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THE INSIDE TRACK | Morning Briefing

If Only the Cubs Hadn't Thrown Him a Curve

August 20, 1999|GRAHAME L. JONES

Paying tribute to baseball scout Ralph DiLullo, who died this week at age 85, Jerry Izenberg of the Newark Star-Ledger recalled DiLullo's lifelong dream of discovering a future Hall of Famer.

"He did come close once," Izenberg wrote. "He was out in Queens watching this kid from the University of Cincinnati pitch. Al Campanis of the Dodgers was there too.

"After five innings, he ran for the pay phones and told the head of the Cubs' scouting department, 'He's the best I've ever seen.' The Cubs wouldn't spend the money. The Dodgers would. The kid's name was Sandy Koufax."

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More DiLullo: "He was," Izenberg wrote, "baseball's premier scout, a man who had that rare knack of watching a kid swing or throw or, perhaps, simply even move, and then looking deep inside his baseball soul, where the intangibles that mark the difference between minor and major leaguer live, to see things other scouts never saw.

"Ralph DiLullo was everything good, pure and traditional that this game is really all about. His love of the game he first embraced as an immigrant kid--when he could not express the terminology in English but sure as hell swung the bat in American--was classic.

"It is the best way I know to understand why the game survives despite some of the people who play it, some of the people who advise those players and some of the men who own it."

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Trivia time: Tiger Stadium and Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912, but didn't get much media attention leading up to the events. Why?

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Where the blame lies: Dave Kindred of the Sporting News, providing some perspective on the Notre Dame football scandal: "NCAA rules are designed to perpetuate the lie that college athletics is amateurism when we all know it's professional sports except the players don't get paid. And in the end, it is that NCAA hypocrisy that makes athletes susceptible. . . .

"In truth, the athletes likely feel entitled to whatever they get however they get it."

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Out of the Woods: Add the Rocky Mountain News' Mike Littwin to the list of Sergio Garcia fans.

The PGA Championship runner-up, Littwin wrote, "became immediately more famous in the non-golf world than, say, David Duval, who rarely emotes except when the topic is Ryder Cup money. Duval is a great golfer. Garcia, meanwhile, has actual personality. Guess which one can lead to a spot on Letterman?"

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Details, details: Interesting to see the New Yorker commission Salman Rushdie to write a piece about being a Tottenham Hotspur fan. Sad to see Rushdie and the magazine make such a hash of the job. They got the nationality of former coach Bill Nicholson wrong and incorrectly said Matt Busby had died in the 1958 Munich air crash.

As Brian Glanvile pointed out in World Soccer magazine, "What, you wonder, has happened to the famously nit-picking New Yorker fact-checkers, notorious for pestering contributors with a thousand minor queries? Do they feel that soccer is beyond them or beneath them?"

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It's all Bull: Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times appears singularly unimpressed by Chicago's rebuilding efforts, which he views as "reducing the Bulls into a directionless laughingstock."

Owner Jerry Reinsdorf and General Manager Jerry Krause, he said, "are exposing themselves as post-Jordan stumblebums who are woefully unprepared--if not arrogantly refusing--to rebuild the Bulls into a respectable team."

So there.

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Trivia answer: It was the same week the Titanic sank.

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And finally: What did Bobby Smith, the Phoenix Coyotes' general manager, say when NHL agent Paul Kraus kept upping the ante for the return of forward Robert Reichel? "I told him to lose my phone number," Smith said.

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