With career taking off again, Shriver says 'all systems are go'


PAM SHRIVER was practicing at Bare Hills yesterday during a quick stop at home. She just spent six weeks in Australia and Japan in the first phase of her comeback after being sidelined nine months with shoulder surgery.

"I played three tournaments in Australia and one in Japan," Shriver said, "and, all things considered, it was a good start.

"I wanted to improve every week and I did that. I wanted to get some wins and I did that. The biggest was over Natalia Zvereva in Tokyo. The shoulder feels good. Now it's all systems go."

She goes next to Dallas for a TV tie-breaker shootout Saturday with Jennifer Capriati, Martina Navratilova and Zina Garrison. Then Shriver plays in Virginia Slims tournaments in Chicago and Oklahoma City.

In tennis the computer tells you precisely what a trip like Shriver's latest one does for your standing in the game. In those six weeks she went from No. 68 in the world to No. 42. A couple more trips like that and she'll really be back in business.

* Another comeback attempt, that of Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, is of great interest to hordes of people, Shriver among them. She's a friend of the former Orioles pitcher.

"I'm fascinated," Shriver said. "If Jim's old arm injuries have healed, why not go for it?"

Palmer's attempt to return to the major leagues at 45 -- six years after retiring, and one year after going to Cooperstown -- is the most interesting story of the baseball offseason. All those column inches about players signing megabucks contracts are boring by comparison.

Sports are entertainment, and if Palmer is willing to chance this -- and perhaps accomplish something that has never been done -- I'm prepared to root for him and enjoy the fun.

* If you need one pragmatic reason to justify Palmer's comeback, the huge contracts will do. This week Jack Morris, who had a losing record last year (15-18), signed a contract for $3 million for the coming season. Morris has options that could earn him $11 million over three years.

If you had Palmer's body and experience, wouldn't you take a shot at a few mill? Remember, 'Cakes never earned more than $800,000 in his career.

* Sugar Ray Leonard's return is another story. Leonard has made more comebacks than Frank Sinatra. Also, it's a lot riskier for a 34-year-old like Leonard in the ring than it is for a 45-year-old on the mound.

Judging by ticket sales for Leonard's fight with Terry Norris at Madison Square Garden Saturday, a lot of people are yawning at Leonard's comebacks.

Reports are they've sold only a few thousand tickets. The $350 for a ringside ticket may have something to do with that. Maybe Ray's first fight in the Garden should have been scheduled in that corner of the place known as the Felt Forum.

* Some Loyola College basketball followers are shaking their heads over the disappointing turnout of students for the Greyhounds' thrilling win at Towson State this week. There was so little noise from Loyola people, you'd have thought Rider was the visitor. The crowd-pleasing 'Hounds deserve better. Maybe they'll get it tonight when Canisius plays at Reitz Arena (7:30).

* Brian Kelly and Sean Heffernan, two lacrosse players who could play for anybody, will play this spring for Essex Community College.

Kelly, younger brother of former Johns Hopkins star Brendan Kelly, played for the Blue Jays last year. He left Hopkins voluntarily and is thinking of attending Washington College or Maryland after Essex. Heffernan, who set scoring records at Dulaney High, is looking at Syracuse. Meanwhile, watch Essex go in the JUCO league.

At Hopkins, first-year coach Tony Seaman has brought in two junior college All-America midfielders from Nassau Community College, Brendan Cody and Steve Coffey. Seaman, who has quickly gained the confidence of his players, makes his Hopkins debut when Princeton comes to Homewood March 2.

One of Seaman's new assistant coaches is former Hopkins defensive great Dave Pietramala. Petro, as lacrosse players refer to him, was voted the outstanding player in the World Games won by the United States in Australia last summer. He was chosen over Canada's Gait twins.

Pietramala plays for Pittsburgh in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League and recently broke his hand. He'll have surgery on it tomorrow, which ends his indoor season. He'll be back in six or eight weeks playing outdoors with the Mount Washington Club.

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