Obscure `star' basks in baseball limelight; a soccer pop quiz

Probably the least likely participant in this week's baseball All-Star Game was its biggest hero. Terry Steinbach, a catcher for the Oakland A's, drove in both runs for the American League in its 2-1 victory, but did so with a bat that had his name misspelled ``Steinbech'' on the barrel. That was a telling blooper, hinting at his relative anonymity. Steinbach arrived in Cincinnati as a very questionable choice for the American League's starting lineup. A second-year major leaguer with a meager .217 batting average (the lowest of any all-star), he appeared to provide opponents of fan voting with a key exhibit. While an able, young catcher, Terry obviously greatly benefitted from a Bay Area ballot-box barrage, plus the absence of any strong catching candidates.

He wasted little time, though, proving he was as worthy as anyone else who could have been selected. He put the American League on the board with a solo homer off Dwight Gooden that actually glanced off Darryl Strawberry's glove in the third inning, only the eighth time an all-star enjoyed such an auspicious plate debut. Just an inning later, he hit a long sacrifice fly (nearly a grand slam) that allowed Dave Winfield to score the winning run.

Maybe no one should have been surprised in the performance of the game's unlikely Most Valuable Player. In his rookie season, Steinbach, who attended the University of Minnesota for three years, homered in his very first major league at-bat. Soccer litmus test

How will we know when soccer has been successfully integrated into the American sports scene? In the past, some have mistakenly used the fortunes of pro leagues as a yardstick, and tried to draw conclusions from looking at attendance figures, TV contracts, and the star value of players.

This can be pretty unsatisfactory, and as the United States approaches 1994, when it will be host to the World Cup tournament for the first time, a new grading system is needed. It should take into account the inroads being made by American youth soccer programs, but also reflect the relative interest of adults who don't play the game.

Maybe the best way to gauge soccer's progress is to determine how many Americans can answer just three basic questions:

How many players take the field per side?

What are the player positions?

What is a corner kick, a very common occurrence in the game? Seoul prices

For many American consumers, the Hyundai Excel carries an appealingly low price tag. Excel owners might choke on Korean hotel prices, though. They aren't any bargain, some soon-to-be Olympic travelers are discovering. Those with plans to stay and eat at business-class hotels during the Games in September will spend an estimated $228 a day. And this is despite safeguards against price gouging put in place by the National Tourist Board.

Seoul is simply an expensive place to visit according to per diem costs calculated by Runzheimer International, a Wisconsin-based management consulting company specializing in travel and living costs. It has a higher meal-lodging cost index than even Geneva ($222 per diem) or Chicago ($173), a few of the other cities listed in a 1988 first-quarter comparison.

Of course, not everybody heading for the Games will be paying business-class prices. The Korean Inn Association has found nearly 1,000 rooms near the Olympics that will carry an economy-model price, ranging from $16 to $27. Two for the record books

Longevity and excellence often go hand-in-hand in achieving baseball milestones. Sparky Anderson and Nolan Ryan can testify to that. In an interesting coincidence, they both made history last Saturday, Anderson when he became the first manager to win 800 games in each league, and Ryan when he joined Cy Young as the only other pitcher to win 100 games for teams in each league.

Sparky spent nine years guiding the Cincinnati Reds to 863 victories, and now has reached the 800 mark in his tenth year with the Detroit Tigers. Ryan, now 41, enjoyed his best seasons with the American League's California Angels during the 1970s, but has bracketed those years with his formative days as a New York Met (1968-71) and the last nine seasons spent as a Houston Astro. Nolan's latest victory was special not only for its historical significance, but also because it came against New York after he lost his seven previous decisions against the Mets, his former team and the NL East division leaders. Touching other bases

The most exclusive company at the Seoul Olympics will be in the exhibition sport of bowling, where only 24 athletes, no more than two per nation, will compete.

John Thompson, the coach of the men's US Olympic basketball team, likes to do things his way, which is why Mary Fenlon is one of only two ``assistant coaches.'' The other is the University of Southern California's George Raveling. Fenlon has been something of an alter ego of Thompson at Georgetown University, where she was the first addition he made to his staff 15 years ago. She began as an academic coordinator, but her role grew to include recruiting, travel arrangements, and overseeing the schedules of the players and coaches.

Baseball's All-Star game has become such a midsummer fixture that its origin is often forgotten. It began in 1933 as the brainstorm of Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward, who suggested the game between the opposing leagues be used as an attraction for the World's Fair, being held in Chicago. Comiskey Park won a coin toss with Wrigley Field for the right to hold this ``Game of the Century,'' which alternates between American and National League parks. Next year the game makes its return to Anaheim, Calif., where it was last held in 1967. The scene shifts to Wrigley Field in 1990.

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