A Look Back at What Might Have Been

DATE-DROPPING is a popular baseball pastime, whether 1919 (the Black Sox scandal), 1947 (Jackie Robinson); 1951 (``Giants win the pennant!''); or 1961 (Roger Maris's 61 home runs). Now 1994 joins this list as the season that never ended, that stopped midstride, and that was called on the account of greed and obstinacy.

The owners' decision to cancel the last month and a half of the strike-ruined season, which was supposed to end Sunday, not only left baseball without a World Series for the first time since 1904, it left ``what ifs'' strewn all over the diamond.

Baseball Weekly recently reminded its readers of the t's never crossed and i's not dotted with a list of the game's sadly unfinished business. It includes:

* The chase to break Maris's home run record. (San Francisco's Matt Williams, with 43, was on a pace to reach 61.)

* Close races in possibly all six divisions.

* The Cleveland Indians' first real shot at making the postseason since 1954.

* Tony Gwynn's assault on the elusive .400 batting mark. (He was batting .394 when the season ended Aug. 11.)

* Opportunities for veterans Julio Franco and Don Mattingly to see their first postseason action. The pair rank 1-2, respectively, in most games played without appearing in the postseason (1,658 to 1,657).

* The chase to achieve baseball's first batting Triple Crown since 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski led the American League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. This year Frank Thomas and Albert Belle were among the AL's top three in these categories.

* Montreal left in limbo with its best-in-baseball record.

Speaking of the Expos, what if they had gone on to the World Series and won? Not only would it have been a first for Montreal, it would have kept baseball's championship in Canada for a third straight year. (Toronto won the last two World Series.)

Incidentally, there has been talk of pulling together a charity exhibition series this month between the Expos and the Yankees that would serve as an unofficial championship. The Yankees had the American League's best record at the time of the strike.

It's highly doubtful that such an ersatz playoff would receive approval from either the players or owners. And television executives might ask who would watch.

If there is a silver lining to baseball's clouded season, some say it's in eliminating the possibility of a politically incorrect World Series between the Indians and Braves.

Basketball, soccer shots galore

DOR some Americans, the biggest strike against soccer may not be the game's paucity of goals, but the infrequency of shots on goal. During the past World Cup tournament, some teams struggled to muster any serious scoring threats. Those who find such futility hard to watch might be ripe for the Continental Indoor Soccer League, which is in the midst of its championship series. On Saturday, the Las Vegas Dustdevils beat the Dallas Sidekicks, 10-9, to tie the series at a win apiece and force a deciding third game this coming Saturday.

The score only hints at the vast difference in shots attempted indoors vs. out. Dallas broke the CISL record for shots in a game with 74 in a 15-7 playoff win over Washington. The teams also combined for 141 shots, another league mark. Dallas star Tatu alone accounted for 21 shots.

If fans didn't know better, they might think they were watching pro basketball.

Shots on goal, however, is not the only similarity between the CISL and the National Basketball Association. In Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit, Washington, and other cities, teams from the two leagues share the same arena and even some of the same executives. The operative word here appears to be ``diversification.'' And clearly there are operating efficiencies involved in having executives double up, applying their expertise to two similar business operations.

Soccer run wrinkled

THE winning streak of the University of North Carolina's women's soccer team ended at 92 games Sunday when Notre Dame battled the Tar Heels to a scoreless tie that lasted 120 minutes, including two overtimes. In the first OT, North Carolina had two shots ricochet off the Notre Dame goal.

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