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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Nuns sell Honus Wagner T-206 card

Last week, we brought you the news of a rare Honus Wagner card that a group of Baltimore-based nuns had up for sale after inheriting it from the deceased brother of one sister.

As Dave Brown noted then, it probably wouldn't have made it to auction if it were just about any other card. The famed T-206 from 1909 is missing three borders, sports a giant crease in its upper righthand corner and has been laminated. It has been graded in poor condition, a usual turnoff for collectors willing to bid big dollars for baseball cards.

But because this is the card in the world of card collecting — approximately only 60 are known to exist — the School Sisters of Notre Dame knew they could expect a hefty sum from the sale, somewhere between $150K-$200K.

When the gavel finally came down on the auction Thursday night, the nuns got more than they were expecting: The card for the Hall of Fame shortstop from the Pittsburgh Pirates sold for $262,000 to a collector and card shop owner named Doug Walton.

The nuns will receive about $220,000 of that amount with the extra amount being charged as a 19.5 percent buyer's premium by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. Sister Virginia Mueller told the Associated Press that the proceeds will help the order's interests in 30 countries around the world.

While a near-mint T-206 sold for a mind-boggling $2.8 million in 2008, the sisters no doubt feel blessed to collect an unexpected $220K for their charity. When it was discovered in the brother's safe deposit box, the card — which he had owned since 1936 — came with a handwritten note.

"Although damaged, the value of this baseball card should increase exponentially throughout the 21st century!" it read.

Turns out he was right. May the sisters put their Wagner-charged windfall toward their admirable work.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cincinnati Reds Chapman throws fastest pitch ever recorded

SAN DIEGO – Aroldis Chapman(notes) was summoned from the bullpen one batter too late to make a difference in the game. No matter. The 22-year-old Cincinnati Reds left-hander made do by making history Friday night, throwing the fastest pitch recorded in a major league game, a 105-mph fastball.

The blazing pitch pushed a white-hot pennant race to the back burner. Yes, the San Diego Padres won the game 4-3 to pull ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the National League wild-card race. Sure, the San Francisco Giants all but buried the Colorado Rockies thanks to a dominant performance by Tim Lincecum(notes).

But the lingering memory was of a now-you-see-it, did-I-actually-see-it fastball to Tony Gwynn(notes) in the eighth inning. The pitch was not a fluke: Chapman threw 25 pitches in his 1 1/3 innings of relief, and every one was at least 100 mph. He didn’t throw a slider. He didn’t throw a changeup. Why would he?
From Walter Johnson to Bob Feller to Steve Dalkowski to J.R. Richard to Nolan Ryan to Stephen Strasburg, blistering velocity is etched forever in baseball lore. Rush Chapman to the head of the list. Has anybody in the history of the game had a comparable 25-pitch sequence?

[Related: MLB pitcher makes a very unfortunate accomplishment]

“I didn’t see it until the ball was behind me,” Gwynn said. “I was trying not to look at the radar reading because I’d be intimidated. I saw how hard he was throwing and just tried to be slow and work my hands.”

The 105-mph pitch was inside for a ball and evened the count at 2-2. Gwynn had fouled off the previous two pitches and fouled off the next before striking out. He ought to be pleased with his effort, forcing Chapman to make seven pitches, the slowest of which was 102 mph.

Gwynn’s father, Tony, a Hall-of-Famer and one of baseball greatest hitters, never saw a pitch as fast as the one Chapman threw. Maybe nobody else has, either. Since radar guns were introduced in the 1980s, the fastest pitch recorded was 104.8 mph by Joel Zumaya(notes) of the Detroit Tigers in a playoff game Oct. 10, 2006. Chapman, who defected from the Cuban national team in 2009, was clocked at 104 on Sept. 1 in his second major league appearance and also hit 105 mph with a pitch for Triple-A Louisville earlier this season.

Chapman, speaking through an interpreter with bags of ice strapped across his arm, credited his stepped-up velocity Friday to the fact that he’d pitched only once in the last week. He didn’t allow an earned run in his first eight relief appearances after being promoted Aug. 31, but the Astros nicked him for two runs a week ago. He pitched a scoreless inning on Monday against the Brewers, then had three more days off.

“My arm had been a little sore and the rest helped,” he said. “I felt as good as I did a couple weeks ago. Not the best I’ve ever felt, but I felt good.”

Reds manager Dusty Baker appreciated the moment, but the loss grated on him. Chapman was warming up in the bullpen when Miguel Tejada(notes) delivered a bases-loaded, two-out single in the seventh against Nick Masset(notes) that drove in the Padres’ third and fourth runs. Chapman came in and struck out Adrian Gonzalez(notes) on three fastballs that registered 101, 102 and 103 mph.

Baker had been reluctant to summon Chapman to face Tejada with the bases loaded and the Reds holding a one-run lead, envisioning a wild pitch or a walk.

“A guy throwing that hard, looking back you can say I should have brought him in earlier, but he can’t pitch against everybody all the time,” Baker said.

Asked if that was the hardest he has seen Chapman throw by a small degree, Baker replied, “By a big degree".
Padres officials said the stadium radar gun is not known for inordinately high readings, unlike the Fox TV gun that recorded Zumaya at 104.8. Chapman had three other pitches Friday clocked at 104 mph.

This wasn’t the first time Chapman had pitched at Petco Park. He started for the Cuban team in the World Baseball Classic in the spring of 2009 and was knocked out of the game in the third inning against Japan and took the loss. His fastest pitch was 101 mph.

“I’ve grown up and improved so much since then,” he said. “I remember that night and losing my composure a little. I couldn’t find the strike zone. That seems like a long time ago.”

After defecting during a tournament in the Netherlands in July 2009, Chapman signed a six-year, $30.25 million deal with the Reds in January. It was widely predicted that he would sign a much more lucrative deal with a deep-pocket team such as the Yankees or Red Sox, but some teams backed off because of concerns about his maturity.

Fastest Recorded MLB Pitches
Name Team Year MPH
Aroldis Chapman Reds 2010 105
Joel Zumaya Tigers 2006 104.8
Aroldis Chapman Reds 2010 104
Mark Wohlers Braves 1995 103
Armando Benitez Giants 2002 102
Jonathan Broxton Dodgers 2009 102
Neftali Feliz Rangers 2010 102
Bobby Jenks White Sox 2005 102
Randy Johnson Diamondbacks 2004 102
Matt Lindstrom Marlins 2007 102
Robb Nen Marlins 1997 102
Justin Verlander Tigers 2007 102

“We’ve got to make bold moves sometimes,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty said at the time.

Now the signing looks genius. And maybe by the time the playoffs begin, Baker will go to Chapman earlier, even with the bases loaded.

“When a guy is throwing that hard, you feel sort of helpless,” Gwynn said. “We’re just glad we had enough runs to win before he came in the game.”

from yahoo sport

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rhett Bomar , doing well with the New York Giants

BALTIMORE -- It is going to be a race against time for Jim Sorgi, who will not be ready to return this week from the torn right shoulder capsule he suffered in the preseason opener against the Jets.

Sorgi probably needs at least three weeks to heal, but he is pushing himself to get back on the field next week to get some snaps in Thursday night's preseason finale with the Patriots.

It is more likely that Sorgi will not be ready before the start of the regular season, leaving the Giants with a dilemma. Do they entrust Sorgi with the backup quarterback job and assume he will be healthy? Do they have enough faith in Rhett Bomar to keep him around as Eli Manning's backup? Or do they feel the need to go outside the organization to bring in another quarterback as insurance?

Bomar can go a long way in answering some of those questions with his performance tonight against the Ravens. Manning, who missed last week's game while the three-inch gash on his forehead healed, returns to the starting lineup tonight and is expected to play into the third quarter.

Bomar should get whatever playing time is left to improve on his full-game outing against the Steelers, when he went 13 of 26 for 167 yards and one interception in his starting debut.

"Oh, he's improved, he's done a nice job," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's still got a ways to go, but he's in the driver's seat as far as the guy who is taking all the snaps. He's put himself in a good position, and this will be another nice test for him."


Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was fined $10,000 for exchanging punches with Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor in last week's preseason game. Taylor was hit with the same fine. Both were ejected early in the first quarter after the scuffle.


This will be a big night for safety Kenny Phillips , who will at least double his workload from six plays in the Steelers game. Look for Phillips to get around 20 plays as he continues his return from microfracture left knee surgery.

First cuts must be made by Tuesday, with rosters trimmed from 80 to 75. . . . This is the only preseason game the Giants will play away from New Meadowlands Stadium. Their opener was a Jets home game.


Not expected to play for the Giants: Sorgi (shoulder), WRs Ramses Barden (back) and Sinorice Moss (groin), C Shaun O'Hara (ankle/Achilles), G Kevin Boothe (PUP, pectoral), RB D.J. Ware (concussion), TE Travis Beckum (neck), S Michael Johnson (back), CB Aaron Ross (foot), CB Terrell Thomas (calf), DT Chris Canty (groin) and LB Chase Blackburn (knee). Rookie DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin) is questionable.

from the New York Post

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cowboys lost to the Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS — Sidney Rice has always shared a last name and a position with one of the best to ever play the game.
Now he shares a record with Jerry Rice, too.
He had six receptions for 141 yards and tied a playoff record with three touchdown catches to help the Minnesota Vikings to a 34-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC divisional playoffs Sunday.
He had scoring catches of 47, 16 and 45 yards from Brett Favre to help the Vikings (12-4) earn their first trip to the NFC title game since 2001.
It was the 15th time in NFL history that a player has hauled in three touchdown receptions in a game. Jerry still has the edge on Sidney, though. He did it three times in his brilliant career.
"It feels good," Sidney Rice said of the record. "But at the same time, I'm just happy for this team. We came out and fought hard, all three phases. It was a great team victory for us."
The monster performance was the culmination of a banner third season for the former second-round pick out of South Carolina. After a quiet first two years, Rice emerged as one of the rising young stars in the league. He led the Vikings with 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns to earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Of course, a certain 40-year-old quarterback has had something to do with that.
Rice worked harder in the off-season than he ever had before, participating in a demanding program with Cardinals All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald, former Vikings great Cris Carter and several of the other top receivers in the league. Then Favre arrived in August, and the two quickly became a playmaking tandem.
"With the addition of No. 4, it's been huge for me," Rice said, referring to Favre. "It's been great for me, and I'm thankful for that."
As good as Favre has been for Rice, the reverse also applies. In Rice, Favre has a six-foot-four leaper who towers over most defensive backs and makes even some of the toughest catches look routine.
And now that he has learned the art of body positioning and getting off of press coverage, Rice has solidified himself as a true No. 1 receiver.
"I've said that from Day 1, Sidney is that type of player," Favre said. "I hate to compare him or put him in categories, because I think he is in a category by himself."
He did a little bit of everything Sunday.
Rice set the tone early when he got behind Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh on a go route and reeled in a perfect throw from Favre for a 47-yard score to put the Vikings on top in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, with the Cowboys still very much alive, Rice went over the middle for a 16-yarder that put the Vikings in control at 14-3.
Then he delivered the knockout blow midway through the fourth quarter, winning a physical give-and-take with cornerback Mike Jenkins down the sideline and hauling in the 45-yarder that had Favre pumping his fists and Vikings fans booking their tickets for New Orleans.
"There are faster guys. There are taller guys. There are quicker guys," Favre said. "But the thing about Sidney ... is he wants to be good. It matters to him."
Now, thanks in large part to Rice, the Vikings are one step away from their first Super Bowl appearance since 1977.
"I feel like it's been a real good season for me so far," Rice said. "And I definitely feel like we won't be finishing any time soon."

from the canadian press

The New York Jets upset the Chargers

The N.F.L. finally got the upset it was waiting for. And then some.

The Jets — that is correct, the Jets — are going to the American Football Conference championship game.

An improbable 17-14 victory in an improbable season was all but secured when Shonn Greene, a rookie running back, broke away for a 53-yard touchdown run with 7 minutes 17 seconds left. Greene’s run, the longest in Jets postseason history, gave his team a 17-7 lead, although even a 10-point lead was barely enough. With less than three minutes remaining in the game, the Chargers cut the lead to 17-14 on a touchdown run by Philip Rivers.

But alas, these are not the same old Jets. They seem destined.

Now it’s on to Indianapolis for the mother of all grudge matches against the Colts, a team the Jets defeated Dec. 27 to keep alive their playoff hopes. If you listen to the Colts tell it, that was only half a win because Coach Jim Caldwell pulled most of his starters in the second half. The thinking around the league was that the Jets would not have beaten the Colts in a meaningful game.

Now we’ll see.

A number of things had to fall in place Sunday for the Jets to make their first A.F.C. championship appearance since 1998. Mark Sanchez, a rookie quarterback, had to continue his string of not making the costly turnovers that plagued him early in the year. He did. Sanchez threw just one interception Sunday and made a number of clutch third-down throws.

The Jets’ top-rated defense had to find a way to slow down the Chargers’ high-powered passing attack. For the most part, it did. The defense allowed one touchdown in the first half and another late in the fourth quarter.

The Jets needed help from the Chargers. They received that, too. Nate Kaeding, the N.F.L.’s most accurate field-goal kicker, missed three times.

Finally, the Jets’ offense, with the N.F.L.’s top-rated running game, had to dominate the Chargers’ defense, and it did with a grinding performance, culminating in Greene’s touchdown. On fourth-and-1 with 1:42 to play, Coach Rex Ryan decided to go for a first down. When Thomas Jones tore through the line for a 3-yard gain, the Jets’ sideline exploded in celebration.

Before Sunday’s game, Brad Smith, the Jets’ all-purpose player, predicted N.F.L. fans were in for a surprise.

Noting that each Jets win recently had been discounted or diminished, Smith said: “We want them to keep discounting us. That’s what binds us together.”

Smith in many ways is the symbol of all the disparate pieces that suddenly have come together for the Jets.

Although he played a minimal role Sunday, Smith’s contributions are part of the selfless attitude that has characterized the Jets’ surge.

Smith is part of a silent majority of professional athletes that young fans don’t hear from nearly enough.

There is certainly something to be said for highlighting athletes who have made mistakes and having them talk about their blunders. There is a more substantial argument for athletes who walk the straight and narrow to describe how to avoid mistakes.

Smith, the Jets’ everything man — quarterback, running back, receiver — is a person of faith who has stayed the course. His approach to handling football’s ups and downs is a handy approach to life. Smith was raised in the church, his metaphor for team harmony is the choir — the group singing with one voice.

In football, he promotes the virtues of the team, the importance of fitting in, of sacrificing individual goals to achieve the greater good.

His N.F.L. career certainly has been a testament to that.

Smith was drafted by the Jets in the fourth round in 2006 after a stellar career at Missouri. He entered the league with remarkable quarterback credentials, having become the first player in N.C.A.A. history to pass for 8,000 yards and run for 4,000.

He worked out for N.F.L. teams as a quarterback and expected that would be his position in the N.F.L. But when the Jets drafted Smith, they told him they wanted him to help in several areas, and not necessarily at quarterback.

Not what he wanted to hear. But Smith said his immediate goal was to play in the N.F.L.

“When you get drafted, you don’t really have a choice in the matter,” he said. “When I first came into the league, I did whatever I could do to get on the field and help the team.”

Smith has become the quintessential hybrid, the Jets’ latter-day Slash: quarterback/receiver/running back/kick returner.As this season progressed, Smith was given an expanded role in the Jets’ offense. He became a spark as the Jets went 5-1 in their last six games and earned an unlikely postseason berth.

The challenge for Smith is whether he can go beyond being an N.F.L. novelty and have a legitimate opportunity to play quarterback. But for now, his focus isn’t on himself.

“I don’t know if I’ve really had that real first opportunity to get the practice reps, have the chance to grow into the position,” he said. “That would be awesome. Right now, the focus is on one game and the rest of the season.”

from the new york times

Saturday, December 05, 2009

WWE “Umaga” Fatu DIES

Eki “Eddie” Fatu died in Houston on Friday after a massive heart attack, adding a long list of professional wrestlers who died by the age of 40.

The 36-year old Fatu, who achieved his greatest fame in recent years as a star in the industry-leading World Wrestling Entertainment under the name “Umaga,” was found unconscious in his Spring, TX living room by his wife, who had him rushed to the hospital. Fatu had a second heart attack in the hospital before he died.

Fatu, who was memorable for his distinct facial tattoos, comes from a large family of Samoan wrestlers who have influenced the business for several generations, beginning with his uncles, the brother combination of Afa and Sika Anoi’a, who formed a successful act known as “The Wild Samoans” in the 1970s and ’80s. The most famous member of the clan is cousin Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who left wrestling for Hollywood fame.

Fatu’s career peak came in 2007, as he co-headlined Wrestlemania 23 in Detroit, a card that received a ton of publicity for a storyline involving WWE owner Vince McMahon and Donald Trump. But his run at the top was short-lived, and he was released from his WWE contract on June 8 when he refused to go into rehab after a second violation of the WWE’s drug policy.

Fatu had recently returned from an independent wrestling tour of Australia when he was stricken.

“On behalf of my family, the Anoa’i and Fatu family, we are devastated and shocked by the loss of our Eki,” Afa Anoa’i told the Wrestling Observer. Our son, nephew, brother, cousin, husband, father. Our hearts are broken, and words can’t express what each of us are feeling. It is so comforting to know how loved Eki is by his family, peers, friends, and most of all his fans.”

A staggering number of young pro wrestlers have died over the past 10 years, leading some to believe the industry has a curse. Among the most notorious cases were Chris Benoit, 40, who committed suicide in Georgia in 2007 after murdering his wife, Nancy, and son Daniel; Eddie Guerrero, 38, who died of a heart attack in 2005 in a Minnesota hotel room; and Owen Hart, 33, who died in Kansas City in 1999 after a stunt went awry on a live television shoot. In March, another former WWE wrestler, Andrew “Test” Martin, 34, died after an Oxycontin overdose.

from yahoo sports

Monday, November 16, 2009