A young fellow from the frozen north has learned that we don't always play hardball down here in the sunny south.

Steve Hamberg is his name. He's a George Washington University student who hails from Philadelphia and roots vociferously for that city's pro basketball team, the 76ers. So when the Sixers came to Landover to play the Washington Bullets not long ago, Steve considered it a command performance.

But being on a student budget, Steve was greatly interested in scalping a ticket at the gate a few minutes before the game began. That's usually when desperation begins to descend on some guy who's trying to unload a spare ticket or two for which he has paid full price. It's an excellent way to get hold of a $12 ticket for $6 -- and it's a method Steve had employed for years as a teen-ager in Philly.

Sure enough, a fellow paraded past Steve near one of the gates a couple of minutes before the game started. He asked Steve if he needed tickets. Steve immediately slipped into his Sylvester Stallone tough-guy act and asked, "How much? And what section?"

"The man muttered something about not being picky and walked away," Steve said. Puzzled at this bizarre Marylandesque behavior, Steve asked a nearby guard for a translation.

The guard gave Steve the sort of look that says, "Did you arrive from Mars on the train, or was it the bus?" Then he proceeded to inform Steve that the man had wanted to give Steve two tickets, not sell them.

Steve immediately ran after and caught up with the man, who offered the tickets to Steve again. He gladly accepted, apologizing up a storm all the while. Steve and a friend "enjoyed the game with the man and his wife, plus another couple."

But came the next morning, and Steve could not remember the man's name. "I do know he worked in the Executive Office Building," Steve says. "If he is reading, he will know it's him."

To you, kind EOBer, Steve would like to say this:

"The whole episode . . . showed me that with all the bad people in the world, there are still a few genuinely kind people . . . . The generous man made the night of two college kids, and an everlasting impression on one."

Speaking of amazing saints-on-earth, let's send out for a custom-built halo that'll fit H.D. Tuthill Jr.

Brother Tuthill runs a Texaco station at 6970 Fairfax Drive in Arlington. One recent evening, in the height of evening rush hour, a woman drove in and proceeded to spin an agonized tale of woe.

She was Maria Suben of Rochester, N.Y., who was trying -- and very badly failing -- to catch a flight home from National Airport.

First, the traffic was a mess, so she was running late. Second, she had left her purse behind by mistake at the home of a friend, Patti Luzi of Fairfax. Third, her rented car was about to expire from acute lack of gasoline. And, of course, since Maria had no purse, she had no money or credit cards, and therefore no way to buy gas.

So the magnificent H.D. Tuthill Jr. gave her some.

About five gallons worth.

Enough to get her back to Patti's in Fairfax.

And said, hey, it's okay, lady, pay me when you can.

Maria gave up on making her flight that night. She made another the next morning -- but not before putting a check in the mail to a certain Texaco dealer, with a thank-you note wrapped around it.

What's that they say about a friend in need? A certain Tuthill was certainly that.

There is rude. Then there is Rude. Then there is Rude-iculous. Lester Shepherd of Landover would like to pass along an episode that belongs in the third category as firmly as any I've ever heard.

Lester and his wife went to a seafood restaurant in Lanham the other night. It wasn't until they sat down that they noticed the couple at the next table.

The couple had brought a portable TV to the table with them, and were raptly watching "Dallas" as they munched.

"A loyal fan" was playing Trivia Adventure (the child's version of Trivial Pursuit) with her 7-year-old son. The boy picked the following question:

"What are the two major political parties in the United States?"

The boy thought carefully, then replied:

"Hanukah and Christmas."

CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

Who has the Christmas spirit? Several dozen students at Eastern High School belong at the head of anybody's spirit list, along with an Eastern institution named Anita Nance.

Ma Nance is an Eastern biology teacher who took a look at her calendar about a month ago and said, "Whoops! Levey must be getting ready to start the Children's campaign again. I'd better get started, too."

So Ma got the Eastern Booster Club cooking -- literally. The ladies of the club ran a bake sale at the school. Ma's biology classes contributed stovetop time, and money, too. The result was $151.69, all of it destined to help sick kids whose families can't afford their medical bills.

To the Eastern community, hats off. To the woman who has been the Eastern sparkplug for longer than we both care to remember, a big, fat holiday kiss. There's only one Ma Nance, and her heart is always in the right place.

Other recent group contributors:

The Marine Officers of Conference Group No. 6 from the Command and Staff College at Quantico ($67).

The employes of Floyd E. Davis Company ($400).

The staff of the Controller's Division of American Security Bank ($250 in lieu of exchanging Christmas gifts -- this group's 16th annual contribution to the campaign).

The employes of John D. Clayborne Inc. of Falls Church ($300 in memory of Jessica Marie Clayborne).

Communications staffers at NSWC White Oak ($10).

The Neabsco Sailing Club ($1,130.29 from entry fees and donations collected at the Fourth Annual Macho/Machette Down River Bash, a 23-mile sailboat race down the Potomac River).

Les Davison's buddies at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Office of Analysis and Evaluation ($30).

Candy Clapper's third and fourth graders at Vienna Junior Academy in Vienna ($32.20, half from the students, half from the teacher).

Harry F. Duncan Foundation, Inc. of Silver Spring ($1,000).

The Installment Loan Bookkeeping Division of the First American Bank of Virginia ($100 collected among the employes).

Home Beneficial Life Insurance Company Boosters' Club ($100).

The student council at Weatherless Elementary School in Southeast ($30).

No Name Club Inc. of Northwest ($50).

Vienna Toastmasters ($41, with a big thank-you to president-elect Mike Thomas).

And the Westgate Women's Club of Manassas ($500).

Great work, all of you. Many, many thanks.

TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:

Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.