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THE INSIDE TRACK | Morning Briefing

Forget the Bats, It's High Time to Check the Balls

September 13, 1998|MARK HEISLER

Looking for Mr. Rabbit: In the wake of Mark McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's double-barreled assault on the records, the Chicago Tribune's Skip Bayless no longer believes hitting a home run is the most difficult thing in sports.

"I don't know if I'm watching baseball or if I'm trapped in a video game--Sony Slug Station," writes Bayless.

"Twenty-two players already have reached what used to be the benchmark for big-time sluggers--30 home runs. Hank Aaron never hit 50 in a season.

"At this rate, we could see 17 players hit 40 or more this season, tying the record set way back in 1996.

"Until '96, the most players who hit 40 or more in a season was eight--in 1961, an expansion year, the year [Roger] Maris hit 61. Last season, 12 hit the big four-oh or more. Any way baseball decided to save itself by filling balls with flubber?"

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Trivia time: Which pitcher holds the Los Angeles Dodger record for most wins (233) and losses (181)?

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Deadskins: Joining the movement to write off the local NFL team and avoid the rush later, the Washington Post's Tony Kornheiser has lost confidence in quarterbacks Gus Frerotte and Trent Green.

"At the present time Gus has less support in Washington than Bill Clinton has," writes Kornheiser. "When Ken Starr is done shredding Clinton, Redskins fans will want him to go after Gus. . . .

"Actually, the best quarterback available to the Redskins next Monday night might be [ABC telecaster] Boomer Esiason. It's a win-win situation. Boomer has always wanted to play here, and the cash-strapped John Kent Cooke wouldn't even have to pay Boomer's travel expenses."

Kornheiser says he can think of four broadcasters with a better chance of beating the 49ers Monday than Green: Esiason, Jim Kelly, Phil Simms . . . and 64-year-old Redskin announcer Sonny Jurgensen.

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Mr. Nice Guy: Raider boss Al Davis is famous for his loyalty, unless your name is Marcus Allen or Oakland or Los Angeles, but even those close to him have learned that with Al, friendship isn't everything.

"I consider Al a good friend and I think he feels the same about me," Tom Flores, who coached two of the Raiders' three Super Bowl winners, told the Sacramento Bee. "But there were times when he said, 'Tom, you know I love you, but I'm not very happy with you right now.'

"I learned to keep my distance. With Al, football and winning are his life. He's extremely competitive."

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Add nice guy: Kansas City Chief General Manager Carl Peterson tells of the day he extended his hand after a victory over the Raiders and Davis refused to shake it.

Said Davis, according to Peterson: "Not now, Carl, it's not a good time."

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Trivia answer: Don Sutton.

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And finally: Syndicated columnist Norman Chad, on the Baltimore Ravens' new stadium: "It features the two largest video screens in the world--100 feet high, 24 feet wide--which, incidentally, coincides with the actual dimensions of Art Modell's cash vault."

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