Tow and $180 tab ruin day at ballpark

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sounds like somebody's working the ole post-season parking scam in downtown Baltimore again. A couple of Orioles fans from Washington, Aviva Kempner and Eddie Cockrell, drove up for Wednesday's game against the Indians. Cockrell, who was driving and searching for a place to park, got waved into a private lot on Tyson Street between Park and Howard. He gave an "attendant" $10 and walked to the game.

When Kempner and Cockrell returned to the lot after the game, their car was gone. The "attendant" was gone. A city worker told them their car likely had been towed off by the friendly folks from Greenwood's Towing.

Paul Schmidt, who runs a nearby frame shop, offered Cockrell and Kempner a ride to Greenwood's. Sure enough, their car was there. It cost them $180 to get it back. Welcome to Baltimore, hon!

"I love Baltimore, and I love the Orioles," says Kempner, an independent filmmaker finishing a documentary on the life of Hammerin' Hank Greenberg. "But this ruined the day for us. This was a terrible, terrible rip-off. I tried telling this guy at Greenwood's that we didn't have the money, and he kept saying, 'I don't care, $180. I don't care, $180.' If there hadn't been Plexiglas separating us, I would have [Alomarred] that guy. . . . Eddie and I had $54 each on us." Paul Schmidt lent them the rest for the tow fee.

Before leaving town, Kempner and Cockrell drove to the Western Police District, where they told their story to Sgt. Robert Richards and Officer Liu Meng-Ching. Richards got on the phone with Greenwood's. "He was great," Kempner says. "I heard what he said to the guy at Greenwood's. He said, 'I know you were in your legal right [to tow Cockrell's car], but that's the worst public relations you could have given the city.' "

Cockrell says at least four other drivers had their cars towed from the lot Wednesday. "And," he says, "I heard there were 12 the day before." Adds Kempner: "Next time I'm taking the train."

Late ticket, late fee

And while we're telling stories with wheels . . .

When John Mack, who lives in northern New Jersey, visited his parents in Baltimore County in May 1992, someone stole his little blue Subaru Justy off Ruxton Road. The car turned up a few weeks later, recovered by Maryland State Police in northern Maryland. Some time after that, Mack sold the Subaru to a college student. Neither Mack nor his wife, Andrea, have seen the car since.

But four years later, the city of Baltimore wants them to pay a $24 fine -- a late fee on a parking violation that occurred while the car was stolen. (The car thief got a parking ticket and never paid the fine. Can you believe that?) The Macks received notice of the parking violation ($17 fine) and the late fee in August at their home in Phillipsburg, N.J. Why the $41 bill showed up, suddenly in summer 1996, is a mystery.

Now get this: The Macks decided to pay the parking fine; they mailed in the $17 "not without rancor." But just two weeks ago, the city sent another notice, insisting on the $24 late fee. The Macks refuse to pay it. I don't blame them. "We wrote a letter to the city collections division explaining all this, about our car being stolen," says Andrea Mack. "But they keep sending notices, on the bottom of which is the motto, 'Baltimore, The City That Reads.' Well, I wish someone down there would read our letter!"

Bad ideas

This Just In has received numerous entries for the Maryland Museum of Bad Ideas. Some of the best nominations came from Frank Monaldi, drummer with the musical Monaldi Brothers. Here's a sample:

1. Getting rid of the Wholesale Fish Market downtown.

2. The signs around the Beltway that designate "Inner Loop" and "Outer Loop." Says Frank: "Well, duh!"

3. Building Festival Hall, then knocking it down to expand the Convention Center, which was too small to begin with.

4. Putting a stage in the Baltimore Arena, formerly the Civic Center.

5. Getting rid of The Evening Sun.

6. Closing Howard Street to traffic. "Then," says Frank, "wondering why business was dying, then 11 years later we open it up to traffic again."

7. Orioles trade off Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling and Steve Finley 1991 and get Glenn Davis.

Sitting in the stands

Overheard . . . Two shoppers in a city market were commenting on the new television season. One of them said: "I love 'Married . . . With Children.' That Al Bumbry is one funny guy." . . . Sorry we missed it: The Sept. 25 free lecture by Dr. Bernard Greenberg at Western Maryland College titled, "Maggots and Murder: Flies As Forensic Indicators." . . . I hear WWLG's Nasty Nestor knocking Orioles' yuppified fans for being too reserved and slow to their feet during playoff games. Nasty has a point. But maybe it's not entirely the fans' fault. Wednesday, the usher in Section 15 ordered people to sit down rather than stand and cheer during the dramatic 8th inning. Unbaweebabull. . . . My Sun colleague Rafael Alvarez is looking for folks who ritualistically scrub their marble steps. Call Rafael at 332-6131.

Pub Date: 10/04/96

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