"I haven't paid for an autograph in the past two years because it's gotten to be outrageous," said Dan St. Croix of Sterling Heights, Mich., who has had players sign pictures and pucks for his children. "It used to be you could pay $10 for an [Steve] Yzerman or [Sergei] Fedorov autograph. . . . Now it's just gotten to be too much."
Or not, depending on your perspective.
"If someone offers you $25,000 for 1,000 autographs, you're not going to do it?" forward Darren McCarty told the Detroit News. "This is the hot time for us. Obviously, you want to make money while you can make it."
Minor controversy: Rivals complain that Jeff Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports team cheats to improve tire performance late in races, prompting NASCAR to examine two tires mounted during a critical pit stop in a recent victory.
No irregularities were found but there will be further tests of the tires' chemical compound structure, "to squash any perception that there is any doctoring going on," a NASCAR spokesman said.
"We did adjust the air pressure and I know there's a car owner fuming out there, saying we put something in the tire," says Ray Evernham, Gordon's crew chief.
"Yeah, we did put something in the tire. We put in air."
Trivia question: Two players, one Giant and one Dodger, participated in both the 1951 and 1962 playoffs between the teams. Name them. (Answer below.)
Earth to Anna: Anna Kournikova, in New York for the U.S. Open, was asked about the falling ruble and the financial crisis in her native Russia. It's clear she has not been home lately.
"Everything in the newspapers and everything you see in the TV, it is a little bit over-exaggerated," she said. "Maybe there is some problems but they have always been there. It is just right now maybe it is a little bit more and people are living the same lives they lived before."
The value of the ruble has plunged more than 60% since President Boris N. Yeltsin devalued the currency on Aug. 17, greatly driving up the cost of such household items as bread and milk and triggering further economic chaos in Russia.
Had to happen: Advance transcripts of a book, "Blood on the Horns," plumbing the Bulls' rifts, surfaced in the Chicago press, reporting in detail a scene on a bus in Seattle last season when a drunken Scottie Pippen harangued General Manager Jerry Krause so badly that Coach Phil Jackson, no Krause ally, interceded.
"That's something that we will never understand," Michael Jordan told the book's author, Roland Lazenby, "how that relationship [between Krause and Pippen] formed and bridges were burned. . . .
"But we all have differences with management and certainly with Jerry Krause. Some of us can deal with it in different ways. Believe me, when I step on the basketball court, the last person I think about that I'm playing for is Jerry Krause."
Doesn't get joke: With writers searching for fresh angles on the home run chase, Tracey Stallard, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher who served up No. 61 to Roger Maris in 1961, is getting calls.
Not that Stallard is returning any.
"He has talked to me about it," Maris' wife told Murray Chass of the New York Times, "but I don't want to quote anything he has said."
Trivia answer: Willie Mays and Duke Snider.
And finally: Pete Sampras, asked what it will take for him to break through on the clay courts at the French Open: "I'm going to enter the ladies event maybe next year. Maybe I'll get lucky and win that."