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YANKEE PANKY WITH WHITE SOX DRAFT PICK MAY COST GEORGE

You would think George Steinbrenner is in enough hot water with the baseball authorities these days, what with the Howie Spira investigation and the Angels' Dave Winfield grievance swirling around him. Leave it to The Boss, though, to get himself in even more trouble - this time with perhaps his only allies in baseball, the White Sox.

The New York Daily News has learned that Yankee scouts, with full approval of Yankee front office chief George Bradley (and, therefore, presumably Steinbrenner), tampered with the White Sox' No. 1 draft pick, righthander Alex Fernandez of Miami Dade Junior College (via the U. of Miami). And we're talking about blatant tampering here. Like advising Fernandez not to sign with the White Sox unless they guaranteed him immediate placement in the majors. According to Florida scouting sources, the Yankees tried to persuade Fernandez to stay in school another year and wait for them to draft him next year.Fernandez, the No. 2 rated pitcher in the draft behind Texas high school whiz Todd Van Poppel, instead signed with the White Sox - without any major-league guarantees. He'll start out pitching at Class AA Birmingham, but the bonus cost to the White Sox was probably about $100,000 more than they originally intended to pay because of the Yankees' tampering. Look for a grievance to be filed by the White Sox this week, and, if upheld by the commissioner's office, it could cost the Yankees a No. 1 pick next year. Or at the very least another in a long history of substantial fines for Steinbrenner.

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As if we needed any further evidence that this just isn't George Steinbrenner's year, comes the news that American League President Bobby Brown has abolished the "eye-in-the-sky" because of complaints that it was being used for means of skullduggery such as stealing signs.

We know, of course, that The Boss only had the most honorable of intentions - aligning the outfielders - when he introduced the "eye in the sky" coach to baseball back in the late '70s.

But then the White Sox "eye," Joe Nossek, one of baseball's most renowned sign-stealers, had to go and ruin everything for all his fellow "eyes" by taking the job to an added dimension.

Things all came to a head three weeks ago in Baltimore when Orioles manager Frank Robinson squawked long and loud about Nossek sitting in the visiting team's dugout box, relaying signs to a head-setted Sox manager Jeff Torborg in the dugout.

Finally, Orioles' GM Roland Hemond took it upon himself to sit with Nossek and "monitor" what he was doing.

"Everytime a club is going good they're suspected of cheating," Nossek said. "We beat (the Orioles) five out of five, so they're upset. But stealing signs doesn't win games. It may get you a couple of outs over the course of the year, but that's about it. I'm mad at Roland, though. I passed up dinner to sit with him and he ate up all of my sunflower seeds, then goes and turns me in."

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Upon announcing their timetable for expansion this week in Cleveland, the National League lords insisted that all the applying cities are starting off on equal ground.

Sure.

If that were really true then Buffalo, the only city that meets all of the NL's criteria for admission, should have been awarded a franchise two years ago.

In billionaire Robert Rich, Buffalo has its wealthy local ownership.

In Pilot Field, it has the prototype baseball-only, open air, grass field stadium.

And with more than one million in admissions for Triple-A baseball in each of the past two seasons, Buffalo has demonstrated above all other minor league cities a strong core of fan support.

But no matter what the NL says for public consumption, you know it is television that will ultimately be the deciding factor for expansion. And Florida and the Rocky Mountain time zone (as in Denver or long shot Phoenix) are the two untapped TV markets for baseball.

Meanwhile, it was interesting that, at the eleventh hour, the American League made an overture to help stock the two new NL teams. Why? For one thing, they saw that $100 million admission fee and naturally wanted in on it. For another, as one GM said this week: "It's an opportunity to dump a lot of high-priced unproductive players."

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It isn't difficult to see that Cubs manager Don Zimmer isn't pushing all the right buttons this year. Last year, after 61 games, Cubs pitchers had an ERA of 3.22, having yielded 195 earned runs in 545 innings. At the same 61-game juncture this year, Cubs pitchers had yielded 91 more runs in one less inning (4.73 ERA). At the same time, the Cub reserve corps of Marvell Wynne, Lloyd McClendon, Luis Salazar, Domingo Ramos and Dave Clark are a combined 9-for-79 (.113) with six RBI coming off the bench. Last year, the Cub bench went 50-for-201 (.249). . . . Need further proof of Roger Clemens' value to the Red Sox? Lifetime, the Rocket Man is 63-16 after Red Sox losses, including 7-1 this year. . . . With Todd Benzinger and Barry Larkin having hit a combined two homers this year, the power-starved Reds can be expected to recall ex-Yankee Hal Morris (hitting .362 with 10 RBI in 14 games at Nashville) any day now.

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Already this season we have witnessed the oldest no-hitter in history (Nolan Ryan, age 43, last Monday night against the Athletics) and the tallest no-hitter in history (6-10 Randy Johnson of the Mariners against the Tigers). We thought you might want to know all the historic no-hitters at the other end of the spectrum.

The youngest no-hitter in history? Nick Maddox of the Phillies (20 years, 10 months old) vs. the Dodgers Sept. 20, 1907. The shortest? George Foster of the Red Sox (5-7 1/2) vs. the Yankees, July 21, 1916. The lightest? Bob Burke of the Washington Senators (150 pounds) Aug. 8, 1931 vs. the Red Sox. On the flip side of Ryan's record of pitching the most no-hitters is White Sox' Hall of Famer Ray Schalk, who holds the record for having caught the most no-hitters - four. Ironically, current White Sox' manager Jeff Torborg is second with three, having caught Ryan's first in 1973, Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965 and the Dodgers' Bill Singer's no-no in 1970.