With NFL Hall of Famers, class still tells

John Pica got an old football player's autograph the other day. Stop the presses, right? But there's a little story there that says something about "the old NFL," as Pica put it.

At a charity auction a few years back, Pica, a former state senator, bought a helmet with the autographs of Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry. A year and a half ago, he attended a prayer breakfast where Lenny Moore was speaking. He took the helmet along and asked Moore to sign it, which he did.


Then Pica got to thinking: Wouldn't it be great to get the autographs of the two other Colts Hall of Famers - Artie Donovan and Gino Marchetti - who played with those guys?

Last Friday, Pica wrote a letter to Donovan and mailed it off to an address he found on the Web for the Valley Country Club. (The Donovan family owns the club, and he lives on the grounds.)


"I know he's a big Schlitz drinker," Pica said. "I offered to bring the Schlitz and meet him wherever he liked."

Monday morning at 8:30, Pica's phone rang. "Young man," Donovan said, "I understand you want this helmet signed." Donovan invited Pica and his 11-year-old son, Matthew, to come for lunch the next day.

"It's the old NFL compared to the new NFL," Pica said. "Imagine a player today saying, 'Come on over to my house with your boy and have lunch.'"

(OK, Ray Lewis, Steve McNair - here's your chance to prove him wrong. You can find Pica at the law offices of Peter Angelos, 410-659-0100.)

Pica and son went to Donovan's house Tuesday with a "huge Italian sub" and "a good bottle of red wine" instead of the beer that made Milwaukee famous. ("I've got more Schlitz than I need up here," Donovan had told him.) Donovan treated them to hours of old football stories and, of course, signed the helmet.

"And his wife gave me Gino's address - Gino Marchetti," Pica said. "I'm writing a letter to him tomorrow."

Cleaner, greener, safer, healthier -- and politer

Mayor Sheila Dixon appeared yesterday on the Ed Norris show, a venue her predecessor pointedly avoided.


She gave her now-standard "cleaner, greener, safer, healthier" spiel. They talked policing strategies, prisoner re-entry and police overtime. All very civil. And surprising, given the harsh words Norris often has for Dixon on WHFS.

Those came later from callers, after Dixon signed off. They started in on the mayor's diction, and went on from there into Utech and sister-on-the--city-payroll kinda stuff.

A caller named Jim took Norris to task, calling the interview "a little love fest."

"I expected more of you," Jim said.

Norris said he was just being a good host.

"We've had a lot of fun [on previous shows] torturing the new mayor ... [but] we're never going to humiliate a guest."


Besides, he said, Dixon deserved "props" for having the guts to appear.

Dixon spokesman Anthony McCarthy said the mayor did not hesitate to appear on the ex-police commish's show.

"Mayor Dixon had a wonderful relationship with Ed Norris when she was president of the council," he said. "So it didn't surprise me that it went very well."

Connect the dots

Where was the best-salted asphalt in Baltimore the morning after the biggest snowfall of the season? The State Highway Administration parking lot downtown, The Sun's Julie Bykowicz reports. The no-slip stuff covered it "like a carpet." ... Ed Hale tells me he's been doing a lot of duck hunting on the Eastern Shore lately. Sound like kind of a blue-bloody pastime for a guy who wears his working-class roots on his sleeve? Baltimore's self-made bank executive, developer and Blast owner insists he's still a regular Joe - and says his hunting partners come from all walks of life. "Police officers from the Central District, plastic surgeons to guys who grew up across the alley from me in Highlandtown." ... A frozen pipe almost put the kibosh on a fund-raising "wine dinner" for Keiffer Mitchell at Corks on Wednesday. The freeze forced chef Jerry Pellegrino to shut his doors Tuesday night. But the pipe was thawed in time. ... Not on the menu: The classic political rubber-chicken dinner. Pellegrino served grilled Gulf shrimp with creamy polenta, lemon beurre blanc and arugula; beef short ribs with truffled mashed potatoes and English peas; a cheese course; and apple cake with cinnamon ice cream and creme anglaise. Not to mention four different wines from Vineyard Wine and Spirits. All for the low, low price of $100 a head. ...