CHAIRMAN FRANK Sliwka has been assured by the Oakland A's that pitcher Dave Stewart, who will represent them here tomorrow night at the 38th Tops in Sports banquet at the Towson Center, is a top gentleman and citizen.
Sliwka found the last Oakland player invited to the affair -- Jose Canseco -- to be neither of those things. Canseco failed to show up in Baltimore three years ago to receive the coveted Babe Ruth Crown. To this day he has never called to explain his absence.
"Dave Stewart is a good guy," says Sliwka, who still boils at the mention of Canseco. "The Oakland people didn't have to tell anybody about Dave Stewart. Everybody knows by now of the things he's done in his community.
"The Oakland people also told me Canseco is a changed guy, that he'd never do anything now like he did to us. The day after they told me that I saw in the paper where Canseco is being sued because he won't pay $4,800 he owes to a condominium association where he lives in Florida. Can you imagine? A guy with a $25 million contract who won't pay his $4,800?"
Sliwka delights in the fact that the great Canseco's batting average for 13 career World Series games is .156.
This year's Babe Ruth Crown winner, Cecil Fielder, can hardly be jaded from the banquet circuit. A year ago he was headed to Detroit from Japan, wondering if he'd be able to hit big-league pitching. He did -- 51 home runs worth, leading the majors. He hit No. 50 and No. 51 in the final game of the '90 season. He also led the majors in RBIs with 132 and total bases with 339.
In addition to Fielder and Stewart, numerous other big baseball names will grace Sliwka's head table including Willie Stargell, Oriole Dave Johnson and all three Ripkens -- Cal Sr., Cal Jr., and Bill.
Co-winners of the Maryland Star of the Future Award are Baltimore native and lefthanded pitcher Mike Linskey, now on the Orioles' 40-man roster, and Denny Neagle, from Gambrills, ,, Md., now a pitcher in the Minnesota farm system.
Another honored guest will be 12-year-old Ryan Bolesta, of Arbutus, a patient at the pediatric oncology unit at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, which shares in proceeds of the banquet. The emcee is Sparrows Point High grad and former Met Ron Swoboda. The speaker is ex-Washington Senator Ellis Clary.
For last-minute ticket information, call 321-5772 or 242-3552.
* Neither the ice hockey nor the indoor soccer folks appreciated the recent mention here that the Baltimore Thunder, of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League, outdraws both.
There have been cries of cheap shot and foul play, citing the Thunder's more desirable dates at the Arena, and the fact the lacrosse team (which is 0-2) has only five home games, plus playoffs. None of that changed the basic premise. Indoor lacrosse averages 10,000 here, more than the Blast and the Skipjacks draw. The Thunder's next game at the Arena will be Jan. 19 against New England.
* Speaking of lacrosse, Frank "Whizzer" White, who played at St. Paul's and Johns Hopkins in the '50s, has been a Pan-Am pilot all these years, flying principally in Europe. He writes: "I'm still flying, mostly to fun places, Rio this Saturday, but not so long ago I flew a group of the 101st Airborne to Saudi Arabia. They all carried guns. Pieces, they called them."
In all the years of covering college basketball in this state I've met some of the greatest guys I've ever known, coaches such as Lefty Reitz, Bud Millikan, Ben Carnevale, Dave Smalley, Nap Doherty, Vince Angotti, Marse Hill, Tom Finnegan, etc. None was a better man than Mount St. Mary's Jim Phelan, who will coach his 1,000th game tonight against Wagner at the Mount. Ol' Bowtie has never changed.