Seems only yesterday, not nine years ago, that our man in Pompano Beach, Fla., was filing stories about the rookie sensation of the Senators' spring camp, Del Unser. Does Unser still have the desire four trades later, at 32? Baseball spring training 1977 opened yesterday in the form of a 3 1/2-hour Montreal Expo workout at Daytona Beach and the two players on hand, aside from pitchers and catchers, for a head start under new skipper Dick Williams were Wayne Garrett and his old teammate on the New York Mets -- Del Unser.
Already, the first casualty of the season: righthander Don DeMola, who worked 60 games in relief for Montreal in '75, then fell victim to elbow trouble and surgery in '76, began his comeback by badly spraining an ankle covering first base in a fundamentals drill . . .
There is worse news in more northerly climes:
From a Klagenfurt, Austria, hospital comes word that Klaus Klammer, 18, brother of Olympic downhill champion Franz Klammer and seemingly destined to follow in his World Cup winning footsteps may never race again. Young Klammer, winner of the Austrian junior downhill title two weeks ago, was contesting another downhill race under poor visibility at Linz on Sunday and cracked up. He was 'coptered away for emergency surgery, was found to have spinal and internal injuries and a fractured left leg, and the doctor reported: "He may remain partially paralyzed in the area of his knees as a result of spinal injuries. He is out of danger, but there will be no more sport activity for him for the rest of his life."
And a chartered bus carrying the Cornell women's basketball and swimming teams back to the Ithaca, N.Y., campus from Ivy League weekend competition in Philadelphia skidded off snow-covered Interstate 81 and overturned in a field near Lenoxville, Pa. Of 31 aboard, 15 were hurt enough to require treatment and 10 remained hospitalized at last report, two in serious condition in intensive care . . .
Wanda Oates, women's basketball coach at Federal City College, explains star center Sheila (Too Tall) Patterson's "unexplained" departure from the team, and it goes back to mid-January. Oates said she shouted at Patterson during practice and the player took exception to what the coach maintained was normal coaching instruction. Oates benched Patterson the next game. FCC won it, 103-67, over Delaware State; Patterson quit the team the next day. The 6-foot-4 senior apologized and returned for the Towson State Invitational, playing in the second and third games and scoring 29 points in a 78-61 loss to Lock Haven (Pa.) State, the coach related. Then she was gone again.
"I think she expected me to ask her to be back on the team but I had no intention of asking her back," said Oates. "I don't think my team would have been any better had she stayed," the coach continued, pointing out that FCC lost five games with Patterson in the lineup and four without her in its 12-9 season.
As for the Pantherettes' fall from the top rank of women's basketball, it figured. They'd already dipped to 13-7 last year under Bessie Stockard, and now field an all-freshperson roster. FCC got the jump on most colleges in going for women's athletics, but once the Marylands, N.C. States and other major universities "got religion" and leaped into the recruiting race -- well . . .
Trouble, trouble, Eddie Lee, star freshman guard for the U. of Cincinnati, came home to New York for the Bearcats' date with Rutgers in Madison Square Garden. Scored 15 points but Rutgers won, 89-70. Met some friends after the game and went up to the old neighborhood in Queens, where, police said, they spotted what appeared to be an old man coughing and leaning against a fence. A couple of the young men frisked him, took his wallet and tried to run away, says the police report filed by, among others, Officer Steven Naklicki of the special street crime unit -- who had decoyed as the old derelict.He and two partners said they collared Lee and four others and booked them for grand larceny. After arraignment, the basketball star was released on recognizance to join the Bearcats for last night's home finale against Buffalo State . . . ABC-TV has confirmed Marion Correctional Institute in Ohio as site of the third quarterfinal card March 6 in the U.S. Boxing championships. First announced competitor is welterweight Tap Harris, formerly world-ranked with a 21-0 record and now doing time at MCI for shooting a man in an Akron bar in 1972. Harris' next shot, he hopes, will be at a title . . .
Ernie Holmes of the Steelers' Steel Curtain defensive line goes on trial in Amarillo, Tex., today for cocaine possession, with his lawyer characterizing the NFL giant as "scared" at the prospect of a conservative Texas jury. Holmes will have some impressive character witnesses down from Pittsburgh! Chuck Noll, Art Rooney and some teammates . . . Speaking of snow, they've held the World Snowball Throwing Championship in Poytya, Finland. Hannu Siitonen, Montreal Olympic silver medalist in javelin, was favored but settled for fifth behind winner Jorma Ketola who flung his 14-ounce, machine-made snowball 267 feet 2 1/2 inches. Observers said Siitonen blew it by wearing rubber-sole shoes; his rivals wore spikes . . . You have to be pure as the driven snow to get into South Africa, auto racing champ James Hunt learned from customs officials at the Johannesburg airport as he arrived to prep for the South African Grand Prix March 5. He was carrying a copy of Penthouse magazine; it was confiscated --except for a six-page article on Hunt they let him tear out.
Morgan Wootten of De Matha calls to advise that if you aren't ticketed to see his Stags play St. John's for the Metro Conference basketball lead at De Matha tonight -- "with a shoehorn, we get in about 800" -- don't bother. Sold out . . .