Olesker’s ‘Bawlmer’ Seven

Here we go again. We’ve been trying for the past five posts to generate a reaction from our favorite retired Baltimore columnist Michael Olesker about how we are handling his scared Baltimorean list.

Ah, yes, the list is the one that Olesker provided us prior to launching this website on the top 20 Baltimoreans whom you couldn’t tell the story of Crabtown about without mentioning their names. We gutted Olesker’s list to his top 12 – knocking out his bottom eight and we have been providing counterpoints and kind suggestions on the order of the list, or in some cases poking fun at it. We did all this in the hopes of getting some love from Olesker.

So far, no love.

We even waited an extra week or so before posting the last Bawlamar list to give time for the ponderer time to ponder, but all quiet in the Olesker household.

He officially has ignored us for five weeks. So we started tempting him like Lorne Michaels tempted the Beatles in the 1970s when he offered $3,000 for the band to reunite on Saturday Night Live. As you recall, that almost worked — but John and Paul figured by the time they got down the studio, the show would be over. Traffic was their excuse.

We don’t have traffic on the Internet so you don’t have that excuse, Olesker. Strike that. Our advertisers might not see the humor in that. But you get the point. All we are asking is to give a comment a chance.

And of course we are bribing you. No shame in that.  We have a standing offer of our candy bowl of coins. It once had lots of coins — quarters, shinny pennies, a cashew, and a partially dog-chewed baseball card compliment of our mascot Danny, the chocolate lab. Sorry to say the quarters and cashew are gone. No clue on that.

But after we dug around the bowl we found another valuable – certainly to pique the interest of Olesker. A ticket is in the bowl. Not saying what kind of ticket, but let’s just say it’s going to be a classic. It involves the greatest Baltimore sports team in the history of the city. We’re not talking about Weaver’s O’s with Frank and Brooks, or Johnny U’s Greatest  Team that Played the Greatest Game , or even the magical 1971 season with Wes and the Bullets. The team we are talking about NEVER lost an official game.

The ABA's Claws only played three exhibition games.
The ABA’s Claws only played three exhibition games.

Venture a guess?

We’re talking about the ABA’s Baltimore Claws. And they got a great game this week on video somewhere. You’ll just have to visualize it in your mind because the ticket is in the bowl. And if that’s not enough, next to that ticket, we found some partially chewed gum probably from an old baseball  card. And it appears to have a good two hours of chew left.

Beat that.

Now back to the business at hand. The list.
Let’s recap:

  • No. 12:  Chick Webb, swing drummer who shamed Benny Goodman and company
  • No. 11:  Barry Levinison, director, producer actor,  who makes it over John Waters
  • No. 10: Eubie  Blake,   composer, trailblazer who paved the way for so many African-Americans
  • No. 9:   Abel Wolman, father of clean water who helped millions of people around the globe.
  • No. 8:    Juanita Jackson Mitchell (1913-1992), the daughter of Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, the mother of the civil rights movement.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski

So that leaves us with No. 7: Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

The last time this writer saw Mikulski, she walked out of an interview in Washington, D.C., after this writer asked questions about her feelings about the people who got screwed over on the ICC and a few follow-up questions on some of her pork projects. I can’t remember the exact pork question I asked her, but she didn’t like it. I do remember her saying your paper supports Democrats, and that I was supposed to be on her side – something like that. As a journalist I never knew I had to pick sides. I thanked her for reminding me of that.

Oh, and the other time was about 20 some years ago when I just moved here and wanted to see if I could work for her, so I went down to the Hill. She didn’t have time for me and I was told to leave. Not sure, if her people meant leave Maryland or leave her office.

Just wanted to give some background and get my disclaimer out of the way so you didn’t think I was biased or hiding something. With that said, I figure I can easily forget about those incidents and put it behind me. That’s what journalists do.  So here’s my two cents.  She doesn’t belong on the list.

Just kidding.

She has to be on the list. She was almost picked to be President Al Gore’s running mate, according to that Clinton book. (Yes, I meant to say,  President Gore.  Stop those emails. We counted the votes. We’re pretty good in math.)

In fact, she’s made other lists in Washington, such as Citizens Against Government Waste. In 2002, she even got an award – Porker of the Month — for bringing home a lot of bacon to the state. As CAGW states, “the dubious award is given to government officials who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers. ” She joined a select list – including Hillary Clinton. That’s an honor.

A little CAGW excerpt: “Sen. Mikulski has never been shy about securing her own slice of the pie. Since 1995 she helped secure $650 million in pork for her own state. Extending the pork privilege to states of non-appropriations is just another degree of corruption.” She helped get $38.8 million to vulnerable Senate Democrats in Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota, as well as Minnesota.

“By joining the re-election pork frenzy instead of allocating scarce public funds to defending the nation, bolstering the economy, or reducing the deficit, Sen. Mikulski signals she is more concerned about party politics than America’s well-being.  For that, she is the CAGW Porker of the Month for September 2002.”

Pat Paulson on television announcing his presidential campaign.

As Pat Paulson – the greatest presidential candidate ever – might say about this pork stuff, if he were still alive: “Picky, picky, picky.”

And besides what’s wrong with a little home-grown bacon. I like it on a bagel. And it’s jobs for us.

Seriously, when Maryland needed something, she was there. When Baltimore needed help, she was there. You can’t say that a lot about other politicians. She brought jobs here – although it’s hard to find those jobs today.

The last time I heard her name in political circles was when I did some contract work for convicted felon Jack B. Johnson who had a pipe dream of running against her as an independent. That’s from a guy who couldn’t even win an election in his county, or his own backyard,  if one was held.

So here’s she is on the list at No. 7. She belongs on the list. She is one of the most powerful politicians in Washington and still calls Crabtown her home.  No question she’s on the list. But No. 7?

How about we take a look at those who couldn’t crack  Olesker’s Bawlamar dozen.

Rewind time. The dozen is Olesker’s order of historical importance. Not ours. Hate mail goes to him. Not us. So those eight who didn’t make the Olesker dozen but squeezed by in the top 20 include: Kweisi Mfume, Joe Gans, Jerry Leiber, Lillie Carroll Jackson, Cab Calloway,  Reuben Kramer, John Waters and Leon Uris.

Leon Uris with a patrol in the Negev Desert.

And let’s just stop at that last name – Leon Uris  (1924-2003) the great Baltimore writer and United States Marine veteran. He wrote Exodus in 1958, and Trinity in 1976. At six, while Mikulski was playing with Barbie,  he wrote an operetta inspired by the death of his dog. Beat that, senator.

He never graduated from high school, and failed English three times. I like him already.  And at 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. After the service, he worked for Esquire magazine, in 1950. He wrote the best-selling Battle Cry, a novel depicting the courage of U.S. Marines in the Pacific. He also worked in Hollywood, helping to write the movie, and later wrote The Angry Hills.

But his best known work is Exodus, which involved thousands of interviews and years of research. The worldwide best-seller  told the history of Palestine from the late 19th century through the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. It later was turned into a film in 1960, starring Paul Newman, directed by Otto Preminger,  and a Broadway musical. Don’t see any musicals about the senator on Broadway, do you Olesker?

In comparison, well … Sen. Mikulski never had a real job. She had a career in politics. Born July 20, 1936, she is the longest-serving female senator and longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. Congress. She’s been in Washington since 1977. Does that mean no one else would hire her? No, she loves helping Marylanders.

She was reared in the Highlandtown and attended high school at the Institute of Notre Dame. She graduated from Mount Saint Agnes College and the University of Maryland School of Social Work. She served in the Baltimore City Council in 1971 and five years later was elected to the U.S. House of Representative and in 1986 became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Maryland. She chairs  the Health Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging and Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, and is a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

A longtime activist, Mikulski successfully stopped the proposed plan to build a 16-lane highway through Baltimore’s Fells Point and Canton neighborhoods. She saved Fells Point and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. OK, that’s enough in our books to concede to Olesker.

But there’s so much more.

Mikulski received her first national attention in 1970 when she spoke at a conference at The Catholic University of America about the “ethnic movement. Check out her speech:

“America is not a melting pot It is a sizzling cauldron for the ethnic American who feels that he has been politically courted and legally extorted by both government and private enterprise. The ethnic American is sick of being stereotyped as a racist and dullard by phony white liberals, pseudo black militants and patronizing  bureaucrats. He pays the bill for every major government program and gets nothing or little in the way of return. Tricked by the political rhetoric of the illusionary funding for black-oriented social programs, he turns his anger to race — when he himself is the victim of class prejudice. [He] has worked hard all his life to become a ‘good American;’ he and his sons have fought on every battlefield — then he is made fun of because he likes the flag. The ethnic American is overtaxed and underserved at every level of government. He does not have fancy lawyers or expensive lobbyists getting him tax breaks on his income. Being a home owner, he shoulders the rising property taxes — the major revenue source for the municipalities in which he lives. Yet he enjoys very little from these unfair and burdensome levies.”

And give her credit. She fights the good fight. She was one of 11  senators to vote against both the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 1991 and 2002 resolutions authorizing the use of force in Iraq. Like it or not, that took guts when considering those times.

And she is still fighting the good fight for the state and Baltimore despite her critics upset that she is bringing too much projects to the freedom state. Maybe she does that because she wants people to get out of the projects.

So what do you think, Olesker?

The partially chewed gum in that candy bowl has got you thinking Doesn’t it? Like we said it’s got at least a two-hour chew left. It’s red, by the way, if that makes any difference.


(Feature photo: Sen. Mikulski visits with a patient at the Air Force hospital in 1980.)