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Steep price of NFL team ownership; DiMaggio's enduring feat

Putting one little word after another and whatever became of running back Joe Don Looney? ... National Football League franchises have now reached the stage of custom-built luxury yachts - meaning if you have to ask the price, you can't afford one! While NFL owners continue to complain that operating costs keep taking a bigger and bigger bite of their profits, all of them are fascinated by the millions of dollars pay television may make them somewhere down the road. The expenses they refer to are the huge bonuses given rookies, the escalating salaries of veteran players, plus the astronomical costs incurred in coast-to-coast travel. During the off-season the Dallas Cowboys reportedly sold for $80 million, expensive even allowing for the fact that some real estate was involved. Eventually, because of the tax write-off, more and more NFL franchises probably are going to be owned by huge corporations. Even some Japanese firms are supposed to be interested. It is estimated that most franchises will appreciate by at least $40 million during the next decade. DiMaggio says hitting was never easy

Joe DiMaggio will soon be a septuagenarian, but anytime I hear the name I still think of the young Yankee Clipper who patrolled center field so gracefully and swung such a devastating bat in the 1930s and '40s. While by now we've all probably learned never to say never about anything, Joltin' Joe's feat of hitting safely in 56 consecutive games in 1941 is one record that may never be broken - or at least it will probably last as long as the pyramids!

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I can still remember having lunch with Joe during a celebrity golf tournament almost 10 years ago in Palm Springs and being amazed when he told me that hitting a baseball was never that easy for him, a lifetime .325 hitter.

''I had the natural instincts to be a hitter right from the start,'' DiMaggio explained. ''I would never try to kid anybody about that. But it was never easy. It was never like picking up a bat and then just hitting safely against whoever was pitching that day. In fact, I had seen so few southpaw pitchers in the minors that I was with the Yankees for two years before I felt comfortable hitting against left-handers.''

Joe, who will turn 70 on Nov. 25, has three particularly strong memories about his hitting streak: (1) a neck injury that nearly forced him out of the lineup after he had hit safely in about 12 games; (2) Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy, normally a man not concerned with players' personal records, letting him swing at 3-0 pitches several times late in games in which his streak was in jeopardy; and (3) the fact that DiMaggio never once bunted while setting the record. '88 Olympics; NBA playoff format

* There may be enough clout among Eastern Bloc nations to get the 1988 Olympics switched from their Seoul, South Korea site - possibly to someplace like Belgrade, Yugoslavia. North Korea has already announced that it will boycott the '88 Games, and reportedly the Soviets will do the same, although the Russians generally prefer to wait and play their intentions like a fishing line. Certainly the possibility of a boycott will be one of the major topics when the International Olympic Committee holds a special meeting in Switzerland in December.

* The National Basketball Association has decided on a new format for its best-of-seven championship finals next June. The schedule calls for two games in one city, the middle three in the other, then the last two back at the site of Games 1 and 2. This 2-3-2 format, identical to the one used in baseball's World Series, will replace the 2-2-1-1-1 setup that the NBA had employed for many years. One of the main reasons for the switch, which the National Hockey League also made for its finals a year earlier, is to cut down on travel costs.

* Future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who has for years expressed interest in someday buying into an existing major league baseball franchise, apparently said no when owner Franklin Mieuli offered him a piece of pro basketball's Golden State Warriors. To get involved, Reggie probably would have had to sell off at least half of his fleet of 56 classic cars.

* Maybe, as some people think, the Edmonton Oilers aren't quite the best team in hockey, yet they figure to be at or near the top of the league for a long time. How come? Simple. Owner Peter Pocklington has his six best players (Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, and Grant Fuhr) tied up for at least the next three years. As several hockey publications have already pointed out, Gretzky (87 goals, 205 points last season) could have taken February and March off in 1984 and still won the NHL scoring crown.

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* If Gene Mauch doesn't know it already (and I suspect that he does) the new manager of the California Angels will have to be ready to deal harshly next year with certain players whose ''injuries'' always seemed to occur when a team with two or more tough pitchers showed up in Anaheim. Even some players with bonus clauses tied to the number of games they played allegedly used this ploy so long as there were enough games left against weaker teams to reach the figure they needed - a practice the manager is expected to crack down on in 1985.

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