- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 30, 2008

Did you see it was only 201 feet down the left field line for last night’s Dodgers-Red Sox exhibition at L.A. Coliseum? Too bad Bill Veeck wasn’t running the show. He would have sent Eddie Gaedel up to pinch hit — and told him to swing away.

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A 201-foot home run … in major league baseball. Let’s hope this isn’t part of Bud Selig’s plan to rid the game of steroids.

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Then again, it might just be a reflection of how expensive land is in Southern California.

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To make it a little harder for hitters, there was a 60-foot net above the fence. Which gets me thinking: What would be more fun to watch, a Dodgers-Red Sox game with a 60-foot net, or a Federer-Sampras match with a 60-foot net?

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Historical note (from “The Home Run Encyclopedia”): “An unusual situation arose during the 1884 season. The Chicago National League club played its home games at Lake Park. The exact dimensions of the playing field are not known, but the distance down the right field line could not have been more than 215 feet, and the fence cut across at a right angle so that the distance to right-center was not too great. In addition, the fence was not very high.

“In previous years, any ball hit over the fence had been a double; however, in 1884 management decided to spice up the game and declared that balls hit over the fence would be homers. Both right- and left-handed batters on the team became adept at popping balls over the short fence. As a result, Chicago hit 142 home runs — 131 at their home park. … Ned Williamson [hit] 27. [His] mark was to remain the record for many years.

Until 1919, to be exact, when Babe Ruth swatted 29.

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Speaking of performance enhancers, the 15-day suspension given the Orioles’ Jay Gibbons has been put on hold. The owners and the players association are negotiating new drug rules and reportedly might give amnesty to players, like Gibbons, implicated in the Mitchell Report.

Then again, maybe they just looked at Jay’s numbers from last season — six homers and a .230 average in 270 at-bats — and decided he was being punished enough.

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Teddy Roosevelt has yet to win the Presidents Race at the Nationals game, but that may be about to change. In fact, I hear he’s mentioned in Jose Canseco’s latest book.

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What a weird week in baseball. Aside from all this other stuff, a negative of a photo was put up for sale on eBay — a 1963 photo of Willie Mays down to the, uh, bare essentials. Price: $24,999.99.

“That’s right,” the listing read, “Mays is pictured completely NUDE from the waste [sic] down. This is the first and only time a photo of Mays like this has been offered to collectors. This photo was taken before Mays received a shot from the team physician during the Giants spring training on February 25, 1963.”

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Number of the Week: 3. (How many major colleges will have synchronized swimming as a varsity sport after Alabama-Birmingham axes the program this year.)

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This raises the question: If a school drops synchronized swimming and no one hears it, does it make a splash?

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In case you were wondering, the three Synchronized Survivors are Stanford, Ohio State and — drum roll, please — Canisius.

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Little-known fact: 24 of the Buckeyes’ 57 national championships have come in synchronized swimming.

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Eat your heart out, Jim Tressel.

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Just a reminder: The NCAA Division I hockey championships are coming to Verizon Center next year. If my team won the Frozen Four, I’d have T-shirts made up that said, “We Came, We Thawed, We Conquered.”

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The Cowboys have apparently sweetened their offer for Pacman Jones. In addition to sending the Titans a seventh-round draft pick, they’re now willing to throw in a bag of $1 bills.

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If you haven’t already, check out Sports Illustrated’s Vault — the new free archive of SI stories going back to the beginning of time (1954).

You can search for anybody (e.g. writer W.C. Heinz) or anything (e.g. the dropkick) or just page through a particular issue. However you avail yourself of the Vault, though, be careful: It’s addictive.

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My friend Robert, the Virginia Tech zealot, sent along a classic SI piece about the Hokies winning the 1973 NIT (back when it meant something). The magazine’s correspondent, Pat Putnam, was thoroughly enamored of Tech’s cheerleaders, “all of them bearing some resemblance to Raquel Welch,” he reported.

“[For the first game they] showed up in orange knee-length high-heel boots, supertight body shirts and white hot pants.

“ ’I’ve just become a Gobbler fan,’ said the 3,462 non-Virginia spectators. By the time the team took the floor, the [Madison Square] Garden crowd was almost all pro-Gobbler.”

One more snippet: “One point down [in the semifinals], the Gobblers’ cheerleaders were doing their version of the turkey trot. It would be hard to fault Alabama’s Ray Odums for fouling under the circumstances.

But he did, giving the ball to Tech, which gave it to Ed Frazier, who hit a jumper from the key. Then Bobby Stevens made a pair of free throws, and Virginia Tech [had enough points to win].”

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The story is written with great humor — much of it supplied by the highly quotable Tech players. How quotable? Well, junior forward Craig Lieder explained the victory over Alabama thusly: “We had to win it. The consolation game is at 11 a.m., and nobody wanted to get up that early.”

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Thirty-five years later, the Hokies’/Gobblers’ NIT title is still hard to fathom. They won their four games by scores of 65-63 (over New Mexico), 77-76 (Fairfield), 74-73 (Alabama) and — in overtime — 92-91 (Notre Dame).

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Funny story out of Wausau, Wis. A kid was upset that some friends got suspended from high school sports “because of pictures showing them drinking [beer, it was assumed] from red cups,” according to the Associated Press. So he held a “kegger,” complete with red cups, and attracted such a crowd that police came and gave 90 breath tests. Alas, the poor cops had been punk’d. All that was consumed at the party was a quarter-barrel of 1919 Classic American Draft Root Beer.

Which reminds me of what my mother always said: “Better 1919 than 20-20.”

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And finally …

News item: The FBI is examining a parachute found buried in Washington state to determine whether it might have been the one D.B. Cooper, the legendary plane hijacker, used to escape.

Comment: Of course, it could just as easily be the parachute Evel Knievel used when he tried to jump the Snake River Canyon — and missed.

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