Eckersley a pitcher of perfection

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Opinion: Dennis Eckersley gets my Hall of Fame vote, first ballot, for a remarkable and truly singular career spanning five U.S. presidencies: 187 wins, 301 saves, a 20-win season in 1978, a no-hitter in 1977, AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner in 1992, ALCS MVP in 1988.

Fact: In the CFL's recent dispersal draft of players from the defunct Las Vegas Posse, the Ottawa Rough Riders selected a defensive end who died in an auto accident in 1994. The headline in the local paper read: "Rough Riders Draft a Real Stiff."

Opinion: Arthur Rhodes, who did a pretty good job of blaming Johnny Oates and Dick Bosman for his problems -- which have returned full force under Phil Regan and Mike Flanagan -- owes his former manager and pitching coach apologies.

Fact: The Ex-Orioles bullpen (Lee Smith, Jose Mesa, Jim Poole, Jose Bautista, John Habyan) has 17 saves and a 2.99 ERA. The current Orioles bullpen has five saves and a 4.50 ERA.

Opinion: Maybe I'm the only guy in town who feels this way, but if a rainout forces Cal Ripken Jr. to break Lou Gehrig's record in Cleveland, well, the sun will still come up the next day.

Fact: At a news conference announcing the development of the Albert Belle Bar, a new chocolate crunch candy bar, Belle was a no-show.

Opinion: Dennis Rodman's leather-and metal-wear Sports Illustrated cover? Just another swimsuit edition, sort of.

Fact: The Red Sox, Tigers and Mets are the only major-league teams showing increases at the gate. Overall, crowds are down 27 percent. (And ESPN ratings are down 32 percent.)

Opinion: Neither Timber Country nor Thunder Gulch will win the Belmont.

Fact (From "Herculean Feats, Vol. II"): Bernhard Langer has made 57 consecutive cuts on the European PGA Tour.

Opinion: You take the fast-starting Phillies, I'll still take the Braves in the NL East.

Fact: Thirty seasons ago, Sandy Koufax threw 27 complete games out of 41 starts. (Sid Fernandez has thrown 25 complete games in 10-plus years in the bigs.)

Opinion: It'll be the Red Wings over the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals. In six games.

Fact: Padres pitcher Joey Hamilton is 0-for-53 lifetime at the plate in the major leagues.

Opinion: All this debate about whether pro boxers should wear headgear is pointless, because, sadly, it'll never happen.

Fact: Nancy Kerrigan, Brian Boitano, Oksana Baiul, Viktor Petrenko and Elvis Stojko donated $125,000 to help build a day care center in Oklahoma City to replace the one destroyed in last month's bombing.

Opinion: The $9 million, three-year deal bringing noted AIDS researcher Dr. Robert Gallo to Baltimore will benefit the city a tad more than the $9 million, three-year deal that brought Fernandez to Baltimore.

Fact: Once again, the Orioles Advocates are going to collect baseball gear for distribution to underprivileged young ballplayers in the Dominican Republic. Bring your stuff to the ballpark on July 29.

Opinion: The Bullets need a point guard most of all, but none available in this year's draft is worth the fourth pick in the first round. They should trade the pick for a player and a lower pick, then draft Tyus Edney or Randolph Childress.

Fact: The Atlanta Braves' attendance is down 44 percent, according to the turnstile count.

Opinion: With no end in sight to negotiations between the NBA and its players' union, it appears certain that a cap on rookie salaries won't affect Joe Smith and the other underclassmen coming out early this year.

Fact: Nationwide, TV ratings for the Preakness were off 27 percent from a year ago.

Opinion: Shaquille O'Neal's drastically improved free-throw shooting in the playoffs has had a profoundly positive affect on the Magic. It alone has done much to solve the team's shaky confidence entering the playoffs.

Fact: The Cincinnati Bengals-to-Camden Yards rumor is just now making real news here in thrice-jilted Bawlmer, but there has been sky-is-falling, front-page panic in Cincy for weeks.

Opinion: The most pathetic thing I've heard in awhile is temporary Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr ripping the media for putting so much pressure on Gary Moeller that it drove him to resist arrest.

Fact: The French Open, beginning tomorrow, is the only Grand )) Slam event that Andre Agassi hasn't won.

Opinion: Thomas Muster, winner of 19 straight clay court finals since 1990, is the smart dark horse pick in the French.

Fact: When the Quebec Nordiques fan club staged a rally to try to keep the team from moving, only 300 people showed.

Opinion: Free-falling Andy Benes is 0-9 with a 5.05 ERA in his past 13 starts, but if the price is dropping and the Orioles can get him, they still should.

Fact: So, you get fined in the NBA for unannounced changes in your uniform number, but unannounced changes in your hair color are no problem at all.

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