By Bruce Mastracchio
This segment deals with a town character named The Baltimore Sport, his quirks and an episode titled “Oh, Min.”
Growing up in East Greenwich in the 1940s and ’50s was a real joy. We had the mile-long Main Street. We had the salt water cove at the bottom of the hill and freshwater ponds just beyond the reach of the town. We had farmland and woodland for hunting and fishing and horseback riding as soon as you got out beyond Cedar Avenue or Kenyon.
In short, God could not have created a more perfect place for growing up. Unless He called it Eden!
For the Huck Finn types we were, it was Dead Solid Perfect! But, along with the many adventures we had, there was also a continual learning experience going on.
One of the joys of our youth had to be listening to the tales of the older folk, whether they were at home around the dinner table, down at Tar’s Variety Store & Market, or at the fire station, where the guys were always trying to outdo one another, be it pitching pennies, driving the trucks, playing cards, or laying out a great yarn.
I know my ears were always open for a good story, and the oldsters were always willing to oblige. In a town where the yen for a practical joke ran rampart, and, where there were characters galore, there was always a story going around.
All you had to do was keep your ears open.
As this old man’s boy grows older, considerably older, it’s the stories I don’t want to forget, and that I truly enjoy sharing with you, my audience. I know you like them. They are a link to a simpler time. To me, a better time…….
I want to dedicate this edition of Reminisces to those storytellers of another time: To Pardo and Tar; to Short Uncle; Chink Marden; Plum, RikTik, and Henry Sr,; to the Old Man and The Baltimore Sport.
Thanks to you all, I will honor you by passing ’em on.
I always enjoy telling the story of The Baltimore Sport. He sticks in my mind the most. Maybe because of that nickname.
I never knew his real name. No one ever said it that I recall, until maybe just recently. The Irish Whip might be able to tell me. If I have heard it, I’ve forgotten it. It’s not that important as long as I remember The Baltimore Sport, a real character if there ever was one. In a town filled with characters.
The Sport was from East Greenwich. But, every winter he headed south. Of course, in his case, south did not mean Florida. Instead, when the cold weather set in here in Old East G., The Sport headed for Martyland, and his beloved race tracks situated in the Crabcake State.
The Spanish-American War Veteran “loved those ponies” as they say. It was an affliction that affected a lot more Greenwich-ites than The Sport.
The difference was, when The Sport had a “good winter” down in Maryland, then everybody figured in the celebration.
For when he came back to East Greenwich, The Sport would get an old, wooden barrel, and starting at the corner of Main and Division streets, he would jump up on it and walk-roll the barrel down Main Street throwing dollar bills and change to the youngsters, who followed in his wake, and treated his return as a sort of Christmas in spring.
It was quite a scene. A one-man parade. There you had The Baltimore Sport standing on his barrel, precariously keeping his balance, juking his feet back and forth as he propelled the barrel down Main Street, while at the same time throwing money out to the young passersby, who scrambled for bills and loose change, like candy at the Memorial Day Parade. It must have been something to see.
When he was done, The Sport returned to his cabin on Rope Walk Hill, where he lived alone. However, his flamboyant style and, I guess, his penchant for the ladies, set him up for a fall, as the practical jokers were always looking for someone to “hit on.” This time they chose The Baltimore Sport!
It seems The Sport was looking for a date. That’s all the PJ’s needed to hear. They told the Sport that they had just the girl for him. Her name was Min and she lived on ” The Hill ” in a house located where Royal Manor is today.
The Sport was to show up outside her back door at precisely 7 p.m. on a certain night. He was to call out “Oh, Min. Oh, Min. I’m here to take you out.”
The PJ’s had just one warning for The Sport: “Don’t let Min’s brother hear you. He is mean and violent and very protective of Min and is liable to do something to you if he catches you fooling around with his sister.”
The appointed night came and The Sport looked terrific! he had on a nice suit. He had his shoes polished to a high sheen. He wore spats and had a bouquet of flowers for Min.
He stopped by the fire station before going up to pick up Min. He got a lot of encouragement from the “Boys.”
The Sport arrived at the house on time. He went around to the back door and did as he was instructed.
He called out, “Oh, Min. Oh, Min. I’m here to take you out.”
Suddenly the door burst open and an angry sounding man came out yelling and swearing.
More importantly, he was brandishing a shotgun!
The flowers went one way. The Sport went the other. He fell down. He ripped his pants. He dirtied his spats. He scraped his hands and knees.
When he finally got himself combobulated, he gathered his forces in one direction and he ran like hell! He was spurred on by a shotgun blast! Then another one!
“Stay away from my sister,” a voice boomed out as loud as the shotgun sound. “You come around here again and I’ll kill you!”
The notice was useless. The Sport was long gone.
Later that night all the boys were gathered at Jigger’s Diner on Main Street. All the seats at the counter were taken but two, side by side. The door opened and in dragged The Sport. He was bloody and his clothes were disheveled and ripped.
“What happened?” asked the PJ’s in mock innocence. “Here, sit down and tell us what happened.”
“You won’t believe it,” said The Sport, and he proceeded to tell them his story. How he went up to Min’s house. How he did as he was instructed. Called her name. Of the confrontation with the angry brother. The shotgun blasts. How he got away and hid in the woods.
He was just wrapping up his tale of the escapade when the door of Jiggers opened again. A figure came in and took the empty seat next to The Baltimore Sport. He then reached behind him and placed a shotgun on the counter.
“Does anyone know where I can find this guy they call The Baltimore Sport?” boomed an angry voice. “That guy was messing with my sister and I’m going to fix him.”
The Sport turned a ghostly white, spun around on his stool, and dove right through the open window of Jigger’s Diner, landing in the alley and was off and running. He was not seen for more than a week.
Had he been listening he would have heard the boys laughing and chortling their brains out. Of course, the PJ’s eventually got together with The Sport. They let him in on their “little joke.” Needless to say he didn’t think it was funny. No doubt he hatched a “little joke” of his own to get even.
I never heard that story though. . . .
Author’s note: So there you have it – another story from Old EG.
Thanks to Glenn King, a fellow Marine from Tennessee, I have a little information on “Rosie the Romper” or “The Walking School Teacher ” plus some population figures from Old EG.
Rosie was a language teacher at Lockwood HS. She walked there every day from her place just off Division Street. She spoke several languages and was fluent in Italian. She had two books of poetry published: “After Glow” and “New England Heritage and Other Poems.”
She originally came from Massachusetts. her parents were from Germany. She had three sisters and two brothers. Rosie was born in 1897 and was killed in 1976 at the age of 79. She was hit by a car in front of Earnshaw’s Drugstore. Legend was she had to walk all the time because she had some kind of disease that if she stopped for too long it would kill her. The other story was she had escaped from the Nazis in WWII.
Funny how stories get started when you don’t know about a person. Once again, someone a little different. Tremendously talented but a loner, just trying to get by on her journey on this mortal coil.
Top of the day, Rosie. I read your poems. Loved them!
Lastly, for those of you who argue over this, EG’s population from census of:
1930 – 3,666
1940 – 3,842
1950 – 4,923
1960 – 6,100
1970 – 9,577
1980 – 10,211
1990 – 11,865
2000 – 12,948
2010 – 13,146
NOW – heading to 14,000
Thanks, Glenn. Semper Fi.
Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich, where he experienced those 28-hour days and 8-day weeks, which contained the magic that made his hometown so special. Included in all that were the numerous characters that added color to the local life and produced many of Bruce’s remarkable stories.