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A WINK AT A HOMELY GIRL
Mark Kram
October 10, 1966
No one looks at a town with more anger—and fierce affection—than a man born and raised there. The author, a native, submits a penetrating appraisal of Baltimore, host this weekend to the 1966 World Series, remembering what another Baltimorean, H. L. Mencken, said: 'To please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl'
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October 10, 1966

A Wink At A Homely Girl

No one looks at a town with more anger—and fierce affection—than a man born and raised there. The author, a native, submits a penetrating appraisal of Baltimore, host this weekend to the 1966 World Series, remembering what another Baltimorean, H. L. Mencken, said: 'To please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl'

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"No runnin' or buntin' anymore," says No. 2.

"They ought to do something with Frank Robinson," says No. 1. "He can't field. He's just been lucky. If he's so good, why isn't he back in Cincinnati?"

"They knew somethin' we ain't found out yet," says No. 2.

"Pardon me," interrupts a guy three glasses down, "when was the last time you two were at the stadium?"

"A couple of months ago when the Yankees—" starts No. 1.

"How come?" presses the interrogator.

"Why, there's no runnin' or buntin' anymore," says No. 2.

Uncle could understand that. "Sonny, the bunt solves all problems in baseball in this here town," he used to say. "It's a single-hitter's town and a bunter's town and a town with no heroes. 'If you're good what're you doin' here?' is the way they feel in this town."

Uncle, who always thought that Babe Ruth had never been honored properly by the town, was wrong. It is a town with heroes (see cover), but it is suspicious of them. It does not embrace the hero quickly, but when it does it elevates him to a point beyond simple hero. Then if the hero drops to one knee, becomes temporarily imperfect, he is shorn of his toga and garland until he proves that he can stand tall again, until he justifies the town's commitment of pride in him. The bond between Baltimore and the hero is sort of matrimonial in nature, fraught with all the emotions and pettiness of marriage; nowhere else does adulation dip and rise as it does in Baltimore. Only Art Donovan, the tackle, and Gino Marchetti, the defensive end, were, inexplicably, spared the sting of the town. Reticent and with a mechanic's attitude toward his work, John Unitas, if off form on Sunday, becomes a dart board on Monday.

Paul Richards was no hero, but the people expected much from him. They did not understand that he was a teacher and a builder and that the Orioles desperately needed him. In the end they resented his genius. Hank Bauer came from the Yankees, and this is his big edge; they seem to stop before they knock anyone—or anything—that has been a winner in New York. Philadelphia, Washington, Boston—none of these places count in Baltimore. Frank Robinson has tapped their emotions, but not completely. He is the man whom they have been looking for since 1954, but they do not truly believe that they have him. It is as if they are all waiting for him to support their suspicions, waiting for their question to be answered: Why did Cincinnati get rid of him?

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