It's O's instead of ayes or nays Junket: A team of distinguished ladies and gentleman from Washington vote unanimously for the Orioles and breast cancer research.

April 15, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A team of Washington Senators came to Camden Yards yesterday, but not to play ball against the Orioles. Those days are long gone.

Instead, an entourage of U.S. senators -- all Republicans, for some reason -- and congressmen boarded a Baltimore-bound train at Union Station to schmooze, socialize, dress down and show support for a good cause, finding a cure for breast cancer. Not to mention the fun of hanging out with actress Lynda Carter, who still looks like Wonder Woman and threw the opening pitch at last night's game against the Minnesota Twins.

"My theory is, she's one of the few women who could throw it to the mound and have it get there," said Sydney Ferguson, who accompanied one of the Senate's most eligible bachelors, Tennessee Republican Fred Thompson.

Thompson is the chairman of the Senate committee investigating campaign finance practices. But he managed to avoid all talk of politics on the train, where passengers were serenaded by a barbershop quartet singing -- what else? -- "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

"I would have changed seats" if anyone had tried to talk shop, said Thompson, who added, "I find it mandatory to get out of Washington."

But there were also those that apparently could not tear themselves away from work. New York Sen. Alphonse D'Amato, who was due to meet his date, Kathy Finley, at the game and make it a double-date with Thompson and Ferguson, did not make the train. His fate remained unknown at this writing.

The ebullient woman who made the train run on time was Priscilla Mack, executive chairman of the annual Race for the Cure this year. "With a name like Connie Mack, I thought, I might can do this!" she said.

Mack is married to Connie Mack, senator from Florida and grandson of the famed Connie Mack, longtime owner and manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. She said she expected to raise $250,000 for breast cancer research from the day, mostly from corporate sponsors.

Mack is a five-year survivor of breast cancer, the "magic number" that greatly improves your prognosis. Mack said that 95 percent of cases are curable if diagnosed early enough, so "we don't have to lose so many women to this disease."

Also on the train were Maryland's Rep. Constance Morella sitting with Assistant Surgeon General Susan Blumenthal. They were happy to point out that federal funding for breast cancer research and treatment has increased sixfold since 1990, from $90 million to over $600 million now.

"I lost my mother to breast cancer 20 years ago, when we couldn't say the word out loud," said Dr. Blumenthal, who called it an "epidemic" that affects one out of eight women in their lifetimes.

"In this festive atmosphere, it's hard to talk about the realities," said Carter, who was on the train with her husband, lawyer Robert Altman, and 9-year-old son, Jamie.

Decked out in white from top to toe, she fixed her blue eyes on whomever she was talking to, and told Redskins player Ken Harvey, "I can't flirt with you because I'm married."

Utah Sen. Robert Bennett was wondering "where all the Democrats are," though organizers said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle was expected to come from New York to Baltimore by plane.

Donna Shalala, secretary of Health and Human Services, had an answer for that. Arriving on her own after the train parked at pTC Camden Yards, she told Mack, "I've been negotiating with your colleagues all afternoon on the budget."

To those who wonder whether she will follow in Secretary of State Madeline Albright's footsteps and throw out the first pitch, "George Will has been threatening to get me out here," said Shalala, an avid athlete.

Pub Date: 4/15/97

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