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Thursday, June 5, 2003
Less filling, hits great

By Patrick Hruby
Special to Page 2

We can understand the cheating. And the lame denials. After all, Bill Clinton has only been out of office for three years.

But corking?

Sammy Sosa
Sammy may be old school, but using cork? Wise up!
Sammy Sosa should have known better.

Ask any physicist worth their weight in SuperBalls, and they'll tell you that the real tragedy of l'affaire de Sosa isn't that the Chicago Cubs slugger played fast and loose with the rules -- it's that he picked a scientifically dubious way to do it.

According to a recent University of Massachusetts study, a corked bat makes a batted ball travel only nine-tenths of a mile per hour faster than a regular ash bat. And in his 1994 book "The Physics of Baseball," retired Yale physicist Robert Adair claims that corked bats actually result in shorter blasts.

With that in mind, perhaps Sosa would have been better off stuffing his "batting practice" lumber with some alternate substances:

Sawdust
Pros: Lightweight and easy to obtain. Plus, it's made of wood -- so is it really cheating?
Cons: Soggy when wet; may attract termites.
Outlook: Fill 'er up! But be mindful of allergies.

Plastic
Pros: Already used as a cork substitute by the wine industry. Won't go moldy.
Cons: Puts wildlife at risk. Really. Cork forests in Spain and Portugal -- which are maintained in order to support the natural cork industry -- are home to more than 40 species of birds and wildlife.
Outlook: Bad bet. Unless you like half-crazed PETA activists dumping red paint on your head.

Aluminum
Pros: Works for the college kids. Aluminum bats have a bigger sweet spot; "trampoline effect" produces greater batted ball speed. Which translates into longer taters, and more of 'em. Perfect for, er, "batting practice."
Cons: Conceivably, could kill pitcher on a line-drive comebacker.
Outlook: Bad bet. The point is to have aluminum on the outside of the bat.

Nitroglycerin
Pros: Chemical compound used in rocket fuel and dynamite. Marvel as the ball explodes off your bat ...
Cons: ... along with your fingers, your suspiciously thick forehead and whatever else is left of your juiced-up body. And you thought growth hormone had nasty side effects.
Outlook: Bad bet. Stick to something safer. Like horse steroids purchased at a Tiajuana pharmacia.

Chewing tobacco
Pros: If it's good enough for your jaw, it's good enough for your bat. Besides, don't you want your lumber to look tough 'n' manly, like the numbered pajamas and little boy-caps you call a "uniform"?
Cons: Will increase bat's risk of oral cancer by 50 percent.
Outlook: Fill 'er up! And do it for America. It's not like our tobacco farmers get enough government subsidies or anything.

Sammy Sosa
Now a uranium bat exploding ... that would be something to see.
A uranium fuel rod
Pros: Hey, radiation works. Just ask Spiderman. Or the Hulk.
Cons: That glow during night games? It's not the stadium lights -- it's you! Also, your kids may have three eyes.
Outlook: Fill 'er up! But be warned: If an inanimate carbon rod can win power plant Employee of the Year on "The Simpsons," then Mr. Uranium could walk away with the MVP trophy.

Viagra tablets
Pros: Known to provide good, er, "wood." At least, that's what we've heard.
Cons: Thanks to Raffy Palmeiro, endorsement opportunities are limited.
Outlook: Fill 'er up! One way or another, you're bound to score!

Strawberry jam
Pros: Finger-lickin' good. Plus, Wilbon suggested it on "PTI." And he always knows what he's talking about.
Cons: Bat still won't taste as good as a hot 'n' fresh Krispy Kreme donut.
Outlook: Fill 'er up! Unless you're playing cricket. In which case, orange marmalade is probably more appropriate.

Patrick Hruby is a sportswriter for the Washington Times. You can reach him at phrub@yahoo.com.