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The hot stove league gets cookin' monthly along big-box alley

YOU MIGHT not figure a trendy Columbia bookstore to house a burner in the hot stove league. But it's there, if you get up early enough for a 9 a.m. meeting the second Saturday of every month.

A group of baseball nuts has kept that burner toasty for five years, courtesy of Borders Books & Music in the Columbia Crossing segment of big-box alley on Columbia's eastern edge. And even though today we're in August and it's hot, not January when it's cold and hot stoves traditionally cook best, let's fiddle with some baseball trivia:

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Name a woman who made a name for herself as a pitcher in baseball's all-male Negro Leagues.

Name a Baseball Hall of Fame member who in a practice once dunked over 6-foot-6 Harry Gallatin, the New York Knicks Basketball Hall of Fame member from the 1950s.

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Besides the Royals and Cardinals, name three other big league teams that played in Missouri. Hints: All played in St. Louis, and "big league" is liberally defined.

Those and lots more mental delicacies involving baseball have surfaced during the monthly sessions of the local contingent of the Society of American Baseball Research. That's a Cleveland-based organization with 7,000 members - maybe 30 in Howard County, we're told - who love wallowing in the national pastime.

They're not just about number-crunching, either.

For instance, if you'd seen sports historian Ernestine G. Miller when she was the Borders bunch's guest speaker, you could have held a glove and bat used by Babe Ruth.

Miller, a director of Baltimore's Babe Ruth Museum, came to Columbia to talk about her work, The Babe Book, Baseball's Greatest Legend Remembered, and brought the equipment with her.

Trouble is, though, more local folks might find these sessions as fascinating as one fan who drives up from Richmond, Va., said David Paulson, 71, a retired pharmacist who lives in Columbia. He wants to build the gate a bit.

"We had 16 people this month, which is pretty good for August," said Paulson, who was born in Baltimore but grew up a Senators fan in Washington. "We've run anywhere from 10 to 22. We just sit around and talk baseball. We have a lot of authors of baseball books, as well as others who know about the game. But anyone fascinated by baseball is welcome."

Paulson is a SABR member who helps perpetuate baseball fact and fancy through interviews - oral histories - with players and baseball journalists.

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His first interview was with the late Jack Merson, a son of Elkridge who played second or third base in 114 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1951 and 1952 and one more game for the Boston Red Sox.

He also interviewed Cecil Perkins, who was on the first champion team in the Ellicott City Little League, which evolved into today's Howard County Youth Program. Perkins' major league career, with the New York Yankees, lasted five innings in 1967.

Now, trivia answers:

Michelle Y. Green, an Upper Marlboro college teacher and writer, introduced many in the group to Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, subject of her biography titled A Strong Right Arm.

Like black men of the period, Johnson was rejected by organized, white baseball because of her race. After a women's team cut her, Johnson was recruited in 1953 by the Indianapolis Clowns in the men's Negro League as a pitcher. And that year, with help, she said, from the legendary Satchel Paige, she built a 33-8 record.

Former Washington Post sports writer Jane Leavy, author of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, a biography of the great Dodgers left-handed pitcher, told the Borders bunch of Koufax upstaging Gallatin.

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And Odenton's Roger D. Launius, NASA's chief historian and frequent author on scientific matters, came up with those other Missouri teams in his book, Seasons in the Sun, about big league ball in that state.

You get credit for the Kansas City Athletics (1955-1967) - easy. But how about the St. Louis Brown Stockings and Maroons of the 1880s, or the 1914-1915 Terriers of the Federal League? (To which we can't resist adding: What Baltimore team finished third in 1914 and last in 1915 in that same league? Answer: The Terrapins.)

Another recent Borders bunch guest was Jerry Casway, social sciences department chairman at Howard Community College and author of Ed Delahanty and the Emerald Age of Baseball. Delahanty was one of the very best hitters of his late 1800s-early 1900s career.

If this sounds like fare you might find tasty, call Paulson for more info: 301-854-2244.

Call the writer about anything in amateur sports in Howard County at 410-332-6525, or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@balt sun.com.


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