Look y' thar," said Dave Carroll in a down-home accent as thick as a day-old chew. "Ever seen the likes of ballplayers like those?"

Carroll held back the hem of the lacy beige office curtain, alternately staring and inviting stares, like a midway huckster -- "LaDIES and GenTILmen, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT, the WORLD'S GREATEST SLOW-PITCH SOFTBALL TEAM is Right Before Your VERY EYES. . ."

Outside Carroll's office, in a reception area lined with an orange-green shag rug and a forest of four-foot-high gold and silver trophies, a group of men with bowling-ball biceps, varing in ages from 25 to 40, looked like the Grand Tetons.

"See Bruce thar," continued Carroll, the 43-year-old North Carolina resident and owner of what his closest rival terms "the Con-Ed of softballdom," a softball team of such home-run power that Carroll loses "at least a grand's worth of balls each summer.

No one can knock a softball as far as Bruce can. No one can even come close. And over next to Parrott, that's Danny Basso. From Dallas. Best shortstop in the country, I guarantee it.Tell you what, it's going to be tough enough to stop Dave Carroll this year, yes sir, real tough."

Right! Who can stop Dave Carroll and his Amazing Slow-Pitch Softball Machine? In softball or in business? Not many can.

First, to outslug Carroll in softball, you'd have to outslug the collection of powerkegs Carroll fondly calls "my boys," a group of North American natives who gather each weekend in a different city or town to add yet another trophy to Carroll's forest. In just five summers these men have clobbered more than 6,000 home runs and won more than 500 ballgames, logging 200,000 miles around and about these United States. One player, "Big Boy" James Boyette, became the first player to hit 300 homers in a single season.

Secondly, to outdistance Carroll in business, consider the selling of slow-pitch softball. With more than 35 million people playing softball in this country -- from investment bankers in Manhattan to spark plug salesmen in central Idaho -- you would think there would be a juicy market for softball products and equipment. There is, and Dave Carroll is in it. He and his softball team sell a product called "The Green Bombat," an aluminum instrument that has revolutionized softball home-run hitting. "They was having to move fences back all over the country so potent is the Bombat," said Carroll. In addition to the Green Bombat (1 million have been sold), Carroll sells the "new, DC-XX" softball bat, the Dave Carroll official Super Series 503-H softball, the official Dave Carroll Autograph Fielders Glove, and T-shirts. Carroll projects 1981 sales between $4 and $5 million.

Dave Carroll has it all locked up. The more he wins, the more he sells. "I jest hate losing, in anything," he says. The only other thing which could make it better would be . . . yes, Burt Reynolds! Dave got Burt, with the help of U.S. Tabacco and Hollywood director Hal Needham to be a sponsor of his team this year. So now Carroll's team is known as The Bandits, after Burt's box office smashes. It says so right there on the $65 green-and-white polyester jerseys: on one side, "Dave Carroll Sports"; on the other: "The Bandits."

FBI agents think that name is funny. That's because some aspects of Dave Carroll's business methods have attracted the bureau's professional attention. Despite his stature as an all-American hero in an all-American sport, Carroll had a financial secret. Using a torrent of deposits and withdrawals in both the Piedmont Bank & Trust Co. of Charlotte, N.C., and The First National Bank of Southern Maryland in Upper Marlboro, Carroll and 32-year-old David Wayson, owner of Rip's motel-liquor-restaurant-gas-anything-you-want complex on U.S. 301 in Prince George's County, apparently were able to create interest-free money for 11 months.

In business as in softball, Dave Carroll went for the home run: in less than a year's time Carroll and Wayson exchanged checks totalling at least $158 million, a good amount that existed only in the imagination. And when the ballgame ended in February 1979, somewhere between $3.2 million and $3.8 million (depending on whose scorekeeping you follow) was unaccounted for. Gone. Out of the ballpark. In its annual report for 1980, Wayson's bank, The First National Bank of Southern Maryland, told its shareholders it had honored checks in February 1979 of more than $3.8 million "which had been improperly drawn against uncollected funds by one of its depositors."

Warren Love of the Security National Bank in Washington, a banking security expert for the Bank Administration Institute in Washington and former FBI offocial, said of a $158 million exchange: "This is astronomical. I can't recall any check-kiting scheme of such dimensions locally in two decades of experience.." (Love was commenting hypothetically, and asked not to be told the names of the banks involved.)

"I didn't think we were doing nothin' wrong," said Carroll, "jest borrowing a little money."

Why? Well, there are many people down Carolina way, people like Carroll's buddy, Tom Hunter, who explain it so: "Because he wanted to beat his neighbor Richard Howard in softball. It's that simple."

The sign on North Carolina Highway 150 reads simply, "Welcome to the Denver of the East." "Now unless you were born in a broom closet," said Denver resident Richard Howard, "that right there should alert you to the fact this ain't no ordinary small town." In this part of North Carolina where Dave Carroll lives, about midway between Charlotte and Winston-Salem, Highway 150 bears its load of cigarette trailers, furniture vans and aspiring NASCAR racing autos. The highway slices through the middle of tiny Denver, which isn't so much a centralized town as it is a scattering of housess among the open farmlands. All 575 Denver citizens find common ground with Highway 150; you might even say it brings them all together -- all except two.

Dave Carroll's house sits right off Highway 150, just down the road from his offices. It is a recently built ranch with an adjoining carport and a swimming pool. Inside, the modern, thick orange carpet races through the narrow hallway and the furniture looks so neat as to be untouched. In the reaction room, photographic memoirs of Carroll at bat, Carroll on the mound and Carroll receiving awards line the walls.

From Carroll's kitchen window you can see his silver Lincoln Continental in the driveway.And if you look across Highway 150 you'll see another driveway. And nearby, an $8,000 neon sign. When the sign is lighted, it delivers a simple: "Home run." that's at Richard Howard's house.

Richard Howard is a smiling, born-again, very portly (almost 360 pounds), 56-year-old Denver native and hardwood furniture magnate who is to slow-pitch softball -- and to Denver -- what Churchill was to England. "Ask any softball fan who is the most recognized and famous slo-pitch team in America," reads a brochure about Howard's Furniture of Denver, N.C."

"That's the truth even if I did publish it," said Howard, a fast-talking, quick-witted, self-styled country boy. "And the more of those I hand out the truer it will be."

Howard loves softball. His passion began in 1956 as a pitcher on a church league team that played eight games in one day to win a tournament in Richmond. That sort of success led the former World War II Marine and current multimillionaire to enter his Howard's Furniture team in their first national tournament in 1969. "We finished 32nd out of a field of 32," said Howard. "We got out of the car on one side and got back in on the other."

But for the past 11 years, with the help of some blue-chip players -- sluggers like Stan "Pinch" Harvey (6-5, 240), Rick "The Crusher" Scherr (6-5, 275), Don "Old Man" Ardt, age 46 (6-5, 240), and Dick "Rocket" Bartel (6-6, 220), Howard's Furniture won national titles in 1973, 1974, and 1978. Howard, who has relegated himself to player-manager, says he spends anywhere from $85,000 to $90,000 a year on his team.

"I'll spend $100,000 as long as I can win," said Howard, "but not much more."

With just a high school education, hard work "and a pot full of luck," Howard built his local furniture store into a conglomerate of 70 different businesses -- including additional furniture stores, a chain of 150 Western Steer steakhouses, motor racing, sporting goods, restaurant supplies, a chain of Mom-and-Pop restaurants and bowling alleys.

Howard likes to excel and is drawn to the unusual. "My wife for instance," said Howard. "Her name is Eathyl. Now, how many Eathyls do you know? Not Ethyl, Eathyl. A man in Seattle once told me he had found one and I checked it out. But she was an Ethyl with a long 'e,' which in my book, doesn't count. I've got the only real Eathyl in the world. Print that and see if we can't find another."

Howard gleefully boasts that the bedroom he and his Eathyl share in the red brick, ranch-style house he built 36 years ago is the largest bedroom in North Carolina, a 30-foot-by-40-foot baby blue job. Adjacent to it is a mammoth bathroom complete with a Jacuzzi and two toilets ("There's no waiting on the wife"). From his bathroom window Howard can see his five-acre, custom-built softball field, complete with lights, dugouts and bleachers. "I can watch the boys practice even as I shower," said Howard. "That's one thing Dave can't do."

If he wore a sombrero, the curly-haired, mustachioed, stocky Dave Carroll could pass for a Dixie Pancho Villa. He speaks at a mud-pouring pace and often hangs onto an accented word as if caught with a mouth full of gargle. Though his involvement with softball began as a pitcher in 1956 as well, his rise to prominence is a different tale from Howard's. As a youngster growing up in Etowah, Tenn., a Bible Belt working-class suburb of Chattanooga, Carroll did Odd jobs -- paper routes, gas stations, roof repairing -- in hopes of making it in baseball. "All my life I dreamed of being a professional baseball player, but when the right time came around, I got bursitis in my arm," said Carroll, the fourth son of a railroad engineer. "So in 1956, my junior year in high school, I started playing softball."

Carroll worked and played around the industrial softball-rich area of Chattanooga. As a first baseman he was frequently called to pitch batting practice, where he was soon recognized as a talent.

"They had real trouble hitting me," recalled Carroll, who often grins when speaking of himself. "You see, as a pitcher in baseball I was always taught to change the speed of the ball, to move it up and down, in and out. I learned that the one thing to perfect was control, to be able to put the ball where you want it . . . Finally, I got to the point where I could put the ball as to one-half inch of where I wanted it every time."

"One-half inch?"

"Ever' time."

Carroll perfected what he called his "super-pitch," a flat pitch "thrown with boocoups of spin"; or, to keep batters on their toes, "no spin whatsoever," a knuckleball.

"I was the only one who could really throw a knuckler in softball," said Carroll. "Most of the time they would just pop it straight up. That's all you want 'em to do since you don't hardly ever strike out anyone in slow-pitch."

"He was the best pitcher in the game of slow-pitch softball, no doubt about it," said Ward Gossett, a leading sports-softball writer. "In a way Dave Carroll was a genius the way he could control batters at the plate. No one in the game had that kind of control."

Carroll pitched his Chattanooga team to a national championship. Yet while gaining attention as a softball player, Carroll was also excelling as a salesman for the Anderson Window Corporation. "The first year I was there I led the whole southeastern division in sales," said Carroll. "Next to softball, selling is what I do best."

Carroll's talents as a pitcher and salesman eventually attracted the attention of a man who had a need for such a person. In the fall of 1973, with a wife, three children, car payments, and a bank debt of $27,000 ("due to a mismanaged adventure"), Dave Carroll moved to Denver, N.C., to work and play for Richard Howard.

It was a combination which seemed to ensure victory. "Richard treated Dave just like a son," said a close friend of both. "He really liked Dave and would do anything for him. They seemed about as good a friends as you could get." In 1974 Dave Carroll pitched Howard's team to a national title and Carroll was named to the All-World Team.

But their wills to win extended beyond the ballfield. In January 1975 they began a sports company featuring a new and unusual item.

"I could see that all them batters basically had the same bat," said Carroll. "I could pitch 'em off their fists and make 'em pop up, and I would hear them griping all the time, that they couldn't get a bat to fit right. I got the idea that if we could come out with a bat with variable lengths and variable barrell lengths and market it with our name on it, we could get players to use it, and eventually into the sporting goods stores."

Howard agreed to bankroll the project, and they went 50-50. The bat was christened The Green Bombat and was emblazoned with a simple endorsement: "Used by Howard Furniture, Softball Champions of the World." The business began with an independent manufacturer making the product for Howard & Carroll Sports Company. In 1975 Howard & Carroll sold more than $750,000 worth of Bombats. The following year sales jumped to $1.2 million. "It was to where we couldn't hardly keep enough inventory on hand," said Howard, "like we reinvented the wheel of something."

On the strength of their new financial relationship, Howard sold Carroll a plot of land across Highway 150 and helped him get financing to build a home.

"We are close enough to where we can open our doors and shake hands," said Howard.

"I just never realized there'd come a day when we wouldn't," said Carroll.

One hot, dusty Sunday afternoon in July 1976 in Maryville, Tenn., Howard's Furniture, behind the pitching of Dave Carroll, was going for its second consecutive Smoky Mountain Classic Crown. There was a crowd of about 2,000 spectators, many of them home-town acquaintances of Carroll's. The team had managed to make it to the winner's bracket to face a tough Doc Linnehan's Pepsico team from Long Island. It was in the fifth inning of that game that Richard Howard's and Dave Carroll's softball friendship died.

Softball fans remember 1976 as the only year of the unlimited arc, the season the Amateur Softball Association allowed pitchers to loft the softball as high as they wanted -- "from the moon if they could manage it," recalled Howard. Previously, there was a 10-foot maximum arc.

This amendment had a devastating affect on Dave Carroll's flat pitch. "I never did believe in it," said Carroll. "It looked like a basketball shot rather than a softball pitch. It made the game a lot longer, caused a lot of monotony, and it seemed you walked a lot more people too. I tried to petition the ASA out of it."

Howard's found themselves trailing a tough Pepsico team 15-10 in the fourth. "Dave just couldn't throw the high-arc pitch, said Bobby Lutz, who was a manager for Howard's.

"He was so used to that old flat pitch," said Howard. "But these hitters, you see, had been facing these big, lofty pitches all season long. So when they saw Dave's flat pitch coming, they were just like pigs in mud. It looked like a watermelon coming in there. Hell, they were playing homerun derby with us . . . Something had to be done."

In the top of the fifth, Howard benched Carroll. "Richard jest as might as well shot him," said Tom Hunter, a friend of Carroll's. "Dave just couldn't stand being benched like that before a home-town crowd."

"When I walked off the field, "Carroll said, "I handed them my uniform and said, 'You'll never have to worry about me again. I'm gone.'"

Six months later Dave Carroll started his own team.

"Ever since that day all that man has ever wanted to do is beat me in softball," said Howard. "One day we was friends, the next day enemies. Crazy, ain't it.?"

'You've got to remember one thing when you write this story," Howard said one day. "Nobody is going to believe it. And the reason nobody is going to believe it is because they don't realize how big and competitive the game of slow-pitch softball has become."

There are 10, perhaps 12, slow-pitch softball teams in the country that can be classified in the "super" division. Unlike most Americans who play the game for the joy of winning, these men play because it's their lives. And there is a goal: the Triple Crown of Softball -- the Amateur Softball Association title, the National Slow-Pitch Conference title and the United States Slo-Pitch Softball Association World Series title. Only two teams have won the Triple Crown: Nelson's Paints of Oklahoma and Campbell's Carpets of Sacramento. Both teams are defunct now; their owners called it quits after spending too much money and accomplishing "the unaccomplishable."

Softball is also an adventurous life for 9-to-5-ers. Players don't necessarily live where their sponsor does and flying around the country for weekend softball "tends to spice life up a bit," says Mike Parrott, who lives in Houston but plays for Carroll.

Richard Howard has three players who live in Texas and fly to games most weekends. Carroll flies four from Texas, one from Florida, and one from Michigan. "If you have too many out-of-towners," said Howard, "you won't have the funds left to buy softballs."

Many slow-pitch players move from team to team, often going with the highest bid. A blue-chip player may earn as much as $35,000 a year, said one owner, most salaries are in the $12,000 to $21,000 range. Bruce Meade, the number one player in the game today, has played with five teams in four states in the past decade. But most players work for their sponsor.

Why would a business want to spend so much time and money on a sport that reaps no apparent financial benefits?

"Advertising," said Randy Gorrell, Howard's manager with a graduate business degree. "Last year I kept a scrapbook for Campell's. We received some 17,000 column inches in newspaper print around the country, Now, if you were to translate that into a dollar amount in terms of advertising, we couldn't possibly afford it. And that's not counting local TV and radio time. Softball is just a great way to advertise . . . I knew about Richard Howard's furniture store before I ever came east."

But Howard said he would still have a team even if the advertising benefits were not there "I think a lot of men who love this game would say the same thing," said Howard. "Hell, I just like to win."

The seed of humiliation over being benched in the Smoky Mountain Classic gave birth not only to his new team, but sprouted into a tough determination in Dave Carroll.

"I suffered some embarrassemnt," said Carroll in his slow drawl. "After all, I was right in my prime off my playing career when it happened. I had never gone a summer without playing softball. I wanted to play and win like anyone else."

After the benching there was only one thing conceivably worse: being beaten by Richard Howard.

"I think Dave was determined from the very start to have a better ball team and be a better sponsor than Richard," said Tony Cloninger, who has played for both men. "He would spend whatever it took, but Dave Carroll just wasn't going to lose. In fact, he is the toughest loser I've ever known."

Beginning in the fall of 1976, Carroll used his salesmanship and softball reputation to recruit and sign players. He had a talent for finding raw material. "I looked for power," said Carroll, "'cause in this game it's the home run that counts."

Gradually, he summoned to Denver players like the 250-pound James "The Baby Bambino" Boyett, former major league pitching great Tony "Top Cat" Cloninger (6-1, 260), "Home Run Harold" Kelly (6-3, 270), former Boston Red Sox farm team member "Wide Clyde" Guy (6-2, 250), Mike "Baby Huey" Bolen (6-2, 260), and former All-American punter and home-run specialist Mike "The Mad" Parrott (6-1, 245).

And then there is Bruce "The Bruiser" Meade, the indomitable slugger with the Superman blue eyes that no ballpark can contain. At 6-6 and 235 pounds, with a 33-inch waist and a mustache the size of a tricycle handlebar, Meade is the superjuggernaut of softballdom, a Wheaties Box come alive.

Meade's heroics will pack a ballpark, and women and children always seek his autograph. His contribution to Dave Carroll's team is immeasurable, except in home runs, of which he has hit more than 1,200. "He's what you call my prized possession," said Carroll. "He gets everybody's blood-running."

The man in the United States who had the best chance at stopping Carroll and his home-run killers, however, lived just 75 yards away.

"Everything was fine when I first started off," said Carroll. "But then we started beating a few people, including Howard's, and that's when the high spirits started commencing."

Those high spirits kicked up in part because, in the summer of 1977, Carroll was funding his team out of the Howard & Carroll Sports Company. "Daddy doesn't like to get beat," said Ricky Howard, one of three sons. "But when he gets beat with his own money, well, he really gets upset."

The Denver of the East had never witnessed such fireworks. Folks would come from as far away as Lexington, Ky., to see the two teams play.

"Those games would draw a crowd all right," said the young Howard. "I remember one time when Daddy and I were parking cars. We had our yard full, our neighbors' yards full, Grandma Chattie's yard was full, Uncle Bob's yard full, Uncle Emmett's yard full. There must have been 5,000 people there altogether."

One of the first confrontations came during an eight-team, double-elimination Invitational Tournament held in Howard's back yard in 1977.

Carroll's team had managed to beat a tough Jerry's Caterer's of Miami, yet had suffered one loss when they made it to the winner's bracket. They faced an unbeaten Howard's team which had scored victories over Nelson's Paints of Oklahoma City, 49-48, Burnette and Associates of Chattanooga, 63-34, and Buddy's Sporting Goods of Tallahassee, 74-19.

The finals were scheduled for 9 p.m. that Saturday evening, but because of the length of earlier games, didn't start until 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

"I don't care if it were 5 a.m. in the morning," said Cloninger. "All the players were up for that game. There were about 2,000 fans and they all stayed right there. Everybody always thought a fight would erupt."

By 4 a.m. no fight had erupted, though "there was a lot of talk back and forth," said Carroll. Howard's big guns dominated, knocking 21 home runs for a comfortable 45-24 victory. At 4:30 a.m., everybody went home. It was a cold initiation for Dave Carroll.

If anyone ever missed a game in Denver there was never trouble finding out who won. Outside his house and furniture store Howard turned on his neon sign which featured a pitcher, a ball and a batter. The pitcher throws the ball, the batter swings and "Home Run" lights up. On occasion, he added, "We Won."

"Dave can see it from his bedroom window," said Howard, chuckling.

The Howard and Carroll feud went on the road as well. At the celebrated Pick-O-Dixie Tournament in Chattanooga, the teams met in the finals. Again, Howard's won. Eventually, the tension proved too much for the business relationship. At the end of the '77 season, Richard Howard sold Dave Carroll the sports company, Bombats and all, for $10.

"I didn't like the way Dave was spending money," Howard said. "I just wanted out."

But a year later Howard was back in business. The Howard Sports Company featured its own special softball and a new aluminum instrument which bore a remarkable resemblance to the Bombat. It was called "The Howard Superbat."

Now when Howard and Carroll played, they really meant business.

"I just want to do two things," said Carroll. "Promote and play softball. And if it helps my company in the process, well, that's fine."

In 1978, without Howard as a business partner, the business became the Dave Carroll Sports Company and the "Dave Carroll" signature was everywhere: on Bombats, on softballs, on gloves, on bat bags. Carroll was missing Howard's bank account, however. That hurt, because the competition between the two had grown fiercer.

"On days after we lost, he wouldn't speak to nobody," said former player Tom Beall of Carroll.

Some players started complaining about bounced paychecks and that Carroll wasn't paying their federal income taxes as promised. Former player Mike Mobley noticed that "the little cash bonuses" Carroll has once handed out ceased. Carroll said later, "I was hard pressed for cash flow."

It didn't help matters that the softball sports business is based on a "dated" system -- Carroll would recieve and ship orders in the fall, paying cash up front to manufacturers, but he wouldn't recieve payment from dealers until mid-April.

Then Carroll found help to his cash flow problems in Dave Wayson of Bowie, Md., another softabll devotee, who "personally bulldozed" a six-field softball complex behind the thriving restaurant-liquor store-motel he and his brother run in Mitcheville, Md. Wayson, a tall, rotund 32-year-old, can aptly be described as a dark-haired Junior Samples. Despite his wealth, he says he's more at ease "on a bulldozer than with an accounting book." The two brothers inherited the $6 million operation on U.S. 301 in 1974 from their father "Rip" Wayson, so nicknamed -- his sons say -- because he frequently ripped his pants as he ran the basepaths.

With softball complex Rip's Restaurant became the overnight mecca for slow-pitch action in the Maryland-D.C. area. More than 3,000 games were played there in the summer of 1977, and it wasn't long before Dave Wayson realized there was money to be made selling softball equipment. Then Carroll contacted him in early 1978 to offer a deal.

"The Bombat was the biggest thing around here; everybody wanted it," said Wayson. "Carroll said I would be his distributor here and get 5 percent on everything. I figured I was going to make a bunch of money. I was moving stuff for him. He would say, 'Can you move $25,000 worth of stuff for me?' and I would say, 'I don't have $25,000 now, I'll give it back to you at the end of the week.' He said he just wanted to borrow some money. That's how we got started."

Carroll's account of how the scheme began is similar:

"Anytime that I ever invoiced something to Dave [Wayson] and I didn't have the stuff where I could ship it, I would always tell him, and he'd okay it. Then I would ship the stuff, whatever I could of it, on to him, and try to keep things worked as best as I could. I didn't have adequate bookkeeping procedures and all this and that, and I did the best I could. On top of that I asked Dave if he could help me, you know loan me money or whatever it might be, and he said, 'Dave, I can let you have it for a day or two at a time,' or something like that, and he said, 'I wanna he'p you.' That's how we got started. . . . First I got his checks cause I was borrowing money from him."

By the summer of 1978 Carroll's team had become stronger with the addition of player like Tom Beall, Mike Mobley and Don Clatterbough. Carroll's beat Howard's 11 times out of 17 and in July captured the coveted Pick-O-Dixie crown. But at the end of the season Carroll's suffered another crucial loss to the Howard's at the USSA World Series.

"After that game he just stood out at second base for 15 minutes staring at the ground," said Wayson, one of the fans attending. "He didn't say nothing. He didn't move. It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen."

"People say I want to beat Howard's and that's all I live for," said Carroll. "That's not true. I mean there's a lot of other teams besides Howard's. We're just intense 'cause we live so close together."

It was in mid-1978, said Mobley, who served as Dave Carroll's accountant, operating an IBM computer then and now works for Richard Howard, when "I first started noticing some funny things. . . .

"I started recieving these invoices for equipment sold to Rip's in Maryland. At first they were reasonable, I guess, orders for $20,000 and $25,000. But then, as the year went on, around the middle of the summer, they started getting around $50,000, then $85,000 and $90,000. Dave would just tell me, 'Here, enter these in accounts receivable,' and I'd do it. But them I started getting four or five of them a day, unbelieveable amounts, $250,000 and figures like that. I knew there was no way our warehouse could hold that kind of merchandise. It got ridiculous. One day I entered over $1.5 million worth of recievables."

Players recalled that in 1978 Carroll seemed "tense," "fidgety" and nervous." BC powders," said Mobley. "Just BC powder after BC powder." n

Carroll seemed flush with money though, spreading cash generously among his players.

There was a paralyzing snow storm in Washington area the afternoon of Feb. 12, 1979, and three days later according to Bernard Sherman, Wayson's accountant, the First National Bank of Upper Marlboro recieved an ominous phone call from the Piedmont Bank & Trust Co. of Charlotte. They were returning upaid $3 million worth of Carroll's checks that Wayson had deposited in his First National accounts because they were written against uncollected funds. Then, Sherman said, the next day Piedmont sent back more than $4 million more of Carroll's checks. In all, Wayson and Carroll were told by the banks, the dishonored checks on the Piedmont bank toataled $7,938,953.76. In response, the First National Bank of Southern Maryland returned checks drawn by Wayson made out to and deposited by Carroll in Piedmont in the amount of $4,129,981.56, Sherman said.

"We were using a float," said Carroll later. "But I always felt like he had the money or that I had it."

It turned out otherwise. The banks determined that $3,882,967.73 would be needed to meet the shortfall created when the scheme collapsed, and Carroll and the Waysons each agreed to cover a portion of the loss. By forefiting cash in his account, a $160,000 loan selling property and a "helluva lot on Bombats," Carroll was able to reduce the debt to $2.1 million.

"I don't owe any more," said Carroll in a recent interview. "I know people say I spend money. I felt I owed Dave Wayson about $2 million at the time. But I never agreed that I owed $3.8 million."

That leaves Dave Wayson, who says, "I never got a nickel." In fact, Wayson claimed, "I never even knew what was going on. When the overdraft came Carroll told me he would take care of it. I just figured he would since I knew I didn't owe any of it . . .

"Carroll took my invoices and said he would handle all the paper work. I never wrote him a check unless I had his in hand. I didn't think there was nothing wrong with it. He always paid me back. I thought this was the way the sporting goods business was done. . . . I couldn't believe it when that $7 million overdraft came."

Dave Carroll, meanwhile, with the help of Burt Reynolds, movie director Hal Needham and U.S. Tobacco, continues in his quest for the Triple Crown. Dave Wayson's phone doesn't ring with calls from Carroll anymore. The FBI is investigating the check caper and the United States Attorney's office in Charlotte, is reviewing the FBI's information.

As of January 1981, the First National Bank of Southern Maryland said they were still owed $2.1 million on the overdraft created by their "inadvertently honorong a customer's checks against uncollected funds." Bank officials won't discuss the matter, but the report says the debt is secured by liens on "valuable real estate and other assets." That's their property, the Waysons say.

Recently Coors Beer gave both Howard's Western Steer (changed from Howard's Furniture) and Carroll's Bandits $5,000 to fly to Texas to play a double-header. There was a squabble as to which softball would be used, Howard's or Carroll's. The dilemma was solved easily enough: when Howard was in the field, the pitcher would use Carroll's ball; and when Carroll was in the field, Howard's ball would be used.

Howard's Western Steer prevailed that night before some 4,000 fans at Texas Rangers Stadium, winning 20-14 and 25-13.And surprisingly enough, Howard's out-homered the Bandits 21-6.

But surprise turned to anger, when in the fifth inning of the second game, Bandit Mickey Morrison, while sitting in the dugout, took a knife to one of Howard's softballs and discovered the ball had a new, buoyant, plastic center -- not sanctioned by the ASA.

"Well, hell, no wonder they are knocking so many home runs," yelled Morrison. "They're using a goddam illegal ball!"

On the way to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport the next morning Howard shrugged off the charge:

"I don't see what the fuss is about; we won it fair and square. It was nothing but an exhibition nohow. Besides, that ball will be legal in 1982." CAPTION: Cover Photos 1 and 2, Dave Carroll; Picture 1, Richard Howard stands before his $8,000 neon sign, just 75 yards away from rival Dave Carroll's home. The two battle it out for town and national honors in slow-pitch softball. "That man lives to beat me," Howard says.; Picture 2, Dave Carroll (with ball) and his Skoal Bandits, Bombats in hand, Mike Bolen, Carroll Bonneau, Clyde Guy, Doug Patterson, Doug Brown, George Waldren, Bruce Meade, Mike Parrott, Danny Basso, Steve Griffith and Donny Wood; Picture 3, Home-run slugger Mike Parrott receives congratulations from teammates on another round-tripper.; Picture 4, Bruce Meade, who hit 11 homers in the Astrodome one day in March last year, signs an autograph for a young fan. Between them, they've hit more than 2,500 home-runs.; Picture 5, Dave Wayson, owner of Rip's Motel and Truck Stop in Mitchellville, Md., "personally bulldozed" his softball complex. He expected "to make a killing selling bombats. Photographs by Al Szabo