Out of the doghouse

Nathan C. Irby Jr., executive secretary of the Baltimore liquor board, was all handshakes and holiday cheer this month.

The reason?

The police detectives who were witnesses in several liquor-license violation cases did not appear for a hearing, meaning charges against the taverns had to be dropped.

"Christmas early," Irby declared, shaking hands with folks from the Dawghouse Tavern, which had been accused of providing illegal video gambling.

- Laura Vozzella

Blast from the past

Baltimore Ravens fans are buzzing about some new weapons in the team's occasionally exciting offense - Clarence Moore and Todd Heap, who can leap high above defenders in the end zone and score a touchdown, as they did this season against the New York Giants.

Actually, they are following in the footsteps of R.C. Owens, a pass receiver for the San Francisco 49ers who, with quarterback Y.A. Tittle, introduced the "alley oop" pass in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

"I covered R.C. when he played for the 49ers, and he was a great guy and terrific athlete," said Andy Nelson, former All-Pro safety for the Baltimore Colts who owns a barbeque restaurant in Cockeysville. "If he got position on you in the end zone it was all over. ... He could leap 3, 4 feet in the air."

Owens, a former high-jumper blessed with great timing and strength, was traded to the Colts and played here in 1962 and 1963. In 1962, Owens blocked a field goal by the Washington Redskins by camping under the goal posts and swatting down the three-point try. Soon after, the National Football League made goaltending a violation.

- Joe Nawrozki

Amending a grim statistic

When Mayor Martin O'Malley took office and promised to reduce the number of homicides each year, was this what he had in mind?

This month, as this year's city homicide count hit 271 - the number recorded last year - it abruptly dropped back to 270.

So what happened? Have Baltimore police discovered a way to stop crime after it happens?

No, police say. They say they reduced their count by one after a Dec. 3 death was ruled a justifiable homicide. A man attempting to break into the second-floor window of a house got into a struggle with a man inside and fell to his death.

The city homicide toll stood at 274 last night.

- Ryan Davis

They're in the money

Marylanders gave more than $51 million to political action committees, soft money groups and candidates in federal elections during the 2004 election cycle, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, an online service that tracks campaign funds.

California's contributors pumped more money into the November election than any other state - $338,604,393. Maryland's $51,511,286 ranked 13th among the states.

Marylanders contributed $14,150,116 to presidential candidates, $7,686,916 to House candidates and $5,853,460 to Senate candidates. Maryland donors gave $7,750,369 to political action committees, $13,468,000 to federal party committees and $2,602,425 to soft money groups.

Among Maryland jurisdictions, Bethesda contributed the most: Its 9,423 contributors gave $8,104,694. Baltimore ranked second, with $5,427,153 from 6,210 contributors.

Bethesda was joined by three other Montgomery County jurisdictions on Maryland's top-five list. Potomac's 5,097 contributors gave $5,415,380, Chevy Chase's 5,539 contributors gave $5,269,592 and Silver Spring's 3,642 donors shelled out $2,192,284.

- Mike Adams

It's quiet; a little too quiet

With Police and Fire department phone lines quieter than usual in the morning on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, dispatchers tended to wax a bit philosophical when a reporter called to check on the day's events - or lack thereof - in their areas.Here's a sampling:

"Thrilled to be here. Proud to serve."

"It's so quiet here, you could hear a lung collapse."

And from the trooper asked once too many times about climate conditions in the area:

"I'm a policeman, not a bloody weatherman."

- Lisa Goldberg

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