It's a shame that the Pittsburgh Steelers and running back Franco Harris, now a free agent, have parted company. They were so compatible for so long that severing the ties over a contract dispute had to sting.
During 12 years with the club, Franco had become synonymous with the Steeler glory days of the 1970s, helping the team to four Super Bowl victories. A native of New Jersey, he had played college ball in Pennsylvania, at Penn State, and seemed to fit Pittsburgh's working class image to a T. The fans loved him and were eager to see him become pro football's all-time leading rusher this year. He needs only 363 yards to pass Jim Brown (12,312 yards), but can't afford to sit since Chicago's Walter Payton is only 687 yards shy of the record himself.
Franco never reported to training camp and continued to hold out until the team released him earlier this week. Basically Harris wanted a better deal than the franchise was willing to offer a 34-year-old veteran, one of only six left from the championship teams, the others being Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Larry Brown, Mike Webster, and Donnie Shell. (Quarterback Terry Bradshaw retired less than a month ago with arm problems.)
The Steelers were certainly not unmindful of Harris's many contributions and achievements as a player. They put him on the cover of the team's 1984 media guide, in which he is described as a ''future pro football Hall of Famer and one of the greatest big game players in NFL history.''
Unfortunately, Franco left thinking the club didn't really want him, a feeling that partly stemmed from Coach Chuck Noll's ''Franco Who?'' reference. Noll said he didn't mean to slight Harris, but indicated he can only be concerned with players in training camp.
Trevino claims PGA crown
Just when it appeared that Lee Trevino was easing out of the picture as a top golfer into the role of expert TV commentator he surprises everyone by winning the PGA Championship - and with a 15-under-par total that was a record for this major tournament. Physical difficulties have caused Lee to cut back his playing schedule considerably, but he showed no signs of rustiness in dissecting the fairways of Alabama's Shoal Creek Golf Club this past weekend.
He kept out of the thick rough to score a four-shot victory over Lanny Wadkins and Gary Player, raise his career earnings above $3 million, and win his sixth major tournament and his first since capturing the PGA a decade ago. His effort earned him a spot in this week's World Series of Golf at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. And what's to say the 44-year-old Dallas native won't repeat his latest performance? After all, he has played better in the big tournaments than just about anybody this year, a fact generally overlooked because other golfers won them - until Sunday.
Touching other bases
* To help fill the void left by the Colts' move to Indianapolis, the Maryland-Clemson football game on Nov. 17 has been shifted to Baltimore's vacant Memorial Stadium. Maryland's Terrapins normally play down the expressway in College Park, but were willing to switch the game after receiving an enticing offer, including free rent and a percentage of the concessions.
* Michael Gross, the lanky West German swimming star who won two gold and two silver medals at the Olympics, has turned in his trunks for army fatigues. As Gross began his 15-month military obligation, the Associated Press photographed him receiving a machine gun. At about the same time, American swimmers Rowdy Gaines and Steve Lundquist were mugging for an AP photography in a quite different post-Olympics setting, with a longhorn steer at a Dallas party.
* When the college football season opens this fall, two Eastern players will be legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates, and neither hails from Penn State or Pittsburgh. Doug Flutie is a quarterback at Boston College, Napolean McCallum a running back at Navy.
* Though ABC Sports prefers to televise baseball playoff games at night, when ratings and commercial profits are greater, it doesn't want to be portrayed as a backroom manipulator. Therefore, the network has announced it will carry post-season games involving the Chicago Cubs whenever they are scheduled, which is to say, even in the afternoon.
The announcement was aimed at quieting a furor over the possible installation of temporary lights at Wrigley Field, the Cubs' unilluminated home park, and even speculation about moving games crosstown to Comiskey Park or Milwaukee's County Stadium. The Cubs, who play all their home games during the day, have never installed lights because of neighborhood opposition.
* Baseball was originally played barehanded. Fans booed the first appearance of gloves and mitts, but accepted them as part of the game by the latter 1870s.
* Just because certain countries aren't in the Olympic limelight doesn't mean they value athletic achievement any less. For instance, in 1980 Zimbabwe's minister of sport awarded an ox to each member of that country's gold medal-winning women's field hockey team. This year, in somewhat similar fashion, King Fahd was so pleased when Saudi Arabia qualified for the Olympic soccer competition he decreed that each player should receive a plot of land.