Orioles, Hopkins, a Carroll, counties

Books of the Region

March 21, 2004|By James H. Bready | James H. Bready,Special to the Sun

With 50 pennant seasons gone by, the modern-majors Orioles can point to 30 winning ones, to 1957, which ended 76-76, and to 19 losing seasons, especially the most recent and ominous six. But 50 years worth of batting averages and pitching percentages can short-circuit a cerebrum. The better way to celebrate half a century back in the big time may well be with stories. Louis Berney does that, in his Tales From the Orioles Dugout (Sports Publishing, 204 pages, $19.95).

Jack Voigt, a 1990s outfielder (among the three dozen players whom Berney interviewed), was so set in his ways he used to take not only the same number of swings, each time he was in the on-deck circle, but then the same number of steps to walk from circle to batter's box. Well, Voigt says, you should've seen Harold Baines' fixed routine in the batting cage.

Decades after he retired from baseball, Dick Hall, for one, can remember the ball-and-strike count on this player in that game. Jim Palmer, pitcher-turned-broadcaster, gets the largest allotment of space. It flares anew -- the lighter-fluid, full-matchholder hotfoot that Moe Drabowsky administered to Bowie Kuhn, commissioner of baseball, in a 1970 clubhouse. Berney's technique resembles that of John Eisenberg of The Sun, in the latter's longer book, From 33rd Street to Camden Yards (Contemporary, 528, $24.95 ), two years ago. Berney's emphasis is more on the unreported, clubhouse horseplay.

Berney's Oriolatry began here in boyhood; grown, he got in touch with player after player. One quibble: the old noun-adjective problem. Orioles organization but Oriole Way; Orioles offices, at Oriole Park. His title phrase, "The Orioles Dugout," could've used an apostrophe.

Like Caesar's Gaul, all Johns Hopkins (in Baltimore) divides into three parts: university, medical school, hospital. And, the newcomer asks, what is the order of their pecking? Across time, hospital has amassed the No. 1 national ranking; med school, the Nobel prizes; Homewood, the oldest traditions and lacrosse championships. But -- which board of trustees is the one a newcomer should aspire unto? Also, who won that damaging 1990s feud between the respective heads of the research-program School of Medicine (administratively, part of Homewood) and the teaching hospital?

John A. Kastor offers a marvelous peek through the curtains in his book, Governance of Teaching Hospitals: Turmoil at Penn and Hopkins (Johns Hopkins, 357 pages, $55 ). Kastor is not just a neutral medical observer (faculty member, University of Maryland School of Medicine) but an expert on the running of academic medical centers. When Kastor undertook this study of parallelism, physicians and administrators alike responded. As author, he is a master of pungent detail -- the failed attempts to buy Good Samaritan Hospital and then Sinai Hospital.

At the University of Pennsylvania, William Kelley, heading both its hospital and its medical center, likewise trying for a suburban-hospital empire, built a mountain of debt. So the university president fired him. At Broadway and East Monument, Michael Johns and James Block, warring all the way, left for other locations. In each of Kastor's two acrimonious case histories, table-of-organization reforms followed.

As for that board seat, take the hospital -- its trustees constitute "almost certainly, Baltimore's most exclusive club."

If Charles Carroll (the Signer, 1737-1832) stands out, on and on, as the most famous pre-1900 Marylander, there were reasons. Businessman, planter and slaveholder, moneybags, devout layman, patriot, politician, socialite, and on his death in Baltimore in 1832 at 95, "the last noble Roman," Carroll got around.

It wasn't always easy, considering the nonmarriage between his father and his opium-addict mother, his own son's alcohol addiction and his occasional setbacks in the intricate politics of the early republic. But, no matter who was wheedling him to invest in whatever scheme, Carroll would then vent with pen on paper -- and his letters, people saved. Historians may not always admire, but they are grateful.

Carroll's latest biographer is Scott McDermott of Tennessee, in Charles Carroll of Carrollton; Faithful Revolutionary (Scepter, 352 pages, $24.95).

Attracted to his subject's Irish-French Catholicism, McDermott also struggles with a Carroll attitude that he calls "narcissism." But, McDermott has the gift of clarity, and in his deft hands, the complicated set-tos of anglophile Federalists (e.g., Carroll) vs. francophile Republicans (Thomas Jefferson) make sense -- even Carroll's position on the Louisiana Purchase, which he deplored.

Here's to an old man on East Lombard Street who, daily on arising, took a cold tub bath.

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