Take your bows, Oriole Park hero, but hear boos, too

Phil Jackman

May 26, 1993|By Phil Jackman

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The central theme of the new book "Ballpark: Camden Yards and the Building of an American Dream" seems to be who among a half-dozen candidates deserves most of the credit for the creation of Oriole Park?

Once that is settled, perhaps the appropriate party will then step forward to accept "credit" for (1) the seats in left field that offer an excellent view of right-center, (2) the original Texas-sized dugouts that had to be scaled down, (3) those obstructed-view seats caused by railings and overhangs and (4) the seats down the right-field line where fans take it on blind faith that the O's are employing a right fielder.

* How fitting that on Preakness Day, just about a half-hour before the big race went off at Pimlico, the 16-year-old mare Genuine Risk gave birth to her first foal in Kentucky. The initial report from the attending physician was, "Genuine Risk is in excellent shape and is proving to be an excellent and attentive mother."

It's not often a non-horseman gets any true feel for one of these spectacular animals, but that just happened to be the case here when Genuine Risk hit Old Hilltop after winning the Kentucky Derby 13 years ago. She was going to add the second leg of the Triple Crown, too, when she made her move and assumed command as they headed down the stretch.

Alongside was Codex with Angel Cordero aboard and out came Angel's whip. Whack, right across Risk's chest he placed it, and you could see and feel some of the competitiveness go out of the poor filly. What was this, the World Wrestling Federation?

The flagrant foul was never put right, a board of inquiry taking the easy way out and determining that evidence wasn't sufficient to overturn the ultimate result of the Preakness. But at least one eyewitness, a jockey and the horse herself know

better.

* This being pro hoops playoff time reminds of a story Charlie Eckman tells about his days coaching in the NBA. Charlie's big gun on the Fort Wayne Pistons of the mid-'50s was a gangly, bald guy named George Yardley, who wore knee braces but still was able to become the first player to score more than 2,000 points in a season.

"We're on a plane flying somewhere," Eckman recalls, "and I'm sitting up in the back with owner Fred Zollner and his girlfriend, Mary. Fred's telling me I gotta bench Yardley because Mary thinks he's unappealing and doesn't even look like an athlete. You can't imagine some of the stuff I had to listen to.

"Anyway, the coach before me didn't use Yardley much and as soon as I got the job I told George, 'You're my man.' The guy could jump out of the gym and score just about any time he wanted. He made me as a coach, so, naturally, I didn't take Mary's advice. Probably ended up costing me my job, too."

* Where, oh where, would the Camden Yards Nine be had Mark McLemore gone the way of Joe Orsulak, Randy Milligan and Bill Ripken when they were banished with no recompense? Instead, Mac re-signed as a free agent, went to spring training on a look-see basis and is only the best player on Russell Street these days.

* The folks running the World Cup show here next year certainly don't figure to make any friends for soccer, considering less than 10 percent of the available tickets for RFK Stadium will be available to the general public when the sale begins next month.

* One of the standard lines when a bunch of ex-fighters get together to break bread is, "Somebody better not ring a bell around here or all hell will break loose." On hand for the Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canastota, N.Y., June 10-13 will be Joe Frazier, Carmen Basilio, Gene Fullmer and two dozen other former bombers who, upon hearing a gong, could probably level the town and most of the surrounding area.

* It appears that in his obsessive quest to win Wimbledon the last few years, the all-court game of Ivan Lendl has slipped noticeably, especially when it comes to playing on Europe's slow clay. Time was when Lendl could match anyone but Bjorn Borg on the stuff, but with yesterday's loss to unknown Frenchman Stephane Huet in Paris, the 33-year-old Lendl now shows first-round losses in both the French and Italian opens.

* Washington Bullets fans have to be tremendously enthused with owner Abe Pollin's promise, "We're going to do whatever it takes to make this a competitive winning team the city can be proud of." Uh, Abe, what has been the charge you have given to the organization lo these many years the team has been #F dreadful? Maintain the status quo?

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