Cleveland Pitcher Is Asked to Run For President - of Nicaragua

NICARAGUA'S Third Democratic Way, a fledgling political party, has asked major-league pitcher Dennis Martinez to run for president in 1996, according to the Associated Press.

Martinez's charitable work, his promotion of baseball, and his own diamond success have made him a role model in his impoverished homeland. He has not ruled out the possibility of entering politics some day, but for now he is concentrating on his baseball career.

In the early 1980s, while a member of the Baltimore Orioles, he was encouraged to seek help for a drinking problem. ``From 1982 to 1983, my mind was not on baseball,'' he says. He turned things around and enjoyed seven good years with the Montreal Expos, representing the club on the National League All-Star roster three consecutive seasons, beginning in 1990.

Signed last December by the Cleveland Indians to a two-year, $9 million contract, he has come on after a slow start to post a 6-4 record pitching for the American League Central's first-place team. Insurance, loans, and college sports

INSURANCE coverage for big-time athletes who wish to protect their future earning power is now a fact of life at the major-college level. Top pro prospects may arrange for as much as $2.7 million in annual disability coverage through a program administered by American Specialty Underwriters Inc. and approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The premiums, which range from $5,000 to $25,000, are paid with low-interest loans to eligible athletes; namely, likely early-round draft picks in football, basketball, baseball, and ice hockey. One objective of the program is to keep unscrupulous agents at bay. In the past, some agents ignored college eligibility regulations and attempted to line up clients before NCAA rules permit. To get a foot in the door, they would offer to cosign an athlete's loan papers. Griffey and Canseco make it a show

SO what if baseball's American League West division is a battle of losers (all four teams under .500)? Practically any game that involves Seattle or Texas these days is worth watching, given the presence of hot sluggers in each lineup - Ken Griffey Jr. with Seattle and the rejuvenated Jose Canseco with Texas.

If Griffey (32 homers) continues at his current pace, he will break the single-season home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961. Canseco has everybody in baseball circles talking about his resurgent hitting. He's crushing the ball. In one recent game against Seattle, he collected three homers and drove in eight runs. Griffey, meanwhile, had a grand slam and six runs batted in.

The longer Griffey maintains his record home run pace, the more distasteful becomes the possibility of a player strike. The owners and players would have a lot of explaining to do if either or both parties were responsible for taking the bat out of Griffey's hands.

If a labor stoppage is averted, Griffey still faces an uphill battle in his pursuit of Maris's mark. Maris benefited from hitting just ahead of Mickey Mantle, so Maris was never issued an intentional walk in 1961. Griffey, by contrast, has already drawn 12 this season and probably sees fewer good pitches than Maris did.

O.J. Simpson and domestic violence

REGARDLESS of how the O.J. Simpson case plays out, male athletes accused of roughing up women, in or out of wedlock, may pay an increasingly steep price. Even rumored reports of abuse won't easily go away and could exact a heavy toll in lost popularity and endorsement revenue. In this regard, Simpson's situation could help to make it harder for abusive athletes to dodge damaging fallout from what they consider ``private'' matters.

On Sunday, activists and politicians staged a rally in New York to press corporations to help stem domestic violence. Companies like Hertz Inc. and NBC were cited for keeping Simpson on their payrolls after his no-contest plea to wife-beating charges in 1989.

Touching other bases

* Given the Olympic movement's reputed interest in trying to keep a lid on the size of the Games while incorporating modern sports that televise well, the decision to add curling to the Winter Games slate seems a curious one.

* With World Cup soccer in the United States for the first time, how fitting that the most valuable player of the National Basketball Association regular season and Finals is Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon, who cut his athletic teeth playing soccer in Nigeria.

* The healing of deep-seated ethnic hatreds in Sarajevo may not occur readily, but there is an example from 10 years ago to help. The organizing Committee of the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics consisted of equal numbers of Serbs, Muslims, and Croats, according to Juan Antonio Samarach, the International Olympic Committee president.

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