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Thursday, June 13, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sideline Chatter

Mobster's bats, gloves just dirty laundry

Dust off the Ford Frick asterisk: Looks like Ichiro didn't lead baseball in steals last season after all.

Prosecutors in Brooklyn, N.Y., say that distinction instead belongs to Silvio "Crazy Sal" Salome, an alleged soldier in the Colombo crime family who used a baseball-memorabilia business to launder loan-sharking proceeds.

According to District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, the back of Crazy Sal's baseball card reveals a 312 lifetime batting average — as in $312,000 a year in loansharking profits. If you think giving 110 percent is good, the D.A. is quick to point out that some of Sal's clients were giving 250 percent — in interest.

Prosecutors displayed gloves worn by Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali, a Michael Jordan basketball, bats and thousands of baseball cards — along with guns and cash — as part of the evidence they garnered in a seven-month investigation called "Operation Broken Bracelet" that netted Crazy Sal and 10 other arrests.

As Hynes told The Associated Press: "(Loan-sharking) is a particularly evil crime because it takes people and not only makes them indentured servants but makes some of these people think they have to commit crimes themselves."

Which, come to think of it, isn't much different than the options faced by the average working stiff trying to finance a family outing to the ballpark these days.

'Til the crows come home

Here's one birdie every golfer would like to get at the Pipestem (W.Va.) State Park course — that dratted 16-inch crow with a sweet tooth for Cheese Nips that's been swooping down from trees and cleaning out unsuspecting players' snacks for the past several years.

Said course pro Bill Robertson, who lost a sandwich to the black bandit last year: "Those crows are pretty smart. They've got the system down."

Not to mention adding a whole new meaning to the term "eating crow."

Oh, those swinging seniors

Two takes on the PGA Senior Tour:

• Tom Watson, giving the Toledo (Ohio) Blade an unpaid Advil testimonial: "Trust me, at 52 the wheels are definitely getting rusty. You have to keep 'em oiled."

• Tom Weiskopf, to Golf Digest: "The golf is good, the toupees are awful. I may be bald, but I'll never glue one of those divots on my head."

Quote, end quote

• Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, on Texas' Ivan Rodriguez tying his record of 10 Gold Gloves: "I had 15, 16 broken bones and seven broken cups, and he's only got one broken bone and three cups broken. So he's way behind."

• Reader Kevin Gibson of Whitby, Ontario, in a letter to the Toronto Sun: "I see the Sun is giving away an Italian soccer jersey. I have a question: Does it come with diving lessons, or are those extra?"

• Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "It still irks me that Earl Woods compares his son, Tiger, to Nelson Mandela. I mean, seriously, how many majors has Mandela won?"

Russian to judgment

You knew it was just a matter of time, but even rhythmic gymnastics has a drug scandal. Russia's Irina Tchachina has been given a one-year ban after testing positive for furosemide, a banned diuretic and masking agent.

Gee, those balls must be heavier than they look.

— Dwight Perry, The Seattle Times

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