It's Spitting Image of Soccer's Problem

German soccer players are defending their right to spit. They have responded angrily to suggestions that spitting and clearing their nostrils on the pitch should be banned because it has a bad influence on children.

"We can't carry a packet of hankies on the pitch. I'll never give up spitting--and others won't either," Kaislerlautern midfielder Mario Basler told Bild newspaper. "This is a contact sport, not a women's coffee morning."

Volker Roth, head of the German Football Assn.'s refereeing panel, said the practice was disgusting. "Let no one tell me this is medically necessary. It's purely a question of upbringing."

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Trivia time: Which player holds the major league record for leading his league in home runs the most times?

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The four amigos: From the Gallery column of the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Tiger Woods hangs out with Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Ahmad Rashad. Woods talks to the self-named 'Brothers' almost every day [calling Jordan and Barkley every morning to make sure they're up for their workout], and vacations with them often.

" 'Our bond is that we're black, famous and rich, and living in a fishbowl,' " Barkley said in Newsweek."

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Why me? In the category of embarrassing debuts in big-league history, Joe Falls of the Detroit News nominates this one:

"Before John Sullivan caught his first ball in his major league debut on opening night in Kansas City, his cap was splattered by a pigeon at home plate and time was called while the umpire got a towel and cleaned him up."

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Choices: Norman Chad in a column for America Online: "Question: "If you had a choice between watching MLS on TV, watching the WNBA on TV or watching bass fishing on TV, what would you do?

"Answer: 'Look, honey, he's baiting the hook WITH AN ARTIFICIAL LURE!!!' "

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Ultimate dreamer: Charley Pell, the former Florida football coach who died recently at age 60, once said:

"I demand just one thing from my players and that is attitude. I want them to think as positively as the 85-year-old man who married the 25-year-old woman and built a five-bedroom house near an elementary school."

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No, not that! "Let's all hope White Sox pitcher David Wells will at least be wearing boxer shorts under his uniform the last day he pitches," says Jack O'Connell of the Hartford Courant. Why? Because Wells said:

" 'When I retire, I want to go out on top--throw a no-hitter, that'd be something to leave on. I'd take off the uniform and leave it right there on the field and walk off.' "

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Looking back: On this day in 1964, Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies against the New York Mets. The no-hitter gave Bunning one in each league and the Phillies' Gus Triandos became the first to catch no-hitters in both leagues.

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Trivia answer: The New York Yankees' Babe Ruth led the American League in homers 12 times.

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And finally: David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel, bemoaning--once more--Shaquille O'Neal's leaving the Magic to play for the Lakers:

"The more you see him now, the more apparent it becomes. Somebody around here made one of the biggest blunders in history.

"This was the Louisiana Purchase in sneakers. The Lakers got everything west and east of the Mississippi. The Magic got Rony Seikaly."

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