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In what MLB terms an "unprecedented exchange designed to strengthen longstanding relationships with Japanese baseball," the NL and AL have agreed to conduct an experimental umpire exchange program with the Central and Pacific Leagues of Japan for spring training '96. Under the deal, four Japanese umpires will join AL and NL umps in split-crew assignments this spring, while AL umps Jim Evans and Don Denkinger and NL umps Jerry Crawford and Charlie Williams will work for a week in Japan. NL President Len Coleman: "I hope it is just the beginning of more activities involving Major League Baseball and Japanese Baseball." AL President Gene Budig: "No sport is better positioned than baseball for international growth ... There will be other significant initiatives in the future." MLBPA official Gene Orza: "This is a small but obvious step in the eventual internationalizing of the sport. I'm sure the players will have a positive response to it" (MLB).
Greg Norman claims that he is being "singled out" by the PGA European Tour's effort to enforce guidelines regarding the use of appearance fees to attract top PGA Tour stars to overseas events. In letters to the Dubai Desert Classic, Murphy's Irish Open and Canon European Masters, PGA European Tour Exec Dir Kenneth Schofield reminded tournament officials that only 25% of the total purse could be used for such side events as clinics and skins game -- namely, appearance fees. But Norman, who played in all three events last year with fees as high as $350,000, took offense: "I said to Ken, 'It seems to me you are discriminating against me.' A lot of other guys played in those events and got appearance money. I seem to be a target for everything." Despite Norman's assertion the guidelines could be seen as "restraint of trade," a spokesperson for Great White Shark Enterprises Inc. said, "Litigation is not the answer." Meanwhile, the tournaments responded by raising purses by as much as 200,000 Pounds (GOLFWORLD, 2/9 issue). HOW MANY QUID FOR THIS PRO QUO? Norman -- who once termed the atmosphere at TPC Eagle Trace "carnival golf" -- will play the Honda Classic when the tournament returns to the course this year. GOLFWORLD reports the change of heart is due to a promise from the PGA Tour to award Norman's architecture firm the contract to design the planned TPC club in Atlanta (Geoff Russell, GOLFWORLD, 2/9 issue).
NewSport's Dan Wasserman reports the NFLPA will go before U.S. District Judge David Doty in Minneapolis to have the NFL salary cap increased by $2M per team above the $38.8M set by the league last week. The union claims the league "improperly excluded" revenues from the two expansion teams. ... Wasserman also reports former NBPA accountant Charles Bennett has taken himself out of the running to be the union's new Exec Dir (NewSport, 2/14)....76ers officials will make their pitch to the NBA today to host the '98 All-Star Game. 76ers Exec VP Tom Chestnut, on the competition -- New York and Portland: "The league's offices are in New York and there will come a time when there are reasons for the game to be there. Right now, though, the league likes taking the All-Star Game to other cities, to new buildings. Our focus will be on the substance of our presentation. The league has seen glitzy presentations before. I think they're looking for substance" (PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 2/15).... NEWSDAY's Rob Parker is highly critical of NBA Commissioner David Stern's new deal, calling it "the most outrageous contract in the history of pro sports." Parker illustrates his point by substituting a dollar sign for the "S" in Stern's name (NEWSDAY, 2/14)....The CFL is seeking buyers for the Calgary Stampeders, with Owner Larry Rykman under threat of losing control of the team to the Alberta Securities Commission. Hard Rock Cafe owner Sig Gutsche is mentioned as a possibility (CP/OTTAWA CITIZEN, 2/15).