A farm-team landlady sends Ripken regards


Pieces of column too short to use:

This is an example of the kind of letter I get from helpful readers who want the rest of us to be fully informed and consumer savvy: "Two things learned at the Post Office today: (1.) Letters feeling heavier than 29 cents do not require another 29-cent stamp; all that is needed for the next unit is 23 cents. (2.) First-class letters that are fatter than the usual (one-quarter inch or more) are charged an additional 10 cents. (Another rip-off)." The letter was unsigned. Who was that informative stranger?

* Ilee Short, 84 years old, sends warm regards to Cal Ripken Jr. from Bluefield, W.Va. Cal boarded with Mrs. Short while he played for the farm team down there, and she has followed his career ever since. Cal and Mike Boddicker both rented rooms from her. "They were pretty earnest about it," Mrs. Short says of their devotion to baseball. She used to serve their meals at 3 p.m. every day, a few hours before the boys went off to ballgames.

Mrs. Short's house is a stone-and-stucco place with a big front porch on College Avenue. Cal and other Bluefield players used ** to sit on the porch late at night, talking baseball. Mrs. Short, who has been taking boarders since the 1940s, still rents to minor league players in the summer and to college students the rest of the year. She still follows the Orioles on cable TV and in the newspapers. She's noticed how Cal bites his lip when he's up to bat. I asked if she thought that was a bad habit that hurt Cal's hitting. "Oh, no," she said. "It's fine with me."

Dozens of ballplayers, some famous, many forgotten, roomed with her over the years. Mrs. Short keeps a record in a large red book with a rubber band around it. "Tell Cal I'd appreciate hearing from him."

* I don't know if dairy and beef farmers in Maryland have caught to this problem yet, so this might be another example of the Japanese beating us to the punch. According to a wire report, the Japanese government is going ahead with a project to stop cow belching. It is estimated that the average heifer burps about 40 gallons of methane a day and, as all ecologically sensitive humans know, methane is one of the "greenhouse gases" that are believed to contribute to global warming. Some environmental scientists think controlling cow burps is one way to reduce pollution.

Sounds like a 4-H project to me. So, listen, kids, I'll be looking for a display on this very subject at the State Fair. . . . Speaking of which, I hope Pyramid Farms, producer of fine Eastern Shore crayfish, will have a booth again this year. If so, you don't want to miss it. Trust me.

* I guess this was one woman's declaration of a true prescription for happiness. It was on a Maryland license plate, definitely the vanity type, on the rear of a little red sports car, driven by a young woman down N. Charles Street: "MENMYRX." Get it? I'm betting she was a nurse, too.

* Just for the record, Tipper Gore, wife of Democratic vice presidential candidate Al Gore, is the former Mary Elizabeth Aitcheson. . . . Here's how, in a Newsweek interview, Marilyn Quayle summed up Republican feminism, family values and her role in life. Newsweek asked: "You will be the first vice president's wife to speak at the convention. Does this signal a new role for you?" Marilyn replied: "I do what I'm asked to do."

* Beluga whales are still marked for capture for aquariums in the Unted States. A news report out of Canada says a team of hunters successfully captured a female beluga in the waters of the Churchill River up in Manitoba last week. The whale is not headed for the National Aquarium in Baltimore, however. It's destined for a tank at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, which needed a new beluga to replace a sick one. Animal rights activists tried to stop the capture, but were unsuccessful, according to the Vancouver Sun.

* It sounds like a good post-Cold War idea. Ax the bands at the three service academies, including the Naval Academy in Annapolis. That's what the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee proposes, saying it will transfer about $10 million to more important uses in the military. At this stage of budget balancing, the bands sound frilly. But the Naval Academy band leader, Cmdr. Michael Burch-Pesses, says the public gets a lot for its money. Over the last five years, Burch-Pesses says, his band, or elements of it, averaged 830 engagements per year, 68 percent of them military, 32 percent of them civilian, including parades, ceremonies and the series of annual summer concerts at Annapolis City Dock. Personally, I prefer tubas to Tomahawks.

* This just in! Voting final! The Baltimore Symphony Associates Wine Project has selected its vintages for the 1992-1993 season! They sell the stuff to raise funds for our beloved BSO.) The 1990 Raymond Chardonnay won hands down, and the 1986 Beaucanon Cabernet Sauvignon was one of three that nearly tied. You heard it here first.

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