Seriously now, did anyone really believe an untied shoelace could stop hurdler Edwin Moses? Little things might throw off a lesser athlete, but not someone with a winning streak dating back to 1977. So Moses ignored the flapping, two-foot-long lace that came loose during the 400 meter hurdles, and handily won the finals of that event at this week's inaugural world track and field champion-ships in Helsinki.
The victory was his 81st in a row, a feat that belongs up there with Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, Bjorn Borg's five straight Wimbledon titles, and UCLA's 88 consecutive basketball triumphs as an incredible sports achievement.
Moses's streak is all the more amazing considering how easily it could have ended. Maintaining the right number of strides between hurdles is a very tricky business, and one ticked hurdle can interrupt the necessary rhythm and balance.
Besides Moses, other stars living up to lofty pre-meet expectations were Carl Lewis, who led an American sweep of the 100-meter dash, and Grete Waitz, a four-time winner of the New York Marathon who won what was her first all-female marathon. There have been disappointments, too, however. Injured during the running of their respective events were women's 100-meter record holder Evelyn Ashford and Cuban 800-meter king Alberto Juantorena. Alberto Salazar of the United States was not up to par physically for the 10,000 meters and finished last, and world record holder Udo Beyer of Easy Germany, hampered with a leg problem, finished sixth. Baseball sampler
* Any advantages modern major league hitters have accrued from playing on artificial turf may be offset by two other factors: expansion and the heavy use of relief pitchers. With more teams (16 in 1960; 26 today) a batter sees less of any one pitcher. And with bullpens so active these days, a batter has fewer opportunities to get a bead on the starter before he heads for the showers.
* Heard the latest on the ''pine tar'' game? It will be completed Aug. 18 at Yankee Stadium without third baseman George Brett in the Kansas City lineup. Brett, whose disputed tar-coated bat and nullified home run prompted the controversy, has been ejected from the suspended game. His ninth-inning, go-ahead home run has been restored, but he is being dispatched for his heated argument with the umpires at the time of the bizarre incident. American League president Lee MacPhail has also ejected Royal manager Dick Howser, coach Rocky Colavito, and pitcher Gaylord Perry for their parts in the uproar. When the July 24 game is resumed, with four outs remaining, the Royals will lead New York 5-4.
* Pitchers are generally such inept hitters that they seldom help their own cause. When they do, it's not often in the manner of Walt Terrell, who crashed a pair of two-run homers in the New York Mets' 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Even so, Terrell's feat pales in comparison to Tony Cloninger's 1966 slugging display. Pitching for the Atlanta Braves, Tony hit two grand slams and drove in a ninth run for good measure in a 17-3 win over the dumbstruck San Francisco Giants.
* Doesn't it seem odd that the Atlanta Braves play in the National League West?
* Should foul lines actually be fair lines, since balls striking any part of the line are in play?
* Most people know them as the California Angels. On a more formal level, though, the Angels are the Golden West Baseball Co. This fits nicely alongside Golden West Broadcasters, another business interest of owner Gene Autry, the famed singing cowboy.