A double standard in eyes of rich beholder

This Just In . . .

June 16, 1999|By DAN RODRICKS

IN THE LATEST posting on his Web site, Albert Belle defends himself against criticism of his lead-footed jog to first base on a grounder he thought was foul in the June 6 game against the Phillies. "I've seen this play happen many times with other guys as recently as this week," Albert writes, "but it's become a big deal because it involved me."

AB says nothing about his profanity-laced dugout blowup with manager Ray Miller in Florida three days later.

He then closes his cyber epistle with this: "No excuses but the year 2000 is approaching and we still have a double standard across America. ... When will it change?"

Which double standard?

That Albert makes $80,000 per game for hitting baseballs while schoolteachers in Maryland make half that per year for educating children?

That the reward for boorish behavior for most men is ostracism, maybe even litigation, but for Albert it's $13 million per year?

I think Albert comes out on the high, happy end of those double standards. So he can't be claiming victimhood on economic grounds.

I'll take a short leap and conclude that Albert's line about the "double standard across America" means that he gets knocked because he's black.

A provocative thought.

But I don't buy it. Not in Albert's case.

Turn the thing around. If Albert were white, made $13 million a year despite a record of unseemly off-the-field behavior, hit well below expectation, dogged it to first, tomahawked a beer bottle through a television screen, refused interviews and yelled bad words at his manager during a game, would crowds at Camden Yards throw roses at his feet?

Not likely.

But they wouldn't boo him, either -- not as quickly as fans in other towns might. Oriole fans are soft for the orange-and-black. They go a long way with a guy before booing him. Albert ought to think about that. He ought to think about what he does, what he says -- especially about race -- or risk alienating the whole town.

It's early yet. This relationship still can be saved.

Fly-fishing and a bear

I'd like to remind AB that, as mentioned in this space Friday, he is invited to take part in fly-fishing therapy with this columnist. When you are ready for the journey to inner peace, AB, please contact me through my Web site at www.sunspot.net. (Or you can just give me a call, 410-332-6166.) ... A company called Athlete Direct has been marketing an Albert Belle stuffed animal. You can purchase Bammer Bear -- a cuddly little bear of washable polyester fiber and sporting No. 88 -- for $13.95 (plus $4.95 for shipping and handling) on AB's AOL-based Web site.

Isn't that precious?

Cabbie's car, Part II

Here's today's TJI reading-for-comprehension quiz: Who is Don Brannan? I'll give you a hint -- his story appeared in this space in April. No takers? Here's another hint -- the headline: "Howard police take cabbie for $600 ride." Raise your hand if you got it.

Seeing none -- this shtick doesn't work very well in print, does it? -- I'll provide the answer.

Don Brannan is that easygoing operator of a rural-suburban taxi service who bought a 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity at auction in Baltimore last fall, took it home and fixed it up, only to have Howard County police show up, tell him it was stolen and take the car away.

It didn't matter that Brannan had an auctioneer's receipt showing him to be the new owner. Didn't matter that, since the auction, he'd invested about $600 in it.

"That's a stolen car. I have to take possession if it," a Howard County officer stood at his door and told him.

Brannan didn't put up a fight. It's not his way to fuss about things.

But I told him he should have. He'd done nothing wrong. A mistake had been made, but it wasn't his.

In September, when Baltimore police recovered the Celebrity, they sent a Teletype about it to Howard County, where the car had been stolen. But someone "dropped the ball," according to a Howard police spokesman. The Celebrity went to auction in the city six weeks later.

In October, Brannan paid $130 for it, then sunk another $500 in new brakes, rotors, ignition and body work.

After discovering the title in the glove compartment, Brannan called the bank that financed its original purchase to see if there were liens on the car. A bank employee, for some reason, told the car's original owners about Brannan's phone call. The original owners called the second owner in Howard County. He called police. That's how police found Brannan.

They took the car in November.

"Not much we can do," an officer told Brannan when he asked if he could be compensated.

But, turns out, police have been on the case, and apparently they're willing to make things right. A captain called Brannan a few weeks ago and discussed the matter. Then, on Monday, another official told Brannan he would be reimbursed for his expenses if he signed a form releasing Howard County of further liability. The form is in the mail. Maybe soon a check.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Saving historical Hatters

Lou Boulmetis, trying to save his Hippodrome Hatters from the wrecking ball in the city's west-side redevelopment, takes his case to national television tomorrow night. He's been interviewed for a History Channel report called "Save Our History: America's Most Endangered." Airs at 10. ... First time for everything: The bingo caller at Sunday's St. Anthony Festival in Little Italy was Hall of Fame broadcaster Chuck Thompson. "B-16" never sounded so good.

This Just In appears each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact Dan Rodricks by e-mail at dan.rodricks@baltsun.com.

Pub Date: 06/16/99

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