BASEBALL continues to provide fans with great plays and exciting games. It also produces some pretty interesting verbal offerings.
* Jim Murray on the 1980 Mets: "The only difference between the Mets and the Titanic is that the Mets have a better organist."
ZTC * Comedian Don McMillan, after the Atlanta Braves signed pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz to contracts totaling $64.5 million: "That's more than the Clinton administration is going to spend on arms."
* Florida Marlins manager Rene Lachemann upon meeting the team's mascot: "I didn't know you were going to be that ugly. That's all right. I ain't no oil painting myself."
* Detroit Free Press columnist Rob Parker on the slow pace of major-league baseball games: "Some games last so long that your 8-year-old son could return home with five o'clock shadow."
* Jon Miller, Baltimore Orioles and ESPN play-by-play announcer, recounting remarks at a banquet: "I was paid a great compliment by Bobby Bragan. He said, 'Since Jon Miller has been on ESPN he has sold a lot of TVs -- and I know what I'm talking about because I sold mine.'"
* Bill Tammeus, Kansas City Star columnist: "The worst part about moving the clocks back is that it delays the start of spring training by an hour."
* Former Florida Marlins knuckleballer Charlie Hough -- who in 1994 became the second-oldest player (at 46) to throw a shut
out --was asked to describe his last fastball:
Friend: "Miles per hour?"
Charlie: "No, that was the year."
* Bob Uecker on catching Phil Niekro's knuckleball: "It was great. I got to meet a lot of important people. They sit behind home plate."
* Slim-Fast commercial veteran Tommy Lasorda (also Dodgers manager) on how he feels whenever he passes a scale: "Just like a vampire when he sees a crucifix."
* The St. Louis Cardinals recently fired manager Joe Torre: "If a manager doesn't do a good job, he's fired. If a player doesn't do a good job, he goes to the minor leagues. If an umpire doesn't do a good job, he goes to the next city."
* Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle columnist, commenting on Joe DiMaggio's 79th birthday: "His arthritis is now so severe he probably couldn't hit more than 25 homers a season."
* Montreal Expos player and devout Christian Tim Burke on the compatibility of baseball and religion: "If Jesus were on the field, he'd be pitching inside and breaking up double plays."
* Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Larry Andersen (now a pitcher-coach in the Phillies' minor-league system) once put a positive spin on his .132 career batting average: "I figure I'm 5-for-11, which is .363. I have five hits -- in 11 seasons."
* Orioles' public address announcer Rex Barney and catcher Roy Campanella kidding each other:
Rex: "Roy, what did you hit in the Negro Leagues?"
Roy: "I hit .365."
Rex: "How do you know you hit .365?"
Roy: "We all did; we kept our own records."
* Yogi Berra, upon being asked by a waitress if he wanted French fries: "OK, but no potatoes; I'm on a diet."
* Recently released California Angels left-hander Frank Tanana regarding his evolution as a pitcher: "In the '70s I threw in the 90s; in the '90s I throw in the 70s."
* Former Oriole Don Baylor (now Colorado Rockies manager), recalling some wisdom from former Orioles manager Earl Weaver: "He always said if you feel like you're going to hit into a double play, strike out."
* Lefty Gomez, about his pitching: "When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, he found six baseballs that Jimmy Foxx hit off me in 1937."
* Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson on why he doesn't carry a briefcase to the ballpark: "Me carrying a briefcase is like a hog wearing earrings."
* Bernie Lincicome, Chicago Tribune columnist, on America's pastime: "Baseball is the blessed silence that comes between Dick Vitale and John Madden."
* Comedian Jay Leno takes a shot at his home team: "Hillary Clinton will throw the first ball out at a Chicago Cubs game. Here in L.A. finding a celebrity to throw out the first ball is not a problem. The hard part is finding a Dodger who can catch it."
Martin D. Tullai writes from Lutherville.