Billy Was the Berra of Very Bad Tidings for Yogi, by George : Ask the Answer Man . . .

Question: The media are making a big deal out of George Steinbrenner's hiring Billy Martin to manage the Yankees for the fourth time, but then, I guess it was a real shock. Were you as surprised as the rest of us?

Answer: Astounded. Who would have guessed? This ranks right up there with the other surprise news stories of the week, also out of New York--reports of several muggings in the subways and an almost unbelievable incident of a midtown taxi driver's failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian.

Q: I understand that ABC, the network, wants to cut its fee to the USFL from $15 million to $7 million next year because of a sharp falloff in ratings and attendance. Is this true?

A: Your figures are basically correct, buddy, but what's this million business?

Q: Were you surprised at the timing of Yogi Berra's firing, considering how early in the season it is?

A: I think Steinbrenner's timing was exceedingly poor. He definitely should have waited. Steinbrenner fired Yogi on April 28, and he should have waited until May 12, which will be Yogi's 60th birthday.

Imagine the ceremony at home plate, Yankee Stadium. A huge birthday cake is wheeled out. Billy Martin pops out of the cake and presents Yogi a check for two weeks' severance pay. There wouldn't have been a dry eye in the place.

Q: Only two USFL owners voted to keep the league playing a spring schedule, and both of those owners say they will stick to their guns and play in the spring. What kind of schedule format will they play?

A: Square robin.

Q: Reportedly, the final incident that prompted Steinbrenner to fire Berra was an optional team workout Yogi called, which only seven players attended. Where were the other 18 players that day?

A: They were all attending a lavish party at the home of a Mr. Alfred Martin, whoever that is.

Q: I'm curious about Manute Bol, the 7-6 college player who has declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. Are the other members of his family also tall?

A: All but one brother, a rowboat captain named Tidy.

Q: One of the great sports stories of the year is that courageous fellow who ran the Boston Marathon with a transplanted heart. Are there any other similar sports stories? Seems to me that I read somewhere that George Steinbrenner is a heart transplant recipient. Is that true?

A: Close. Steinbrenner is a donor.

Q: Since the Express is solely supported by the owners of the other USFL teams, will our local team be forced to cut corners? Flying to away games, will they still travel first class?

A: No, they'll be shipped COD.

Q: What has happened to first base, the most stable and dependable position in Dodger history? Now it's Brock . . . Marshall . . . Guerrero . . . Oliver . . . Bream . . . What are the Dodgers doing?

A: Desperately seeking Garvey.

Q: Thank goodness Kathryn Crosby backed down and decided not to junk the famed Crosby Clambake golf tournament because the foundation that runs the tournament wanted to take on corporate sponsorship. With Kathryn back in the picture, will the tournament retain its purity?

A: Pretty much, but there were some compromises necessary. The name of the tournament, for instance, will be changed slightly, to AT&T;/Amalgamated Mutual Financial Trust Clambake and Mortgage Foreclosure.

Q: What happens if Dale Murphy and Chief's Crown each win a triple crown?

A: They will meet in a best-of-seven playoff in November.

Q: Steinbrenner owns a Derby horse, Eternal Prince. How did the horse get its name?

A: I believe Steinbrenner came up with that name one morning, while shaving.

Q: Aren't you being a little rough on George Steinbrenner? All he did was fire a manager for no good reason, which is one of baseball's oldest and most endearing traditions. Do you dislike the man?

A: On the contrary, I am a great admirer of Steinbrenner. I salute his amazing feat of hiring the same man to do a job the man already has screwed up three times. The four hirings of the same manager may be a world record. However, considering the oratorical prowess of both parties, the record will no doubt be listed as wind-aided.

Q: The Dodgers' newest pitcher, Tom (The Flamingo) Brennan, reportedly is a fan of the classics. I read that he is an admirer of Wagner. What's your opinion of Wagner?

A: That depends. Honus had better bat control, but Leon could hit the long ball.

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