Season’s Readings

guest post by Dean Smith

The other night at The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore, owner Ed Berlin talked about the wonderful relationship that exists between the bookstore and JHU Press: “Our patrons love the books and the authors and we sell a lot of them.” The Ivy is a beautiful, clean, and well-lighted space for books. It’s the kind of place where, once you enter, you are transported on any number of adventures.

Author Michael Olesker (Front Stoops in the Fifties) took us back to the late 1950s to introduce us to handful of Baltimoreans who were on the cusp of changing the country for the better: Thurgood Marshall, Barry Levinson, Nancy Pelosi, and Clarence Mitchell. He choked up when talking about Mitchell’s son Keiffer attempt to enter Gwynns Falls Park Junior High as one of its first African-American students. His father Clarence, there to support his son, held up a sign that read “I am an American too.”

Brian MacKay talked about canoeing the Jones Falls and the well-kept secret of Soldier’s Delight in Owings Mills. His book, A Year across Maryland: A Week-by-Week Guide to Discovering Nature in the Chesapeake Region, is a magical resource for exploring our beautiful state.

Ted Patterson told the story of how he found the pieces of the letter Colts quarterback Bert Jones had sent to Robert Irsay asking that Ted Marchibroda not be fired in the 1970s. Ted had fished the pieces out of the trash can and taped them together. The letter appears in the new edition of Football in Baltimore: History and Memorabilia from Colts to Ravens, along with my two-chapter update covering the Ravens from 2000 through the Super Bowl XLVII victory over the 49ers.

Yes, we’re deep into the heart of football season. On Thanksgiving, two extraordinary games were played here in Baltimore. The Loyola Dons blocked an extra point and edged the Calvert Hall Cardinals 21-20 in overtime in the 94th Turkey Bowl game between the two schools, and the Ravens beat the Steelers, 22-20, also in overtime by denying a two-point conversion. Both games were won by denying points after touchdowns in overtime. This past weekend, the Ravens beat the Minnesota Vikings in a snowstorm, a game that will go down as one of the most exciting ever played in the city. The history of the Turkey Bowl and the exploits of the Baltimore Ravens are chronicled in Football in Baltimore’s second edition.

It was a diverse evening in the best bookstore in Baltimore. A broad range of topics were covered, from the black herons and the wildlife in the Jones Falls to the Baltimore-bred inspiration for Elvis Presley’s song “Hound Dog” to the city and its obsession for football.

As for me, I was happy just to be there with Olesker, Patterson, and MacKay and the memories of my gridiron heroes. This past weekend, we were together again signing books at Belvedere Square—where my grandmother walked me up from her home in Northwood to purchase my first baseball glove at Pop’s Toy Store. This coming Saturday (December 14, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.), we will be in Kenilworth mall, outside the Stebbins Anderson store, where every young person in the Baltimore area makes the pilgrimage to see the massive train garden.

Give the gift of reading.

pattersonDean Smith is the coauthor, with Ted Patterson, of the second edition of Football in Baltimore: History and Memorabilia from Colts to Ravens. He covers the Baltimore Ravens and the Orioles for the Baltimore Brew, and his sportswriting has appeared in Press Box, Fan Magazine, Baltimore City Paper, and on the websites and the Midnight Mind Review. He is the author of Never Easy, Never Pretty: A Fan, A City, A Championship Season, an engaging account of the Ravens’ march to Superbowl XLVII.