Steve Bechler, the Baltimore Orioles pitcher who had been battling a weight problem, died from too much sun during spring training in Florida. Fort Lauderdale media report Bechler's body will undergo an autopsy to see if he had been taking any diet pills. There is concern one commonly used pill, ephedrine, has been linked to several tragic incidents involving people overcome by hot weather conditions. Doctors say the 23-year-old pitcher's internal temperature was measured at 108 degrees. In his final hours his pregnant wife, Kiley, was at his side. Doctors were fighting a series of battles as they worked on Bechler's vital organs, which began to fail in sequence. One team official had noted Bechler did little to get back into shape for this year's season in the off-months. Kiley Bechler is expected to deliver the couple's first child in less than two months.
HAGGARD AND THE RYMAN, WHAT A DUO
It's hard to think of rebellious Merle Haggard performing at the staid Ryman Auditorium -- but he has and with great success. The venerable country star brought his "hard-drinking" music to the original home of the Grand Ole Opry in a concert that CMT says will be remembered for a long time. The old Haggard is still there -- the singer whose concerts often evoked boozy tailgate parties and parking lot brawls before the curtain even went up. In what the network called a "balanced set," Haggard -- accompanied by guitarist Norm Stephens and steel guitarist Norm Hamlet -- dazzled the crowd with a non-stop 70-minute program. The two guitar wizards, according to reports, were in sync like an expensive Swiss watch. Haggard joked with the crowd between songs. He even did his own imitations of Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and Roger Miller. CMT says many forget that in addition to being a singer-songwriter, he's one heck of a bandleader and guitarist. Haggard's still going strong at age 65, though beginning to display a face that honors his last name.
'ALL ABOUT EVE' RETURNING
Look for a special stage presentation of the classic film "All About Eve" in Los Angeles soon. Gossip columnist Liz Smith reminds us the original film featured one of the best casts ever assembled: Bette Davis, George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, Gary Merrill (Davis's husband) and Hugh Marlowe. The recreation in Tinseltown will be mounted by the Actors' Fund of America. The venue will be the Ahmanson Theater. The job of transferring the movie to a stage play was undertaken by the talented David Rambo. Although it's not known who will take the Davis role, Smith reports from her research about the casting that Angela Lansbury will play the Thelma Ritter role of Birdie. Blythe Danner and Victor Garber will do the Holm and Marlowe parts. Carl Reiner will play producer Max Fabian with Melissa Manchester as the pianist at the birthday party. Tim Curry will play Addison. Even the legendary Kirk Douglas has agreed to a walk-on role. "Fasten your seatbelts," as Bette might remind us. It would appear the production has the makings of a true theater event.
RISING CHAMBERS SERVES UP NEW ONES
Look for two new songs by country star Kasey Chambers. The Australian native debuted them at a concert appearance in Music City this week. The first is "You're Still Gone." The second is a ballad called "When I Grow Up." Accompanying Chambers was Nashville-based singer-songwriter Matthew Ryan, who also harmonized on "A Million Tears." Ryan, according to country.com, has been a frequent contributor to Chambers' recent projects, including the new CD "Barricades & Brickwalls." In addition to giving the audience a preview of the new songs, Chambers did a rocking cover of the old Lucinda Williams hit "I Changed the Locks."
HE WAS THE 'CARING COUNSELOR' OF MEMPHIS
The man who was the pillar of strength for a generation of recovering alcoholics and drug users in Memphis, Tenn., has died. The Memphis Commercial Appeal says Clyde McCauley was a constant crusader for sober living but understood problems with addiction and treated those under his counseling care with concern and kindness. McCauley died of obstructive pulmonary disease. Born in Oklahoma, he ended up in Memphis working as an addiction counselor. His knowledge of the problem was gained first-hand. He initially came to the clinic where he eventually would work as one of its early clients. Addicted to cocaine, he was trying to turn his life around. Over the years he sponsored dozens of recovering addicts and became quite a motivational speaker. He served his country in Vietnam and received both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Clyde McCauley was only 54.
WILL OLIVIA COME TO THE OSCARS?
The only remaining major star from "Gone With the Wind," Olivia de Havilland, might have been convinced to make a rare Oscar appearance. According to published reports, de Havilland, who has lived in Paris in recent years, has been invited to come to the annual Oscars show in Hollywood and has given a tentative nod to the request. The big question is whether her sister, Joan Fontaine, will grace the awards with her presence, also. That's a big question, considering they have been the sisters you don't want to invite to the same party. Joan and Olivia reportedly haven't spoken in decades. The Oscars will be handed on March 23.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 527
Today we ask: "Are you much of a baseball fan? Has your interest in the game changed over the years?" Put BASEBALL in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 522 (CONCERT)
Last week we asked how recently you had attended a classical music concert. From a very random dip into the e-mail inbox here is what we found:
-- 50 percent noted they go to at least one classical concert a year.
-- 25 percent said although they listened to classical music when they could, they can't remember when they last went to a concert.
-- The remaining respondents had either never been to a classical concert or said it was at least 20 years ago. Cost of tickets and distance from a large city were major factors.
TOMORROW: How many dishes do you own? GBA