Hemond: Birds may take look at Palmer


Orioles general manager Roland Hemond told the audience a the Washington Touchdown Club yesterday that the team is "considering" taking a look at Jim Palmer.

If that's the case, the Orioles are behind several other clubs in checking out the comeback-minded Hall of Famer who lives in their own town.

"Quite a few teams are interested in Jim," said Michael Maas of Shapiro and Robinson, which represents Palmer. "Several have sent scouts to Florida to look at him but they've asked us not to say anything yet."

One club that has sent someone to look at Palmer is Milwaukee. And who runs the baseball side of the Brewers? (Owner Bud Selig handles the business side.) Why, none other than Harry Dalton, who was the Orioles' farm director when Baltimore signed Palmer nearly 30 years ago.

Palmer can go with the club of his choosing, Maas explained yesterday, because when the Orioles released him in 1985 he became a free agent.

* TV folks are good at making things look better than they are. If you saw Home Team Sports' replay Tuesday of the previous night's Loyola-Siena game, it looked as if 3,000-seat Reitz Arena was packed. In reality, the 1,416 spectators were all made to sit on the side opposite the cameras. It's a fairly common trick at games televised from half-empty arenas.

* The Giants' Jeff Hostetler did a heroic job in the playoffs and Super Bowl, but he's as unlikely looking a sports hero as the Dodgers' Orel Hershiser.

There were a lot of heroes for the Giants in the Super Bowl, of course, but I agree with former University of Maryland athlete Don Hillary. The best player on the field in Tampa was Buffalo's Thurman Thomas.

* One thing that keeps sports interesting is the unforeseen changes in some players, such as former Dunbar and Georgetown great Reggie Williams. Just when it looked as if it were time to give up on the well-traveled Williams (he had already been sent packing by the L.A. Clippers, who had drafted him No. 1, as well as Cleveland and San Antonio), Reggie blossomed this month in Denver. Nuggets coach Paul Westhead said of Williams: "His play has been, in a word, outstanding." Previously hapless Denver even has a four-game win streak.

Another basketball player who has turned around is Maryland's Garfield Smith. Early in the year Smith looked lackadaisical. Now he's on fire. He scored 16 points, including the last six, against American University Tuesday night, helping the Terps to avert an upset. Against North Carolina State last Saturday, Smith sealed the victory with two free throws. Gary Williams has worked coaching magic on this young man.

Incidentally, Maryland's upset of N.C. State was not as shocking as it may have seemed. State is 1-6 on the road. Its 104-72 loss at Virginia Tuesday was the school's worst since 1968. At home the Wolfpack is 9-0. Let's see how Maryland does against 'em in Raleigh Feb. 27.

* Paul Baker and Stan Charles have lined up a terrific guest for their "Hoops" show on WCAO Monday night at 10: Princeton coach Pete Carril. Basketball fans -- and coaches -- are endlessly fascinated by Petey's ability to compete against teams with far superior talent.

* Two things set the State of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame apart from similar organizations in other states. First, you have to be Maryland-born to get in. Secondly, our Hall of Fame elects athletes from all sports, which is why George Cusick, when he goes in Feb. 18, will become the fourth powerboat racer to be admitted. The others are Alton Pierson, Calvin Johnson and Don Christy.

Cusick, a 65-year-old Cambridge auto mechanic, won five American Powerboat Association national championships, five high point championships, and set seven world records between 1957 and 1970. Pierson, who entered the Hall in 1983, says of Cusick: "He was as good as I was." Tickets for the enshrinement luncheon at Martin's West are available from Hall of Fame executive secretary D. Chester O'Sullivan at 333-6315.

* Funny man Moe Drabowsky, one of the ex-Orioles who's in Sarasota, Fla., this week participating in the O's Fantasy Camp (for a record 105 campers), says of the difficulty of adjusting to life after baseball:

"It all depends on how big a star you were. If you were a big star, it's a tough adjustment. In my case it was no adjustment at all."

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