A New Jersey man has filed a $35 million lawsuit against the Oriole Bird, claiming he got roughed up by the fun-loving mascot during a game.

Vincent Minervini of Keansburg, N.J., alleges that a Baltimore Orioles mascot, Jeff Gartner, struck him with his tail, pushed him in the chest and took his property without permission.

"Kind of reminds me of Jimmy Carter and the rabbit," Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos told The (Baltimore) Daily Record, referring to the former president's contretemps with a bunny during a canoe trip. He declined to comment further.

In his lawsuit, Minervini names two escorts, two policemen and an usher who he claims manhandled him and falsely arrested him during a May 1997 home game against the New York Mets. The Baltimore Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority also are named in the lawsuit.

Minervini is seeking $5 million in damages for each of the seven counts in the complaint. He does not specify what, if any, physical injuries he suffered.

Track and Field

Christie Cleared

Linford Christie, the 1992 Olympic 100-meter champion, was cleared yesterday of drug charges by British track authorities, but he still must await a final ruling by track and field's world governing body.

The UK Athletics panel ruled it "could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt" that Christie used prohibited substances despite traces of the steroid Nandrolone in a urine sample he gave after a meet in Germany in February.

Christie, who admitted to being "bitter" about the charges, said he was delighted at being "totally exonerated by the disciplinary committee."

Now, the International Amateur Athletic Federation will consider the findings of the UK Athletics' investigation before deciding whether to take action against the 39-year-old sprinter.


Beijing Focuses Pursuit

Beijing created a committee to pursue its bid for the 2008 Olympics. Beijing failed in a bid for the 2000 Games, which were awarded to Sydney.

Nine other cities also have expressed interest in the 2008 games--Buenos Aires; Cairo; Cape Town, South Africa; Istanbul; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Osaka, Japan; Paris; Seville, Spain; and Toronto.

The 76-member Beijing bid committee includes Mayor Liu Qi, Deputy Sports Minister Yuan Weimin, a prominent volleyball coach and Wu Shaozu, president of the Chinese Olympic Committee.


Kim Wins Rail Classic

Rookie Mi Hyun Kim of South Korea shot a 2-under 70 to win the Rail Classic in Springfield, Ill., by one shot, her first triumph on the LPGA Tour.

Kim finished with a 54-hole total of 12-under 204. The victory put her in position to win 1999 LPGA rookie of the year. Countrywoman Se Ri Pak won the 1998 award.

Kim took advantage of a stumble by second-round leader Janice Moodie of Scotland, and held off a late surge by defending champion Pearl Sinn.

"She [Kim] is good at everything," said Sinn, also of South Korea, who tied Moodie for second at 205.

Moodie, a second-year pro, was seeking her first LPGA victory. With five holes left, she was only one stroke behind Kim, but appeared to hurt her chances by getting a two-stroke penalty for apparently touching her ball while it sat in a fairway bunker.

One hole later, however, tour officials rescinded the penalty after reviewing a videotape of the situation. Despite the correction, Moodie said the problem was a big distraction.

"It has been handled poorly in my opinion," Moodie said. "I'm annoyed. Why wouldn't I be?"

First-round leader Karen Stupples finished at 208, along with Tina Barrett. . . .

Matt Gogel shot a 7-under-par 65 to win the Ganter Cup Challenge, an individual and team competition among players from Nike and PGA tours at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy, Utah.

Fred Couples was second with a 68 and was followed by Craig Stadler (69), Ryan Howison (70), John Cook (71), David Duval (73) and Carl Paulson (74).

Horse Racing

Jockey Injured

Kent Desormeaux, 29, one of thoroughbred racing's top jockeys, broke two bones in his wrist and sustained a deep leg bruise in a spill at Del Mar (Calif.).

Desormeaux was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in nearby La Jolla after being thrown from his mount, The Key Rainbow, the 3-2 favorite in the 10th race.

There were no apparent injuries to the horse.

Desormeaux will be sidelined indefinitely, according to track spokesman Dan Smith.


Umpire Coble Loses Wife

Major league umpire Drew Coble's wife, Kimberly, died of cancer Sunday at age 44.

She is survived by her husband, daughter Kiersten and son Bryant.

Coble, 51, was one of the 22 umpires who lost their jobs last week as part of a settlement with Major League Baseball. The umpires will remain on baseball's payroll through the 1999 season and try to win their positions back in arbitration.

Baseball listed Coble among 57 umpires who took part in a mass resignation strategy in mid-July. Coble claims he was preoccupied with his wife's illness and never resigned.

American League President Gene Budig accepted Coble's resignation, and Coble was among nine AL umpires replaced by new hires from the minor leagues. Thirteen NL umpires also were replaced.

Coble, a crew chief, has been part of the American League staff since 1982. . . .

Billy Bean, a marginal outfielder who spent parts of six seasons with the Tigers, Dodgers and Padres, said in the New York Times he was afraid he would have been ostracized if he revealed his homosexuality while playing.

Although some prominent athletes have spoken of their homosexuality, such acknowledgments in baseball are rare. One player to do so was former Dodgers outfielder Glenn Burke, who died of AIDS in 1995.

Bean, 35, last played in the majors in 1995 with the Padres and is now a restaurant owner in Miami Beach. He said the deaths of his father, college roommate and first partner spurred him to be more open about his sexuality.

He waited so long because he didn't want to "embarrass what I hold sacred--my family and baseball."


Jamaica Adds Veterans

Coming off a 1-0 loss to Canada last week, Jamaica will use more experienced players in Wednesday's exhibition game against the United States in Kingston.

Jamaica Coach Rene Simoes said he will bring in Columbus Crew forward Andrew Williams, as well as Ricardo Gardener and Michael Johnson, who play in the English League.

Defender Ian Goodison and midfielder Theodore Whitemore, who played in last year's World Cup, also will rejoin the team.

The Americans are going with a young roster, bringing just two World Cup veterans.