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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

You Don't Need Numbers to Tell 62's Long Gone

September 07, 1998|MARK HEISLER

Junior Griffey's talent and smile have made him baseball's marquee player. He still has the talent, but where did that smile go?

Last weekend in New York, he grumped through interviews. When someone mentioned that Johnny Bench suggested that Junior had lost interest in the home run chase, Griffey complained, "The last time he saw me I was a little kid running around the Reds' locker room. He doesn't even know me."

Asked if he's been playing with a hyper-extended elbow, Griffey replied, "Come on, man, what does it matter? If I'm out there, then I have to be 100%, right? All people look at are my numbers. That's all they care about. That's all that matters, right?"

Wrote the New York Daily News' Mike Lupica: "I've always liked Junior Griffey a lot, but he has to stop acting as if he's cutting a hostage tape when asked routine questions."

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Image is nothing: Andre Agassi fell to No. 141 in the tennis rankings last year, when it dawned on him that he might have to try getting in shape like the other guys.

This year, he has the most match victories on the ATP tour, has won four tournaments and taken two of three meetings from Pete Sampras.

"He's worked his butt off," his coach, Brad Gilbert, told the New York Daily News. "He's a lot fitter. He's got a great attitude. He's just doing now what he should've been doing already."

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Trivia time: Who was the future baseball all-star drafted in 1984 by then-King General Manager Rogie Vachon?

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Heating up: As enthusiasm peaks in Mark McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's pursuit of the home run record, so does the level of insanity among collectors.

A 21-year-old man, Sumair Sattar, was jailed in lieu of $30,000 bail in Wood River, Ill.--for stealing four McGwire rookie baseball cards from a local store.

"They are worth about $200 each if we sold them now," said store owner Chris Pyle. "If McGwire breaks the home run record, that might go to $350 or $400. If he doesn't, it might go down to $100."

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A happy birthday: Drag racer Kenny Bernstein, a five-time champion in the National Hot Rod Assn., turned 54 Sunday but said he isn't even thinking about retiring.

"To do well, you've got to have three things," Bernstein said. "Your health, and I'm probably in better shape than I've ever been; money, that's the sponsors; and you have to want to do it. I still want to do it. I still enjoy driving a car and competing. I'm too young to retire. I don't know what else I would do.

"I probably have more drive and more desire than I've ever had before. Winning obviously makes you think you're doing something right."

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Trivia answer: Tom Glavine.

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And finally: Ron Borges in the Boston Globe: "The Bears are planning a Beanie Baby give-away this season. . . . The Buccaneers' new stadium will include a 43-ton steel-and-concrete replica of a pirate ship above one end zone that will fire soft footballs from eight cannons when the Bucs score. Remember when people filled NFL stadiums just to watch the game?"

We live in L.A., so the answer's no.

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