NEW YORK (AP) _ Hank Aaron says the period in 1973 and 1974 when he closed in on Babe Ruth's all-time home run record was a time he'd like to forget.

''The Ruth chase should have been the greatest period of my life and it was the worst,'' Aaron writes in his new autobiography, ''I Had a Hammer.''

''I couldn't believe there was so much hatred in people. I'm still trying to get over it and maybe I never will.''

Aaron, who finished with a record 755 home runs, needed a bodyguard as he neared Ruth's record of 714. He continually received death threats and hate mail, some of which he print in his book.

''I have a contract out on you,'' one read. ''Over 700 and you can consider yourself punctured with a .22 shell. If by the All-Star game you have come within 20 homers of Babe, you will be shot on sight by one of my assassins on July 24, 1973.''

Aaron said such letters only inspired him.

''I kept feeling,'' he wrote, ''that I had to break the record not only for myself and for Jackie Robinson and for black people, but also to strike back at the vicious little people who wanted to keep me from doing it.''

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi State football coach Jackie Sherrill plans to borrow the ''12th Man'' program from Texas A&M.

Sherrill, a former Aggies coach, he is looking for some hard-nosed student volunteers to play on the Bulldogs' kickoff team.

''We've kicked around a number of possible names for the group - the Mad Dogs, the Bad Dogs, the Pit Bulls,'' Sherrill said Thursday. ''We'll let our students come up with the name.''

While at Texas A&M, Sherrill had the idea to use students to comprise the ''12th Man'' kickoff team.

''We had 252 students sign up the first year,'' he said. ''The kickoff team turned out to be one of the main reasons for turning around our program there.

''That's what we want to do at Mississippi State.''

The list of applicants will be narrowed to 40. They will join the Bulldogs on March 20 for spring practice.

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PLANT CITY, Fla. (AP) - Pitcher Randy Myers has been excused from the first few days of the Cincinnati Reds camp so that he can coach women's basketball. Myers is a volunteer assistant coach at Clark Community College in Vancouver, Wash., where he played college baseball.

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State and Penn State will try to establish an end-of-the-season football rivalry when the Penn State begins its Big Ten schedule.

Michigan State coach George Perles told Booth Newspapers in Lansing the Spartans have penciled in Penn State as their final game of the season for 1993-96.

''Michigan can have Ohio State. We've got Penn State,'' Perles said, referring to the Wolverines' traditional conference finale against the Buckeyes.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno said he favored the plan.

''We're ready to go,'' he said.

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DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Tigers president Bo Schembechler said he probably will wait until after the 1991 season to name a general manager to replace Bill Lajoie.

''I want to make sure we get the right type of GM, so I'm going to take time on that decision,'' Schembechler said Thursday. Lajoie resigned Jan. 7 and since has gone to work as a scout for the Atlanta Braves.

Schembechler said he has to decide whether he wants a general manager who is ''a talent evaluator, negotiator or a lawyer.'' He also said he might consider hiring separate executives to manage payroll and to get talent.

Tigers' minor league director Joe McDonald is interim general manager.

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PLEASANT Hill, Calif. (AP) - Collectors told Bill Hawe something he suspected all along - that his collection of baseballs was worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Too late.

Hawe returned home from work Tuesday to find his collection of 16 autographed baseballs gone. Stolen.

''I had one signed by Babe Ruth and Ted Williams ... the whole Yankee team ...'' said Hawe. The collection also included balls signed by Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx and Bill Dickey.

Hawe, 62 and the owner of a scientific equipment business, started getting autographs when he was a youngster, continuing through his college years and beyond.

''I should never have left that stuff out. It should have been left in a safe place,'' he said.

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MONTREAL (AP) - Buffalo Sabres center Benoit Hogue, who had a fist fight with teammate Dean Kennedy in practice this week, has asked to be traded.

''Let's just say it would be preferable if I left here,'' Hogue said in an interview published Friday in Le Journal de Montreal.

He said coach Rick Dudley ''has gone back to using me sparodically and I don't want to warm the bench. Everything has gone back to the way it used to be between Dudley and I.

''We don't talk. He doesn't even say hello. I'm in his doghouse.''

Hogue said his fight with Kennedy was a sign of disharmony on the team.

''The guys here are frustrated and when Kennedy hit me during the practice on Wednesday and knocked my helmet off, I started swinging,'' said Hogue.