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TOROS INVITE DAVID LETTERMAN TO PITCH AGAINST ASTROS

Goat or hero: it's up to David Letterman now.

He could be blowing his big, and maybe only, shot at baseball immortality, depending on whether he replies to an invitation to pitch against the Houston Astros.It's enough to make No. 1 on his Top 10 List for why he shouldn't be on the mound: "I forgot to mail, phone or fax in my R.S.V.P."

About 10 days after being invited to pitch for the Pacific Coast League's Tucson Toros in its July 1 exhibition against the parent Houston Astros, there's still no word from the host of NBC's "Late

Night With David Letterman."

That's despite the pitch he's been making for months, offering his services to "any major league team" wanting an inning of shutout ball. Letterman has said he might not strike out everyone or get the batters out in order, but has guaranteed a scoreless inning.

So Rick Holtzman, owner of the Class AAA Toros, sent an invitation to start against the Astros at Hi Corbett Field. And Jon Ruby, general manager of the local NBC-TV affiliate, also faxed a letter last week urging him to show up.

The invitation said Letterman would stay on the mound at the mercy of Toros manager Bob Skinner. It also invited him to hit in a pregame home run hitting contest and to work the play-by-play broadcast. But as of Thursday, neither Holtzman nor Ruby had received a reply, and a spokeswoman for Letterman said he would not be available to talk.

Toros general manager Mike Feder said, "It's time to put up or shut up! He's been whining for two months, and now he's got the chance."

Feder said, "Now we are calling his bluff and await the final verdict."

Letterman normally would have to be activated and placed on a team's roster, but an exhibition game does not require that, Feder said.

As for why Letterman should show up, Feder gave his Top 10 reasons:

- In the heat of the Arizona desert, he can get his old arm loose.

- It might be 108 degrees that day, but it's a dry heat.

- So he can visit the birthplace of his idol ... Gary Shandling.

- He enjoys public humiliation.

- Pete Rose bet Lenny Dykstra that Letterman wouldn't show.

- So he'll have a real reason to wear a baseball cap in public.

- He won't be invited to have lunch with Dan Quayle that day.

- To be eligible for a beer commercial with other great athletes such as Bob Uecker, Marv Throneberry and Rodney Dangerfield.

- No one else wants him.

- He'd be lounging poolside on Monday - his day off.