Back to you, Deford, on Baltimore's white guys

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March 11, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Heard back from Frank Deford the other day, responding to my column about his Smithsonian magazine piece on Charm City.

You may recall that Deford had lamented the lack of white luminaries in the Baltimore of his youth: "It is both ironic and instructive that in the first half of the 20th century, the two most illustrious Americans to come from Baltimore were Thurgood Marshall and Billie Holiday - African-Americans who rose up out of a segregated society; so representative of Baltimore's decline was it that no distinctive white citizens emerged upon the national scene."

What about Babe Ruth and H.L. Mencken, I'd asked. The Sports Illustrated writer and NPR commentator replied via e-mail: "Look it up, please: both Mssrs. Mencken and Ruth came from the second half of the 19th century. So name me a white Baltimorean more prominent than Ms. Holliday [sic] or Mr. Justic [sic] Marshall born from 1900 to 1950. Well, in time, maybe Nancy Pelosi."

No argument from me about the birthdates of The Babe (born in 1895) and The Sage (1880). But it seemed to me that Deford was talking about Baltimoreans who were on "the national scene" during that period, as Ruth and Mencken clearly were. Why else would the first female speaker of the House, born in Baltimore in 1940, serve as a comic "well, in time, maybe" kicker?

But if Deford really was talking about white Baltimoreans born during that period, there are plenty of big names: Spiro Agnew (1918); Tom Clancy (1947); Barry Levinson (1942); John Waters (1946); Frank Zappa (1940). And let's not forget Frank Deford (1938).

We can argue about whether they're all more prominent than Holiday and Marshall. (Surely that's the case at least with the twice-elected, income-tax-evading vice president, ick factor notwithstanding.) But their relative prominence is beside the point. Deford's Smithsonian piece lamented that Baltimore had produced "no distinctive white citizens" during that period. Only in his e-mail did he set it up as a contest with Mr. Justice and Lady Day.

Environmentalism as clear as mud

Environmentalists are trying to whip up support for two bills in Annapolis with - what else? - shaky snow globes. Shake them up, and the little bay scene inside clouds up with mud.

The bills behind the "mud globes": One calls for tougher stormwater runoff controls. The other would impose a fee on new homes and buildings, with the money used to clean up related pollution.

The globes are just one of the many legislation-related tokens showered on lawmakers every year, Dru Schmidt-Perkins of 1,000 Friends of Maryland told The Sun's Tim Wheeler.

"We were up against, that day, somebody handing out lunch bags and somebody handing out dolls."

How many at-bats does a Supreme Court justice have?

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy does not know how much money he makes. Either that, or he's ashamed his paycheck doesn't match Pat Jessamy's.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger asked Kennedy his salary last week during a subcommittee hearing on the Supreme Court budget.

Kennedy said he makes $202,000 a year.

In fact, he and other associate justices earn $194,000. Only the chief justice pulls in $202,000. (Jessamy makes $225,000 as city state's attorney.)

Even $202,000 seemed low to some, according to an exchange related to me by Philip Schmidt, spokesman for Rep. Jose Serrano of New York, chairman of the - big breath here - House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. (Schmidt warned that the audio on his tape recorder wasn't great, but he got the gist.)

Serrano: I know guys in the Bronx who make more than that for one at-bat.

Ruppersberger: Well, the Orioles don't pay as much as the Yankees.

Serrano: And it shows.

Ruppersberger: That's why everyone hates the Yankees - they're such bullies.

Serrano: If I wasn't a Yankee fan I'd think we were bullies, too.

Connect the dots

A. Robert Kaufman's "electoral theses," which the Socialist mayoral hopeful duct-taped to City Hall last week, call for giving nonviolent detainees comfy recliners and the right to send out for pizza. I mistakenly wrote that he wanted those creature comforts for nonviolent prisoners. "I sound kind of kooky because you used the wrong word," he said. ... A group called Americans United for Change, displeased with U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's votes on the minimum wage and unions, issued a press release last week calling him "Middle Class Maryland's Public Enemy #1." "I never heard of them," said Bartlett spokeswoman Lisa Wright. "Are they for pennies, nickels and dimes?" ... This seems like more than a long shot, but what the heck: After a column about a long-lost Calvert Hall ring coming home, a reader asked for help returning the Air Force ring she found 10 years ago in the Wildwood, New Jersey surf. Air Force can't or won't help, she said. It has a tiger's-eye stone and the number 13356726 inside. Name the engraved initials and it's yours. ...

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