San Francisco Made This Fan Leave His Heart

Michael Volpe may be the vanguard of a fan revolt. In a novel action, he declared himself a free agent fan after the San Francisco Giants, a team he had supported for 36 years, traded Matt Williams, his favorite player.

Volpe wrote a form letter to major league baseball's 27 other teams in November, offering his services as a fan to the team that can best answer the question, "Why should I become a fan of your team?"

Since then, the Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians have joined the bidding with various gifts or promises.

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Trivia time: Besides Magic Johnson, who are the only Lakers to have worn jersey No. 32?

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Knuckle family: Phil Niekro, the newest member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, owes his trademark knuckleball to his late father.

"My father used to be a great sandlot player--a 6-2 coal miner who could throw 90 mph," Niekro recalled. "Hurt his arm somewhere along the line."

So Phil Sr. had only one pitch, a knuckleball, and that's what his son learned while playing catch in the backyard. The rest is history.

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Little league: Bernie Lincicome of the Chicago Tribune, pointing out that the NFL's final four hail from Green Bay, Wis.; Charlotte, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla., and Foxboro, Mass.: "These teams come from places so small they have to share the village idiot."

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Kiner clone: Jayson Stark of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that the Ralph Kiner-like quote of the week comes from Cleveland's Jim Thome.

Accepting an award for teammate Omar Vizquel, Thome said, "Omar Vizquel sympathizes everything that's good about the Cleveland Indians."

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The last roundup? John McClain in the Houston Chronicle: "Do you know what they are calling a police lineup in Dallas? A huddle."

And, a New Year's Day headline in the New York Post read: "America's Team or America's Most Wanted."

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Kennel mentality: NBC commentator Randy Cross, as the Pittsburgh Steelers were losing to the New England Patriots: "Last week they looked like a pack of wild dogs. This week they just look like dogs."

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Camouflage: Greg Logan in Newsday, on the Jacksonville Jaguars' teal jerseys: "Maybe they dress like Cinderella, but by now, it's clear the Jags pack one heck of a punch."

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Trivia answer: Jim Krebs, Jerry Grote, Bill Bridges and Cazzie Russell.

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And finally: Tiger Woods hasn't been on the PGA Tour for a full year yet, but British bookmakers have made him the third favorite to top the money-winning list in 1997.

Ladbrokes, inundated with bets on Woods, has slashed his odds from 25-1 to 8-1, behind Tom Lehman and Phil Mickelson, both at 6-1, but ahead of such established players as Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Fred Couples and Nick Price.

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