Golfers Still Rivals After All These Years

JACK and Arnie - the Big Two of golf during the 1960s and early '70s - are forever paired in public thought. They remain so today, even though Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer only occasionally play in the same senior event. Fittingly, however, they are together in Forbes magazine's 1994 list of 40 wealthiest athletes, based on salary/winnings, endorsements, side businesses, and the like.

Nicklaus is No. 3 with $14.8 million in estimated income and Palmer is No. 4 with $13.6 million. Both have numerous irons in the business fire, as do the two young men who top the Forbes list - Michael Jordan ($30 million) and Shaquille O'Neal ($16.7 million).

Jordan and O'Neal are hardly athletic rivals, having only met occasionally on the same basketball court. Nicklaus and Palmer, however, often competed on the same golf course, sometimes paired on the tee but more often dueling with birdies and pars on the scoreboard.

Author Thomas Hauser devotes an entire chapter to this twosome in his excellent new book on Palmer, ``Arnold Palmer: A Personal Journey,'' (Collins Publishers, $40, 192 pp.). This large-format book was written with Palmer's cooperation and is filled with terrific photos.

``Never before in the history of sports have two truly great superstars battled each other for as long and as hard as `Arnie and Jack,''' Hauser writes. ``And three decades after their rivalry began, it's still intense.''

Palmer says he and Nicklaus don't socialize but have a deep-seated respect for one another. ``I think we've gotten along pretty well over the years,'' he observes. ``I consider us friends.''

Big ideas in a small package

ASSUMING that major-league baseball games are played again, what would the ideal park look like? A model of one such dream stadium, constructed of nearly 16,000 Erector-set pieces, now sits in the lobby of the Empire State Building.

The toy structure incorporates suggestions fans submitted as part of a fund-raising project of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, a 12-year-old nonprofit organization that promotes grass-roots baseball development. Based on input from both fans and former players, the Dream Baseball Park would have a retractable dome, natural grass, and 45,000 seats.

The model, of course, can only hint at some of the ideas, including adjustable-height seats, cup holders, plexiglass dugouts, and trash chutes for peanut shells.

One novel concept came from Phillip Bergman of San Francisco. ``Make the entire stadium rotate very slowly around the field - perhaps one revolution per game,'' he suggested. ``Fans can get a different perspective throughout the game and everyone gets a good seat.'' Akron U. seeks more zip

THE University of Akron Zips nearly lived down to their nickname this football season. They won only one game under former Notre Dame coach Gerry Faust, who has stepped down, and that against winless Ohio University in the season finale. Zips, by the way, doesn't refer to zero but is short for Zipper, a brand of overshoes once made by the BF Goodrich Company.

As for the change in command, Faust, who once won national fame as coach of the powerful Moeller High School team in Cincinnati, will be replaced by Lee Owens. He, too, earned his reputation coaching Ohio high school teams, including powerful Massillon Washington, before becoming an assistant coach at Ohio State. Faust has been reassigned to the university's development office.

Touching other bases

* Few offseason deals seem to excite disenchanted baseball fans this winter. In Boston, though, the recent acquisition of Jose Canseco from Texas by the Red Sox had sports talk shows buzzing. With his pull-hitting power, Canseco is a natural for Fenway Park, where even his towering pop-ups might drift over the tantalizingly close left-field wall. Last season, during a three-game series at Fenway, he hit four home runs.

* Golf Digest reports that Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft magnate, prefers to buy used golf balls.

* The senior football players who stuck it out through four winless years at Prairie View A&M, a Texas school known for its engineering program, deserve praise, not scorn. By not quitting, they were winners.

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