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Baseball Views Several Ideas For Expansion

Associated Press

Despite Pathfinder’s explorations on Mars, there won’t be any baseball on the Red Planet next season. That doesn’t mean you won’t have a hard time locating your favorite team, though.

Baseball’s expansion committee is discussing three or four alternatives for realignment beginning in 1998.

One involves having the new Tampa Bay Devil Rays - tentatively headed to the A.L. West to begin play next season - in the A.L. East and Detroit moving from the East to the A.L. Central. Kansas City would jump to the N.L. Central, pushing Houston to the N.L. West.

Other realignment blueprints are a bit more radical.

“Our proposals go from switching two teams to switching 14 teams,” said Red Sox CEO John Harrington, committee chairman. “We are trying to maximize geographical alignment so you can really have geographical rivalries that enhance media ratings, ticket sales and minimize travel.”

Also being considered is a proposal that would place 16 teams in one league, 14 in the other. In that scenario, Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Oakland, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco may be grouped in a “Pacific” Division.

Among other possibilities:

Montreal, Toronto and Detroit could be grouped together in a “Northern” Division.

Houston and Texas could be placed in the same division.

Florida and Tampa Bay could be placed in the same division.

The 10-man committee, which met in Cleveland last Tuesday, will meet again in the next 10 days before finalizing a proposal by Aug. 1, the deadline for presenting the schedule to the players association.

All-Star switch reported

The All-Star game for the year 2001 would be held in the Milwaukee Brewers’ new ballpark under a date-trading agreement with the Boston Red Sox, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The Brewers were originally awarded the game for 1999. Their replacement for Milwaukee County Stadium will not be ready in time, however, leading to talks about an exchange with Boston, scheduled to have the game in 2001.

Red Sox spokesman Kevin Shea declined Saturday to confirm or deny an agreement.

“As the oldest ballpark in the league, we’d like to have the game by the end of the millennium, but any decision or announcement will have to come from the American League office,” Shea said.

Ruth, Cobb contemporary dies

Joe Hauser, who played baseball with Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, died Friday in Sheboygan, Wis. - four days after he received a notice from major league baseball he would be eligible for a pension. He was 98.

Hauser, a first baseman, played seven seasons in the major leagues. He had a career .284 average with 79 home runs and 356 RBIs.

While playing for the Philadelphia A’s in 1924, Hauser hit 27 home runs to finish second in the American League behind Ruth.

In 1928, Hauser was replaced in the Philadelphia lineup by future Hall of Famer Jimmy Foxx. Hauser spent the next season in Cleveland, and went on to play 11 more years in the minor leagues, where he was a legendary slugger, until retiring in 1942.

On Monday, Hauser received a letter from the Commissioner’s Office informing him that all players who served before 1947 would be eligible for a pension. Frank Zummach, a close friend, said Hauser could manage only a “X” in the spot where he was supposed to sign.

“He never figured it would happen,” Zummach said of the pension plan.

Park it here

Although the All-Stars won’t visit Coors Field in Denver until next year, Colorado’s Larry Walker already has plans for the Home Run Derby.

“I’m not parking my car beyond the left-field fence where I usually park it,” said Walker, who was the runner-up to New York’s Tino Martinez in this year’s competition in Cleveland. “There could be some pretty monstrous shots.”

Denver’s mile-high thin air should indeed produce some titanic homers.

Tony talk

Tony Gwynn says that when it comes to hitting records, there are a couple that will never be broken.

“Forget about 61 home runs and hitting .400. Those things can be done,” the seven-time N.L. batting champion said during the All-Star break.

“How about striking out three times in a whole season, or Joe DiMaggio having as many home runs as strikeouts?” he said. “Those are things no one will ever do.”

Joe Sewell set a major league mark by striking out only three times in 503 at-bats for the New York Yankees in 1932. DiMaggio hit 361 home runs and struck out just 369 times in his career.

Torre protected Belle

New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said he made the final decision not to use Albert Belle in Tuesday’s All-Star game because he feared for the outfielder’s safety at Jacobs Field in Cleveland.

Belle told Torre on Monday that he would feel uncomfortable playing, but that he would if needed.

“I was definitely available to play,” Belle said Friday night.

But Torre said it wasn’t worth the risk.

Yanks salute Mick

Chris Chambliss hit a two-run homer off Rick Rhoden to highlight the New York Yankees’ 51st annual Old-Timers game Saturday that honored the club’s 1977-78 World Championship teams.

Introductions included not only more than a dozen members of those teams, including Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, but also stars from earlier Yankees teams including Tom Tresh, Bobby Murcer, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto and Joe DiMaggio, who was introduced last.

A tribute to the late Mickey Mantle was played on the scoreboard at the point when the Hall of Fame slugger was usually introduced, just before DiMaggio.

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