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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

Mariners' Cora Can Thank Wally for Monster Streak

June 03, 1997|STEVE SPRINGER

Is it the bat? Is it the stance? Is it the attitude?

When a player goes on a hitting streak, everybody tries to figure out what's making him so hot.

In the case of Seattle Mariner second baseman Joey Cora, the speculation included one factor never before considered in the history of major league baseball.

Was it Wally, the Green Monster?

Cora's streak stretched to 24 games before it ended Friday, the longest by an American League switch-hitter.

Cora was hitting only .185 when the Mariners visited Fenway Park on April 12. That was the day the Boston Red Sox unveiled Wally, their mascot.

For some unknown reason, a grinning Cora leaped into Wally's arms.

In the 43 games after he was touched by Wally, Cora hit .399, going 63 for 158.

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Trivia time: The Chicago Bulls, unbeaten in four previous appearances in the NBA finals, are one of three teams that can brag about a spotless record in the championship series. What are the two others?

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Head's up: The head of Florida Marlin mascot Billy the Marlin resurfaced Sunday at Pro Player Stadium in Miami. It had been missing since it blew off a Navy SEAL parachuting into the stadium on opening day, April 1.

Victor Rowe and Mike Zinniger were driving on the Florida Turnpike a few miles from the stadium Saturday when they spotted the five-pound head on a retaining wall. It had survived the fall in good shape aside from a scratch on the neck.

The team rewarded Rowe and Zinniger with season tickets.

"I'll be able to sleep at night, knowing Billy has been returned," Marlin President Don Smiley said.

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Demanding a recount: Like many of his colleagues across the nation, Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post figures Game 1 of the NBA finals reaffirmed that Michael Jordan, not Karl Malone, should have been voted most valuable player of the NBA. After Malone missed two crucial free throws in the closing seconds, Jordan sank the game-winning basket.

Wrote Wilbon: "The MVP award should never be awarded based on what happens during the regular season. Because the regular season in pro sports isn't the end-all and be-all. The playoffs are. . . . The MVP wins games. The MVP doesn't miss a pair of foul shots with 9.2 seconds left in Game 1 of the NBA finals.

"Karl Malone is a wonderful player.

"Michael Jordan is the most valuable player. The best player. The greatest-ever player.

"Not by ballot, by performance."

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Trivia answer: The Baltimore Bullets and the Rochester Royals, each of which made one appearance in the NBA finals. Baltimore beat Philadelphia in 1948 and later disbanded. Rochester beat New York in 1951 and later moved to Cincinnati, then Kansas City before finally settling in Sacramento as the Kings.

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And finally: With controversial Albert Belle gone to the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians feel there is a much calmer atmosphere around their club.

"It's a different flavor in the clubhouse," said Indian General Manager John Hart.

Kind of like the difference between chocolate and rocky road.

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