Collectors: Be a star, have a ball


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Hey, collectors and just plain rabid Orioles fans, here's a deal you cannot refuse: Nikco Sports, the people who provide the Rawlings baseballs for the Grand Old Game, just delivered about 75 dozen balls for next week's All-Star Game at OPACY. But it made 12,000 of them, featuring black and orange stiching and the Orioles logo, and they can be scooped up with a display cube for $20. In case anyone asks you, special balls have been prepared for the World Series and All-Star Games since 1978.

* To give you some idea of what Georgetown thinks about a proposed basketball game between it and Maryland, check out the remark of Hoyas AD Frank Rienzo: "If someone came forward to sponsor a game this coming season, then I'd call it very possible." Why would an assured sellout require a sponsor, especially since G'town draws few fans for games against the pre-conference cupcakes it plays, and hasn't been packing them in against Big East foes either. Flash! The plain fact is John Thompson doesn't want to play the Terps . . . ever.

* When Dallas clobbered Washington in a big game last season, no one on the Redskins side would even hint what went wrong on a Cowboys touchdown play at the end of the half that turned the game around. No sooner was Wilber Marshall declared a Houston Oiler the other day when a Skins official declared, "People think Wilber made a great play at the end of the half when he almost sacked Troy Aikman, but he wasn't even supposed to be blitzing. He was supposed to be covering Jay Novacek [who made the touchdown reception]." Better late than never we learn such things.

* Apparently, Lennox Lewis has won the Tommy Morrison derby in competition with Riddick Bowe. The World Boxing Council champ and Morrison are expected to sign to fight in November. (( Strangely (snicker) and even after beating No. 6 George Foreman, Tommy doesn't even show up on the International Boxing Federation list of top 10 heavyweights because, of course, Bowe owns the IBF version of the title. And Bowe doesn't appear in the WBC ratings. Michael Moorer is rated the No. 1 contender by the IBF and Bowe has a mandatory defense due, but don't hold your breath.

* With each passing day, look for more and more stories about the prospect of the old ball yard up on 161st Street and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, New York, passing into history. Despite the grand and glorious history of Yankee Stadium, it would seem virtually impossible to stick with a place and a neighborhood that even the rats avoid. The Yanks are having a fine year, but aren't drawing (23,700 average) except for afternoon games.

* It's not an empty gesture the New York City Marathon has made -- offering a $100,000 bonus to an American winner, male or female -- but it comes close. While it's conceivable a U.S. woman might be able to pull it off, American men have all they can do to finish in the top 15.

* The flap over the State Department refusing to issue visas to Libyan athletes desiring to compete in the World University Games in Buffalo this week recalls a similar incident prior to the Pan American Games in Indianapolis in 1987. State turned thumbs-down on a Chilean target shooter who had a very interesting practice schedule: His day job was as a death-squad member and unconfirmed reports at the time said he was expert at his craft. The United States has an embargo on Libyans as the country has been known to be in the business of training #F terrorists.

* Heck, if they can play a four-overtime game in hockey (ending at 1:55 on an Easter Sunday morn), as the Washington Capitals (( and New York Islanders did a few years back, what's wrong with starting the second game of a doubleheader at 1:28 a.m., as they did in Philadelphia last week?

* You have to admit those folks at Nike are all heart. It seems the shoe company is sponsoring a big hoops festival for high school blue-chippers this week, with some of the action taped for later showing on ESPN. Trouble is, one of the kids, Allen Iverson of Hampton, Va., got himself in a jam and is due in court Friday on three felony charges of malicious wounding by mob.

So Nike's going to fly the kid to Virginia from Indianapolis tomorrow and back to the Hoosier Dome after the court appearance Friday so he can take part in an all-star game. While one company spokesman was saying, "Nike is not sending a message that basketball is more important than real life," another added, "I don't think a kid getting into trouble for the first time should be penalized." The charges against Iverson are punishable by up to five to 20 years in prison, which begs the question, what message is Nike sending?

* Sometimes, you read about all the skulduggery that goes on in soccer and it serves as a pretty good reason why it's no drawback that the game never has made it big here. Forget all the rioting and bloodshed for a minute; each year the game seems to produce a big bribery or game-fixing scandal similar to the one currently going on in France. And this one's not small potatoes -- it involves the European champion team from Marseille.

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