Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr.
For their entire big-league careers, Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr. symbolized the Orioles — and on-field success.
Signed by the Orioles in 1955, just one year after the moribund St. Louis Browns franchise moved to Baltimore, Robinson would spend all or parts of 23 seasons with the team, winning American League, All-Star Game and World Series Most Valuable Player awards, 16 Golden Gloves for defensive excellence at third base and the undying love of thousands of Baltimoreans.
In 1981, four years after Robinson hung up his spikes for good, Ripken joined the Orioles, playing shortstop before migrating to third base. When he retired 20 years later, the Iron Man had American League and All-Star MVP awards (two of each), the unfathomable accomplishment of having played in 2,632 games without a break, more than 3,000 hits and the image burned in fans' minds of staying for hours after a game was over, until everybody waiting in line for an autograph was satisfied.
Reuniting at (where else?) third base, on the field that now hosts youngsters learning to play the game on the same spot where both Hall-of-Famers began their major-league careers, the two men involuntarily flashed back to their Memorial Stadium years. Robinson, standing on home plate, looked beyond the outfield, at the white-painted houses that would sometimes make it hard for a batter to see the ball coming out of the pitcher's hand. Would you believe Boog Powell once hit a ball into some hedges way out there? he asked, smiling at the thought (and at Boog's power).
Ripken noted how strange, but familiar, it felt, driving on Greenmount Avenue and heading for the ballpark — something he was doing on an almost daily basis 25 years ago, but not anymore. Yes, leaving Memorial Stadium was hard, emotional. But he got over it, Ripken said, the minute he set foot in the Birds' luxurious new digs at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Once, when Ripken was being feted before a packed house at Camden Yards, Robinson took to the mike to announce that he was handing over the unofficial title of “Mr. Oriole.” But such things cannot simply be passed on; let's just say it's a shared honor.
‘People Are Talking'
Way before she was the Queen of All Media, Oprah Winfrey was an on-air personality at WJZ-TV. She had been brought here from Nashville, Tenn., in 1976, to co-anchor the 6 p.m. news alongside local legend Jerry Turner. That didn't work out so well.
Ultimately, she was teamed with onetime radio personality Richard Sher for a new morning talk show, “People Are Talking.” It became a hit (despite an opening-show review in The Sun headlined “A breath of hot, stale air”), and the pair remained together until 1983, when an offer from Chicago lured Winfrey away.
Sher remained in Baltimore, stuck with “People Are Talking” for another five years and remained a fixture on WJZ until his retirement, in 2008. He now hosts a 30-minute Sunday morning edition of the venerable “Square-Off” franchise on WMAR, Channel 2. And Winfrey? Well, she's done OK for herself since leaving Baltimore.
Winfrey was in town recently filming scenes for HBO's “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (which she is producing as well as acting in) when she and Sher met for lunch at Harbor East's Four Seasons Hotel.
Accompanied by Sher's wife, Annabelle, and friends Arnold and Arleen Weiner, the former co-hosts chatted away, even finishing each other's sentences. Approached by a fan who spoke with her for several minutes and then asked for a selfie, Winfrey smiled, perhaps a tad impatiently, and posed as asked.
Later, posing harborside with Sher, Winfrey spoke with affection of her time here (“I feel like I was groomed and became a real woman here in Baltimore,” she says). But when she started talking about her departure for Chicago, Sher interrupted — and made it clear just how much his friend has been missed.
“Your last day was December 16, 1983. I remember it well,” he said with a trace of sadness.
Only in Baltimore, perhaps, could an 87-year-old man still be known as “Young Tommy.” But when your dad was a longtime mayor (1947-1959) and congressman (1939-1947), not to mention a dominant force in city politics for decades and the man many credit with bringing major-league baseball back to Baltimore, and when he shares your first name ... well, Young Tommy understands.
“It's unbelievable, isn't it?” Thomas D'Alesandro says with a chuckle. “But I really enjoy it, to tell you the truth.” Big Tommy, as his dad was known, “was something special — anybody who knew him, knew that he was something special.”
But Thomas J. D'Alesandro III has left a mark on Baltimore all his own. Joining the City Council in 1962, he became its president a year later. He ran for mayor in 1967, and won overwhelmingly. With the civil rights movement at its peak, D'Alesandro appointed the first African-American member of the Board of Estimates (George Russell, who later became city solicitor), hired the first African-American to run the city schools and named the first African-American fire commissioner.
It looked as if he could win a couple more terms as mayor. But following four years, which included the April 1968 riots that left six people dead,, D'Alesandro shocked the city by choosing not to seek re-election. (He's always said that it wasn't the riots that caused him to reconsider elective office, but rather the realization that he needed to earn more money to support his family.) Except for a brief flirtation with running for governor in 1970, D'Alesandro was done with putting himself before the voters.
“I never had any inclination toward rethinking that process,” he says simply. He stuck with his law practice, concentrating on worker's compensation and personal-injury law, until retiring in 1994.
Besides, it's not like the D'Alesandros moved totally out of the political arena. Little sister Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from San Francisco since 1987, served as speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011 and has been the House minority leader since 2011.
And she's just a young 76.
The Attman family
Does anyone have any idea how many corned beef sandwiches Attman's has served in the 101 years it's been feeding Baltimore, first from a grocery at East Baltimore and Washington streets, then since 1933 from its current Lombard Street location? Millions, probably. But one thing's for certain: Every one was delicious.
Founded in 1915 by Eastern European immigrants Harry and Ida Attman (he was from Russia, she from Poland), Attman's on Lombard Street was once part of a thriving Jewish community, a key cog in a neighborhood known to generations of Baltimoreans as Corned Beef Row. Photos from as far back as the early 1900s “show the sidewalks packed with shoppers hustling past barrels of pickles, bins of vegetables and cages of live chickens,” according to a 2001 Baltimore Sun article. Today, however, only three delis remain, stubbornly hanging on — Lenny's, Weiss's and Attman's.
None more proudly embraces its past than Attman's, where the eating area is still known to its steady customers as the Kibbitz Room.
But over the years, the Attman name has come to mean more than just a great deli.
There's also Attman Properties Management, run by Harry's son, Leonard. There's Acme Paper & Supply Co., a major supplier of paper and kitchen products founded by another son, Edward. With offices in Savage, it employs some 250 people. If you've ever had a drink at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, chances are it was out of an Acme cup.
The original Attman's, too, has grown. Harry's third son, Seymour, shifted the business' focus in the 1960s from being a grocery to being a deli, and customers have been lining up for its signature corned beef ever since.
Seymour's son, Marc, Harry's grandson, took over the business after Seymour's death in 2002.
“It's really not me — it's the people that work for me, and our customers, who tell us consistently that they like what we do,” says Marc Attman.
“It's a product that people have enjoyed over the years, and they like it that way. We haven't changed it; nothing has changed. It's important to me that we keep it going.”
Some traditions, it seems, are simply too delicious to let go of.
Veterans of the civil rights struggle
It can take courage to stand up for what is right, especially when both the laws and customs of your hometown are stacked against you. The three veteran civil rights activists pictured here, all Morgan State University alumni, have been courageous their whole lives — dating to when they were college students, and black Baltimoreans were restricted in where they could live, work, eat, even play. They fought those restrictions and helped make their city a more just place.
Helena Hicks (right) was among a group of Morgan students who went to the Read's drugstore on Lexington Street in January 1955, sat at the whites-only lunch counter and waited to be served. Within days, the chain abandoned its discriminatory policy. Hicks would go on to spend 35 years as an administrator for the state and professor at the University of Baltimore.
Joyce Dennison (center) was among a group of mostly college-age protesters who took on the whites-only policy at Hillen's Northwood movie theater. A photograph that ran in the Feb. 22, 1963, editions of The Sun showed Dennison behind bars, calmly reading “An Introduction to Social Science.” But after months, the protests worked. Dennison would go on to become a schoolteacher, Army staff sergeant and director of the Maryland AIDS Hotline.
Leo W. Burroughs Jr. (left) was among scores of Baltimoreans who protested the whites-only policy at Woodlawn's Gwynn Oak Park, the last of the area's family amusement parks. As a leader of the Baltimore chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, he was arrested in July 1963 along with some 400 others. On Aug. 28, 1963, Gwynn Oak Park was opened to all. Burroughs is now a retired community and civic organizer.
Gathered recently at their alma mater, the three attracted a crowd of students, many realizing that these were the same people looking out from news photos on the student union walls. During an impromptu address, the three warned that the struggle is far from over. “You wonder now if we're going back to where we were,” Burroughs said. “Everybody says that's impossible, but it depends on who gets elected and where this country is going. We cannot take for granted that the future is going to be brighter.”
Those responsible for ‘Multiple Maniacs’
Filmmaker John Waters chronicles his hometown of Baltimore like nobody else. Nowadays, he’s known primarily as the man behind the original 1988 “Hairspray” (way before it became a worldwide stage phenomenon) and the twisted mind behind 1972’s “Pink Flamingos.”
But the first full flowering of his peculiar genius came two years earlier, with the release of “Multiple Maniacs,” a shot of merry blasphemy that offended everyone (much to Waters’ delight). Starring Divine as the murderous leader of a “Cavalcade of Perversions” who ends up being raped by a 15-foot lobster and going on a Godzilla-like rampage through the streets of Fells Point, it remains scurrilous, subversive and savagely funny. And now it looks better than ever, thanks to a restoration by Criterion and Janus Films.
The “Multiple Maniacs” cast has stayed close over the years; in fact, almost all of them appeared in later Waters films. But when they recently reunited for a cast photo in Fells Point, on the street where Divine’s character gets attacked and waylaid for just the first of several times during the film, most had forgotten where the original shooting took place. It took production designer Vince Peranio, whose creations included the libidinous lobster and who still lives in Fells Point, to set them straight.
Having seen the film just a few days earlier proved little help. “I kept thinking I was seeing those buildings,” said Pat Moran, pointing north on Bond Street, then turning around and pointing south, “when in fact, it was those buildings.” Waters smiles, striking something of a blow for memory: “I always knew it was on this side of the street.”
But it was all good. “We are the Remain-iacs,” proclaimed George Figgs. And proud of it.
The first City Fair crew
As the '70s dawned, Baltimore was in tough times. Its industrial base was on a precipitous slide, the excitement of such redevelopment projects as Harborplace was years off, and the 1968 riots had scarred the city's psyche. People needed something positive, city leaders decided.
That's how the first City Fair was born — a proposal championed by then-City Council President William Donald Schaefer. For three days in September 1970, an estimated 350,000 people flocked to Charles Center, then the cutting edge of urban redevelopment, to mingle, eat and celebrate. When rain and wind the second night toppled tents and scattered exhibits, everybody pitched in the next day to repair the damage.
The fair tradition lasted until 1991.
Six of those responsible for that first fair gathered recently at Charles Center. Bob Embry, who headed the city's housing and community development department — “We paid for the fair,” he said, downplaying his essential role — visited from his office as president of the Abell Foundation. Sandy and Bob Hillman came — “My job, I think, was publicity, and making it happen,” she said (a track she's continued as president of Towson-based Sandy Hillman Communications), while he served on the organizing committee (part of a career in law and civic affairs).
Fellow committee member Diana Jacquot is retired, following a career that included work as a curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Bob Berman, who designed the fair, is a partner in the architecture and design firm of Johnson-Berman. Joanne Copes, the fair's only paid staff member, is “semiretired” after a career as a consultant on housing and community development.
Several recalled the people who couldn't be there — naming Schaefer and Hope Quackenbush, who helped come up with the fair idea and have since died.
But there were many good memories.
“It was really the response of the people who came, and the enthusiasm from all over the city, the different neighborhoods,” said Jacquot. “There was such a thirst for something positive, and something to tie into, that really reflected their love of the city.”
DJ Anthony, ‘the man with no last name'
A generation of WWIN-AM listeners knew him as Anthony, “the man with no last name.” Beginning in June 1969 and continuing to 1976 (he returned for about two years in the mid-'80s), his was the voice many young Baltimoreans listened to after dark. “He spun records and sweet-talked and helped many of us with cheap dates in our girlfriends' living rooms or basements, if we were lucky,” says Ralph Moore, 64, a community activist and retired teacher.
Anthony played the hits — these were the glory years of Philadelphia soul, of Al Green and Stevie Wonder, of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic (and eventually the early days of disco) — but also more obscure album cuts, in something of a precursor to the album-oriented rock that would come to dominate rock radio in the late-'70s.
Daddy” Johnson, Kelson “Chop Chop” Fisher, Big Al Jefferson, Maurice “Hot Rod” Hulbert, Jonathan “Sir Johnny O” Compton and Fred “Rockin' Robin” Robinson. But Anthony — and we can reveal now that his last name is Davis, that he was born in Raleigh, N.C., and came to Baltimore by way of Richmond — is among the last left, mostly because he started so young (he was only 16 when he interned at WEBB-AM in 1966). Davis has mostly been off the air since the mid-'80s, when he went to work as a media and marketing consultant for local charities and foundations, including more than a decade with Catholic Charities. Today he's retired and living in Harford County with his wife of 14 years, Cynthia, a sales executive with Cigna health care.
But the voice is still there. And that's a good thing.
Listen hard inside the Royal Farms Arena, and you might still hear Wes Unseld pounding the floor, pulling down rebounds, muscling layup after layup and whipping those laser outlet passes downcourt.
In an NBA era when centers ruled, he was among the best, staring down everyone from Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. During his five seasons as a member of the Baltimore Bullets (yes, a modern-day NBA team was here in Baltimore, for 10 seasons, before moving to Washington in 1973 and later becoming the Wizards), Unseld led them to the playoffs each year, including games against the New York Knicks in 1970 and ’71 that became the stuff of legend. Sure he had help, including NBA Hall-of-Famers Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Gus Johnson. But Unseld was the heart and soul of those teams; he started his career by winning Rookie of Yhe year and league MVP honors in 1969.
For Unseld, who played college basketball at the University of Louisville, playing for the Bullets meant getting to know the city and the fans, reveling in the almost small-town atmosphere that embraced the team. “You could have relationships with the fans; that was something that I really enjoyed,” Unseld said during a rare return visit to the intimate confines of Royal Farms Arena, known as the Baltimore Civic Center during his playing days. “It’s nice to see that it’s changed a lot, but it hasn’t changed a lot, if you know what I’m saying.”
Even after the Bullets moved to D.C., the stoic, unflappable Unseld remained on the Baltimore scene. He’s lived in the area since being drafted by the Bullets in 1968 — in Catonsville during his playing days, in Westminster for the past 20 years. And beyond his legacy as a basketball player, Unseld has continued touching lives in ways that are guaranteed to resonate. In 1978, he and his wife, Connie, founded Unselds’ School. The private Southwest Baltimore school, for kids as young as 9 months and extending through eighth eight, emphasizes small class size (between six and 12 students) and stresses “a real sense of belonging and integrity and character-building,” says Connie Unseld.
Sounds like the kind of place that could produce another Wes Unseld.
Kurt L. Schmoke
After a decade at Howard University, where he served as interim provost and as dean of the law school, it's fitting to have Kurt L. Schmoke back in Baltimore.
After all, the Baltimore native (he grew up in Mondawmin) served three terms as the city's mayor, from 1987 to 1999, and five years as the city state's attorney (1982 to 1987). And it was on the football field at City College high school where Schmoke first captured the public's attention, leading the Knights to consecutive undefeated seasons and MSA-A conference championships in 1965 and 1966 (and winning the 1967 Greater Baltimore Chapter of the National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete Award).
So after a decade working in Washington, having Schmoke take over as president of the University of Baltimore in July 2014 seemed right.
“I feel like a blessed man,” the former mayor says of the job. And it must be nice for City to have one of its most accomplished alums back working in town.
The first driver over the Bay Bridge
When the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge spanning the Chesapeake Bay (better known to most of those reading this newspaper as the Bay Bridge) officially opened on July 30, 1952, a car carrying Maryland Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin and his immediate predecessor, Lane, was all set to be the first to drive across it. In the next day's newspapers, photos ran of their car driving across, taken from in front of the procession.
Perhaps you see the problem. Despite everyone's best intentions, neither McKeldin nor Lane nor even their driver was the first person to cross the newly opened bridge. That honor, clearly, would go to the driver of the car in which the photographer was riding.
That would be Albert Mills, now 86, a retired civil servant living in Easton. A member of the Maryland National Guard at the time, he was asked by one of his superior officers to drive the photographers across. He never asked for the honor and didn't think it was a big deal at the time. “I asked him why,” Mills recalls of how he was “volunteered” for the job, “and he said, ‘You've got the cleanest truck.' ”
But a few years back, he received three citations — including one from then-Gov. Martin O'Malley — for being the first person across the bridge. Millions, of course, have followed, many on the parallel span that opened in June 1973. But only Mills got to be the first.
“There's a lot of history to that,” says Mills, who acknowledges taking considerable pride now in his unsought-for honor. But, he adds with a laugh, honor only goes so far.
“I still pay a toll,” he says.
The Marble Bar alums
If you came of age in the '80s and enjoyed the ravages of punk music, chances are you spent a lot of time (maybe too much?) at The Marble Bar, in the basement of the Congress Hotel on Franklin Street.
The venue, with its 72-foot-long marble bar (where did you think the name came from?), is as storied as any entertainment spot in Baltimore — Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers were here, legend has it that Fred Astaire danced here, Muddy Waters wailed the blues here. But from the late '70s until it closed on May 9, 1987, the Marble was the city's premier punk hangout. Iggy Pop played here. So did the Dead Kennedys, and R.E.M., and the Psychedelic Furs. Even Talking Heads played here, back before most people knew who they were.
But it was as a venue for local acts that the Marble really shone (a relative term, of course — few things about the resolutely dingy bar ever truly shone). Even today, if you listen carefully amid the boxes and tools and other signs of its impending rehab — the current owners, who have turned the Congress into upscale apartments, say plans for the basement are still up in the air — it's not hard to imagine bands like Thee Katatonix and Da Moronics still pounding away.
Some 30 alumni of Baltimore's punk scene recently gathered at the Marble, and if the old place wasn't quite as loud as it once was, its spirit has hardly been dimmed. An elevator brought everyone downstairs, a modern convenience hitherto umimagined, and everything looked a lot cleaner and brighter than people remembered. But time has not dimmed the glory of what went down here.
“It was just really good to see those faces,” says Tom Warner, an original member of Thee Katatonix, “and to know so many people were still around.”
She is the longest-serving woman in U.S. congressional history — 40 years, from 1977 until January, when she'll be leaving her Senate seat voluntarily — but to the people of Baltimore, she'll always be “Babs,” or at most, “Senator Barb.”
A product of Highlandtown and Mount St. Agnes College, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski first appeared on our radar screens in the early '70s, when she led the fight against a proposal to slash much of South Baltimore to make way for Interstate 95. “We would have had one great big traffic jam leading to nowhere,” she says, “rather than communities.” The fight succeeded, which is why we still get to enjoy Fells Point and Federal Hill, as well as Harborplace and Camden Yards.
Mikulski parlayed that success onto seats on the City Council, U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, where she's served since 1987. Sure, she says she's retiring, but somehow we doubt we've heard the last of Barbara Mikulski.
If Baltimore was truly going through a renaissance in the late '70s and '80s, WJZ's “Evening Magazine” kept local TV audiences apprised of its progress.
When the Channel 13 show debuted on Aug. 29, 1977 — with a piece on the ponies of Chincoteague and an interview with Muhammad Ali — Harborplace was not yet a thing, the National Aquarium was still four years away and William Donald Schaefer was still crafting the image that would lead Esquire magazine to proclaim him “The Best Mayor in America.” But as all those things would happen over the next dozen years or so, “Evening” was there to chronicle them.
The show started with a distinct '70s vibe — pastel colors, wafting music (the theme song sounded like it was literally floating), hosts that were not called “hosts,” but rather “communicators.”
But it adapted, grew, morphed into something firmer, a little more '80s. It remained a hit with viewers, too; from 1981 to 1990, it was the top-rated local program on early-evening TV. And it never lost its Maryland focus (even if the occasional syndicated piece took viewers beyond the borders of the Free State), never outgrew its city of origin. One of the show's earliest features had Bob Smith going out in search of “the best,” which echoes the omnipresent “Baltimore's Best” appellation that still can be found throughout the city.
Original hosts Dave Sisson and Linnea Anderson would eventually move on — Sisson in 1980, replaced by Tim White, Anderson a year later, with Donna Hamilton taking over — but the show soldiered on. While the last “Evening” aired on Dec. 28, 1990, its legacy endures: Hamilton, who remained with “Evening” until the end, is now co-anchor of the WBAL, Channel 11, news at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. Denise Koch, whose “Daring Denise” segments had her taking dares from viewers and showing the results on “Evening,” has been anchoring the news at WJZ since 1985.