Italy is better team when it's a man down


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If Azeglio Vicini, coach of Italy's World Cup team, doesn't start 10 players against Spain Saturday at Foxboro, keeping his 11th man as a hole card, he should be deprived of his glass of red wine with meals for a year. Clearly, a man down is when La Squadra Azzurra (the Blues) are at their best. That's the coaching tip for this week.

* As proud a moment as Baltimore has ever had in the sports realm was the World Series sweep of the Dodgers in 1966. Remember any of the details? Dem Boids won the last three games with shutouts, the last two being 1-nil, after giving up two runs in the opener. Sound like World Cup soccer? And not one peep was heard about a lack of scoring.

* Half the starting pitchers for yesterday's slate of American League games entered with a combined record of 15-29, three of them being winless. And half a season has gone by? The National League had a half dozen flingers (an apt description) going and their combined mark was 12-22.

* More unsolicited advice: Hey, Jim Speros (owner of the Baltimore CFL Fillies), stop wasting your dough chasing a silly nickname. The name won't put one extra derriere in the Memorial Stadium pews.

* Just think, gang, if there's a baseball strike as expected sometime next month, fans can switch interest to the playoffs of World Team Tennis, which gets under way this week.

* The Washington Warthogs, second from the bottom in the Continental Indoor Soccer League with a 1-4 record, is about to adopt the old Brooklyn lament, "Wait'll next year."

* Pretty much lost in the diamond-hoop-pitch-links blitz of the last couple of weeks is the fact the Washington Capitals extended coach Jim Schoenfeld an extra year (through 1996-97) "as a reward for a job well done," said general manager David Poile. Was there something special about the Caps' 38-34-12 regular season and 5-6 record in the playoffs?

* The next reporter who writes a "U.S. soccer team proved it could play" story should be made to kick a ball from Bar Harbor, Maine, to San Diego. These guys have been competitive with everybody but the top eight teams for at least two years.

* Now that everyone stateside has had Canadian Football League explained to them in minutest detail, perhaps an explanation of what goes on in the NFL is in order. You don't think folks paying big bucks for tickets and those snoozing in front of the telly at home really understand the pro game, do you?

* This week's nominee for the "What's the Rush?" Award is the USA Today epic headlined "Draft in '95 looks thin for expansion teams." That's pro football, boys and girls, and its draft is more than nine months away, well after the upcoming college season has been played.

* In just a couple of years, the Celebrity Golf Association (former announcer Jim Karvellas' baby) has septupled its size and the victors in eight of the last 10 events have been under par on some of the toughest courses around. Rick Rhoden & Co. gets network (NBC) coverage of its Isuza Celebrity Golf Championship from Lake Tahoe this weekend.

* No fewer than 160 high school underclassmen hoop hot shots are attending the ABCD Camp in New Jersey this week, every one of them paying transportation costs, including a dozen from overseas, and absolutely no free equipment is available to the kids. Right. And how are they going to make up the summer school time and work they're missing?

* You can only hope that when they gather for the Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Awards telecast (ABC) next Monday, one of the presenters, Dennis Hopper, the man with the shoe fetish ("Wow, that's Junior Seau's footprint") on the Nike ads, lets it go a little bit.

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