The strike-curtailed baseball year must have retarded development of rookies, particularly American League. The only AL player on the 1981 Topps all-rookie team is Baltimore's Cal Ripken Jr. -- and that's because the National was virtually devoid of first-year shortstops; Ripken had five hits (.128) in 23 games. Good grief, with a decent 1982, Ripken might be the first all-rookie repeater!

Top of crop: Tim Wallach, Expos, 1b; Juan Bonilla, Padres, 2b; Hubie Brooks, Mets, 3b; Tim Raines, Expos, of; Mookie Wilson, Mets, of; Rufino Linares, Braves, of; Tony Pena, Pirates, c; Fernando Valenzuela, Dodgers, lhp; Bruce Berenyi, Reds, rhp . . .

Cardinal baseball boss Whitey Herzog drops a line to bestir Oriole-watchers. Fielding Sixto Lezcano's formal trade demand, Herzog says he might pair the outfielder with shortstop Garry Templeton -- and says only Baltimore has indicated interest in both. Good grief, Cal Ripken might make all-rookie at two positions -- next year, back at third base! . . .

A trade made: ex-Senator third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez (with pat on back from Big George though you knew he was gone after the Series), Yankees to Blue Jays for a Toronto player to be named.

Big-paid big men in pro basketball: Kareem, Moses . . . now Jack Sikma. Seattle's 6-11 ace signs a 1982-85 deal boosting pay at least sixfold: to upward of $900,000 a year, likely more with cash, real estate and stock involved. And he needed twist no arms as Sonic Gus Williams did in last year's ill-fated renegotiation try.

South Africa again: Jimmy Connors withdraws from next week's Grand Prix stop. Officials in Johannesburg cite death threats against Connors and wife. Connors previously resisted anti-apartheiders' efforts to dissuade his appearance . . .

WNVT-14/53 will carry taped Maryland-Virginia football, 10:30 p.m. Saturday . . . Yale and Harvard capital clubs will bring in closed-circuit, big screen of The Game, 1 p.m. live at Westpark Hotel, Tysons Corner. Room opens 12:30; $10 adults, $4 youth . . . Regular new wrinkle to Georgetown basketball on WWDC-1260, starting tonight (7:30): John Thompson show, half-hour before tipoff . . . Coaches speaking live, in person, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at W.T. Woodson High, Fairfax, free basketball clinic for youth league coaches: Gerry Gimelstob, GW; Gary Williams, AU; Paul Evans, Navy; Red Jenkins, Woodson . . . Friday, girls' turn at Woodson, 7 p.m., four-team preseason varsity basketball jamboree: T.C. Williams, WTW, Dunbar, Holy Cross playing round-robin halves.

Another blow to Kentucky's football program. While Coach Fran Curci met with a committee appointed by UK President Otis A. Singletary to review the Wildcat program, his lately starting quarterback, Tom Boyle, was pleading guilty of drunk driving, with expired license, and being fined $235.50 . . . A car-tanker truck collision near Marianna, Fla., killed Auburn freshman football players Alan Manley and Cary Condray.

In Fort Worth, John Howerton, basketball coach/athletic director at Texas Wesleyan U., absent as TWU prepared for Monday night's game at Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Tex., was found fatally shot in his car, gun in hand, in a parking lot. He had been despondent over a second divorce. His team opted to play, and won, 87-83.

A. Top active major-college basketball coach, five-year minimum: UNLV's Jerry Tarkanian, 298-70, .810 . . . Q. Terrific response to our "Whatever happened to Claude Osteen?" -- Pennsylvania readers from Annville, Mechanicsburg and New Cumberland sent clippings showing southpaw poultry farmer ("110 acres, fully automated") and college baseball coach Osteen is still the spittin' image of Gomer Pyle -- prompts: Whatever happened to Chuck Stobbs?