Steinbach, Orioles, the Shrivers

Books of the Region

April 18, 2004|By James H. Bready | James H. Bready,Special to the Sun

In the words of that late, great New Yorker writer, John McNulty, "A man gets around." The phrase needs expansion, now that Alice Steinbach, Baltimore newspaperwoman, Pulitzer Prize winner and author, is also Alice Steinbach of Kyoto and Camstradden (well, Japan and Scotland), and points even more distant. Her 2000 book, Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman (Random House, 288 pages, $23.95) set the pattern: her household having scattered, she could and did walk out the door of The Sun -- to range the world, on self-assignment.

Now comes a second report, Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman (Random House, 304 pages, $24.95), with a new set of places, people, arts. The scenes of her curiosity, and learning, include Paris, her all-time favorite; Florence, flooded in 1966; the Jane Austen countryside, in England; Havana, surviving its handicaps; Provence, in bloom; Prague, where Nazi genocide is not yet forgotten.

Steinbach is a planner -- here, she signs up ahead for an apprentice cooking course; there, for dance lessons, for a writing seminar (in English), for the field training of Border collies (her ancestors were Scottish). She rides trains and taxis, sometimes pays for an interpreter, exchanges business cards, takes notes, buys books, writes to a Japanese male friend -- she is good about making friends, with locals, with travel-mates.

Sometimes, she is reminded of her Maryland childhood -- Nancy Drew novels, Carlin's ice rink, Camp Louise, old Lexington Market, the Carry-On Shop.

She has no problem with the tricky art of the unaffected first-person singular. Also notable is what she omits -- wars, diplomacy, global economics, pro sports, undereducated tourists, partisan religion.

Again and again, Alice Steinbach comes away with education that wasn't on her program.

The 1983 Orioles had no 20-games-won pitcher. They had only two .300 batters, struck out 800 times, stole a mere 61 bases and, in the World Series, batted .217. Yet, shout it loud, they won. Their manager was new; one starting pitcher was an alcoholic; another was aged 21. It was Jim Palmer's last year in uniform; and Jon Miller's first year at an Oriole microphone. On Opening Day, at Memorial Stadium, the Birds lost.

But, in that autumn I-95 Series against Philadelphia, four games to one, Baltimore cleaned William Penn's clock. Nothing like it since, as Thom Loverro hardly need point out in his reconstruction of that fading year of nirvana, Oriole Magic: The O's of '83 (Triumph, 232 pages, $24.95).

Loverro, a Washington sports columnist and author, reviews the schedule game by game, player by player. Good words, beautiful statistics. (Although -- what then became of Sammy Stewart, the closer? No one knows.) And, a degree of candor. "Edward Bennett Williams [then the Oriole owner] knew nothing about baseball." Later, "the heavy-handed regime of Peter Angelos." Pinpricks, alongside that 10-inning game, Aug. 24, at home -- when Tippy Martinez, the lefty reliever, picked off three Toronto base runners, in succession, by throwing to first instead of to Lenn Sakata, his novice catcher -- Sakata, who then homered to win the game.

Of Shrivers, U.S. history counts a big basketful. One Shriver or another is prominent in railroads, the armed forces, a Homewood auditorium, the Peace Corps, tennis. Still, even in Carroll and Frederick counties, do people remember that back in the Lutheran Rhineland the family name was Schreiber, that in 1760 the bilingual progenitor migrated here from Pennsylvania, that David Shriver (baptized Johann Theobald Schreiber), was an influential member of the 1776 General Assembly that wrote Maryland's first constitution? The biography that now appears, David Shriver, 1735-1826, Pioneer and Patriot of Piedmont Maryland, by George Donald Riley, Jr. (Historical Society of Carroll County, 203 pages, $27.50), may be overdue, but it has gained thereby. The author and his wife (a three-greats granddaughter of David Shriver) own and occupy the original acreage -- Farm Content, on Little Pipe Creek. The Rileys watch over the family graveyard. Meanwhile, archivists have assembled a mass of letters, proceedings, business records and early, insult-rich newspapers.

Riley makes a solid point. The original Shriver was an agrarian Republican, over against the Federalists of Annapolis and the Bay country, with their manorial English attitudes. To the west, much of Maryland was settled by such as he -- Germans who mostly did their own work.

War is so exciting, many a bookreader must think; just so it goes on at a distance. Iraq, now? No, no, much too close. But safely a century and a half ago, with lots of horses and bugles and sabers? In bookstores, somehow the Civil War never ends. No new facts, just romantic shades of blue and gray. The latest title is To Make Men Free: A Novel of the Battle of Antietam, by Richard Croker (William Morrow, 429 pages, $25.95).

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