Could 1889 offer a strike solution?

THE BALTIMORE SUN

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It was back in '89 -- 1889, that is -- that baseball players planned to walk out on the Fourth of July when contract negotiations with team owners arrived at loggerheads. A threat by the Boston owner to recruit strikebreakers (a.k.a. replacement players) prompted the players to bag the strike. Would that the same thing happens prior to the present openers in April.

* Did anybody notice that while what would have been Babe Ruth's 100th birthday was being celebrated Monday, the other great all-time home run hitter, Hank Aaron, observed his 61st the day before?

Still on the Bambino, one of the biggest surprises or drawbacks of Ken Burns' "Baseball" special was he never came up with a shot of Ruth doing something or other in Wrigley Field the day of the "called shot."

* Bet it surprised you to learn that they keep individual records for the Pro Bowl. No matter what else he accomplishes in his career, Marshall Faulk will never have it as easy as he did last Sunday when he rushed for 180 yards (in just 13 carries) as the AFC was crunching the NFC, 41-13. Uh, does that make up for 11 straight years of Super Bowl losses?

* USA Today, which does a fine job covering high school sports across the land, makes a big mistake running a "Top Performances" feature each week. It overly glorifies individual feats in team games and you know coaches are letting the tallies run up in blowout games for some cheap publicity.

* Washington Bullets general manager John Nash says: "We're due for some good fortune, we're hungry and we're better than our performances in November, December and January," while touting the team's chances of making the playoffs. Which certainly qualifies as optimism above and beyond the call of duty for an 11-32 club running dead last in the 14-team Eastern Conference.

* Tomorrow's the 55th anniversary of the return to racing after a year's absence by the grand old nag Seabiscuit. Horse of the Year in 1937 and 1938, 'Biscuit was taken out of competition in 1939, but came back and ultimately finished off his career with a victory in the Santa Anita Handicap. His victory over War Admiral in the Pimlico Special was the ultimate match race.

* You have to wonder about the management of the New Jersey Nets if it's petitioning the NBA for a change of nickname in hope of turning around the woeful franchise. The team has been the Nets going back to its ABA days in the early '70s and a switch to "Fire Dragons" doesn't figure to provide magical powers. Besides, "Swamp Rats" would be far more appropriate.

* The city of San Francisco, which hosts the Super Bowl in 1999, is willing to change the name of Candlestick Park for a while to satisfy a commercial bidder. Remembering what the 'Stick looks like in January, a firm that corrects wet-basement problems would be a natural.

* Seeing as how Navy was inviting engineering schools to its "Crab Pot" hockey tournament in Annapolis last weekend (MIT, Worcester Tech and Lehigh competed), how come Rensselaer didn't get a call? The Mids beat Tech in the final.

* Good guy Bob Weiss, who has spent a generation as a player, coach and assistant coach in the NBA, told the New York Post: "[All-time assist leader] John Stockton's great, but the most exciting passer I've ever seen is Ernie DiGregorio. I don't know if I could call him the best, but for sheer entertainment, no one could touch him. He could back-door you from 40 feet away with a behind-the-back pass."

* A total of 14 Basketball Hall of Fame players have gone on to coach in the NBA with Billy Cunningham running up the best record: 454-196 and a win percentage of .698. K. C. Jones and Tommy Heinsohn also had .600-plus records while Wes Unseld finishes last (.369) with those awful Bullets teams of the last few years (202-345).

* Despite their stuttering start in what constitutes an NHL season this year, the Washington Caps can rest easy with recent word that The Hockey News deems them the top organization, talent-wise, among the league's 26 teams. "We can promote from within instead of having to make a trade," said general manager David Poile after swapping for defenseman Mark Tinordi.

* With all their success on the hardwood dating back decades, wouldn't you think some of the boys on Dunbar High's team would spend some time providing some pointers for the girls team? The Poettes got nipped by Northwestern, 96-22, the other day and are accustomed to being beat by 50 points.

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