Slowdown stinks for cyclists, too


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* A participant in the Tour Du Pont was telling the team manager after last Thursday's stage race that he noted this peculiar smell coming down a steep incline early in the event. Turns out it was the scent of brake on rubber as the field, upset at facing a 170-mile race after two rugged mountain climbs, was staging a slowdown. The racers averaged 19 miles an hour coming down off a mountain when they were expected to average at least twice that.

* Now that area fans have stopped yawning over the prospect of Washington joining the WLAF, in lieu of getting an expansion baseball team in the National League, these memories of the Washington Federals of the USFL: One decent-sized crowd, when George Allen came to town with the Chicago Fire, then galloping ennui.

* The story has been recounted so many times perhaps it's timeto set the facts straight once again. About 20 years ago, the Boston Bruins had been dumped from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the New York Rangers and the players all gathered at Bobby Orr's Branding Iron Restaurant for their annual breakup party.

Missing was Phil Esposito, who was lying in traction in Massachusetts General Hospital just a short ways from the watering hole. After a while, someone got the bright idea the team's top goal scorer should be present, so six of his mates took a trip up the street.

One player distracted the nurse on Espo's floor. Another commandeered the elevator. The others gathered up all the paraphernalia, complete with traction bars, and wheeled Espo out a side entrance. As the entourage moved up a well-traveled thoroughfare, Esposito gave the turn signals.

Even the regulars at the bar, all hockey fans, of course, couldn't believe their injured hero propped up and partaking of the food and drink. An hour later, a call came and Orr answered it in the kitchen. It was the hospital. Return the patient immediately and no questions would be asked. It was done.

A rider on the story is a year later, Orr went into the same hospital for an operation and he and the nurses set up a plan where his teammates couldn't come in and whisk him away, too. Sort of like the hospital scene in "The Godfather."

* It turns out the day Joe DiMaggio started his fabulous 56-game hitting streak, May 15, 1941, was the same day Dizzy Dean called it quits. "My arm is no good and I made up my mind I ought to make room for someone else who can do the Cubs some good. I don't know what I'm going to do." Shortly thereafter, baseball broadcasting changed drastically as Diz found his way to the booth.

Speaking of May 15, the day Queen Elizabeth II showed up on 33rd Street, the Wall Street Journal had a long story about the life and times of Orioles owner Eli Jacobs, including the hard economic times of a couple of his properties. Maybe a call to Donald Trump is in order, Eli.

* The way they let Hansel run off and hide, the guys calling the strategy for horses in the Preakness Saturday obviously took no heed of early speed holding up as Farma Way won the Pimlico Special the week before.

* To ease the pain of raising the ticket price of 2,100 seats closest to the ice in Madison Square Garden from $45 to $65, the Rangers are calling them "club" seats. Added privileges include a separate entrance, waiter service and outrageous prices in a members-only dining room.

* You can bet the U.S. Olympic Committee is holding its breath hoping governmental agencies don't come down hard on beer companies as sponsors, a la the cigarette companies. Budweiser just shipped $5 million the USOC's way after already sponsoring the national boxing, soccer and hockey teams.

* Just six of 20 players on the Minnesota North Stars' roster -- headed for inscription on the Stanley Cup -- started out in the organization, which marks them as being as bad at drafting junior talent and collegians as the Washington Capitals.

* Shocking! Maryland, which at one time ran out a track and field team the envy of many and that won the IC4-A championships a couple of times, didn't get so much as a point in the eastern title meet yesterday.

* It's hard to imagine the underdog Detroit Pistons giving it the old college try and going on to another NBA title when everyone in Motown sees a major housecleaning in the offing.

* It's a pretty good bet that the guy who sets up the PGA Tour schedule probably flunked geography a couple of times in school. The five tournaments (in order) leading up to the Kemper Open at Avenel in Potomac at the end of the month were/are North Carolina, Dallas, Atlanta, Ohio and Fort Worth.

* The third Chesapeake Rugby Sevens Classic goes all day Saturday at the University of Baltimore athletic complex on Rogers Avenue with about 25 teams signed up for the scrum . . . The next wrassling show in these parts is a WWF show at the Capital Centre June 2 featuring Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter up top.

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