Next on Cal's long-playing record? Kinugasa

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Fact: Cal Ripken is 62 games shy of retired Hiroshima Carp third baseman Sachio Kinugasa's world record of 2,215 consecutive games played. Barring rainouts, injuries and work stoppages, Ripken would tie the record on June 12 at Detroit and break it on June 13 at Kansas City.

Opinion: My Final Four prediction (clip 'n' save): Kansas, Kentucky, Arizona, UConn.

Fact: Says sports agent Jack Sands: "I have represented over 300 players in the last 25 years, people like Ozzie Smith and Carlton Fisk and Dwight Evans, extraordinarily fine people on and off the field. And Harold Baines is the best client I have represented."

Opinion: A bright idea from fellow scribe Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register: If a football player takes off his helmet to jaw at the crowd after scoring a touchdown, he should have to play the rest of the game without it.

Fact: Even with 32 straight home wins spanning three seasons, Fang Mitchell's Coppin State Eagles are still almost 100 wins shy of the all-time longest home winning streak of 129, set by Kentucky from 1943 to 1955.

Opinion: Fiesta Bowl prediction: Nebraska 27, Florida 21.

Fact: The Tigers owe Cecil Fielder $14.4 million over the next two years.

Opinion: The New Jersey Nets cemented their position as the dumbest franchise in sports when they traded for Shawn Bradley, a confirmed bust with a $44 million contract.

Fact: The Orioles are 13 games under .500 (1,070-1,083) over the course of Ripken's streak.

Opinion: The Yankees are foolish to expect much help from Dwight Gooden, who, drug problems aside, has a 25-32 record since his rotator cuff surgery in 1991.

Fact: Tino Martinez, whom the Yankees gave a $20.25 million contract to last week, was a career .254 hitter until this season. Remember that.

Opinion: Joe Smith, averaging 12.3 points and 6.1 rebounds, is holding up better in the NBA than I (or just about anyone else) thought he would.

Fact: Says Marge Schott: "If I had known Sparky Anderson would be available, I would never have agreed to Ray Knight."

Opinion: What a super boss.

Fact: With North Carolina's football team finishing at 6-5, Maryland coach Mark Duffner, in four years at College Park, has now beaten two teams that finished with winning records.

Opinion: Local college basketball rankings: Towson State, Coppin State, Loyola, Morgan State, UMBC.

Fact: The NCAA has approved a new bowl game, the Haka Bowl, to be played in New Zealand starting next year.

Opinion: The return of the real NBA refs will improve the game immeasurably, but the presence of the scab refs didn't change the outcome of any games.

Fact: NFL teams that went for it on fourth down had converted only 50.5 percent of the time (104 out of 206) before yesterday's games.

Opinion: No NBA team is in poorer long-range shape than the Boston Celtics.

Fact: The Miami Heat agreed to buy Pat Riley's houses in California and New York and pay him a $300 daily stipend above his $3 million annual salary.

Opinion: Comcast's decision to switch Home Team Sports to basic cable is that rarest of items in the modern sports world: a break for the consumer.

Fact: My Heisman ballot read as follows: 1) Tommie Frazier, 2) Eddie George, 3) Danny Wuerffel.

Opinion: Allen Iverson is going to be a star in the NBA, but he is out of control at Georgetown.

Fact: On the night Roy Tarpley was "permanently banned" from the NBA for the second time, his agent said he would be back in the league someday.

Opinion: I like my expansion teams a lot lousier than the Carolina Panthers and Toronto Raptors.

Fact: The Bullets' attendance is down 15 percent from a year ago.

Opinion: Part of me admires the city of Houston's response to the Oilers' threats to leave town: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Fact: No fewer than nine former San Francisco 49ers assistants are now NFL head coaches (Dennis Green, Mike Holmgren, Sam Wyche, Ray Rhodes, Mike Shanahan, Rich Brooks, Jeff Fisher, Mike White and George Seifert).

Opinion: It is going to take a long time to get used to covering University of Maryland sporting events without seeing their late publicist, Joe Blair.

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