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Monday, June 12
Brokers can now breathe a sigh of relief

You know that big torrent of wind that knocked down every tree in your neighborhood Thursday? That was no tornado. That was just the occupants of the brokerage houses of America heaving a big sigh of relief that John Rocker had chosen another career path.

It turns out Rocker was just kidding this week when he told a radio show he was going to quit baseball and become a stockbroker. But for about 24 hours there, his soon-to-be fellow brokers were trying to decide which was scarier -- the NASDAQ price-to-earnings ratios or the prospect of Rocker sprinting through their front doors.

Fred McGriff just became the sixth first baseman to hit 400 career homers. Name the other five.

(Answer at bottom)

We know -- because we surveyed a sampling of America's finest brokers. And by finest, we mean the few who were willing to get on the phone with us.

"All the secretaries have been joking about it all day," said Rick Palhegyi, a vice president at Bear Stearns in Atlanta. "My manager just said, 'Hey, Rocker called. He wants an interview."

"It tells you where the market is going if John Rocker wants to be a stockbroker," said Craig Langweiler, senior vice president at Gruntal & Co. "You know this business must be going off its rocker if John Rocker wants to be part of it."

We actually found a couple of people who thought Rocker would be a better broker than many folks might think. Their rationale was that, even after all this, Rocker is still a big name -- and some investors will do business with just about anybody if they can brag about it to their friends.

But when we asked Bill Kinney, of Wachovia, if he thought Rocker was classic broker material, he replied: "When you're looking for someone to invest money, you want somebody who's stable, who's responsible, who seems pretty even-tempered. I don't think that really describes him."

Uhhhhh, not quite.

One problem Rocker might have in the brokerage biz, our panelists said, was this: How could a guy with so much disdain for New York possibly trade on the New York Stock Exchange?

"I don't think he'd do a good job of prospecting in New York," Palhegyi said. "He'd better stay in the south, working Alabama trailer parks."

"He'd definitely like the American exchange over the foreign exchange," Langweiler said. "He'd be great on the OTC. But for him, OTC would probably stand for Off The Cuff."

Then there's the way Rocker generally reports to work. Imagine going to your brokerage some day to pick up a check -- and seeing John Rocker sprint by you, roaring from the tote board to his office.

"He'd give new meaning to the phrase, 'charging bull,' " Kinney said. "I think he'd like the bull market. What kind of slogan would he have on his card -- 'John Rocker, Raging Bull?' "

But the big test for Rocker, our panelists said, wouldn't be those good old bull-market days. It would be those plunging NASDAQ kind of days.

"If he had to try to survive one of those 500-point sell-offs, I don't think he'd have so much trouble deciding whether to report to Triple-A," Langweiler said. "One day as a stockbroker, and he'd report to Single A."

And our final question was: Suppose Rocker actually made it big as a broker. Would his bosses let him do any interviews with Stockbroker Illustrated?

"I'd say no," Kinney said, then thought about that for a second.

"Wait," he said. "Let me rephrase that: Hell, no."

Woe Canada of the week
Speaking of baseball players who love America, how about those Baltimore Orioles?

In the last 20 games they've played in Canada over the last 2½ years, they've won exactly zero. Or "non," if you're reading this in Quebec.

Boy, no one has had this much trouble dealing with Canada since Maggie Trudeaux.

There are lots of possible explanations, we're sure. The Orioles could be allergic to maple leaves. Maybe they've never gotten over the retirement of Jean Beliveau. And it would be understandable if they just can't get excited about heading north since Celine Dion stopped singing the anthems.

But for more incisive reasoning, we've asked three of our favorite improper authorities to give us their theories. For the north-of-the-border viewpoint, we turn to Toronto Star columnist Richard Griffin, the official Canadian of Week in Review.

His top five reasons why the Orioles have lost 20 in a row in Canada:

5. Angelos teams have always struggled in countries where Cuban cigars are sold over the counter.
4. Canadians have always felt Orioles fans were dissing their anthem when they yell ("O") during the Star Spangled Banner.
3. After former Jays GM Pat Gillick and former Expos GM Kevin Malone went to Baltimore, a CBC witch doctor placed a curse on the O's -- the same curse placed on William Shatner when he left Star Trek.
2. By the time they learned to say, 'Bon jour,' it was time to say, 'Goodbye.'
Andddddddddd ...
1. The government has announced that in honor of Cal Ripken, 20 losses Canadian will now equal 2,131 straight starts U.S.

There. Now that was certainly plausible. But for the crabcake take on this streakangle, we look to David Hill and Jim Sundra, noted witticists from the tremendous Baltimore baseball magazine, Outside Pitch.

Their top 10 reasons why the Orioles never win in Canada:

10. Orioles not content with just having the longest losing streak (21) in this country.
9. Brady Anderson's sideburns always have trouble getting through customs.
8. By the time they play both national anthems, O's veteran players have stiffened up.
7. Time normally spent concentrating on the game wasted figuring out how much they make per game Canadian.
6. Bothered by tight security -- team officials worried about mass defections.
5. Keep tripping in outfield fishing holes.
4. Play too well there, might get traded there.
3. Trying to earn the top pick in the Canadian free agent draft.
2. Hotel SpectraVision just features old episodes of Dudley Do-Right.
Andddddd ...
1. Play as badly as possible so that the Expos won't think there will be some heated regional rivalry when they move to D.C.

Homeless people of the week
And while we're on the subject of the Orioles' troubles, anybody noticed the following trend? Those troubles just never do end.

Albert Belle
Albert Belle and the Orioles had quite a week in New York.

We were shocked, for instance, to hear this week that the Orioles had to fly back to Baltimore between games in New York because there were no hotel rooms anywhere. No suites. No broom closets. No rooms whatsoever That's their story, and they're sticking to it.

Well, we take them at their word. But it's hard not to wonder about this.

For one thing, we've booked many a hotel room in New York, and we've often thought it might be cheaper to charter a plane than to stay in those rooms. For another thing, we've made that drive from Shea Stadium to Manhattan, and we know from experience there are nights when you could fly to Baltimore faster than you could make that drive.

So no one knows better than we do how tough times can be when you can't find a room in the Big Apple. And just how tough are those times? We've brought back David Hill and Jim Sundra, to present their Top 10 Signs Orioles Can't Book a Room in NYC:

10. Entire bullpen forced to crash with Joey Buttafucco.
9. Albert Belle's $2,000 suit singed on subway grate.
8. Cal Ripken's back problem aggravated by sleeping on those hard bus terminal chairs.
7. Brady Anderson is now courtin' Leona Helmsley.
6. Entire infield running an exploratory U.S. Senate campaign.
5. A tired looking Rich Amaral seen holding a "Baltimore Loves Willard" sign outside the Today Show.
4. Al Reyes goes to six consecutive performances of "Cats."
3. Albert Belle bunks with Phil Rizzuto.
2. Grounds crew find Mark Lewis snuggled in the tarp.
1. Mike Timlin seen holding makeshift "Will blow leads for shelter" sign.

Ooh. Now that's tough. But here at Week in Review, we've done our homework. And we've determined that had the Orioles simply investigated further, they'd have found there were indeed 53 rooms available Wednesday night in a very popular spot, right in the heart of Manhattan.

Matter of fact, if the Orioles had just been paying attention during their visits to Yankee Stadium, they'd have thought of this immediately -- because every darned night in that park, we're told (at massive decibel levels) that it's fun to stay ... where?

At the YMCA, of course.

And not only would it have been fun for those Orioles, says Rowena Daly, communications and community-relations director at the West Side YMCA on West 63rd Street in Manhattan. It would have been a snap to fit them right in at the largest 'Y' in the whole United States.

"They never called us," Daly told Week in Review. "I'm really upset. They should have called -- especially since I'm from Baltimore. I'd even have been right there to meet them at the door."

OK, so maybe it wouldn't be fun for John Rocker to stay at the West Side YMCA. But thousands of people a year do it and live to tell about it.

"We have 40,000 international and domestic tourists stay at our Y every year," Daly said. "It's a hot, happening place." It also would have been a bargain. The Y is "right down the street from the Trump," Daly said. "And their rooms go for $1,400 a night. Pretty steep. Our rooms run from $65 to $125. We're the best bargain in New York -- and we've got the best entertainment."

Granted, it might not be the kind of entertainment the Orioles are used to in New York. But maybe it's time they get out more.

"We've got our own cafe, and there's lots of action in there," Daly said. "We've got little kids from nursery school who forgot their juice. We've got people from France trying to order eggs. It's a very interesting place. It's the world."

And not only is it worldly, the West Side Y was voted as the best elder hostel in New York. Since the Orioles, ironically, are the oldest team in baseball -- "we definitely could have put them up very comfortably," Daly said.

Ah, but would there have been 53 rooms available Wednesday?

"Sure," Daly said. "We could have done that. Some of them maybe would have had to sleep in bunks, but they're very nice. We have rooms with baths and rooms without baths. I think maybe it would have been a chance to get in touch with their fans."

Hmm Maybe that's what they were afraid of. But had they just given the Y a chance, the Orioles could have been put up on a special, private floor, featuring rooms with bathrooms, desks and televisions, just like the Plaza, except without the robes. No frequent-Y guest points are offered. But if you join the West Side Y, you can hang out at other Y's all across America.

But that's not all, either.

"We're just steps away from the ballparks in Central Park, if they wanted to practice," Daly said. "And we've got a great fitness facility: two pools, basketball, a rowing gym, a fitness gym, steam room, sauna."

Hey, and Norman Rockwell was even a member once. That's the ultimate romantic baseball connection.

So this may be the last time time you ever see those shots of some homeless baseball team flying off to some distant destination just because it couldn't find a hotel room. Roomless in Manhattan? Now we know. They've got just the spot, if they only think of that song.

"If that ever happens again, just give our reservations department a ring," Daly said. "And we'll welcome them with open arms -- even Albert Belle."

Slugger of the week
We all know there's nothing more exciting about interleague play than watching those sweet-swinging American League pitchers march up to home plate.

All right, so maybe we all don't know that. But trust us. It's great.

And for evidence, we just need to roll back the tape to last weekend in New York, when Devil Rays pitcher Esteban Yan headed for the batter's box for the first at-bat of his professional career.

Even though shortstop Felix Martinez had just thumped the previous pitch over the fence for his first career homer, Mets pitcher Bobby Jones threw Yan the obligatory first-pitch fastball. Then he -- and everyone else -- watched in shock as the ball disappeared over the left-field fence.

That made Yan just the fifth pitcher in history to homer on the first pitch of his first at-bat (and the first since Jay Gainer of the Rockies did it on May 14, 1993).

It also made Yan and Martinez only the fifth set of teammates ever to hit their first career homers back-to-back. The last set was Sal Butera and Bryn Smith of the Expos, on April 14, 1985.

Now the first set was that immortal multi-generational combo of Pop (Dillon) and Kid (Elberfield) of Detroit, on April 29, 1901. Of course, when they did it, about six players in the whole American League had ever hit a home run. So this was a far more prestigious feat. And Yan had been planning it all season, too.

"I've been thinking the last two weeks, when I get my chance, the first pitch I see that's close to home plate, I want to swing," Yan told Week in Review. "And if I swing, I want to take a big swing, a good swing. I was thinking maybe I'd get a double, not anything like this."

Hey, join the club. But since Yan hadn't even taken regular batting practice in six years, he had no idea what he'd just done.

"I don't believe the ball is going out because I never see it," he said. "I get to second base, I see the umpire waving. I don't believe it. I say, 'What's going on?' Then I think in my mind, 'You hit a home run.' I say, 'Oh, I can't believe I hit a home run."

Until that point, Yan was figuring the ball was somewhere inside the stadium, caroming around. So he ran the first half of his trot like Michael Johnson running the 220. But then, once he got the home-run signal, you might say he slowed down a tad In fact, he went from second to home in about the time it takes to fly to Hong Kong.

"You shouldn't trot like that when you're a pitcher," said Ozzie Guillen. "You should run around the bases with your head down and get the (heck) out of there. Mark McGwire can trot like that. But not Esteban Yan."

Asked afterward for an explanation of his slow-mo trot, Yan said: "Everyone else does it, so why can't I do it, too?"

That was his story at the time, anyway. But later, when he talked to his wife back home in the Dominican Republic, he had some real explaining to do.

"My wife say, 'Why you run the bases all crazy?' " Yan reported. "She say, 'When the police are running behind you, you have to run hard. Not when you hit a home run.' "

Innovation of the week
There's nothing like that special interleague magic you can only get in a Pirates-Tigers series. And those tingles that emanate throughout the land when the Devil Rays play the Phillies are enough to brighten anyone's week.

Or maybe not.

Face it, friends. That unique interleague glow just isn't what it used to be. We counted 22 interleague crowds under 20,000 in the first week of this year's interleague tournament. And that's not good.

So what do we do about it? That's the question. And here to answer it is one of our favorite deep thinkers in baseball, Phillies center fielder Doug Glanville.

Glanville's proposal for spicing up these interleague games: Separate interleague standings. And the winner of those separate interleague standings gets ... (here comes that deep-thinking part) ... a bonus interleague wild-card playoff berth.

"Kind of a special back door to the playoffs," Glanville said proudly. "Like hockey. They've got all kinds of extra teams that make it. So why not us?

"The winner of the National League interleague wild card," Glanville theorized, "would get to play the winner of the American League. Best of one. Home field goes to the winner of an arm-wrestling contest between the two managers."

The winner of that game, he thinks, should get to advance to the real playoffs, playing real playoff teams -- the ones that had to survive the entire 162-game marathon to make the postseason.

Oh, sure, that might not seem fair to those teams. But Glanville surveyed the guy at the locker next to his, Phillies shortstop Desi Relaford, and got a thumbs up from him, too. So it's practically unanimous.

"Hey, it's the 18 that matters," Relaford said. "The 162 -- that's overrated. It's those 18 in the middle of the summer where you really see what a team's made of."

Of course, heading into the weekend, the Phillies were 4-2 in those wild-card standings -- tied with the Expos and Mets for the NL lead through Thursday -- as opposed to 18-33 against their own league. So you could put two and two together here and detect some big-time self-interest in this brainstorm. But Glanville said nothing could be further from the truth.

"It's a whole different concept," he said. "That's all. I just want to preserve that interleague magic. The team that survives the interleague schedule has proved it's World Series ready. It's proved it's already got that World Series mentality. It's already a step ahead. So I think we should reward that."

We've promised to take up this brilliant idea with the powers that be. And with any luck, they might even start speaking to us again sometime this decade.

Useless information dept.
Box score line of the week: Here's something you don't see every day -- a Braves starter giving up nine earned runs. It happened last season to Tom Glavine (May 24, 1999 in Milwaukee). It happened again this year -- to Kevin Millwood, Wednesday against Toronto: 4 IP, 6 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 5 doubles, 0 singles, 94 pitches to get 12 outs. Who'd have thunk it?

Box score line of the week (Great Quote Dept.): In the Royals' 16-3 pounding of the Pirates last Saturday, nobody had a rougher day than Pirates reliever Jeff Wallace. His line: 1/3 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 40 pitches to get one out. The next day, Wallace told the Beaver County Times' John Perrotto: "I feel like I woke up in a coffin. I didn't sleep much."

Throwbacks of the week: Last Saturday, the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants played a Turn Back the Clock Day game in which they really turned back the clock -- to 1911 (when the Giants were in New York, the A's were in Philadelphia, their World Series featured no earthquakes and the attire wasn't exactly sleek and fitted).

So A's manager Art Howe actually dressed up like Connie Mack (jacket, tie, straw hat) to bring out the lineup card: "It's a nice idea," Howe said. "I just have to be a quick-change artist."

But his players never did get to change back into their real uniforms. They had to wear wild, oversized wool suits that looked as if they had room to house the entire Baltimore Orioles roster inside -- if they'd been looking for accommodations in the area, that is.

Asked how he enjoyed wearing those suits, A's bon vivant Matt Stairs told us: "It was awesome. The pants were a little baggy. If a big wind came at me, I was worried I was gonna blow away, like a parachute."

Stairs was also impressed with the uniforms' broad collars. Except that "every time you ran," he said, "they'd flap up and hit you in the face." But you won't find Matt Stairs complaining -- because while wearing that outfit, he homered off a left-hander, doubled and drove in four runs.

Asked if he could have played in 1911 if he had to wear those uniforms, Stairs said: "Yeah. I loved it. But I don&'t know if they had bodies like mine back then."

Big red plumbing machine of the week: And elsewhere in the Turn Back the Clock annals, last Saturday in Cincinnati, the Reds honored the 25th-anniversary bash for the '75 Reds by wearing replicas of the old Big Red Machine uniforms. Nice gesture. Bad fit. So a bunch of Reds couldn't get their pants to adapt to their physiques. "They kept slipping down," catcher Eddie Taubensee told the Cincinnati Enquirer's Chris Haft. "I looked like one of those plumbers. Everybody in back of home plate was getting a peep show."

Duel of the week: It was the first pitching matchup in history featuring starters who had won nine Cy Young awards -- Roger Clemens (five Cys) versus Greg Maddux (four Cys) -- last Saturday in Atlanta. So just as everyone expected, it turned into an 11-7 game -- featuring twice as many runs as Cy Youngs, 19 hits and 13 runs allowed by Cy Clemens and Cy Maddux, four straight hits off Maddux to start the game (first time in 444 starts that ever happened) and 3 hours, 57 minutes worth of insane baseball.

"I need heart-attack pills," Brian Jordan told Morris News Service's Bill Zack. "Unbelievable. With that pitching matchup, how can it go four hours?"

Coach of the week: Tigers coach Bill Madlock hasn't actually played a game in the major leagues since 1987. But he still got fined last weekend for not advancing a runner. How'd that happen? Simple. During a rain delay Monday in Pittsburgh, a replay of Game 6 of the 1979 World Series was shown on the scoreboard -- a game Madlock and Tigers manager Phil Garner played in. When Madlock came up and didn't advance a runner to third, kangaroo-court judge Bobby Higginson fined him $20.

"Why move him over?" Madlock told Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler. "Garner hit behind me, and he wasn't gonna get him in, anyway."

Meanwhile, the day before, Madlock had left the dugout to go to the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field and sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." And he got fined for that, too.

"Awful," the manager said. "Was that embarrassing? It was the worst ever. And he's going to get fined, because he didn't show his Tigers jersey."

You can bet Bill Madlock will be asking for a raise this winter.

Roofer of the week: Another first at Enron Field -- and this one didn't even involve a home run. Last Saturday, Astros catcher Mitch Meluskey, gave new meaning to the "up" in pop-up, when he lofted a ball so high, it somehow hit the roof at Enron, which is 175 feet taller than home plate.

The ball caromed off the roof in foul territory, all the way back into fair territory, where stunned White Sox pitcher Kip Wells caught it on the fly. But according to the ground rules, all foul balls that hit the roof are dead. So it was just another historic strike. But Meluskey was impressed with it, anyhow.

"I couldn't believe I hit it there," he said. "I didn't think that could be reached. I guess the weight room has been paying off a little bit."

Injury of the week: Giants catcher Doug Mirabelli missed a game last weekend because a drop of Drano ricocheted into his eye. That apparently cleared some different pipes than he'd originally intended.

Cab ride of the week: Twins first baseman David Ortiz hopped into a taxi in Houston last weekend and told the cab driver to take him to the ballpark. Well, he got to the ballpark, all right. Just not the right one. Twenty minutes later, they pulled into the desolate parking lot of the Astrodome.

"I said, 'This is the Astrodome,' " Ortiz reported. " 'Don't you know they don't play here anymore?' "

Eventually, he did arrive at Enron Field -- after a scenic ride of 1 hour, 5 minutes. Clearly, his driver wasn't related to any Astros pitchers.

Shatterbox of the week: In theory, it's just records that are made to be broken. But last Sunday, it was something else at the Oakland Coliseum.

A's catcher Sal Fasano pounded a mammoth home run that cleared the left-field stands and broke the window of a distant luxury box, meaning more than the pheasant was under glass in that gathering.

The big worry afterward was whether Fasano was going to get billed for the new window.

"It depends," he quipped, "on how low-budget we really are."

Ovation of the week: Jose Lima may be 1-8. But they still love him in Houston. When he left after giving up just four hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings of a 3-1 loss to the Twins on Tuesday, he still got a standing ovation. Even Lima couldn't believe that.

"In New York or some other places, they wouldn't have acted like that," he said. "If I was 1-8 there, I'd have to shoot myself -- or they'd do it for me."

Hamstring of the week: Going into this weekend, there was only one opponent Mark McGwire had never homered against as a Cardinal -- the Tigers. But after missing two games with a pulled hamstring, he returned to the Cardinals' lineup for the opener of their three-game series in Detroit. And that was a development that didn't bother Tigers pitchers, believe it or not.

"It doesn't matter if he has a bad hamstring," said Brian Moehler "He gets paid to walk around the bases."

Trivia answer
Mark McGwire, Eddie Murray, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Willie McCovey.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

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