Banquet offers a fine feast of Baltimore sports history


A FEW YEARS ago, after a disappointment of some forgotten nature, Turkey Joe Trabert, Baltimore beer-can collector and sports aficionado, announced that he would never again attend the Tops In Sports Banquet, which was held annually for several years at the Towson Center.

Not the kind to sit at home and brood, Turkey Joe organized his own winter sports affair at Jerry D's restaurant and bar on Harford Road, proclaiming it The Not The Tops In Sports Banquet, its purpose camaraderie, nostalgia and fund raising for the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. It has since been renamed the Baltimore Sports Club Banquet, and a nice crowd of fans - Turkey's old friends and new acquaintances (mostly plumbers who've done work on his house recently) - stepped into the buffet and beer lines Thursday night in Jerry D's club basement.

The keynote speaker was Joe Ehrmann, the broad-shouldered, snowy-haired minister who was a star defensive lineman for the Baltimore Colts in the mid- to late-1970s, the last time they were in the NFL playoffs, and the subject of Season of Life, a successful book about football and the meaning of manhood that has made Ehrmann a guest on national television talk shows.

Featured each winter at Turkey Joe's dinner is Greg Schwalenberg, affable curator of the Ruth museum, who provides the show 'n' tell. This year, Schwalenberg brought Ehrmann's white-and-blue Colts jersey and, among other sports memorabilia, a faded horse blanket, green with silver trim, that dates to the late 1940s, when those were the original Colts' colors. (The green-and-silver Miami Seahawks of the All-America Conference moved to Baltimore in 1947. The team folded after the 1950 season. Professional football returned here in 1953, when the blue-and-white Dallas Texans relocated to Baltimore. The Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984, when Peyton Manning would have been a third-grader in New Orleans.)

"A number of years ago I received a call from a woman who had just purchased a horse blanket at a flea market," Schwalenberg explained. "There was a Colts logo - a horse jumping through a goal post - stitched on the blanket, and the woman was curious [if] there was a connection between the team and the blanket. I mentioned that the Colts had had a horse named Dixie that would run around the field every time the Colts scored a touchdown."

Letters in tackle twill spelling that name apparently had been removed from the blanket, but its shadow remained.

"A few weeks later, the woman dropped the blanket off at the museum," Schwallenberg said, cradling it gently, as if it were an heirloom quilt. The blanket, remnant of an obscure time in a stolen - but since replaced - football history, will have a permanent home in the Colts exhibit area of the new "Sports Legends" museum due to open in May in Camden Station.

Gimme an I! (for 'idiot')

Looks like jurors at Fort Hood were not swayed by the arguments of Guy Womack Esq., Texas-based defense counsel for Spc. Charles Graner, who was convicted Friday of abusing Iraqi detainees in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Womack fashioned the following argument in regard to the stacking of naked prisoners: "Don't cheerleaders all over America make pyramids every day? It's not torture." A friend in the Maryland bar quipped: "Way to go, Guy. The faculty at The Dollar Store School of Law must be proud of its alumnus." For the record, ole GW got his JD from Woodrow Wilson College of Law in Atlanta, which closed in 1988 after the Georgia Supreme Court said law schools had to be accredited by 2008. (A 20-year head start, and they still couldn't pull it off?) Guy's resume, by the way, lists him as having taught "interrogation techniques, Naval Criminal Investigation Service, Camp Lejeune, NC, 1989." One wonders if the class covered pyramiding. Hoo-ah!

Zipping to the rescue

Global reaction to the southern Asia disaster has been breathtaking, and we are pleased to see among contributors prominent American corporations that for years have been shipping manufacturing jobs to that part of the world. San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co., maker of blue jeans, has interests in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. Though the tsunami had minimal impact to its operations there, the company has stepped up to help - as we suggested it should in this space two weeks ago.

"I took interest in your comment that you would consider buying Levi's jeans if our company 'gives up a chunk of change for the millions left homeless by the natural terrorism of earthquake and tsunami,'" writes Jeff Beckman, the company's director of communications. "The Levi Strauss Foundation has committed more than $500,000 to relief efforts over the next several months. The foundation also will make a series of grants totaling $160,000 to local nonprofit agencies throughout the region in the months ahead for mid- to long-term relief and rebuilding efforts. ... The foundation has established a special fund to give a two-for-one match for all Levi Strauss & Co. employee donations to Oxfam and Save the Children during the next three months. I hope this answers your question about what [the company] is doing to contribute to the relief efforts, and I hope you go ahead and treat yourself to a new pair of Levi's."

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