WASHINGTON – Rep. Elijah E. Cummings waged a war against legalized gambling more than a decade ago as a delegate in the Maryland legislature.
Now a congressman with his hometown baseball team on the brink of knocking the best team in the American League out of the playoffs, he has softened his stance.
The 45-year-old Baltimore Democrat bet a bushel of Maryland crabs Thursday that the Orioles will take the American League Division series against the Cleveland Indians.
His opponent? Rep. Louis Stokes, D-Ohio, who put his city’s prize-winning barbecued ribs on the line.
“The congressman has taken some pretty tough stands on gambling over the years,” said Anthony W. McCarthy, Cummings’ communications director. During his tenure as a Maryland delegate, Cummings attacked proposals for river boat gambling, casinos in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and betting by telephone on horse races.
But, McCarthy said, this wager “is all in fun and out of amazing loyalty to his Baltimore Orioles.”
Although Cummings is on the road campaigning for re- election, he calls his office periodically for updates on the scores, McCarthy said.
“We’re all addicted,” he added. “At every opportunity, we have the radio or TV on. And every now and then, a cheer erupts.”
Calling the food exchange a “symbolic gesture,” McCarthy said Cummings will not eat very many ribs should Cleveland strike out.
“He’s a very health-conscious person and he’s lost quite a bit of weight since coming to D.C.” to fill Kweisi Mfume’s 7th District seat, McCarthy said, laughing. “With the number of receptions he has to go to, he doesn’t want to put on the freshman 15 or 20 [pounds] or whatever.”
Stokes, however, said he will not restrain his appetite with the bushel of bug-eyed crustaceans, which cost between $80 and $150 a bushel this time of year, depending on their size.
“It is my intention to personally call [Indians’ homerun- hitting outfielder] Albert Belle and advise him that we’ve got to go to work in order to keep our delicious barbecued ribs in Cleveland,” Stokes said in a written statement. “I’m looking forward to sharing those great Baltimore crabs with him when we take the series.”
The Baltimore Orioles lead 2-0 in the best-of-five series. The teams move to Cleveland Friday evening for the third game. -30-