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To Avert Repeat of '54 World Series Sweep,

Cleveland Must Hit Its Stride Quickly

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'Sweep'' is not a word the Cleveland Indians like to hear, but unless they can win tonight's third game of the World Series at home, the Atlanta Braves might pull the brooms out of their Halloween closet and whisk away the American League champions in four straight.

As the visiting team in the first two Series games, Cleveland's objective was to gain a proverbial split. Instead, Atlanta has taken a 2-0 lead, making Game 3 absolutely critical for the Indians. An 0-3 deficit is almost inescapable, especially when the Braves are ready to send Greg Maddux back to the mound for Game 4 and presumably yet again in Game 7, if it comes to that.

Clevelanders, in particular, would like to erase any ''sweep'' thoughts, since the Indians were held winless in their last Series appearance (1954).

Maddux was masterly in Saturday night's opener, hurling the first two-hit, complete game in the World Series in 24 years. The Braves won 3-2, then came back with another one-run victory Sunday (4-3) while using four pitchers. In the process, they've held the Indians' potent batting order to a .125 batting average.

Atlanta has not batted all that much better (.205), but then hitting is not a team strength. The play of the Series thus far was probably an eighth-inning pickoff play by Braves catcher Javier Lopez. His home-to-first-base bullet throw caught baserunner Manny Ramirez by surprise in Game 2 and helped snuff out a potential rally.

Women in training for Olympic basketball

ELEVEN women likely to represent the United States in basketball at next summer's Olympics have completed a three-week training camp at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The camp and the games that follow are part of a one-time, pre-Olympic development program intended to improve some disappointing results (bronze medals at the most recent Olympics and world championships).

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The team consists of former college All-Americans and national-team players normally resigned to overseas professional opportunities.

The squad begins a nationwide tour against women's college teams on Oct. 26, then tours Europe, Asia, and Australia from January through May, before the actual Olympic team selections are announced next June.

The members of the US Olympic men's team will get on-the-job training from playing in the National Basketball Association. Although most of them play a very long season, the experience of coming together for the first time next summer should give them a sense of making a fresh start.

Touching other bases

* Pop quiz: Besides Alaska, which state does not have either a Division I or I-AA college football team? (Answer appears below.)

* Trivia nugget: Did you know that media magnate Ted Turner once briefly managed the Atlanta Braves? The year was 1977, the Braves had lost 16 straight, and owner Turner wanted to stir things up. He did. Baseball officials almost immediately ordered him out of the dugout, saying his presence there was not in the best interests of the game. Turner's career record as a manager stands at 0-1.

* Apparently the cool way to hit a major-league home run these days is to stand at home plate and watch the ball sail out of the park before trotting around the bases. This style obviously works only if the ball is clearly crushed. In the stadium, of course, all eyes follow the ball's flight, and no one really notices that the batter is not running. The TV replays, however, capture these hitters looking terribly cocksure.

* In a glitzy New York press conference last week, Major League Soccer unveiled the names of the 10 teams that will begin play next April. In what might be a first for an American-based league, animals were shut out. There will be no Lions, Tigers, Bears, or Bison. The most soccer-ish name belongs to the Washington franchise, which is called Washington United. Here's the rest of the lineup: New Jersey Metros, New England Revolution, Columbus (Ohio) Crew, Tampa Bay Mutiny, Colorado Rapids, Dallas Burn, Kansas City Wiz, Los Angeles Galaxy, and San Jose Clash.

* Quiz answer: Vermont. The University of Vermont dropped its varsity football program after the 1974 season.

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