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A home not fit for Boston's sports kings; no playoffs in Wrigley

Although there has been talk of building a new arena in Boston for many years, accompanied by a steady stream of proposals, ground never gets broken. Public sentiment may partly be responsible, because some fans remain attached to the city's aging arena, the 57-year-old Boston Garden, which is a storehouse for many of the community's fondest sports memories.

It's rather hard to understand this attachment, though, after one has seen the beautiful, modern arenas so many other cities have built. They are a vast improvement over the home of the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins, which has numerous obstructed-view seats and a generally antiquated look.

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The arena's most charming feature, the parquet floor used by the Celtics, could simply be picked up and moved to a new building, along with all the Celtic and Bruin championship banners.

Some argue that the Garden's seating configuration is more intimate than that in modern arenas, which is probably true. The steeply pitched balconies, which have handrails separating every row, bring spectators closer to the action than do more gently sloped seating sections. A new arena probably could not duplicate this sense of being on top of the players. It could, however, be made safer and free of the overhangs that block sight lines in the current Garden.

The Celtics are just tenants, and often frustrated ones, in the building that is owned by the Delaware North Corporation of Buffalo, which also owns the Bruins. In a story on the Garden in Sports Illustrated, Celtics president Red Auerbach said he would like more seats between the baskets. ``Hockey people don't seem to care where they sit, but basketball people want to sit between the baskets,'' he explained. Cubs could be playoff exiles

A bizarre decree was issued recently by baseball's National League calling for the Chicago Cubs to host any postseason games they're involved in 300 miles away. The order stems from the fact that Wrigley Field, the Cubs' home park, is the only unlit major league stadium.

Baseball's TV contract mandates prime-time scheduling of all playoff contests. To comply, the Cubs would have to shift into the closest National League East park with lights, which is Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

With the fifth-place Cubs long shots to win their division and qualify for the playoffs, the main purpose of the National League dictate may be to sway public opinion in favor of lights.

The club wants them, too, since night games could generate far greater TV ad revenue and perhaps lessen the physical wear on the players. The community, however, opposes the idea. Chicago and Illinois laws prohibit night play at Wrigley, which sits in a neighborhood where residents value their nocturnal peace and quiet, as well as their on-street parking.

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This issue goes beyond quality-of-life considerations and the attachment of tradition-bound fans to day baseball. It also appears to be a matter of standing up to television's pervasive influence on sports.

The thought of shipping playoff games to St. Louis is ludicrous. Why not just play them cross-town in Comiskey Park, home of the American League's White Sox? The chances of both clubs simultaneously making the playoffs, thereby creating a scheduling conflict at Comiskey, are slim at best. Touching other bases

The classic way of winning a golf tournament is to stage a late charge over the finishing holes. Victories, however, are sometimes accompanied by a sense of relief more than exhilaration. Juli Inkster, the winner of the LPGA McDonald's Championship, knows the feeling. She ballooned to a five-over-par 77 in last Sunday's final round, a discouraging finish that nonetheless gave her a three-shot victory. Thanks to rounds of 68, 67, and 69, she had begun the day with an eight-shot cushion, but rapidly frittered some of it away after double-bogeying the sixth hole and ending a 40-hole streak of bogeyless golf.

No tour winner has sneaked home with such a high score since October 1984, when Japan's Ayako Okamoto carded a 77 over the final 18 holes of the frigid, wind-swept Ladies British Open. The conditions at that event were so taxing that Okamoto went 71-71-70-77 and still won by 11 shots.

Playing in the lackluster American League West affords baseball's defending World Series champions a real luxury. The Kansas City Royals can get off to a poor start, as they did this year and often do, and still manage to stay in contention for the division championship. Just look at the current situation. The Royals, barely a .500 team, found themselves just three games out of first place after Tuesday night. Even a mild winning streak might allow them to overtake Texas. By contrast, in the AL East the Royals would now be in fifth place, nine games back, and perhaps wondering if time were already running out on their pennant chances.

A. Bartlett Giamatti, a top-flight intellect and baseball fan, will be leaving Yale University, where he had been president, to assume the reins of baseball's National League. And how would Dante have felt about this appointment? ``He would have been delighted,'' said Giamatti, a professor of Italian literature. ``I think Dante knew very well the nature of paradise. . . .''

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