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Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2006 12:00 am

ýThere is no crying in baseball,” uttered Jimmy Dugan, the crusty baseball manager played by Tom Hanks in the 1992 film about women’s professional baseball during World War II, “A League Of Their Own.” I guess that now-famous line does not apply to hockey, as Mark Messier went through a truckload of Kleenex at his Madison Square Garden press conference to formally announce his retirement the day before the Rangers would formally retire his number “11.”

It was not easy to watch Messier bawl like a baby, but he did make a touching speech in which he thanked not only his teammates and coaches but also the ushers, ticket takers and elevator operators who work at the Garden. He expressed an interest in returning to the NHL to coach one day, but in the meantime he will concentrate on being the league’s spokesman on XM Satellite Radio.

While the Rangers organization was in a celebratory mood last week with their team playing well in addition to honoring their longtime captain and certain Hall of Famer, things were not so sanguine with their suburban cousins, the New York Islanders. Isles owner and Computer Associates founder Charles Wang announced that he had fired head coach Steve Stirling, who was the team’s ninth head coach in 10 years, as well as kicking the team’s inept general manager Mike Milbury upstairs with a new title of senior vice president of sports properties.

When the normally reclusive Wang was asked at the Nassau Coliseum why he is retaining the services of Milbury—who has presided over the Islanders’ 10-year decline— he stammered something about him being the heart and soul of the organization. That tells you all you need to know about why things have gone so poorly for so long in Uniondale.

Milbury’s new duties will include overseeing Wang’s Arena Football League team, the New York Dragons, and being involved with the development of a new home for the Islanders. Milbury admitted that he knows next to nothing about the Dragons except that they play football indoors. He also conceded that Nassau County officials would probably have moved a lot quicker to build a new facility if the Islanders teams he assembled had played better. “Everybody wants to be with a winner,” Milbury said. It is hard to disagree with that.

Knicks coach Larry Brown was in a jovial mood last week, as his team is finally playing the kind of winning basketball which was expected when he was hired last summer. A few hours after Messier held his press confab, Brown wore a Messier jersey to the media Q&A session prior to the Knicks’ win over the Dallas Mavericks. “I always liked how almost every hockey player always talks about the importance of his teammates and team play,” Brown said. He did not have to add that many NBA players don’t quite fathom the concept of the “greater good” the way their NHL brethren do. On the other hand, Brown did acknowledge that it is individual stars who sell tickets and generate television ratings and that makes coaching a lot more difficult.

Sports Net NY, the cable network that will take to the air in March when it will broadcast Mets spring training games, announced that they have hired two former Mets, first baseman Keith Hernandez and pitcher Ron Darling, to call Mets games alongside play-by-play man Gary Cohen.

I can’t understand why the press gave Giants running back Tiki Barber a hard time for saying that the Giants were both outplayed and outcoached in their playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers. The 23-0 score confirms Barber’s pithy analysis.

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