Like to buy an auto license plate to help...

WOULD YOU

March 14, 1998

WOULD YOU like to buy an auto license plate to help abandoned cats and dogs?

A bill to create a Maryland license plate like that issued for Chesapeake Bay programs is gaining support in the General Assembly.

The extra $24 paid for the plate would go to county programs to provide neutering and spaying of pets, to prevent the proliferation of unwanted animals.

A half-dozen other states have such plates, which have been popular with pet owners as a way of officially expressing their support for animal birth control.

Cost to the state is minimal, funded by a portion of the extra fee.

The problem of unwanted dogs and cats is widespread and often low on the list of county spending priorities, though it results in a $10 million annual bill for animal-control agencies and local shelters.

Private shelters are overwhelmed with discarded pets; many have to be destroyed. Spaying and neutering pets is the best way to prevent this problem.

The plate could provide important funding for these efforts, while indulging the special-interest identification of pet owners.

Some fear the bill, which easily passed the Senate, would lead to a flood of similar requests from other groups and could limit future motorist support for the bay plate.

That is not likely. A strong majority of Marylanders have pet animals, a big pool of potential plate applicants. According to the bill's supporters, pet owners are wagging their tails in anticipation of that opportunity.

FINALLY, baseball is putting Larry Doby where he belongs, in its Hall of Fame.

His debut in the major leagues lacked the drama of Jackie Robinson's breakthrough. He joined the Cleveland Indians 11 weeks after Robinson became the first African-American in the modern era to shatter baseball's color barrier.

(Answer to a trivia question: The first black major leaguer ever was Moses Fleetwood Walker, of the American Association's Toledo team, in the 1880s.)

Unlike Mr. Robinson, Mr. Doby's rookie year was not promising. But like the Brooklyn Dodgers great, Mr. Doby held more than the weight of a bat on his shoulders. African-Americans lived vicariously through his exploits on the field and through his behavior in other segregated arenas of American life.

After his sluggish first year, Mr. Doby bounced back to build a solid, and sometimes spectacular, career.

He had a career .283 batting average with 253 home runs and 970 runs batted in. He led the American League in home runs twice, played in seven All-Star games and led Cleveland in batting in his club's 1948 World Series championship, the club's last.

Baseball often ignored Larry Doby when it looked back at its heroes.

Fortunately, not this time.

When he is enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y., in July, he finally will stand shoulder to shoulder with his fellow pioneer from that other league.

Pub Date: 3/14/98

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