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The Inside Track | Morning Briefing

Up Close, Valentine's Day Can Get Personal

July 15, 1998|MARK HEISLER

We've seen the Fox attitude, now what about the home team?

Fox is owned by News Corp., so it shouldn't be surprising they like to make news. There's speculation New York Met Manager Bobby Valentine will return to the Dodgers to work for longtime mentor Tom Lasorda. From a distance, Valentine looks great but up close, it gets personal.

Before the Yankee series, Valentine told a reporter a Cleveland Indian scout had told him Hideki Irabu was tipping pitches.

The next day, Valentine said it wasn't true but he said it, hoping to throw Irabu off. Valentine even showed photos of Irabu pitching, with circles around his delivery, that he used to influence the first reporter.

Wrote Newsday's Jon Heyman: "If this doesn't work out for Valentine, he could try the CIA. . . .

"Someone remarked later that Valentine was starting to act like Captain Queeg. . . . Really, Valentine was just being Valentine, a man who thinks about everything, worries about everything, tries to control everything."

Spare us.

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Trivia time: How many starters on UCLA's 1964 NCAA basketball champions didn't play in the NBA?

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Hack chic: Back in the news as the Texas Rangers' Juan Gonzalez chases his runs batted in record, Hack Wilson reminds us that as far as color goes, today's players are overmatched.

Wilson was 5 feet 6 and weighed 190 pounds. In other words, he made Jerome Bettis look like Wilt Chamberlain.

His drinking problems were well known, but his employers just sobered him up and sent him back out there. Bill Veeck, whose father was the Chicago Cubs' general manager, saw the trainer dump a 50-pound block of ice into a large tub with a wobbly Wilson before one game.

Every time Wilson tried to jump out, Veeck wrote in "Veeck as in Wreck," the trainer would push him back in.

"It was a fascinating scene," Veeck wrote, "watching them bob in perfect rhythm, first Hack's head, then the ice, then Hack's head, then the ice."

Veeck says Wilson then hit three home runs.

Wilson would die penniless in a Baltimore hospital at the age of 48. National League President Ford Frick sent $350 to pay for the funeral.

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Hold that rabbit: And they say there isn't enough pitching now?

In 1930 when Wilson drove in his 190 runs, the Philadelphia Phillies' Chuck Klein finished second with 170. Four teams had three players with 100.

Alarmed, the owners softened the ball and raised the seams. In 1931, Wilson dropped from 56 homers and 190 RBIs to 13-61.

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Not an ironman: Mark McGwire, after hitting his 39th and 40th home runs, announcing he'd miss a game this week: "I'll get a day off. I'm only human. I'm not Cal Ripken."

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Trivia answer: Fred Slaughter and Jack Hirsch did not. Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich and Keith Erickson did.

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And finally: Jon Mandel of Grey Advertising, panning ESPN's ballyhooed (by ESPN, anyway) Sports Zone restaurant in Baltimore, to USA Today's Rudy Martzke: "That's tacky. They've managed to turn 'Monday Night Football' into more non-pregame time than the Goodwill Games. They get style points for synergy but negative points for class."

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