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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

Austin Powers III: The Spy Who Brought in Fans

July 18, 1999|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER

Baseball thinks Austin Powers is groovy, yeeaaahhh. OK, so baseball actually loves that the British super agent is a potential money maker, even though his only real connection to the game is that Powers must have used chewing tobacco since birth, judging by his mangled, stained teeth.

At least three major league clubs have staged special nights to jump on the coattails of the popular movie character in hopes of boosting attendance. The Toronto Blue Jays got in the spirit so much that General Manager Gord Ash dressed up as the villainous Dr. Evil. The San Diego Padres had Verne Troyer, who plays Mini-Me in the current hit sequel, throw out the ceremonial first ball before a game against the Dodgers.

Both had impact, baby. The Blue Jays attracted 26,117 fans for the June 24 game against Cleveland, almost 3,000 more than the previous night, and the Padres drew 44,965 for their Austin Powers Night on June 30, which team officials believed was worth an additional 4,000 people at Qualcomm Stadium.

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More shagging . . . fly balls: "Giveaways are nice, but fans really want entertainment and an experience," Terry Zuk, the Blue Jays' vice president of marketing, told Bloomberg News.

"We have to get away from gimmicks. First it's Beanie Babies. What are you going to give away in five years? Television sets? It gets more and more ridiculous."

Oh, behave.

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Trivia time: Who is the only player to win batting titles in three decades?

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Quarterback questions: Five well-publicized rookie signal-callers prepare to begin their NFL career. Who plays first?

"We'll give you two McGuesses," Chris Jenkins writes in the Sporting News. "Tim Couch and Akili Smith need seasoning. Daunte Culpepper will mop up when the score gets out of hand (but with the Vikings, that might be often). That leaves us with Donovan McNabb and Cade McNown, the only two quarterbacks in this class who started four years at big-time programs.

"McNown looks good, and Erik Kramer's shoulder injury still is giving him problems. But McNabb is most likely to start. Impatient Philly fans will want McNabb to start proving them wrong in Week 1, and [Coach Andy] Reid might be confident enough in his young quarterback to consider caving in."

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Mav-wrecks: In the interest of extending the hand of friendship across the miles--yeah, right--the Dallas Morning News said, "We couldn't resist the opportunity to let our readers tell Wang Zhi-Zhi what to expect in Dallas when (if?) he becomes a Maverick."

Predictably, the readers couldn't resist either, offering responses for the second-round draft pick from China on the paper's Web site.

* "Wang: It is a dang good city."

* And: "You have been selected by a loser."

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Trivia answer: George Brett.

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And finally: Not that things got off to a much better start for the Mavericks' first-round pick. Leon Smith, actually selected by the San Antonio Spurs and then traded to Dallas in a prearranged swap, walked out of his first formal workout and threw his practice jersey to the ground when told the entire team would have to run a new set of sprints because another player didn't make the time. He came back later that night and apologized.

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