrequent marriages between Soviet women and top foreign executives tended to end up in divorce. Wives could not understand why their husbands had to be so busy all the time.

Now Russian women are learning that if their husbands are to be successful they cannot just pretend to work. They have to work.

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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