Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige is a different kind of Cabinet member. A taciturn man, he spends as much time as he possibly can on the back of a horse, competing in rodeo roping contests. When the 63-year-old secretary showed up to testify at a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing yesterday, it was noticed that one of his fingers was wrapped with gauze.

It turned out that Baldrige had caught his finger between the saddle horn and rope in a steer-roping contest in Alde, Va., this week. Baldrige is expert in two-man roping and specializes in heeling, or catching the calf's hind legs. Asked about the sprained finger, Baldrige pointed to jockey Bill Shoemaker, who won the Kentucky Derby at 54, and Jack Nicklaus, who won the Masters last month at 46, and said, "It's the year of the older athlete."

Honorees & Their Grad Roots

The Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington is presenting its first shared Trial Lawyer of the Year Award at the Vista International Hotel May 31. The recipients are Robert Cadeaux and Donald J. Chaikin. Without realizing it, the association had selected two men who were classmates at American University Law School for three years, graduating in 1963.

It also marks the first time in the 31-year history of the award that an American University Law School graduate has been named Trial Lawyer of the Year. The keynote speaker at the awards dinner will be consumer advocate Ralph Nader, speaking on "The Insurance Greed Crisis."

End Notes

That was Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke and Tony-winning actor Barry Bostwick seen around Old Town Alexandria again. The couple, who starred in a 1984 CBS television mini-series playing George and Martha Washington, are back to re-create their roles. They are staying at the federal-style Morrison House hotel in Alexandria as they travel back and forth to Mount Vernon, where they are shooting "Washington II: The Forging of a Nation," to be shown later in the year on CBS . . .

Washington art legend Adelyn Dohme Breeskin, the 89-year-old senior curatorial adviser to the National Museum of American Art, received the 1986 Award for Cultural Achievement of the Washington Art Dealers Association yesterday at a luncheon at the Grand Hotel. Breeskin, who among her accomplishments is credited with establishing American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt's reputation as a major figure in the impressionist movement, said so much has changed in the local art world that New York now has to come to Washington . . .

Spin, the music magazine, is kicking off a Sean Penn photo contest in its June issue. Penn, the irascible bad boy of the "brat pack" Hollywood set, doesn't like being photographed and has been physical with cameramen, attempting to avoid unauthorized photos. Spin reports that the winning photograph will be published and the winner will get credit for $100 worth of camera equipment, which the magazine says would be "especially useful, should anything get destroyed in pursuit of prize-winning photos" . . .

Its motto goes: "For all those who care enough to spend the very most," or "We will not be oversold." And its writers, Christopher Cerf and Henry Beard, cofounders of National Lampoon, will be in town tomorrow for a press conference hosted by Sen. David Pryor in the Russell Senate Office Building. They have created The Pentagon Catalog to give the average American the same opportunity admirals and generals have "to purchase spare parts, tools and other articles from defense contractors at 100 -- 1,000 -- 10,000 times their real cost." The items offered are based on military supply records. With the $4.95 catalogue comes free to the purchaser a $2,043 nut . . .