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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

Park Responds on Mound and to a Misunderstanding

September 18, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

I turned on the Dodger radio broadcast before Wednesday night's game against the San Francisco Giants in time to hear the announcer talk about Chan Ho Park, but I confess I didn't understand a word he said.

It wasn't Vin Scully. It was Richard Choi.

He's the color announcer for the 35 Dodger games that KBLA 1580, also known as Radio Korea, is broadcasting to Southern California this season.

Of the half-million Koreans and Korean-Americans living here, it's estimated 70% are regular listeners of KBLA. When Park pitches, as he did Wednesday night, Choi said the number increases to 90%.

Park is South Korea's most popular athlete, which makes him proud.

Occasionally, it also makes him feel claustrophobic because he can't even go on a date without attracting attention from his countrymen.

He spoke to the Times about that last weekend, saying: "I have lost my freedom. I am not having any fun."

Neither were switchboard operators at KBLA when phones began ringing Monday as Park fans called to complain about their ungrateful hero.

Choi talked to Park's agent, who explained that the pitcher doesn't understand English's subtleties enough to communicate his feelings and that he didn't mean to offend anyone.

For Park, who is sensitive, it was a crisis.

Besides facing the Giants in a crucial game, besides trying to rebound from a couple of terrible starts, that was the burden he carried to the mound Wednesday night.

"This is the night for Chan Ho to show what kind of pitcher he is," Choi said when I talked to him Wednesday afternoon. He said those would be his opening words on the broadcast.

I trust they were.

When I turned on the telecast, I saw Barry Bonds trotting around the bases after a two-run homer.

"Chan Ho Park, rocked to his toes here in the first inning," I heard.

That was Scully. Not Choi.

But Park was unshaken, responding with his best outing in weeks. He left after the seventh inning with the Dodgers trailing, 2-1, but not before showing what kind of pitcher he is.

*

Does anyone here care if the NFL returns to Los Angeles? . . .

Coliseum proponents, led by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, plan to find out, unveiling billboards Wednesday urging like-minded citizens to call a number and offer their support. . . .

At Mayor Richard Riordan's request, those favoring other sites have been silent. . . .

That changes today, when representatives from South Park, Hollywood Park and the Coliseum appear at a hearing chaired by state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles). . . .

Neither Peter O'Malley nor Rupert Murdoch will be represented, but the NFL has their Chavez Ravine address. . . .

Jerry Richardson, head of the league's stadium committee, was there last week. . . .

Lurking is Al Davis, who tells friends he believes NFL owners might agree to a settlement in his latest lawsuit by allowing him to bring an expansion team to Hollywood Park. . . .

What does all this mean? . . .

Who knows? . . .

One thing virtually certain: If Councilman Joel Wachs' initiative on public financing of sports projects acquires enough signatures to reach the ballot, the proposed downtown arena for the Kings and Lakers is dead. . . .

If the arena is dead, the so-called New Coliseum won't have much of a heartbeat either. . . .

Appearing Wednesday at a Planet Hollywood luncheon for the Kings, the team's president, Tim Leiweke, said he was happy for the chance to talk about hockey instead of Wachs. . . .

Then he spoke about him anyway. . . .

"Our marketing staff is so good, they've sold him four season tickets," Leiweke said. . . .

One player to watch in the Long Beach Fall Hoops Classic Friday through Sunday at Long Beach City College is Rashard Lewis, a 6-foot-10 center from Alief, Texas. . . .

He could be next year's Tracy McGrady, going directly from high school to the first round of the NBA draft. . . .

The UCLA women's volleyball team carries a 4-1 record and No. 17 national ranking into Friday night's match at Pauley Pavilion against 8-0 and No. 15 Arizona. . . .

Afterward, fans will be treated to a concert by the Hamilton High School Choir and Jackson Browne. . . .

There's no truth to the rumor USC's football team will adopt Browne's most popular song, "Running on Empty."

*

While wondering if the Giants are ready to surrender now, I was thinking: It's good to see Mark Messier back in the Pacific Division, Peyton Manning should sue Sports Illustrated for that cover, I like Florida over Tennessee and Washington over Nebraska.

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