Jury still out on USFL; a baseball 'trumpet section'; and oh, those 'gimme' putts!

If the Minnesota Twins had only known Manny Laureano was the principal trumpet of the Minnesota Orchestra, they wouldn't have confiscated his horn for blowing rally charges at a recent game. But having inadvertently stifled a bit of musicianship on one occasion, the Twins have decided to encourage it on another - specifically at tonight's game with the Oakland A's, which has been billed as a Bugler's Holiday.

Any fan carrying a real trumpet will be admitted free. As the honored guest of club owner Calvin Griffith, Laureano will sit in Griffith's box behind the Twins dugout, play the national anthem, and lead trumpet charges in what will amount to an overblown brass section.

The usher who got this whole thing started by taking away Laureano's trumpet was only doing his job. Long plastic horns had become such a nuisance at Metropolitan Stadium, the Twins' former home, that instrumental noise making was banned at the ballpark, a rule carried over to the Metrodome.

The club may reconsider its policy in the wake of the latest incident. Not intending the pun, club public relations director Tom Mee says, ''We'll just play it by ear.'' USFL faces uphill climb

Just because the United States Football League survived its first season, fulfilled its own expectations, and added several expansion teams during the past few months doesn't mean the league is out of the woods.

Several factors could make things tougher in the future. The curiosity factor will be gone; newly emerged stars will begin to demand bigger salaries; and larger crowds will be needed to retain national TV deals. Furthermore, fans alienated by last year's NFL strike may not feel driven to send a message to NFL fat cats through attending USFL games. And finally, the whole question of football overkill comes into play. How long can people watch pro football without tiring of it? The league's lasting success may lie in the answer to this question. Two-way contract

Sports contracts, almost more than records, are made to be broken. Or so it would seem. But the other week, Boston University gave colleges and coaches across the country something to think about. When basketball coach Rick Patino was named an assistant with the New York Knicks, BU reminded him of his contractual obligation.

Patino had two years left on a pact that stipulated he pay the school a negotiable amount should he leave early for employment elsewhere in his profession (the clause did not apply if he changed occupations). Similarly, of course, the university would have been obligated to pay Patino the full amount through the end of his contract if he had been fired. Touching other bases

* When golfer Hale Irwin whiffed on a two-inch putt at the British Open and later missed a playoff by one stroke, the lesson was clear: never make light of any shot. Andy Bean, however, apparently didn't take very good notes, because last week he knocked in a ''gimme'' at the Canadian Open with the handle of his putter. The rules say the ball must be struck with the clubhead, so Bean was penalized two strokes, which eventually kept him from joining Johnny Miller and winner-to-be John Cook in a playoff.

* In retrospect, the umpires probably should have let the infamous Kansas City-New York ''Tar Wars'' game be played out rather than stopping it on the spot. The league could then have ruled either way on George Brett's tarred bat without inconveniencing anyone. By disallowing Brett's two-run homer in the top of the ninth and awarding the Yankees a 4-3 victory, however, the umpires created a problem now that they've been overruled. ''I'd rather forfeit,'' Yankee owner George Steinbrenner told the New York Times, referring to the fact that the teams don't meet again and would have to get together on a mutual day off.

* Why has Louisville blossomed into such a minor league baseball town the last two years? No doubt partly because Kentuckians no longer care to drive 100 miles to watch the last-place Cincinnati Reds.

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