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YEARS AGO, Lipman Pike of the Baltimore...


YEARS AGO, Lipman Pike of the Baltimore nine was famous for his speed at beating out grounders.

So one day when no game was scheduled, at old Newington Park in West Baltimore, the front office put on a footrace -- Pike versus a trotter named Clarence -- and hundreds of fans paid to watch.

The mark of a student of Baltimore baseball has long been the ability to pronounce "Elite" correctly, as in Baltimore Elite Giants. (That is, Ee-lights.)

A tougher challenge is to name some other local teams made up of black players.

Today, ice hockey may be the game for fist-swingers but in the Coolidge era, baseball's Eastern Shore League was noted for the frequency and brutality of its interruptions.

Not by the players, particularly; by the male fans.

The Maryland Historical Magazine for summer 1992 is a single-subject issue, given over to these and other vivid, documented stories of Maryland baseball.

Oh, the answers: Lipman Pike won; the Edgewater Giants of Turners Station, and the Catonsville Social Giants.

* * *

ROUTINELY, at the entrances to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, one submits one's hamper or knapsack for inspection -- no booze, no canned liquids, etc.

But at a recent home game this ticket-proffering customer (a tall, middle-aged man with broken teeth) set down a plastic bag almost as big as he was.

The ushers summoned a uniformed patrolman, who began pearl-diving.

Amid clothing, blankets, shaving apparatus, he found a sixpack of beer, two large wrenches, other work tools.

Oriole Park doesn't offer baggage-checking, but it can make exceptions. Repacked, the bag was stowed away.

Then, for three hours or so amid the vast throng, perhaps the fan in question didn't feel homeless.

WHEN THE GAME is over, and you go out of the ballpark, you're supposed to stay out. But these two boys, tears in their eyes, asked re-entry for a reason.

"Our baseball gloves! We forgot to get 'em from under our seats."

The ticket-taker was merciful. "Hurry back," he enjoined. But it was half an hour before the boys, searching, searching, admitted defeat.

Oriole Park is a hard place to get into, in the age of consecutive sellouts. And, after those high, heavy iron gates have been locked, it is a hard place to get out of. But if you're in company with an usher as knowledgeable as he is kind-hearted, you can be led through the tunnel under Eutaw Street, and come up into the B&O; Warehouse, where at all hours there are guards with exit keys.

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