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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Usain Bolt , wants to try the Long Jump

As a world and Olympic champion in both the 100m and 200m, Usain Bolt has drawn frequent comparison to other double-sprint stars like Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis. Now, Bolt is trying to become even more like those legendary track and field performers.

Before a meet in Zurich, Switzerland, Bolt told reporters that he would like to try the long jump, an event at which both Owens and Lewis won Olympic golds.

"I think I would be a really good long jumper.

I've messed around with the long jump since I've been at school and I'm definitely going to give it a try."

Like a great comedic actor trying his hand at drama, going to the long jump is the next logical step for Bolt. He's already ascended to the peak of sprinting at age 23. With no true rivals in either the 100m or 200m and no higher honors than world and Olympic golds, the only thing to keep Bolt motivated is the thought of lowering his own world records. That's far from mundane, but the dream of going 9.51 in the 100m isn't exactly the stuff from which training montages are made.

Bolt needs a new challenge and the long jump is a lot better idea than the NFL. By taking on a new event, Bolt could add to his legend while maintaining his status as the world's fastest man. Going to play football would mean having to leave sprinting. Training in the long jump keeps Bolt where he belongs, on the track.

But how would he do in a new event? No less an authority than world record holder Mike Powell thinks Bolt could jump nine meters. Powell's mark, set at the 1991 world championships, is 8.95 meters.

That's tremendous praise. But even though I'm through doubting Usain Bolt, two factors make me hesitate to proclaim him the second-coming of Bob Beamon. First, I'm no physics major, but is Bolt possibly too big to be great at the long jump? His speed would get him to the board faster than anyone in history, but once in the air Bolt's stature could work against him. He's three inches taller than Carl Lewis and at least 30 pounds heavier than both Beamon and Powell were when they made their jumps.

More importantly, all of those men had competed in the long jumpyears before becoming world-class in the event. Bolt is just a beginner. His raw talent is undeniable, but the learning curve would be long.

The London Olympics start in 1,065 days. That should be long enough.

from yahoo sports

Monday, August 24, 2009

Will Jerry Jones Fix his Giant TV ?

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had 75,000 paying guests and a few dozen freeloaders over to his new house the other night to watch football. Punters for the visiting Tennessee Titans immediately showed their gratitude by using his $40 million TV set for target practice.

“I hit it probably a dozen times in pregame,” veteran kicker Craig Hentrich(notes) said.

“I guess,” he added a moment later, “they should have tested things out before they put that thing in place.”

“That thing” is the 1.2-million pound, four-sided video board hanging from the rafters exactly 90 feet above the field in the new Cowboys Stadium, the centerpiece of Jones’ $1.15-billion shrine to himself.

The big screens along either sideline are 160 feet wide—stretching from one 20-yard line to the other—and 72 feet tall. Throw in the “smaller” screens above the end zones and you’d need almost 5,000 52-inch flat screens to cover the same surface.

So it’s not like Jones can ring up the “Geek Squad” at the local Best Buy and ask them to raise it. Nor would he.

Jones said the league had approved its location, even though his own punter, Mat McBrier, sent at least one kick more than 100 feet high when the Cowboys conducted tests at the Alamodome in San Antonio two years ago. The owner decided 90 feet was plenty, reasoning that most punters angle kicks toward the sidelines rather than straight up. He insisted the Titans punters went out of their way to hit it, both before and during Dallas’ preseason home opener.

“I’m very comfortable that our height on our scoreboard is OK,” he said.

It’s been almost 15 years since Jones’ last serious run-in with his NFL brethren, so maybe he needs a reminder: The problem with building an empire is that sooner or later, you run into someone else’s.

The last time, Jones was upset that Cowboys merchandise accounted for one-quarter of the league’s $3 billion annual licensing sales—divided equally among the teams—and cut his own side deals with Pepsi and Nike. One measure of how peeved his colleagues were at the time was apparent when legal papers for their $300 million damage suit were served on Jones while he was midway through a bowl of clam chowder.

The matter was resolved without any legal bloodletting, and judging by the league’s measured response—“We are reviewing the situation,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail Sunday—this one will be, too. But not simply by Jones waving it off.

“It is an issue,” said Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, who also serves as co-chair of the league’s competition committee, which could order Jones to raise the video board. “Something has to get worked out.”

Fisher was unhappy because he had to throw a challenge flag after backup Titan punter A.J. Trapasso hit the scoreboard with 8:07 left in the third quarter, and the refs missed it.

“Now, it’s not necessarily their responsibility,” Fisher continued. “Once a fair catch signal is given, then there are no eyes on the ball anymore. So they don’t see it. … It can become a problem.”

Even though the video board will have to be raised when U2 plays in Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 12—the band’s stage gimmickry includes something called “The Claw,” which is 164 feet high—Jones insisted he won’t budge when it comes to football.

“You don’t need to move it. You gotta be trying to do it,” he said about punters hitting the TVs. “The rule is very clear. You just kick it over.”

Yet the clock wasn’t reset after Trapasso clanked a punt off the underside in the game; unless the NFL changes the rule, and fast, a team could run plenty of time off the clock simply by banging the ball off the video board as often it likes. And even a team that wasn’t intentionally wasting time could do it, which is one more delay the games don’t need.

“It does not matter where you kick it from, it is just right there in the middle of the field,” Trapasso said. “It’s always something that you’re going to be thinking about.”

Jones is deservedly proud of his new emporium, which opened to rave reviews. Some fans will find $60 pizzas hard to swallow. And those sitting in the last row might not be thrilled that after shelling out $20,000 or more for seat licenses—plus $170 for each game—that the people looking on just over their shoulders paid $30 for standing-room tickets. But in terms of griping, that was about it.

Jones called his opening night for football “an event we will remember for a long time.”

And if he wants to keep it that way, he’ll change his mind in a hurry and move the TV. He should know better than most that in a league built on one-upmanship, the last thing you do is tempt guys with strong legs to see if they can change the channel with their feet.

by the associated press

Friday, August 21, 2009

Memphis’ Final Four run Gone from the Books

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Memphis has lost every one of the 38 victories it piled up in a basketball season that ended with John Calipari’s Tigers just missing out on a national title.

The NCAA stripped Memphis of all its wins from 2007-08 Thursday, saying the Tigers used an ineligible player who is believed to be NBA star Derrick Rose.

The university isn’t accepting the punishment, not yet.

Memphis president Shirley Raines said shortly after the NCAA’s announcement that the school is appealing what she called an unfair penalty.

“We know the rules,” Raines said. “We did our due diligence. We did everything we could to determine the student-athlete was eligible and that the rules were being followed.”

The NCAA announcement came 16 months after the Tigers lost the national championship to Kansas in overtime at the end of the 2007-08 season. It marks the second time both Memphis and coach John Calipari had to vacate Final Four seasons. The Tigers were stripped of their 1985 appearance and Calipari’s Massachusetts team lost its 1996 berth.

Now the basketball coach at Kentucky, Calipari said in a statement he was “very disappointed and disheartened by the NCAA’s findings” and that he would not comment again until Memphis’ appeal is concluded. Calipari said he’s looking forward to coaching Kentucky this fall where officials are fully supporting him despite the Memphis scandal.

“I’m not worried about it because they have never said Coach Cal did anything wrong at all,” said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who appeared with Calipari at the Kentucky State Fair on Thursday before the NCAA announcement. “I think he’s a very upstanding guy. I think that’s his reputation and I think that reputation will be with him here. I really don’t foresee any problems.”

Memphis finished 38-2 in 2007-08, setting the NCAA record for wins in a season.

The NCAA report did not identify the ineligible player by name, though descriptions of the athlete involved lead to the conclusion it could only be Rose. He was the only player who played just that season at Memphis—a fact noted by the governing body of college sports. Rose went on to be selected by the Chicago Bulls as the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft and later won the NBA rookie of the year award.

The player was accused of having another person take his SAT exam in Detroit so he would be eligible as a freshman after failing the ACT three times in Chicago.

Memphis argued that the university did not have enough information to substantiate the allegations in November 2007 and cleared him to play. Memphis officials defended their investigation Thursday and said four people interviewed the player, with neither Calipari nor athletic director R.C. Johnson involved.

“That person responded that he took the test, and we believed him,” university legal counsel Sheri Lipman said.

However, the SAT officials later conducted their own investigation and notified the player, the university and the NCAA’s eligibility center that they were canceling his test in May 2008.

The agency said it sent letters to the player in March and April 2008; the second letter was sent three days after Rose and the Tigers lost to the Jayhawks. The player did not respond to either letter.

The infractions committee said it struck hard with its penalties because the ineligible player was used the entire season. Rose played in all 40 games, starting 39.

In a statement released by his attorney Thursday, Rose said “it is satisfying to see that the NCAA could find no wrongdoing on my part in their ruling.

“I think it is important for people to understand that I complied with everything that was asked of me while at the university, including my full participation in the university’s investigation of this issue, and was ultimately cleared to play in the entire 2007-08 season by the NCAA clearinghouse and the university.”

In addition to the lost season, Memphis also must return the money it received from the NCAA tournament to Conference USA and will be prevented from receiving future shares doled out in the conference’s revenue-sharing program— a total loss estimated at $530,000 on top of the $85,000 already paid by the school. If Memphis loses its appeal, Johnson said approximately $300,000 in bonus money Calipari earned from that season would be paid back.

The NCAA said the committee pressed Memphis officials during a hearing on the matter about why steps weren’t taken in November 2007 to bench the ineligible player and avoid problems.

Part of Memphis’ appeal will be the role, and possible flaws, in the NCAA clearinghouse. Officials declined to be specific but noted the eligibility center cleared the student twice—before being admitted and after the university pointed out a grade change in high school.

The committee also said the player’s brother received free transportation on the team’s charter plane and hotel lodging that season. Investigators said the total cost would have come to $1,713.85. Such an arrangement is considered an impermissible extra benefit.

“Neither the travel coordinator nor the business director had an explanation as to how the brother was permitted to board without having paid for the two flights,” the NCAA report said.

Memphis officials called those honest mistakes that have been fixed.

The school’s women’s golf team also received three years probation and lost a scholarship for violations in its program.

from yahoo sports

Caster Semenya family, thinks the gender controversy is unfair

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South Africa's new 800-metre world champion Caster Semenya was declared a "golden girl" by local press Thursday, with the athlete's family shrugging off questions about the runner's gender.

All major newspapers' front pages pictured a triumphant Semenya who powered to a 1minute 55.45seconds win -- the world's best this year -- shortly after the athletics governing body announced that the runner's gender was to be verified.

"She is my little girl. I raised her and I have never doubted her gender. She is a woman and I can repeat that a million times," father Jacob Semenya told the popular tabloid Sowetan which dubbed the champion "Our Golden Girl".

"For the first time South Africans have someone to be proud of and detractors are already shouting wolf. It is unfair. I wish they would leave my daughter alone."

Semenya's 80-year-old grandmother Maphuthi Sekgala told The Times that the first year sports science student had long been teased about her boyish looks and for being the only girl in her local soccer team.

"(The controversy) doesn't bother me that much because I know she's a woman -- I raised her myself," she said in her rural village in northern Limpopo province.

"She called me after (the heats) and told me that they think she's a man. What can I do when they call her a man, when she's really not a man? It is God who made her look that way."

Semenya's former high school head told the Afrikaans broadsheet Beeld the top runner had played with boys, enjoyed soccer and wore long trousers to school.

"I first realised that she was a girl in Grade 11," he said, explaining how Semenya had moved to stand with a girls team after he had divided the boys and girls for short running race.

Semenya was a total unknown a few weeks ago -- with Beeld describing her birthplace as remote and rural, with the teenager living with her grandmother while at high school and growing up without electricity or running water.

The runner's coach Michael Seme laughed off the allegations, saying the athlete fielded constant questions about whether she was a boy from younger athletes when training.

"Then she has to explain that she can't help the fact that her voice is so gruff and that she really is a girl. The remarkable thing is that Caster remains completely calm and never loses her dignity when she is questioned about her gender," Seme told the newspaper.

Semenya had been "crudely humiliated" a few times and the closest Seme said he had seen her to anger was earlier this year when some people wanted her barred from using the ladies restroom.

"Then Caster said: 'Do you want me to pull down my pants that you can see. Those same people came to her later and said they were extremely sorry."

by the AFP

Usain Bolt breaks his own 200m world record

In the past 15 months, Usain Bolt has won three Olympic golds, a world championship and set four world records. But tonight may been his most impressive feat yet.

The Jamaican sprint star shattered his own world record in the 200m at the world track and field championships in Berlin, running a scintillating 19.19 and besting the second place finisher by over six-tenths of a second. His old record, set in Beijing, was 19.30.

Few people (including myself) thought Bolt had a realistic chance of setting a world record tonight, as his run in Beijing was widely considered a "perfect race". Coupled with the fact that Bolt's turns have been less than stellar this season, and it was assumed he'd win the race with ease, but just off his Beijing pace.

Instead, Bolt burst out of the blocks, had a five-meter lead at the midway point and then accelerated down the stretch for yet another dominating victory.

For the first time since he came onto the international scene last year, Bolt looked fatigued at the finish. Usually he barely breaks a sweat during his races, but today he was huffing and puffing during the final 15 meters. So much for the criticism that he was too lackadaisical at the end of his races.

After the race, Bolt collapsed in joy on the track, took a victory lap with the Jamaican flag, staged a race with the championship's mascot and had his hand kissed by a cameraman.

When told that he has now won five consecutive international titles and set a world record in each of those races, Usain Bolt shook his head in disbelief, almost as if he didn't believe it. Join the club.

from Yahoo sports

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Federer's serve solid

MASON, Ohio — The ball really zipped off the fast, blue court, especially when it came off Roger Federer's racket.

Federer held serve throughout a 6-3, 7-5 win over Jose Acasuso on Wednesday, facing only one break point in his first match at the Cincinnati Masters. The Swiss star made 70 percent of his first serves and piled up 14 aces while getting accustomed to the tournament's heat, humidity and famously fast courts.

"The transition to Cincy is always a difficult one," Federer said. "I've had very up and down results here. But it just showed sort of how hard it is to get used to these kind of courts. We don't usually play on these fast courts, you know. That's why I'm happy with today's match."

Parts of his game were a little slow, but his accurate serve pushed the speed limit and carried him through a star-packed day at the $3 million Western & Southern Financial Group Masters. His afternoon match was the second of four in a row on center court involving top-ranked players — Federer, No. 2 Andy Murray, No. 3 Rafael Nadal and No. 4 Novak Djokovic.

In the nightcap? No. 5 Andy Roddick.

Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal each won two-set matches to get the show going.

"That's the sort of thing I would love if I were a tennis fan," Federer said. "Just keep the same seat, you know. They come rolling in. It's like going to the movie theaters and seeing five, six great movies."

The 28-year-old Federer is the No. 1 feature.

After winning his record 15th Grand Slam at Wimbledon, Federer took time off and became the father of twin girls. He got back on court last week in Montreal and reached the quarterfinals. He's trying to get his game in shape to defend his U.S. Open title in two weeks.

His opening opponent didn't give him many problems.

Federer improved to 5-0 against the 26-year-old Argentine, who is 1-10 against Top 10 players on hard courts. That lone win came three years ago against Tommy Robredo.

Federer didn't face a break point during the 27-minute first set. Acasuso finally got a chance to break through when he was up 3-2 in the second set, but wasted the opportunity by dumping a routine forehand into the net. He threw back his head and yelled in anguish.

That was the only chance he would get.

Djokovic beat Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the opening match. Djokovic was accurate with his shots in the unaccustomed conditions, making only seven unforced errors. By contrast, Ljubicic made mistakes at the worst time. He hit three shots long and dumped another into the net during the first-set tiebreaker.

"I got a feeling it was a pretty fast court," Djokovic said. "He was serving really well, and he was going for shots. He didn't really care to play too much (in) long rallies. It was not easy to hang on, but that's what I did."

Murray won his first match as the world's No. 2 player, a ranking he reached for the first time after winning the title at Montreal last week. Rather than fly to Cincinnati, he decided to make a 13-hour drive for the fun of it.

His 7-6 (3), 6-2 win over Spain's Nicolas Almagro wasn't much fun. Rain delayed the first set and ratcheted up the humidity.

Murray took control by winning a 16-point game early in the second set, converting his first break opportunity of the match. Winning the long game seemed to give Murray a lift — he lost only two points off his serve all set.

"If you can get ahead early in the second, it makes a big difference to both players' confidence," said Murray, who won his first Masters title in Cincinnati last year. "I think his head went down a little bit after that. He struggled on his serve afterward, and he had been serving great up until then. It made a big difference."

Nadal is recovering from two months off to let his aching knees heal. The 23-year-old Spaniard reached the quarterfinals in Montreal last week, and took another shaky step in his comeback by beating Italy's Andreas Seppi 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) in a match twice delayed by rain.

Nadal was on the defensive in the second set, surviving eight break points to hold serve. Rain moved in with the score tied at 4 and Nadal facing the eighth break point. After a 62-minute delay, Nadal saved the point and took the set to a tiebreaker.

Play was suspended again because of rain with Nadal up 3-2 in the tiebreaker. After a 15-minute delay, Nadal pulled off the next three points — one on an emphatic crosscourt backhand — to finally take control. He had 24 unforced errors overall.

"It's going to be tough to be at my best the second week (back)," Nadal said. "I need to play more aggressive. I need to play more inside of the court."

by the associated press

Blackhawks star player Kane, indicted in NY cabbie attack

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane was indicted Wednesday on misdemeanor assault and theft charges after he was accused of beating up a cab driver over a fare dispute.

The grand jury dismissed a more serious felony charge of second-degree robbery, Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III said.

Kane, 20, and his cousin, James Kane, 21, were arrested Aug. 9 after 62-year-old cabbie Jan Radecki told police they attacked him when he said he didn't have 20 cents in change for the fare. James Kane was indicted on the same charges.

The cab driver had bruises and broken glasses.

At a U.S. Olympic hockey camp in suburban Chicago, Kane said he had not heard any details about the indictment and wanted to talk first with his lawyer.

"If the felony is dropped, that's obviously a positive step," Kane said. "The sooner it gets over, I think, the more everyone will be happy about it."

The Kanes earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges. They were indicted on charges of third-degree assault and theft of services, both misdemeanors, as well as harassment, a violation. Arraignment is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

If convicted, the Kanes could get up to a year in jail.

Calls to Patrick Kane's lawyer, Paul Cambria, were not immediately returned.

"As is the practice in all criminal cases, the assigned prosecutor and defense counsel will discuss a possible resolution of the case short of trial," Sedita said in a statement.

A plea deal would be based on the victim's wishes, the severity of his injuries and other factors, Sedita said. But Kane's celebrity status "is not such a consideration," he said, adding, "Kane will not be prosecuted more leniently or more harshly because he is employed as a hockey player."

The cabbie has said he wants a public apology from the Kanes, not jail time, said his lawyer, Andrew LoTempio.

"I can't comment as to his point of view," Sedita told The Associated Press. "The name of the action is the People of the State of New York v. the Kanes, not Jan Radecki v. the Kanes.

"We often have domestic violence cases where victims do not want to go forward, but we go forward with it anyway. I'm not saying that's the case here but just to illustrate the point. Obviously, we take a victim's wishes into consideration all the time."

Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft and the rookie of the year in 2008, had 25 goals and 45 assists last season, and his team has built a marketing campaign around him. He helped the Blackhawks advance to the Western Conference finals last season.

by the associated press

3 media groups are protest SEC credential policy

NEW YORK — The presidents of three leading media organizations sent a letter to Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive on Wednesday protesting the league's credential policy for college football.

The letter from the Associated Press Managing Editors, the Associated Press Sports Editors and the American Society of News Editors said the SEC's policy is too restrictive for reporters and photographers.

Among the issues of contention are rights involving video and audio game highlights and photos.

"The SEC and some other big college conferences want to become publishing and broadcasting businesses now," said David Tomlin, The Associated Press' associate general counsel

"They see the pro leagues doing it and they think it's the way to go. So the strategy is to push independent news coverage into a corner to make room for their own information services and programming. That's what these new rules are about. We don't believe they serve the fans or even the real interests of the schools themselves," he said.

The letter asks for further negotiations with the SEC. The college football season starts next week.

"We have received the letter and we are currently reviewing it," SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said, "and we will address the issues of concern with the news organizations involved."

by the associated press

Smoltz sign's deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS — John Smoltz agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, giving the 42-year-old former ace a chance to rejuvenate his career in the middle of a pennant race.

Smoltz joined the NL Central leaders shortly after he cleared waivers, following his release by Boston. He was 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA in eight starts for the Red Sox.

General manager John Mozeliak said Smoltz would likely start Sunday at San Diego, and would probably get at least a few turns in the rotation. The GM said Smoltz didn't ask to start as a "negotiating ploy."

"He had very little demands," Mozeliak said on a conference call. "He had no demands. From everything he had heard about this club, he was excited to take this opportunity. The reason for the start was just to get him work and know what we have."

The Cardinals hope Smoltz can either fill a void as the fifth starter or provide right-handed relief in the bullpen. Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas and Florida also were said to be interested in signing the longtime Atlanta star.

"He's going to do whatever we need the most," manager Tony La Russa said before the Cardinals faced the Dodgers. "It'll be really good for him to come out and stretch out his arm and work on his pitches and let us take a look at him."

One of the best big-game pitchers of his era, Smoltz is expected to join the team Thursday when St. Louis plays at San Diego. The former Cy Young winner is the latest high-profile acquisition — with Matt Holliday — in a makeover that helped the Cardinals stretch their division lead to six games over Chicago.

The risk for the Cardinals is small — Boston is responsible for the bulk of the contract. St. Louis is on the hook only for a prorated share of the major league minimum, about $100,000 through the rest of the season.

The Cardinals lobbied Smoltz with telephone calls from La Russa, pitching coach Dave Duncan and infielder Mark DeRosa, a former teammate in Atlanta and another recent addition in St. Louis.

"These situations are unique because the players out there, you're not really negotiating a salary," Mozeliak said. "What you're trying to do is figure out how a player is going to fit in."

Smoltz is 212-152 with a 3.32 ERA and 154 saves in 21 seasons. An eight-time All-Star, he's the only pitcher in major league history with 200 wins and 150 saves.

Smoltz debuted with the Braves in 1988 and spent his entire career in Atlanta before signing a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Red Sox in January. Still recovering from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss most of the 2008 season, he didn't pitch until June, and never got on track in Boston.

The Red Sox cut Smoltz on Aug. 7, a day after he lost at Yankee Stadium in one of the worst starts of his career. Left-handed hitters were especially rough on him this year, batting .444 overall.

Smoltz, however, did show flashes of his former sharpness, even in that final start. In that first inning against New York, retired Derek Jeter on a grounder and struck out Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez.

The Cardinals' most pressing need is for a fifth starter behind Chris Carpenter (13-3, 2.27 ERA), Adam Wainwright (14-7, 2.62 ERA), Joel Pineiro (11-9, 3.25) and Kyle Lohse (5-7, 4.58), who has shown signs of coming around from a forearm injury.

Todd Wellemeyer, the fifth starter most of the season until being sent to the bullpen last month, is 7-9 with a 5.67 ERA and is on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation. Mitchell Boggs, who has filled the role in recent weeks, is 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA. Overall, the team's fifth starters are 10-16, and there is no immediate help available from the minor leagues.

But the Cardinals also have a need for right-handed help in the bullpen, most notably as a setup man for closer Ryan Franklin. Rookie Jason Motte has struggled in that role with a 5.82 ERA.

Smoltz had said he preferred to go to a team where he could start.

Smoltz also brings intangibles as the Cardinals seek to return to the postseason for the first time since winning the 2006 World Series.

"As soon as it was announced that Boston was doing something with him, Mark (DeRosa) came in and repeated what his reputation is," La Russa said, "and how as a teammate he saw for himself how legitimate he is."

Smoltz holds the record for postseason wins. He is 15-4 with four saves and a 2.65 ERA in the playoffs and World Series.

As a starter, Smoltz has won 14 or more games 10 times, including 1996, when he won the NL Cy Young Award after going 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA for the Braves.

Installed as the closer after missing 2000 and most of 2001 following elbow surgery, he had 10 saves down the stretch in 2001 then 144 saves over the next three seasons — 55 in 2002, 45 in 2003 and 44 in 2004.

by the associated press

South African teen wins 800, before gender-test flap

BERLIN — Facing questions about her gender, South African teenager Caster Semenya easily won the 800-meter gold medal Wednesday at the world championships.

Her dominating run came on the same day track and field's ruling body said she was undergoing a gender test because of concerns she does not meet requirements to compete as a woman.

Semenya took the lead at the halfway mark and opened a commanding lead in the last 400 meters to win by a massive 2.45 seconds in a world-leading 1 minute, 55.45 seconds. Defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei was second and Jennifer Meadows of Britain was third in 1:57.93.

After crossing the line, Semenya dusted her shoulders with her hands. Semenya did not speak to reporters after the race or attend a news conference.

About three weeks ago, the international federation asked South African track and field authorities to conduct the verification test. Semenya had burst onto the scene by posting a world-leading time of 1:56.72 at the African junior championships in Maruitius.

Her dramatic improvement in times, muscular build and deep voice sparked speculation about her gender. Ideally, any dispute surrounding an athlete is dealt with before a major competition. But Semenya's stunning rise from unknown teenage runner to the favorite in the 800 happened almost overnight. That meant the gender test — which takes several weeks — could not be completed in time.

Before the race, IAAF spokesman Nick Davies stressed this is a "medical issue, not an issue of cheating." He said the "extremely complex" testing has begun. The process requires a physical medical evaluation and includes reports from a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, internal medicine specialist and gender expert.

South Africa team manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane would not confirm or deny that Semenya was having such a test.

"We entered Caster as a woman and we want to keep it that way," Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said. "Our conscience is clear in terms of Caster. We have no reservations at all about that."

Although medals will be awarded for the 800, the race remains under a cloud until the investigation is closed, and Semenya could be stripped of the gold depending on the test results, IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss said.

"But today there is no proof and the benefit of doubt must always be in favor of the athlete," Weiss said.

Semenya's rivals said they tried not to dwell on the issue before the race.

"I've heard a lot of speculation, but all I could do was just keep a level head and go about my business," Meadows said. "If none of it's true, I feel very sorry for her."

One thing not in doubt was Semenya's outstanding run.

"Nobody else in the world can do that sort of time at the moment," Meadows said. "She obviously took the race by storm."

by the associated press

Venus, Serena to own part of Dolphins

MIAMI — Venus and Serena Williams have found a new sport: pro football.

The tennis-playing sisters will become the latest celebrities to own a stake in the Miami Dolphins, a person familiar with the deal said Wednesday. The person didn't want to be identified because the team plans an announcement Tuesday.

Another person close to the negotiations said an agreement was near but not yet final. That person also didn't want to be identified because the announcement has not be made.

The Williamses live in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., about an hour's drive from the Dolphins' stadium. Their new role will be significant in part because the NFL has no African-American majority team owner.

Musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small shares of the team. New Dolphins owner Stephen Ross also forged a partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett.

The Dolphins have said the involvement of the celebrities reflects the diversity of South Florida and shows that the franchise is connected with the community.

A Dolphins spokesman said the team had no comment regarding next week's announcement.

The Williams sisters have combined to win 18 Grand Slam titles, and they staged their latest sibling showdown last month at Wimbledon, where Serena beat Venus in the final.

Serena has won 11 major titles and Venus seven.

Ross, a New York real estate billionaire, completed his purchase of the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga in January and began a partnership in May with Buffett. The agreement with the Estefans was announced in June, followed by the deal with Anthony last month.

Buffett and the Estefans are longtime Dolphins fans. The Williams sisters aren't known to closely follow the Dolphins or the NFL.

Ross has said the minority owners are strategic partners and aren't being brought aboard because of a financial need. He has pledged to improve the fan experience at games, and the celebrities will help — although it's unlikely the sisters will be staging tennis exhibitions at halftime.

Buffett has yet to accept Ross' invitation to become a minority owner, but the Dolphins' stadium has been renamed Land Shark Stadium for this season. Buffett has written a song for the Dolphins, and they've introduced a new version of their fight song by the rapper T-Pain.

Anthony will perform the national anthem when the Dolphins host the New York Jets on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" on Oct. 12.

by the associated press

NBC extend Sunday night deal by 2 years

NEW YORK — The NFL and NBC are extending their contract for "Sunday Night Football" by two years.

The league's teams approved the extension at an owners meeting Wednesday in Chicago. The original six-year deal will now run through 2013.

The network will continue to broadcast 16 regular-season Sunday night games, the Thursday night season opener, and both wild-card Saturday games. Flexible scheduling will remain in effect for the final seven weeks of the regular season, allowing NBC to change which game it shows to ensure the matchup has playoff implications.

associated press

Mariners get Bill Hall in trade with Brewers

Mariners get 3B Bill Hall in trade with Brewers
(AP) – 1 hour ago

DETROIT — The Milwaukee Brewers have traded third baseman Bill Hall to the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners sent minor league pitcher Ruben Flores to the Brewers on Wednesday.

Hall, who hit 35 homers in 2006, was designated for assignment by Milwaukee last week after hitting .201 in 76 games this season. He is expected to join the Mariners on Thursday in Detroit.

Flores went 3-2 with a 4.39 ERA in 44 games for two Class A teams.

by the associated press

Vikings tickets snatched up by fans

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have sold more than 3,200 season tickets since news broke that Brett Favre was coming to Minnesota. That's in approximately a 24-hour span.

Chief marketing officer Steve LaCroix said the team has sold about 11,000 single-game tickets during that time as fans clamor over the arrival of the veteran quarterback.

Seats for the game against Green Bay on Oct. 5 are only available through a season ticket. There are roughly 6,000 season tickets remaining. The Vikings had to race to beat the blackout deadline for several games last season, including needing two extensions from the NFL for the first-round playoff game against Philadelphia.

Now, there are only a limited amount of seats for the preseason game Friday night against Kansas City, in which Favre is expected to make his Vikings debut.

"Blackouts, obviously we don't want to have to face that issue like we have the past few years, but there is still a lot of work to do on our front," LaCroix said.

Merchandise is also moving. LaCroix said several hundred pre-orders for Favre jerseys were placed online Tuesday. The purple No. 4s were to show up in stores on Wednesday.

"It's fun to be part of this and have the fans react the way that they did. To see them outside lining the streets was something unexpected, but obviously pretty cool," LaCroix said of fans turning out on Tuesday to catch a glimpse of Favre. "We're just trying to make sure that we manage the level of interest. We want to sustain the level of interest. We want to sustain the business and not just make a quick spike."

As soon as Vikings coach Brad Childress picked up Favre from the airport, the Vikings were on the phone with Reebok to get an order of No. 4 jerseys with his name on the back. The apparel company sent a truckload from its factory in Indianapolis to stock stores at malls in the Twin Cities, and more are on the way.

LaCroix said that more than 200,000 people bought Favre's Jets jersey last year, and the demand for the Vikings version figures to be even higher.

"He was right up there at the top of jersey sales and so we're ready," he said.

Ticket demand at online broker has soared, according to Scott Roback, vice president of business development.

Prices on the site for Favre's return to Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Nov. 1 leaped 118 percent, from $441.48 to $975.56. For the Oct. 5 home game when the Packers come to the Metrodome, tickets on the site are up from $263.13 to $402.48.

by the associated press