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One of the features of the Washington Capitals' home game against Vancouver last Friday was defenseman Al Iafrate's hat trick of penalties (cross-checking, interference, holding) followed by a game misconduct and ejection. And then he ended up being named the No. 1 star of the 3-3 tie. The Caps, 3-3-3 the last three weeks (talk about a rut), host the North Stars tonight.
* Andrew Maynard is a solid 8-to-5 favorite in his NABF light-heavyweight title bout against former Olympic gold medalist Frank Tate in the Paramount at Madison Square Garden Friday. The Laurel banger is 18-1 with 17 KOs. IBF 168-pound champ Darrin Van Horn (47-2) and Iran Barkley (27-7) top the TVKO (pay-per-view) show.
* There was a time when a guy with a record like Kirk McCaskill's (10-19 with a 4.26 ERA) wouldn't have drawn much more than a yawn in baseball's free-agent market. But the guy does innings and how many of them are there around these days?
* After a decade of watching Big East basketball, let's call it by a vTC more appropriate handle: The Big Ugly. Weak preseason schedules, John Thompson's towel, six fouls, Rollie Massimino's sideline histrionics, the investigations of wimpy Jim Boeheim's program at Syracuse, Lou Carnesecca's grotesque sweaters, all teams playing those ugly, hammer-away pressure defenses that lead to too much contact, too many fouls and fights and no tempo.
* Bobby Bonilla and Danny Tartabull, move over! Milan (Italy) jusshelled out $25 million for Dejan Savicevic, midfielder from Yugoslavia. The player will get $12 million for agreeing to move from his Belgrade team, plus $1 million a year salary.
* Stats to make struggling individuals and teams everywhere feel better: Tim Hardaway of the Golden State Warriors shot 0-for-17 during a recent game . . . The New Jersey Devils are 1-15-7 in their last 23 road games against Patrick Division opponents.
* Will someone please explain the reasoning behind college basketball teams going everywhere but the three outer planets in our solar system for holiday games when 70 percent of NCAA Division I athletic programs are said to be operating in the red? It can't be a simple recruiting gimmick, can it?
* The fact Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys lugged the ball an incredible 365 times while leading the NFL in rushing with 1,563 yards reminds of a couple of remarks former Southern Cal coach John McKay made back in the days when O.J. Simpson was handed the ball 35 times per game: "Why not give him the ball? It's not heavy ... besides, he's not in a union."
* The question is, just how much will the quality of life around here be enriched when the city and environs pour more than $1 million into the coffers of successful NFL franchises Miami and New Orleans as the result of a dull, hot exhibition game next August?
* Saddam Hussein (remember him?) has ordered up a 150,000-seat soccer stadium for Baghdad. Watch out, Baltimore, Charlotte, St. Louis, Memphis and all you other cities bidding for an NFL franchise.
* It's unfortunate "The Chief," Robert Parish, doesn't deem to speak more for publication. Of the Detroit Pistons, the inscrutable center of the Boston Celtics says, "I hate all of them except Joe Dumars. He's the only one on the team that seems human."
* George Steinbrenner keeps telling the New York papers thaeveryone he meets, "people on the street, cab drivers, bartenders, the media," wants him back running the Yankees. Thing is "Boss" spends most of his time in Florida and, when he's in Gotham, how much time do you think he spends hobnobbing with people on the street?
* No wonder the FBI is checking out the NHL Players Associatioand its financial practices, particularly those concerning the pension fund. Gordie Howe, after 26 seasons, draws $19,000 a year. Andy Bathgate, 17 seasons, gets $10,000. "It was set up to be a lot better than that," says Howe.
* Is it believable there wasn't a single no-show in the monsoon at the Redskins-Falcons game the other day when 1,545 were counted missing at the Lions-Cowboys game inside the Silverdome in Pontiac?
* Numbers: The NFC won the season series with the AFC, 33-19, only the fifth time the old guard has done so since 1969 . . . It borders on criminal that Dan Marino of the Dolphins has been in just one playoff the last six years . . . The Yankees have been 62 games under .500 the last three years . . . Two passers in NFL history have a 60 percent completion rate after throwing the ball at least 1,500 times: Joe Montana and Jim Kelly.