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Cal Ripken and The Streak show that...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Cal Ripken and The Streak show that self-interest is a vital 0) team player

"There is no 'I' in team," says Jim Westwater ("Time to end The Streak," Aug. 2), as if he were uttering a profound moral truth. However, Mr. Westwater is caught in an ethical time warp, unable to transcend the ancient prejudice that every self-interested person must be out to enrich himself by stealing something from the group.

What Cal Ripken teaches us every day -- not just in words but in actions -- is that individual self-interest is entirely consistent with the interest of the team. Indeed, a team without "I's" would win nothing and inspire no one.

Those who want to end Cal's streak just for the sake of ending it are acting on the off-quoted Japanese adage, "The nail that sticks up will be hammered down." Like children who push a well-dressed boy into a mud puddle, they want to cut Cal down to size, show him what happens when your virtue makes you stand out from the crowd.

Here is one fan who refuses to join in the envious cries to teach Cal a lesson. I am too busy enjoying the one he is teaching me.

Thomas A. Bowden

Millersville

I read with great interest the well-documented article written by Jim Westwater.

Mr. Westwater's comments are quite poignant and very much to the point. He mentions that there is no "I" in the word "team." I would like to add, however, that there is an "m" and an "e" in this word.

Lloyd L. Temple Jr.

Baltimore

Jim Westwater has got it all wrong. Imagine if we could place an ad for a player like Cal Ripken.

"Help wanted:

"We're a Baltimore-based Major League Baseball team looking for a hard-working, industrious, enthusiastic third baseman. Must willing to play every day, provide clutch hitting and leadership to younger players and be a good fielder.

"Image is critical. Our fans love the Oriole Way. Our ideal candidate is a home-grown family man who will make his home in Baltimore year round. With a stellar reputation who can put fannies in the seats at home and on the road. Autograph-signing a plus."

Like Mr. Westwater, I'm an aging (50 years old) runner who hasn't missed a day of work. Last weekend, I ran my fastest 5K time in more than 10 years. If you're running 3 miles in 35 minutes, it's time to take the bus.

Running guru George Sheehan said it best: "We are our bodies. Our bodies are us. And we must love this life physically and at the top of our powers."

Ed Kierman

Baltimore

The writer is vice president and general manager of WBAL-AM and WIYY-FM.

Jim Westwater's stinging indictment of Cal Ripken's selfishness could not be further from the truth, but it is something I could expect from a Yankee fan.

Mr. Westwater fails to ask and answer some key questions such as: How would benching Cal make him a better player? Who on the Orioles is a better third baseman? In the past, who would he have played at short or at third?

Cal Ripken invokes the best in a lot of people, but his success brings out the worst in jealousy from a few. Some view his streak as a threat. By example, Cal shows us that we can get to work, do a great job, make a great living and do it often and reliably. This thwarts and threatens the few who call in sick at the first cough or the first nice day of spring. They will never understand the determination it takes to become great.

Cal's streak will end one day, and an era will come to a close. I hope it will last several more seasons and go for more than 3,000 games.

Oriole fans should be appalled that The Sun would give such prominence to a one-sided, negative article by a Yankee fan.

Arnie Abel

Owings Mills

After reading the article by Jim Westwater, I felt compelled to offer a dissenting view: Leave Cal Ripken alone.

I was glad to hear, his New York Yankee allegiance nonwithstanding, that Mr. Westwater takes pride in knowing "something about" baseball and that he has enjoyed following the careers of many of the greatest names in the sport during the past half century. I was also impressed by his own "personal streaks" of not posting a sick day in 28 years and missing only seven days over 26 years as a runner.

However, while Mr. Westwater was quite adept at presenting statistics pointing to Cal Ripken Jr.'s numbers decline in recent years, he failed to mention or suggest one player by name who could have stepped in and done a better job offensively or defensively at any time during The Streak.

Further, to suggest that Cal is selfish by staying in the lineup is to overlook the nagging injuries the future Hall of Famer has quietly endured to take his requisite at-bats, field consistently at third base and try to make a difference.

About 12 years ago, I had the privilege of competing against Cal in a charity basketball game. What I remember most about that game was the team play of Cal. He'd pass up the chance to shoot the ball if a teammate had a better scoring opportunity. He appeared to relish a situation in which he was tested defensively even more than making a great shot.

I respect those among us who look to the statistics and tell us that Cal is declining as a baseball player.

Of course he is. But the statistics do not reveal his contributions to the team effort, his consistency, his intense desire to win even in losing seasons and his daily example to his fellow teammates and fans.

Patrick Pannella

Ellicott City

Yankee go home.

Nothing personal in this answer to my esteemed colleague, Jim Westwater. I, too, am an avid baseball fan -- Orioles all the way -- and the article in the Perspective section really ticked me off.

I agree with the eminent dean that there is no "I" in team. I am sure that Cal learned how to spell that at an early age. However, if there is a true team spirit, when one is hurting, they all hurt and, as in the human body, the other parts do all they can to help get the whole back up to snuff. This is the way the Orioles have played for years.

So Cal doesn't produce every day at every time at bat. Give me an example of any baseball player who does. People try to second-guess the manager, the pitcher and every player when the team is not winning.

$Sister M. Paulette Doyas

Baltimore

The writer is communications assistant at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

I read with interest and enjoyment Jim Westwater's opinion, and I have taken into consideration his self-serving qualifications. Mr. Westwater's work ethic and daily jogging is to be commended. But does it matter?

I am not persuaded by his argument, although he has convinced me that Cal Ripken is no Lou Gehrig.

That is not the point.

The point is that unless Ray Miller, or his successor, can field a better team on any particular day with Mr. Ripken in the dugout, Cal should be at third base. Just as there is no evidence that the aging Mr. Westwater will jog better after a day off, there is no basis for concluding that Cal or the Orioles will perform better after he takes a day off.

I agree that sentiment and ego should not be allowed to cloud the issue and that the team prevails over the individual, but until Mr. Westwater or someone else can convince me that the O's are better off without him, I pencil Cal's name in on my lineup card.

William H. Engelman

Baltimore

Ravens and their new stadium restore a sense of community to Baltimore area

After the Colts left Baltimore, our civic leaders and some officeholders saw the big picture and understood the need for the civic commonality that minimizes our differences.

Events in pop culture are just as important as elections because they, as much as anything, can unify a community.

Now we have witnessed, over a 14-year-period, Baltimore's loss of an NFL franchise, the once seemingly hopeless struggle to regain it and the ultimate triumph.

When I rounded the corner on a country road in Owings Mills on a cold March night in 1984, I felt a chill colder than the gusty winds -- the storied Colts had pulled the trigger and were moving.

It seemed then, despite all the wishful thinking, that it would be a long time, if ever, before Baltimore would be represented in the pro football standings again.

The loss of the Colts put the collective "us" of Baltimore, the interested advocates and the normal fans, way behind the eight ball. That night seemed to be the low point in local sports and popular-culture history, that we were headed for second-tier status.

I realized that football is an entertainment business, in competition with baseball, theater, theme parks and movies.

But I could only think about Brooklyn, and the loss of civic identity and "city-hood" after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957.

It was like a death the next day in Baltimore as the media showed glory days of the Colts and a heartbroken mayor who looked like he had lost his best friend.

By the time of our expansion bid, my advertising agency had grown its NFL business and represented one of two Baltimore expansion ownership groups vying for a franchise. Herb Belgrad and former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, pushing hard, had sold the 1980s wisdom of securing major league baseball and NFL football through twin stadium construction, and Camden Yards was the talk of major league sports architecture.

Reality set in when the NFL chose Charlotte for one of two franchises, and the 30-day delay in selecting the second city was a cold slap of reality for Baltimore: We just weren't getting in despite a superb effort because others were given more time to get their proposals together. The league felt that the Washington franchise was too close.

It was like losing the Bullets and being shut of the the NBA back in 1973. The two markets seemed to be merging.

Momentum sagged after that expansion defeat.

Enter John Moag, the newly appointed two-minute drill chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority. Out went the booster stuff and in came an aggressive recruitment effort based on a no-nonsense appeal and a great deal for any NFL owner who felt unwanted at home. Mr. Moag shopped around until he found a very unappreciated Art Modell. The rest is history.

I never thought I would see the day when our cultural glue would be restored. This Ravens entity lifts us from our differences, creates weeklong lunchroom talk among co-workers, gives the nation glorious views of our city via the Goodyear blimp, fills the airwaves with sports talk and, finally, dresses us all the same in various purple ensembles on Sundays and lots of times during the week.

They still wear blue Dodgers hats with white Gothic "B" letters in Brooklyn, and there is even a Dodgers museum there, but alas, Ebbets Field has been replaced by subsidized housing.

The games are back in Baltimore on the wings of the Ravens, and when I watch the purple take on the Bears in the new stadium, I'll think about the cold March night, and I'll be warm for more reasons than the August weather.

Bob Leffler

Baltimore

The writer was director of sales for the Baltimore Colts. He owns the advertising agency that represents the Ravens.

Gerard Shields' article "City jobs fall 25% in past two decades" (July 15), citing the reduction of city jobs in the past two decades, told only a part of the story.

A close examination of resource reductions within the Baltimore City Fire Department may paint a clearer picture regarding the size of city government.

In a report prepared for budget deliberations, the Fire Department outlined the reductions to the agency's personnel, stations and units (engine, trucks, fire boats) for the period from 1978 to 1998. In that period, we have closed eight fire stations and disbanded 13 engine companies, eight truck companies and one fire boat. This represents a 26-percent reduction in fire apparatus.

Changes in personnel numbers for those decades are a little more difficult to compare. During the 20-year time frame, fire unions have negotiated better working conditions, along with increases in salary, for firefighters.

Of most significance is the reduction of hours in a firefighter's work week.

While the 1978 firefighter worked a 47-hour week, the 1998 firefighter completes a work week in 42 hours. Like salary increases, the reduction in hours was necessary to maintain a competitive employment package, one which effectively competed with the salaries and benefits offered to firefighters in surrounding jurisdictions.

But this and other benefits create mandates within the Fire Department's budget that cannot be avoided.

The reduction of the work week, for instance, necessitated the creation of a fourth shift within the agency in 1993.

It now takes 307 people per shift to ensure full staffing of all units within the agency. Logic would have one believe that if you multiply that number by four (the number of shifts), it would provide you with the necessary complement of personnel to staff the department.

But when other union-mandated benefits such as vacation and sick leave are factored in, full staffing actually requires 5.5

people per position.

Thus, in 1998, a total of 1,688 people are needed to ensure full staffing. Our current staffing is 1,644.

What may be most important is that if you were to apply that same criteria to the 1978 Fire Department, it would have been necessary to employ 2,288 firefighters in that year to staff the department. The difference represents a 28-percent reduction in personnel and a cost savings of more than $23 million to taxpayers.

Public scrutiny of government budgets often cite administrative or staff positions within an agency as areas where fat is hidden. Such is far from true in the Fire Department. One of the first actions taken upon my appointment was to shrink the size of my command staff.

Through a reorganization of command, the size of commanders reporting directly to me was reduced from 10 deputy chiefs to 4 assistant chiefs. The net result of these moves has meant an annual cost savings of more than $300,000.

The same holds true for other administrative positions.

A total of 133 staff positions provide a myriad of services. These positions include inspectors, investigators, instructors, dispatchers, command officers, budget personnel, office support staff and custodial workers.

During the same 20-year period, demands on the Fire Department have increased dramatically. Fire alarms have increased from 33,364 to 58,925.

Also, there are 36,633 more responses to assist medic units. Medic responses themselves have increased from 71,762 to 111,575.

In spite of these increases, the Fire Department has managed to shrink the number of fire fatalities in Baltimore City.

A 15-year average (from 1974 to 1988) for fatalities stood at more than 53 fatalities a year. For the past two years, those numbers have been reduced by more than 50 percent, and the dollar loss for damaged property has also remained steady at about $20 million annually.

As the head administrator for the Fire Department, my primary focus is the well-being of our citizenry, but my responsibility also dictates that the agency be managed in a fiscally responsible manner.

Herman Williams Jr.

Baltimore

The writer is chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department.

City must whittle down its big work force

It is inevitable that the city administration will use the article "City jobs fall 25% in past two decades" as a confirmation of efficient management in city government and as an occasion to rest on our laurels. That would be a serious mistake.

We believe that the pressure applied by citizens groups investigating city spending and resisting further tax increases, more than any internal initiative, is causing city government to alter its traditional political agenda of serving as an employment agency for constituents.

In addition, the state has taken over a number of city functions, so that number of jobs is not lost but simply transferred to another funding source.

Dubious boasts of job cuts and claims of credit for them (whether by the administration or by citizen groups) need greater study to determine which jobs were cut from the city payroll and the reasons for the cuts. We believe, as stated in the recent Calvert Institute study, that Baltimore has far more

employees than cities of comparable size.

The continuing dramatic city population losses should signal that significant reductions in the city's work force are warranted.

Residents of the region love Baltimore City for its entertainment, cultural and medical facilities, but most refuse to live here. There are middle-class homeowners in ever-dwindling numbers who love the city and wish to remain city residents.

Unfortunately, the mayor still doesn't understand that meaningfully reducing the city payroll permits a property tax reduction that middle-income homeowners desperately need.

George A. Nilson

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Homeowners' Coalition.

Pub Date: 8/08/98

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