Players Press Obscure Batting Records; Baseball, Football Mark Anniversaries

WITH little fanfare, two ballplayers - one baseball, one softball - have set their sights on making slugging history.

First-baseman Eddie Murray of the Cleveland Indians is closing in on an obscure mark held by Frank Robinson, who homered in 32 stadiums during his career (Murray is now up to 31). Carl Rose, meanwhile, wants to drive a softball out of every major league park and is pursuing his goal during a nationwide tour to promote a new softball book. Rose, the Babe Ruth of slow-pitch, homered every 2.23 times he batted last year. He's only checked off a handful of major-league stadiums so far during informal batting sessions.

Murray, who has 449 career home runs, is limited by the major-league schedule. He has homered in all but three parks, and fortunately two of them - Toronto's SkyDome and Chicago's new Comiskey Park - are in the American League, where he now plays. So he could overtake Robinson with ``dingers'' in both locations. The Indians begin a four-game series in Toronto on May 20 and return for three more games there in August. Cleveland will play in Comiskey Park again in July, having already played there earlier this month.

Last season, playing for the New York Mets in the National League, Murray missed an opportunity to homer in Denver's Mile High Stadium, a long-ball haven of the expansion Colorado Rockies.

Murray has spent the bulk of his 18-year career with the American League's Baltimore Orioles, but managed five NL seasons with the Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. It probably helps that he is a switch-hitter. Coming up this fall: football anniversaries

AS Major League Baseball celebrates its 125th season (note the commemorative sleeve patches), football prepares to blow out a field of candles next fall. The college game will celebrate its 125th anniversary, the National Football League its 75th.

Events, insignias, and promotions will mark both occasions, but the NFL's plans are more elaborate. Sometime during the first month of the season, teams will wear specially designed throw-back uniforms intended to call up images of a bygone era.

The Chicago Bears, for instance, will don uniforms resembling those worn by the team in 1923. Even the coaches will wear period attire, and a line of nostalgic jerseys, jackets, and caps will be sold to fans. World Series award sold

ONE of the most unexpected offerings at a baseball memorabilia auction last month was the 1955 World Series Most Valuable Player award. Such a trophy would seem to have too much sentimental value to land in a public sale. Nevertheless, Johnny Podres, a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, did sell it to a dealer earlier this year, and a letter with Podres's signature authenticates the transaction.

Bill Mastro, a consultant to Sotheby's auction house in New York, which sold the award, says he doesn't know why Podres, now the pitching coach of the Philadelphia Phillies, sold the award. ``You never know where these former ballplayers are financially,'' he says, and explains that the money to be made from memorabilia can look very attractive to those who played before big money came into baseball. Touching other bases

* Selected members of the sports media were express-mailed a weighty document last week by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Those who could lift it onto their desks may have been surprised to discover it was a report on a possible football playoff. Or maybe they weren't, since a major-college playoff has been the most overly debated and discussed topic in college sports during the past decade.

* The most striking feature of ABC's coverage of the Kentucky Derby was provided by something called a ``cable cam,'' which permitted an unusually good view of the back-stretch. The remote-controlled camera was attached to a cable stretched about 1,500 feet between two infield supports. ``It took a couple of days to learn how to operate it, to get the speed right and know when to apply the brakes,'' says network publicist Mark Mandell. The camera ran alongside the leaders, providing a wonderful closeup of what is normally hard-to-see action. ABC will use the cable cam again during its coverage of the Preakness May 21.

* Looking for an investment tip? The Bowlers Journal may have one - the bowling industry. If its hunch is right, bowling could experience a major boom in popularity in China, where 522 lanes currently serve a nation of 1.2 billion people. Industry analysts are keeping a close eye on the 24-lane bowling center that was opened in Shanghai last year by Taiwanese entrepreneurs.

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