SPORTS NOTEBOOK

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Even Ted Williams Is Willing To Part With Fenway Park

HAVING recently viewed a Red Sox baseball game from Fenway Park's cramped bleachers, this writer isn't disturbed about the team's long-range plan to evacuate the Boston landmark.

Fenway has plenty of character, to be sure, but its most lovable feature - the towering left field wall - could simply be incorporated into a far more comfortable new park. The commitment by the Red Sox to playing in a new stadium by 2001 may anger some fans who feel there's too much history wrapped up in Fenway to ignore. A central figure in much of this history, however, is not so attached.

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''I think it would be a great thing if they got a new park,'' Hall of Famer Ted Williams told the Boston Globe the other week. ''I would not be sentimental about moving into a new ballpark. I think you can improve the park, the dimensions of the park.''

Flying becomes the wheel thing

TRAVELERS who think they've noticed more bikes in air terminals probably are right. Bikes now travel free if they belong to members of the League of American Bicyclists.

The league, a nonprofit organization representing more than 30,000 cyclists and 450 bicycle clubs, struck a deal two years ago to get a $90-per-bike handling fee waived for league members.

TWA, USAir, Continental, Northwest, and AmericaWest now drop the charge for league members who make their travel arrangements through the Sports National Reservation Center, a competitively priced travel agent.

While pleased with this arrangement, the league considers it only a ''temporary solution.'' What the group really wants is the total elimination of bike handling charges for all travelers.

''The airlines' policies have cost bicyclists an incredible amount of money throughout the years and have discouraged the growth of bicycling tourism,'' says Gil Clark, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. The policies also appear to have created a double standard, too, since skis and golf clubs travel free.

Touching other bases

* Pop quiz: Which sport - basketball, football, baseball, or hockey - is the only one with teams, as well as individuals, in its hall of fame? (Answer appears at the end.)

* The University of Michigan, long a college pace-setter in the selling of sports merchandise, claims the No. 1 spot in the latest national rankings. Collegiate Licensing Co. of Atlanta, which compiles sales figures, lists the top-selling schools from the latter half of 1994 and the first quarter of 1995 as Michigan, Florida State, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Kentucky.

* Is it incorrect to call an association of professional athletes a union? Maybe so, but that's usually how they are referred to, which makes for an interesting comparison. According to the New York Times, Gene Upshaw, who represents roughly 1,700 members of the National Football League Players Association, makes $1,236,443. AFL-CIO boss Lane Kirkland, on the other hand, is paid a salary of $204,672 as the leader of 13.1 million union members.

* If knuckle ballers can pitch successfully in the major leagues, and history shows they can, what's to prevent a woman from following this path to the big leagues?

* To heighten its appeal to twenty-somethings, the National Hockey League franchise that is moving from Quebec to Denver next season reportedly wants to call itself the Rocky Mountain Extreme. The team clearly must shed its old nickname, Nordiques, but Extreme is a reach. Either Bighorns or Cougars, other names under consideration, seem more suitable.

* Hard to believe, but the Houston Astros have retired twice as many uniform numbers (four) as the more storied Cincinnati Reds. In another surprise, Nolan Ryan, the biggest Astros star ever, is not among those honored by Houston, which has retired the numbers of Jose Cruz, Jim Umbricht, Mike Scott, and Don Wilson. More than half of Ryan's Hall of Fame-caliber career was spent with other teams. So who made Cincinnati's short list of honored players? Manager Fred Hutchinson and catcher Johnny Bench. Among the notable omissions: Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Frank Robinson.

* For three years baseball has been without a commissioner. Might not George Bush be a good candidate? The former president once captained the Yale baseball team and remains a genuine fan. His son, George Jr., could provide information on baseball's inner workings, having been a managing partner of the Texas Rangers before becoming governor of Texas.

* Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan comes down hard on major-league baseball managers who make games unduly long by overmanaging them. What they do, Ryan suggests, is comparable to turning a request for the time of day into ''a detailed discussion of the political history of Switzerland.''

* Now that beach volleyball is increasingly an inland phenomenon, maybe it's more accurate to call it sand volleyball. That, however, doesn't call up quite the same sun-and-fun image.

* In the view of this longtime reader, Sports Illustrated has moved to being more provocative. The best recent example? A cover story with the headline: ''Why the University of Miami Should Drop Football.''

* Quiz answer: The Basketball Hall of Fame. The hall has inducted four teams since it opened in 1959. Two of those were members of the inaugural class ushered into the Springfield, Mass., shrine: the First Team from founding father James Naismith's gym class and the Original Celtics, a New York-based pro team of the 1920s that was both dominating and innovative. The other two team members are the New York Renaissance, a barnstorming, all-black team from Harlem, which existed between 1922 to 1949, and the Buffalo (N.Y.) Germans, a turn-of-the century powerhouse that won an Olympic gold medal in 1905 and once compiled a 111-game winning streak.

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