Live from Baltimore: Maryland Public Television’s Crabs

May is here, bringing with it bouts of summer weather that have us eager to shed the stress the spring semester. While the library often represents serious intellectual pursuits, at Hornbake Library we have plenty of materials documenting the lighter sides of history. May I present Crabs, an irreverent sketch comedy show produced by Maryland Public Television (MPT) in the 1980s. Crabs serves up clever commentary on culture and politics both local and national. The pilot episode, “Nature’s Way” premiered September 5, 1984 and invited the Mid-Atlantic to taste Baltimore comedy.

Each 30-minute episode was taped before a live studio audience and cast members served as both actors and crew. Our featured episode consists of nine hilarious skits, ranging from spoofs to musical numbers. While the entire show has plenty to discuss, today we’ll be focusing on three  comedic gems that make light of the dynamic between Baltimore and Washington, DC. 

The show opens with an exterior shot of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, the original home of the Orioles. Voice-over informs the audience  about a concerted effort to encourage more D.C. baseball fans to come see the Baltimore Orioles. Wearing a “Where’s the beef?” t-shirt that is three sizes too small, the Baltimore fan in the stands is a ballpark classic: heckling the players, waving his arms and spilling his beer. Sliding in to take the seat  beside Where’s the Beef (despite the fact that the section is otherwise totally empty), our man from D.C. comes complete with a picnic basket, a quiche, and a cravat to boot. The two new companions are both thrown off by the other, with Where’s the Beef asking Cravat “Are you from a foreign country?”, to which he disdainfully replies “I’m from Washington.” The juxtaposition and back-and-forth between the two  pays irreverent homage to the dynamic between the two cities, a theme that runs throughout the episode.

Two men sit closely to each other on a yellow stadium bench. One wears a grey suit with a cravat and yellow pocket square. The other wears a Baltimore Orioles cap with a yellow shirt that says where's the beef? They gaze at each other with confused expressions.
Washington, D.C. and Baltimore go head-to-head on MPT’s Crabs, 1984
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Modernist Writers in Special Collections

For years, works by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Frost have been staples of high school English classes across America.  While The Great Gatsby and “The Road Not Taken” may now be regarded as classics, modernism, the literary movement that Fitzgerald and Frost participated in, was originally considered to be a disruptive force against the literary establishment.

Modernist works by Fitzgerald and Frost, along with Katherine Anne Porter, Djuna Barnes, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, William Faulkner, and Franz Kafka can all be found in the Literary and Rare Books Collections in Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland.

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Back in the Yard: MPT’s Basically Baseball

We are over a month into quarantine, and for many of us, the loss of baseball hits hard, no pun intended. In lieu of visiting the ballpark, I’ve reached for another Maryland Public Television (MPT) gem: Basically Baseball, a four episode mini-series made in 1973 when MPT was known as the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting. Shot on-location in Florida during spring training, each 30-minute show features the Baltimore Orioles working on the field and sharing advice on technique. Heavy in hot tips and the inside scoop, Basically Baseball may not be the season as we know it, but it’s basically better than no baseball at all.

A man in a Baltimore Oriole's uniform stands with his leg stretched nearly into the splits, with his back foot resting on a baseball plate. His gloved left hand reaches forward as if to catch a ball.
Boog Powell, Orioles first baseman, demonstrates stance on MPT’s Basically Baseball, 1973

Our featured episode  aired June 4, 1973. Focusing on fielding, the show acts as an instructional document for young athletes, but could also help the adults who have been recruited to coach despite having zero experience. Split into five sections (“Stance”, “The Glove”, “Ground Balls”, “The Cross-Over Step” and the all-important “Throwing the Ball”), viewers get the excitement of immediate and up-close access to baseball legends while also benefiting from their sound advice. The relatively advanced age of the show does nothing to take away from its value – the tips are as sound today as they were almost fifty years ago. In addition, Basically Baseball’s nostalgic appeal, an enduring element of baseball fandom, is massive, offering today’s fans with a time capsule to experience a slice of the Orioles’ golden years.

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Digital Resource: German Periodicals

We may be self-isolating for the time being, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t travel the world!  If you want to learn more about German history and culture, visit the Internet Archive to view digitized items from the University of Maryland’s collection of German books and periodicals.

This digital collection of 29 items spans from 1832 to 1923 and includes a variety of topics.  With works on subjects as diverse as the Napoleonic Wars, the Dada movement, bacteriology, art and architecture, World War I, and German poetry, there is something for everyone! 

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Virtual Maryland Day 2020

Happy Maryland Day! The crowds are staying home this year while we all practice social distancing, but you can still enjoy a bit of Special Collections and University Archives fun from home!

Start off with the official UMD Maryland Day activity book! You can color Testudo, play work search, create finger puppets, and lots more! Download online: http://go.umd.edu/mdbook

Here are a few Maryland Day activities from Special Collections and University Archives you can explore from the comfort of home:

COLOR OUR COLLECTIONS

Get creative and unwind with these ready-to-color illustrations curated from our Rare Books collection! Choose from a selection including artwork by William Morris, Walter Crane, George Gaskin, and John Tenniel.

MAKE AN ORIGAMI HEART

Show your love with origami! ♥♥♥ Every Maryland Day in Hornbake Library, staff from the Gordon W. Prange collection show visitors how to make origami hearts. Grab some paper and follow the directions in the video below to make you own!

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Dipping into Maryland Public Television

The coronavirus pandemic has many of us from Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) working from home, which provides the opportunity for me, student assistant Emily Moore, to get to know our collections in a new way. My current project at Hornbake involves working closely on our collection of Maryland Public Television (MPT), which celebrated its milestone 50th anniversary in 2019 (check out the online version of our gallery exhibit.  As a recent transplant from the West Coast, I have discovered that working with MPT content provides me a unique lens into Maryland culture and history. A wide range of television content that dates from the 1970s is available from SCUA in our Digital Collections database. Through watching four episodes of MPT programs, I got an intimate, first-hand introduction to Maryland. Today’s post focuses on  Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields, but be sure to check back for subsequent posts about MPT classic programming including Crabs, Our Street and Basically Baseball.

Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields is hosted by Baltimore native John Shields, who balances interludes of cooking with explorations of the Mid-Atlantic landscape, combining his love of animals, plants, learning and food. Each episode features a different region, offering viewers an armchair trip that is especially welcome as we socially distance and remain in our homes. In his April 7, 1998 episode on Bishop’s Head, we learn how to make Maryland fried chicken and bread in the shape of a crab. As a woman born and raised in Colorado, I had to Google what a blue crab looked like in order to make sure I structured mine correctly. Turns out they’re beautiful. Here’s a picture of one featured on a postcard from the National Trust Library Postcard Collection:

Love from Maryland, circa 1981-2000. Postcard features word "LOVE" created from photographs of Maryland.
Love from Maryland, circa 1981-2000. National Trust for Historic Preservation Library Collection, https://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/20592.

Fried chicken

I love fried chicken, but I have always been reluctant to try making a batch without a fryer. John Shields, however, demonstrates an easy way to use a pan frying technique. Thankfully, I already had most of the ingredients, but because of the pandemic I had to create my own homemade buttermilk and Chesapeake Bay seasoning substitutes. (Was Shields referring to Old Bay? Keep in mind I only learned about Old Bay six months ago, and I definitely don’t have any in my kitchen (yet!). I approximate my own and hope for the best; I won’t be able to tell if it’s wrong anyway.

I put the chicken in one morning to soak up all the goodness overnight. Shields really sells this recipe by promising lots of secrets, and boy does he deliver. Here they are: hot oil (400 degrees), a BIG skillet with a cover and cooking for 20 minutes. It turned out as juicy as Lizzo’s big hit last year. 

Crusty Crustacean Bread

In the second cooking segment of the episode, Shields is joined by Whitey Schmidt, a man whose amazing name is matched only by his amazing beard. Whitey describes his recipe like the technical challenge round on The Great British Baking Show – we get virtually no information on ingredient volume or measurements. I decided to pretend like it really was 1998 and I had to make do with the information from the show. 

picture of Whitey Schmidt holding leeks from his garden
Blue Crab Guru Whitey Schmidt holding leeks from his garden. Schmidt’s cooking was featured on MPT. Image source: https://travelhag.com/whitey-schmidt/.

As with the buttermilk for the fried chicken, a substitute was necessary, but in this case, it was a full omission – I had no raisins to make the crab eyes. My crab was destined to know the world only through his pinchers and little lemon antennae. After a bunch of kneading (I’ve got the need to knead), two rounds of rising and 15 minutes in the oven, my bread came out tasty, if a little… too puffy? If anyone knows why, leave a comment with the answer!

So, thanks to John Shields and his old pal Whitey Schmidt, plus featured children helpers Erica and Brian, my husband and I are breaking up our pandemic menu of bananas and canned tomatoes. With two more episodes of Chesapeake Bay Cooking currently digitized, I’m looking forward to making shortcake (Reedville, Virginia episode) and learning what on earth slippery dumplings are (Kent County, Maryland episode). 

Before the pandemic, my projects at Hornbake Library included creating an inventory and associated metadata of the entire MPT audiovisual collection. While that can be repetitive and difficult to translate into a compelling blog post, the content of MPT programming is a whole different story! Check back soon for the next installment of our MPT content series, where we learn hot baseball tips from the 1973 Baltimore Orioles! 

All images in this post are courtesy of Emily Moore unless otherwise noted.

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Emily Moore is a second year MLIS student with a background in art and theory. In addition to her role as a student assistant at Special Collections and University Archives, she works as the Archival Assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Digital Resource: The Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Papers

Happy National Poetry Month!  As we celebrate some of our favorite poets, it’s also an opportunity to discover someone whose poetry you may not have read before.

One poet worth examining is the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927), the avant garde German poet.  Von Freytag-Loringhoven was a woman of many talents. In addition to her work as a poet, von Freytag-Loringhoven was an artist who was active in the Dada movement, which rejected logic and reason in favor of absurdity. 

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