A hearty stew of offbeat sports and pop culture.

May 2010 Archives

albert-pujols-home-run.jpgRumors of Albert Pujols being a machine have been greatly exaggerated.

Try telling that to the Cubs, who got an up-close-and-personal look at the best hitter in the game blasting three home runs Sunday afternoon as his St. Louis Cardinals breezed to a 9-1 victory at Wrigley Field.

But the whispers -- and they'd have to be whispers for fear of sounding insane to anyone hearing them -- of Pujols' power struggles had been circulating before the first baseman put on his own personal home run derby.

He came in with just two home runs since April 25 -- a very un-Pujols-like streak. The homer-sparse stretch had some wondering if there was a problem with his swing, health or if there was any other explanation for him hitting like a mere mortal.

"That's going to happen sometimes," Pujols said. "People are going to try and be geniuses and figure it out. Nobody knows myself better than God and myself how I feel and what I'm capable to do day in and day out."

What he was capable of Sunday was a bleachers-clearing two-run home run to left-center in the first, another two-run shot in the fifth and a third round-tripper that nestled its way into the basket in dead center.

Not a bad day's work.

"It doesn't matter if it goes just over the fence like I hit my last one of if it goes 500 feet or 400, as long as it goes over the wall, it feels good," Pujols said.

"If you're a baseball fanatic like I am, you recognize greatness," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I've tried to explain his greatness so our fans don't ever take him for granted, because he is a great, great baseball player. Everyday I watch him swing, I think, 'Wow, it's a privilege.'"

It was the fourth three-homer game in Pujols' career and his first since 2006. His four RBIs moved him past Enos Slaughter and into second on the franchise's all-time RBI list. His 23 home runs at Wrigley Field put him second among active players (Adam Dunn, 25).

His at-bat in the fifth inning showed just how impossible a task facing him can be. He worked Cubs starter Ryan Dempster to a full count, fouling of a handful of pitches before hitting his second homer.

"He's got pretty good stuff," Pujols said of Dempster. "You can't guess because he's got three pitches he can put you away. When a guy's that good like that, have pretty good stuff, you just need to go by your skill, what you have and be able to trust yourself."

"Albert's a great two-strike hitter," La Russa said of Pujols' battle at the plate. "He's got a lot of ways he goes to save the at-bat. To end up with that result is another sign of his greatness."

Pujols said he's confident in his abilities, even in the midst of what has qualified as a down period for him.

And as for those trying to find answers for it?

"I'm still in the lineup and playing everyday," Pujols said. "I told you guys in Spring Training, I told you guys earlier in the year, you never play this game 100 percent. Everyday something bothers you. It could be a hamstring, it could be a shoulder ... anything. It's hard to play this game 100 percent, not even the first game of Spring Training because you train so hard something is sore. I just don't like when people try to figure out what's going on with me because maybe I'm struggling at the plate and hitting .305 or maybe because I haven't hit a home run in such a many at-bats. People try to figure out that.

"I wish those people that are writing and talking, I wish they could out there just for one day. I give them one day to grab a bat and I give you four at-bats or eight at-bats and I bet you won't be able to hit the ball out of the ballpark or even make contact against some of these guys in the Big Leagues. I think sometimes people take that for granted. They think that we are automatic, they think we are supposed to hit the ball out every time, they think that you can't struggle in this game. I believe that, you know what, sometimes things happen for a reason and I can't control what other people say, all I can control is myself."
Cubs manager Lou Piniella today announced that Carlos Zambrano will return to the starting rotation Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Tom Gorzelanny will move to the bullpen to make room for Zambrano, whose last start came April 20.

"We talked to Gorzelanny about the fact that he's going to the bullpen," Piniella said. "We didn't expect him to be happy about it and he wasn't, but at the same time, we impressed on him that he could be very helpful to us."

Actor Dennis Hopper has died at the age of 74, according to multiple reports. His long career featured several memorable roles, but sports fans will always remember him as Shooter in the timeless "Hoosiers."

Perhaps no film has done the David vs. Goliath story better. Not that it's ever out of the spotlight, but Butler's improbable March Madness run conjured up constant comparisons this spring.

Hopper's performance as a town drunk who finds meaning as an assistant coach earned him an Oscar nomination.
joanna-garcia-nick-swisher.jpgNick Swisher -- you remember his year here, don't you, White Sox fans -- is engaged to television actress Joanna Garcia, according to a report from People.

The New York Yankees outfielder's engagement continues a long team tradition of canoodling with celebrities (see: Jeter, Derek and Rodriguez, Alex).

Garcia will star in the brand-new ABC comedy "Better Together' this fall. You might also vaguely recognize her from her work on "Privileged" and "Reba." Like Swisher, she popped up on an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" this season.

Swisher confirmed the couple's relationship to Sports Illustrated in September, calling her "his lady."

She is 30. He is 29.

Garcia was previously engaged to Justin Timberlake's business partner Trace Ayala in 2008.
Sports Pros(e) Legend

There were two live roosters tooling around a patch of grass near my car this morning. I live in an area of Los Angeles where one expects to see small, groomed dogs and the occasional squirrel, but farm animals? Nah ...

Interestingly, the chicken encounter wasn't the strangest moment of my day. That distinction came when my fellow Sports Pros(e) co-creator sent me a link to a TMZ post that depicted a smiling Ron Artest, hours after beating the Suns on a last-second shot, at the same gym I frequent nearly every day of my life.

The first time I saw Ron Artest working out at the club, I had two thoughts: My first was, What is he doing here? My second was, Wow ... what a dedicated athlete.

ron-artest-gym.jpgThe particular gym Artest frequents is in a nondescript part of LA off the 405 and well out of the limelight. In LA, you're expected to be unimpressed by celebrities. The more unimpressed by the presence of a celebrity, the cooler it makes you. Naturally, Artest goes widely ignored when he's at the gym -- save for the occasional opportunist who bugs him for a photo and then schleps it to TMZ.

Artest is not the only celebrity member at this particular gym, and he's definitely not the biggest name to ever utilize its hamstring machine. While it's definitely not the most baller gym in LA, it's certainly several tiers above Bally's. But still ... why there? Don't the Lakers have, in the deep recesses of the Staples Center, a workout facility fit for a ... well, Black Mamba, perhaps?

That said, it's not an ideal setting to work out for him. Everyone's ignoring him, and at the same time everyone knows exactly what he's up to. Same goes for any celebrity at the gym.   There's a certain natural curiosity that comes with working out in the presence of a celebrity. What exercises are they doing that I'm not? How many reps?  Am I staring? God, I hope he/she doesn't catch me staring!

I can't give specifics about Artest's regimen at the club, but I can say I've never felt like less of an athlete in a gym setting than when I've found myself working out in his presence.

To my second initial thought -- there's obviously a reason he works out at a public gym where anyone with a modicum of disposable income can walk up and harass him. Maybe he likes feeling normal. Maybe, like me, he's a fan of the complementary toiletries available in the locker rooms.

Or maybe he thought it was one place in the city where he didn't have to worry about making news for no good reason.

Speaking of the TMZ post, I have to say it was probably my first "We're not in Kansas anymore" moment since moving to LA from Chicago in April. When you live in the Midwest, the stuff on TMZ might as well take place on Jupiter. That's how strange and otherworldly some of that stuff is. But suddenly, there was the ab machine I use nearly everyday. There were the barbells I use, the pictures of the trainers on the wall -- all serving as the backdrop for celebrity pseudo-news.

I've been around world-class athletes in clubhouses, dressing rooms and locker rooms in a reporter capacity and it was never extraordinary because they were in their element. But seeing Ron Artest at the gym will probably always throw me off a little.

Sort of like bumping into a couple of roosters on the way to your car.

During last night's Yankees-Twins game, all intrepid YES reporter Kimberly Jones was trying to do was interject a little flavor of Target Field into the broadcast.

The plan was so simple. They'd cut to her report about a pork chop on a stick during a Jim Thome at-bat. She'd talk about the delicious fare the stadium is serving and throw it back to the booth.

But danger loomed close by, in the form of a beer-fueled man so hungry for both meat and attention that he had no problem taking a bite of a three-inning old prop pork chip on live television.

Sure, ballpark prices are a bit out of control, but this seems a little desperate.
argentina-soccer-sex.jpgWhen handicapping next month's World Cup, it's important to have all the information available. To that end, it's almost my duty to report that members of the Argentina squad have been given the go-ahead to have sex during the tournament.

The team's doctor, Donato Villani, said players can get their loving on with their regular partners, because, hey, they're human.

"The players can have sex with their wives and girlfriends during the World Cup," he said on Radio Del Plata. "Players are not Martians."

"But," he added, "it should not be at 2 a.m. with champagne and Havana cigars."

 Yes, it's important to have boundaries.

Villano also gave eating barbecued beef and drinking a glass of wine his blessing. He just encouraged moderation.

For a moment, it looked like the Phoenix Suns were going to send Game 5 of the Western Conference finals into overtime with an improbable late-game run.

That was before Ron Artest hit a put-back as time ran out to give the Los Angeles a much-needed 103-101 win.

Artest rebounded a Kobe Bryant miss and banked in the decisive shot after missing two shots on the Lakers' previous possession.

"I missed a lot of layups during the regular season," Artest said. "I'm just staying with it and trying to stay focused and play my part, see what happens."


Not sure which is worse for Antoine Walker. That he's being sued in a $2.3 million foreclosure lawsuit over the Tinley Park mansion he bought his mom or that he lists himself as unemployed in the subsequent bankruptcy filing.

The latest trouble in a string of bad news for the former NBA All Star shows Walker with assets of $4.28 million against liabilities of $12.74 million, according to a report in Crain's Chicago Business. He was last in the news for writing a series of bad checks on casino debt, though charges were deferred when a payment plan was agreed upon.

Walker made $110 million in his 13-year NBA career.

In the bankruptcy filing, Walker claims he has no monthly income and no job. Aside from debt on real estate, the petition includes more than $1.25 million in gambling debt to casinos in Las Vegas and Northwest Indiana. And there's his 2006 NBA championship ring, listed at $6,000 according to the filing.

Northern Trust filed the foreclosure suit in Chicago on May 13.

phil-jackson-bulls-lakers.jpgFormer Bulls coaching legend Phil Jackson has been added to the offseason rumor mill surrounding the coach-less franchise.

The team has reached out to Jackson through back channels to see if he'd be interested in returning to the site of his first six NBA championships, according to a report from ESPN.

There has been no direct contact between Jackson and the team, according to the report, but their sources reportedly think that the current Los Angeles Lakers coach would be open to a return.

Jackson is currently in the last year of his contract with the Lakers, who are up 2-1 in the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns.  He has said there's a "90 percent chance" that if he coaches next year it will be with the Lakers. It would be highly unlikely that the prospect of coming back to Chicago would even enter his mind if the Bulls failed to sign LeBron James.

Having a 10-time -- 11-time if the Lakers can win it all next month -- champion at the helm would certainly make the Bulls a much more attractive destination for the highly touted free agent.
julio- aparicio bull gored matador.JPGSpanish bullfighter Julio Aparicio is in critical condition after being gored through the throat by a bull Friday.

"[The horn] went though the tongue and penetrated the roof of the mouth, fracturing the jawbone," one of the medics who worked on Aparicio told AFP news in Madrid.

The Seville native, a member of a well-known family of matadors, was in grave condition last night but expected to survive.

"We don't have a reason to fear for his life, although he will have a very slow recuperation," Dr. Maximo Garcia Padros told El Pais newspaper.

Aparicio fell during the part of the match where the matador uses his cape and sword to entertain the crowd before delivering the death blow.

If you have the stomach for it, you can look at the video here.

No word on what happened to the bull.
jordan romero everest.JPGWhat did you brag about when you were 13 years old?

Your inside-the-park home run in Little League? The fact that one of your uncles was loosely connected to a C-List celebrity? Your clear complexion?

Whatever it was, Jordan Romero could have trumped all of us. The 13-year-old from California became the youngest person to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest today.

Romero broke the previous record held by 16-year-old Temba Tsheri Sherpa of Nepal.

Out of the way, old man.

Romero was part of a team that included his father and a gang of Sherpa guyides. He now wants to scale the highest mountains on all seven continents.

When I was 13, my goal was to have a player hit 100 home runs in a season on Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. Guess everyone is wired differently.

While Romero's feat is impressive, he's still reached the summit 19 fewer times than Apa Sherpa, who also reached the top of Everest today.
paul-konkero-chicago-white-sox.jpgWhen it comes to the lineup, Ozzie Guillen has tried everything short of putting slips of a paper in a hat a drawing them at random.

He's cobbled together 30 different permutations this year, but try as he might, can't seem to unlock the combination to get the bats going.

Coming into Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Angels, the White Sox had the worst batting average in baseball and the fewest hits in the American League. Interestingly enough, they'd struck out the fewest times in the league.

They're putting it in play, just not particularly hard. For the sabremetric enthusiasts: their BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is underwhelming.

Considering their troubles, it certainly doesn't help when the ball bounces against them.

That was the case in the eighth inning when A.J. Pierzynksi's bases-loaded double, which would have tied the game at 6-all, bounded over the left-field wall, sending the speedy Juan Pierre back to third base.

Andruw Jones proceeded to fly out to center to end the late threat as the Sox lost their second straight to the Angels.
"We bounced back," said Guillen of the eighth inning, which began with his club facing a five-run deficit. "It's fun when you see guys attacking and score some runs and swing the bat well. You don't see that too often this year. When you see that, you get a little excited, but we just came up short once again."

The simple truth is, that despite four-plus months remaining on the schedule, the Sox have built themselves a serious hole in the AL Central by coming up short too often. They'll have to overcome not one, but two seven-and-a-half-game deficits. The teams they're chasing - the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers - have both looked vastly more consistent than the club playing on the South Side.

It's becoming a daily occurrence, the post-game mantra that this team will turn it around, that they're just too good not to get on the right track.

"It was too little, too late, but it's tough," first baseman Paul Konerko said after this loss, which dropped the Sox eight games under .500 for the first time this year. "We are trying to go about it right and play the game hard and trust that it will bring wins.

"It's not doing that on a consistent basis at all. It's frustrating. You just got to take satisfaction that we went out and did it right. If you keep doing it, it will turn."

For every vote of future confidence, there's a number that reflects just how bad it's been.

For instance, the highest average in the starting lineup Thursday was the .272 brought in Konerko. Not exactly a murder's row to instill fear into the opposing starter.

You can preach pitching and defense all you want, but eventually pushing some runners across the plate becomes a necessity. The grinder-ball machine needs some grease every now and again.

The Sox would prefer that the cylinders start firing before it's too late.

Even if you don't like soccer -- and studies suggest that you don't -- the new Nike commercial making the rounds in advance of next month's World Cup is pretty darn compelling.

Some of the world's best players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Fabio Cannavaro, Franck Ribery, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Patrice Evra, Gerard Pique, Ronaldinho, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Thiago Silva, are featured. Special guest cameos are made by tennis legend Roger Federer and basketball superstar Kobe Bryant. Homer Simpson completes the star-studded cast of appearances. The film will be shown on TV for the first time on May 22nd during the European Club Final.  Some of the world's best players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Fabio Cannavaro, Franck Ribery, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Patrice Evra, Gerard Pique, Ronaldinho, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Thiago Silva, are featured. Special guest cameos are made by tennis legend Roger Federer and basketball superstar Kobe Bryant.

Homer Simpson completes the star-studded cast of appearances. The film will be shown on TV for the first time on May 22nd during the European Club Final.
john-danks-chicago-white-sox.jpgJohn Danks was the hard-luck loser Wednesday night, as the Los Angeles Angels squeaked out a 3-2 win over the White Sox.

And if you hadn't noticed, "hard luck" is being put in the same sentence as "John Danks" far too often this season.

In each of his last three starts, Danks has turned in quality outings - only to find himself on the wrong end of the decision. But the young left-hander has a simple plan on how to reverse this trend.

"Just go out there and keep doing what I'm doing, try to get us a chance to win," Danks said. "It will turn around for us. It has to. We're way too talented to keep on losing games like this."

Seven of Danks' eight starts have been quality and he currently holds a  2.26 ERA, good for fifth in the American League. The problem has been that even one mistake has proven fatal, considering his lack of run support. The Sox have tallied just four runs combined in his last three tough losses.

That mistake Wednesday was allowing a two-run home run to Torii Hunter in the fourth inning that erased a 1-0 Sox advantage.

"I gave in to a guy 2-0. I shouldn't have given in like that, but you know, that's baseball," Danks said. "If he pops that ball up, we're not talking about it.

Again, he's a good hitter and I made a mistake and he hit it."

Danks said his approach on the mound doesn't change when his offense isn't hitting.

"We go into every game trying to throw shutouts anyway," he said.

"We outhit them 6-3 and found a way to lose," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "It's a shame. The way he's thrown the ball, he should have 5, 6, 7 wins. He's been pretty money for us all year."
Chi Chi Rodriguez, arguably the golfer with the most panache ever, was robbed of property worth about $500,000 at his Puerto Rico home this morning.

The 74-year-old Rodriguez and his wife were awoken by masked men around 1:45 a.m. and tied up inside their apartment, according to Maria Morales, the golfer's publicist.

The couple was not hurt, but "a little shaken up."

Rodriguez is known for his post-putt celebrations and showmanship. He won eight PGA tournaments and 22 senior tour events.
carlos-silva-cubs.jpgThe best starting pitcher for the Cubs this year is a hefty right-hander named Carlos.

Not him.

The other guy.

Carlos Silva, after going 5-18 over the past two seasons, has come to town, put on his plus-sized uniform, and pitched better than anyone could have predicted.

He picked up his team-leading fifth victory of the season Tuesday after spinning six-plus innings of two-run ball against the Colorado Rockies in a 6-2 victory that extended the Cubs' winning streak to three games.

Silva became the first Cub to begin a season 5-0 since Greg Maddux in 2006 and the first starter to win his first five decisions with the club since Mark Clark in 1997.

The unexpected de facto ace is enjoying the success.

"One thing that I've been doing this year is trying to be myself," Silva said. "I am a pitcher that has a lot of emotions. I let it go, try to be myself and not anyone else."

Coming into the season, plenty of questions abounded about just what version of Silva the Cubs would get. Would it be the unremarkable Silva of the past two years or the one that excelled earlier in his career with Minnesota.

Eight starts in, it's been a version that's keeping the team afloat in the NL Central.

"I was surprised the last two years, how bad I did," Silva said. "I know I weigh 275 pounds, but maybe people don't think I work hard. I work really hard.

"I think I prepared myself more mentally than physically this year. I think the most important thing is staying confident and going in thinking 100 percent that I can do this."

Silva leads the staff with six quality starts and the Cubs are 7-1 when he takes the hill.

Hard not to be confident in the face of these numbers.

"Every game he's pitched, he's been very competitive," manager Lou Piniella said. "We get six innings from a pitcher and he keeps us in a ballgame, we feel good about it.

"The one good thing we found out rather quickly in Spring Training is that he's healthy. When a pitcher's healthy ... you figure you've got a chance to get good production."

One of the keys to Silva's early victories has been his ability to attack the strike zone. He's walked one batter or less in five of his eight outings, including Tuesday.

"His pitch counts are low, tonight they were exceedingly low," Piniella said. "He throws a lot of strikes, he changes speeds, throws enough breaking balls to keep the hitters off his fastball."

The lineup, too, has been extremely productive in support. They've scored at least three runs in all of his starts, which could be in part to the crisp, efficient matter Silva has been retiring batters.

"The faster you work, the better it's going to be for the team," Silva said. "If you keep your team in and out, and don't let them sit for too long in the field, they're going to score some runs for you."

Los Angeles Lakers guard Shannon Brown showed how high everybody who lived in Wonders Hall while attending Michigan State University can jump last night when he tried a ridiculously audacious dunk during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

The attempt, which originated from darn near the free-throw line, was stopped short by fellow Spartan Jason Richardson, who committed a blocking foul on the play.

While Brown's high-wire act may not have been as spectacular as it could have if he'd have completed it, the video is scorching up the Internet right now. Some are calling it the best missed dunk attempt of all time. I didn't know that was a thing, but maybe it is.


Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

For all the hype, all the promise and all the potential of Mark Prior, his career in baseball may be officially over.

Yes, for those of you wondering at that statement, his career was only mostly over after his last injury-filled flameout with his hometown San Diego Padres in 2009. But according to a report in the Trib, he was injured yet again in his latest quest, a desperate grasp at the glory days that ended far too soon.

"Mark has been through so many timelines, at this point I'm almost allergic to the word," Prior's agent John Boggs said in January. "But he's out there. He's getting himself ready. And when he's ready, I'm sure you'll hear a lot about him. Then we'll invite teams to come watch him throw. And hopefully, he'll be the next Ben Sheets."

Prior, it seems, was nailed with a comebacker in the pitching shoulder in what may be the final divine message that it's time for him to take his Cubs signing bonus - a then-record $10.5 million in 2001 - and hang 'em up in style. For that matter, the $15,00 a month the Padres were paying him to rehab without ever pitching an inning for them would make for a decent start at retirement.

The injury was not reported as serious, but he's apparently been shut down for three weeks as a precautionary measure.

As baseball fans watch Joe Mauer and Mark Teixeira, the two names most notable as Cubs draft considerations in 2001, win MVP awards with the Minnesota Twins and help slug the Yankees back to championships in New York, it's hard not to think about how Prior is synonymous with broken hopes in Cubdom.

It's a story of a career made even more sad when you consider Prior hasn't turned 30 yet and has already had multiple shoulder reconstructions.

"If I can get back to 80 percent or 90 percent of what I used to be, then that's still pretty good. I look back to those three, four years in the big leagues, and I pitched pretty well and did the things I had to do to help us win games," Prior said during Spring Training with the Padres in 2009. "I don't know if those memories haunt me, but they motivate me."

The fact that he still feels the competitive impulse to try to drag his battered arm through the violent process of major league pitching again does say something about his fire, but maybe it's better for him at this point to just put the tattered dream on ice for good.

carlos_zambrano_q_rating.JPGLeading 2-1 in the top of the eighth inning, Cubs reliever John Grabow gave up a hit, two walks and, eventually, the tying run.

Then, in an effort to stop the bleeding, manager Lou Piniella turned to closer Carlos Marmol to get a rare five-out save.

Where was Carlos Zambrano, the freshly-minted 91-million-dollar setup man, during all this?

In the dugout.

Afterward, Piniella was asked why the former ace of his staff wasn't used in the pivotal situation.

"We're going to change Zambrano's role," he said. "We're going to start stretching him out a bit and then he's going to gain some stamina and some arm strength -- and we'll leave it at that."

Yes, just three short weeks after he was moved out of the starting rotation to the bullpen, Zambrano's job duties will be changing yet again. And no matter how much Piniella would have liked to leave it at that and switch topics, he had to know that wasn't a realistic desire.

How could that have been the end of it?

It couldn't.

Not when the most compelling story line of a crossroads season on the North side just got another plot twist.

"Look, we thought the outcome would be a little different and he's not as comfortable with it in the bullpen pitching short, so we're going to use him in a different role," Piniella added.

Then came the obvious question: Is the move to long relief a stepping stone for Zambrano's eventual return to the starting rotation?

Piniella seemed to indicate as much.

"The next stop, probably down the road, yes. If need be, yes," he said.

"[Piniella and I] had a long conversation with the pitching coach," Zambrano said. "They're trying to put me back in the rotation.

"Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it. If they want to send me to the minor leagues to work, I'll work in the minor leagues. If they want me to work here, I'll work here. The thing is, I haven't thrown in a game for more than 65 pitches as a starting pitcher since three weeks ago. Obviously, I'm not a machine and I need to build my arm again."

The speculation is that Zambrano could find himself back into the five-man carousel if there were an injury. Considering Carlos Silva's track record, it might not be a bad idea to have someone locked and loaded should the necessity arise.

Another factor is increasing his trade value. It's hard to imagine a contender taking on an 18-million-dollar-a-year setup man. It's slightly more likely they'd pay that for a starter.

There is no timetable set for a Z's potential return, however. Piniella said the righty would be available out of the bullpen Tuesday, when Silva gets the start.
"They told me today that there may be a chance to go back to the rotation," Zambrano said. "We'll see how everything works in the next few outings.

"As long as this team is happy, I'm happy for this team. Whatever this team wants me to do, I do. This is a business and they're the boss. If the boss wants me to go close games, I close games. If the boss wants me to be a starter again, I'll start again. It's up to them, it's their choice."
michael-ballack-injury.jpgGermany captain Michael Ballack will miss the World Cup because of a right ankle injury, dealing the three-time champions a serious blow less than a month before the tournament.

The German soccer federation said Monday that the 33-year-old Chelsea midfielder had torn ligaments in his right ankle from a tackle during his club's 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Portsmouth on Saturday. Ballack's ankle has been put in a cast and the federation said he won't be able to train for at least eight weeks.

"It's very disappointing, but I have to accept it," Ballack told German television, standing with crutches. "It's football and you have to live with it. ... I am angry, clearly."

Ballack's absence leaves Germany coach Joachim Loew without his most experienced player and leader in a squad with many young players.

The injury probably costs Ballack another chance to win the World Cup title after reaching the 2002 final and the 2006 semifinals.

"We are shocked, no question about it, and we are all very, very sad," Loew said at the team's training camp in Sicily. "He is a very important player for us, a world class player who played a very important role in decisive games for us.

"There can be no question of resignation now. We are sure we can still play a good tournament."

Loew will now have to pick a new captain and find someone to fill the defensive midfield role played by Ballack, Germany's three-time player of the year.

Despite his long and distinguished service, Ballack has been unable to win a title with Germany. He played a total of 63 minutes in his first major tournament, the 2000 European Championship.

Two years later in Japan and South Korea, his goals against the United States and South Korea helped Germany reach the final. But he missed the final loss to Brazil after receiving a yellow card in the semifinals.

The 2004 European championship was another disappointment, with Germany eliminated after the group stage. Juergen Klinsmann then took over as coach and selected Ballack as his captain.

Ballack missed the opening match of the 2006 World Cup in Germany because of a calf injury and didn't score in the tournament.

He had two ankle operations before Euro 2008 but injured a calf before the final. Ballack played the match but Germany lost to Spain.

Ballack flew to Germany late Sunday to be examined by national team and Bayern Munich doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt on Monday. Ballack's ankle was still too swollen Sunday for a previously scheduled scan in London.

The federation said he should make a full recovery.

alfonso-soriano-cubs.jpgIt's no secret that Alfonso Soriano is streaky.

Heck, even the most camera-hungry fan sitting next to the Cubs television duo of Bob Brenly and Len Kasper in the bleachers could tell you as much.

But rarely is his off-the-charts-good play as close in proximity to his worse-than-you-can-believe play as it was Sunday.

Soriano capped off a day of good, bad and ugly by racing from first to third on a stolen base and wild pitch to score the game-winning run on a pinch-hit single from Xavier Nady in the eighth inning of the Cubs' sweep-avoiding 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"I just looked and I saw the wild pitch and I saw the catcher was a little slow getting the ball," Soriano said. "I said, 'I've got a chance to make it to third.'"

The heads-up play set up Nady, who may have had the benefit of not having to guard against Pirates reliever D.J. Carrasco's full pitching arsenal.

"Those guys, they not throw more breaking balls in the dirt because if they throw a breaking ball, maybe they throw a wild pitch and I come in with the run," said Soriano, whose two-hit day rose his home average to .390 on the year. "We need to make a little play like that to try to win."

"It goes to show you that if you, hustle you make things happen," manager Lou Piniella said.

While Piniella was pleased with the play of his left fielder after the game, his feelings during the the second inning probably weren't all that warm.

In that frame, Soriano booted a Bobby Crosby single, which he was charging hard on to make a potential inning-ending throw home. Later, he muffed a Lastings Milledge single, falling to the seat of his pants and drawing boos from the crowd.

"In this ground, it's very hard because the grass is so high," Soriano said of his error. "I'm not making excuses. I was being very aggressive with that ball. I made a little mistake."

What the fickle crowd failed to remember is that Soriano can look -- for lack of a better word, clueless -- one minute, and like a world-beater the next. It's not the easiest thing in the world to deal with, but it's certainly nothing new.

Luckily, he didn't have to wait long to atone for his mistake. In the bottom of the inning he drove an RBI-double to the well in left field to get the Cubs on the board. He proceeded to reach on a walk in the fourth inning and his eighth-inning single that set up his pivotal 180-foot dash.

It was a play that Piniella seemed to be begging for. Before the game, he said all that matters is winning.

Soriano's was, by the very definition, a winning play.

And, as hard it is may have been, worth waiting for.
Marion Jones' WNBA debut last night was anything but spectacular.

The disgraced Olympian went scoreless and spent a majority of the game on the bench as her Tulsa Shock fell to the Minnesota Lynx, 80-74.

Jones, who won a national championship at North Carolina, was making her return to competitive basketball after a decade-plus absence.

She was stripped of her five Olympic medals -- including her three gold -- and spent six months in jail for lying to prosecutors about her steroid use.

At the age of 34, she's the league's oldest rookie.
Fisher Lied.pngThe Los Angeles Lakers closed out the Utah Jazz last night in Salt Lake City, but the home fans did not go into that sweet night in classy manner.

At least these two girls didn't.

Instead, they chose to wear shirts that said "Fisher Lied," in reference to Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who left the Jazz in 2007 to seek better medical treatment for his young daughter that has eye cancer.

Yup, these ladies hoped to get on national television to share their opinion that Fisher lied about his daughter's cancer in an effort to get on title-winning basketball team. At least I think that's the implication.

Fisher was granted a release by the late Larry H. Miller after he asked for the opportunity to play in a market where he could get the best care for his daughter. He'd had trouble balancing basketball and his daughter's treatment, as evidenced by the very emotional cross-country trip from New York City to Utah to play in a playoff game against Golden State.

Seriously, you had to have a heart of stone to not feel for the guy.

Perhaps that's this duo's excuse.
erica-blasberg.JPGLPGA golfer Erica Blasberg died at her home in a Las Vegas suburb Sunday, according to police and her agent.

The 25-year-old's death is being investigated by authorities and it's not immediately clear if any foul play is involved.

Blasberg played her collegiate golf at Arizona, where she won six times in two years and played on the Curtis Cup team in 2004 -- the same year she turned pro. She'd played only one tour event this year, that coming two weeks ago in Mexico where she finished 44th.

LPGA spokesman David Higdon called Blasberg's death a "tough hit" for women's golf.

"She was a very popular player and well-liked and we're going to miss her," Higdon said. "This is a very close-knit group of players and tour and we're saddened by what happened."


Maybe the son of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen would have enjoyed his meal at general manager Kenny Williams' restaurant if the West Loop eatery had a better beer garden.

The 1113 W. Randolph Management company -- which manages a three-story building that houses a bar and grill co-owned by Williams -- filed a lawsuit Monday against a Lombard company that did not obtain necessary permits before constructing a retractable canopy system for a beer garden and enclosed restaurant, according to a suit filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court.

The suit claims 1113 W. Randolph Management LLC hired Olympic Signs Inc. to install a retractable canopy system, fixed awnings, side and wind panels and winter storm doors with a zipped window. However, Olympic Signs did not obtain the necessary permits before building the structure and the City of Chicago Department of Buildings issued a stop work order, according to the suit.

Both the management company and Olympic Signs have been unable to obtain the necessary permits because changes must be made to the structure to satisfy the building department, according to the suit. Because the building does not have the proper permits, it may be required to tear down and rebuild most of the work done by Olympic Signs, the suit said.

Guillen's son, Oney Guillen, called the food at the restaurant "hands down" the "worst food in the city" in a March 9 Twitter post. As a result, Ozzie Guillen told his son to resign from his job in the team's scouting and video unit.

Last June, Sun-Times restaurant reviewer Pat Bruno gave Market 1.5 stars -- a "good" to "very good" rating on a four-point scale.

The suit claims the restaurant suffered lost revenues from the beer garden and restaurant and expenses associated with the revisions to the work. The management company is seeking more than $50,000 from Olympic Signs plust the cost of the suit.

Neither Williams nor Market co-owner Karl Spektor are named in the suit.

Golf Channel reporter Win McMurry joined the legions of newscasters to find themselves on the all-time blooper reel yesterday when a slip of the tongue turned "bulging disc" into something far more risque.

For those of you who can't read between the lines, she replaced the "s" in disc with a "c".

The slip-up came after Tiger Woods withdrew from The Players Championship in the final round with sore upper-back. McMurry quickly corrected herself, but, these things being what they are, it was too late for any graceful save.

The Vancouver Canucks' Game 5 win is most likely little consolation to defenseman Sami Salo, who was forced to leave the game after taking a slapshot from the Blackhawks' Duncan Keith to the groin.

The Canucks offered no report on the extent of his injury, although some outlets reported that he had suffered a ruptured testicle. That, apparently, is erroneous, according to Sun-Times' Blackhawks reporter Adam Jahns.

Salo was rushed to the hospital after a prolonged period where he was unable to get up on the ice.

Coach Alain Vigneault promised a more thorough update today, although the prevailing thought is that he won't be in the rotation for Tuesday night's Game 6 in Vancouver.

If it's any consolation to Salo, 1,183 people currently "like" a Facebook group called "Sami Salo's Ruptured Testicle."
alex-rios-pink-bat.jpgIf there was, in fact, any sort of battle -- real or perceived -- between Alex Rios and his former fan base in Toronto, he got the final word Sunday.

And he did so by letting his bat -- which was pink in honor of Mother's Day -- do the talking.

"Yeah, I'll think about using it again," Rios said of his rosy-color-fueled four-hit performance that included a game-tying solo home run in the seventh inning. The center fielder reached base in all five plate appearances and scored three runs in a game the White Sox had in hand until giving up four runs to the Jays in the ninth inning to eventually lose, 9-7.

In eight games against Toronto this year, Rios hit a robust .353 with three home runs and five RBIs. His exemplary game ran his current hitting streak to 11 games and he's connected on an extra base-hit in seven consecutive games.

Rios found a once supportive fan base anything but welcoming in his return to the Rogers Centre, where he was booed incessantly during a series last month. During that four-game series, he was made to answer for a YouTube video in which he curses at an autograph-seeking fan after a charity event in Toronto last June.

Manager Ozzie Guillen defended Rios then, saying the verbose fan was lucky he wasn't acting that way toward Ozzie.

For his part, Rios has said he harbors no animosity over his departure. He was, however, surprised at the level of vitriol he faced with his news team.

''Yeah, I was surprised about that, I guess,'' said Rios after a his April 13 home run in Toronto broke up Jays starter Ricky Romero's no-hitter in the eight inning. 'It wasn't my choice to leave here; they [waived] me. But it's all good. It's part of the game. It keeps the game exciting.''
He certainly seems to have found his comfort zone on the South Side. He's hitting a team-best .324 after his offensive explosion Sunday.

Afterward, he was asked if he's pleased with how he's swinging the bat.

Obvious question, obvious answer.

"Yeah, I could say that." he said. "I've been putting good swings on the ball, and when you do that, good things happen."

"[He's] has been great since Spring Training," Guillen said. "I'm very happy for him. Hopefully he continues to swing the bat like that. He's been playing great baseball since Spring Training."
steve-nash-eye.jpgHow good is Steve Nash?

So good he only needed one eye to lead the Phoenix Suns to a series-clinching road victory against San Antonio last night.

After taking an inadvertent elbow from the Spurs' Tim Duncan, Nash got six make-shift stitches in the locker room and emerged looking like a guy that got the losing end of a bar fight. But somehow, he was able to find enough depth perception to score 10 of his 20 points and dish out five assists after his return in the fourth quarter.

"I couldn't see anything," Nash said.

He looked like Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini," Suns forward Grant Hill said. "It forced him to focus 'cuz he was shooting out of one eye."

Nash will have a full week to let the swelling go down before the Suns kick off the Western Conference finals against the winner of the Lakers-Jazz series.
What a 24 hours it was for silver-haired ladies.

First, there was 88-year-old Betty White absolutely killing it in "Saturday Night Live."

Then, Sunday, in the aftermath of Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden's perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays, his grandmother took a shot at New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

You read that correctly.

You'll recall that Braden and Rodriguez got into a war of words last month, when Braden called out Rodriguez for running over "his mound" after a foul ball. Rodriguez, who obviously disagreed with Braden's opinion that he held the deed to that particular piece of real estate, questioned who the much-less-recognized pitcher was to be making this kind of trouble.

"Let's forget it, uh huh -- and stick it, A-Rod," said a chuckling Peggy Lindsey, who was in the stands watching.
To his credit, A-Rod congratulated Braden on the 19th perfect game in Major League history. So, maybe we can put this whole silly feud to rest.
Former sack machine Lawrence Taylor renewed his running-into-trouble-with-the-law hobby this week when he was charged with third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute after "contact" with a 16-year-old.

This is yet another sad chapter in a life in the public eye mired by repeated embarrassments.

But the thing I'm most amazed with is that LT seems to be wearing the same black button-up shirt everytime he gets in hot water.

Here he is this week:

lawrence-taylor-shirt1.JPGIt's an understated, mildly shiny selection suitable for a wide range of activities. Golf. The club. Autograph sessions.

And it sure looks like the same top he was wearing in this 2009 booking photo.

lawrence-taylor-shirt2.JPGMaybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's not the same black button-up. Maybe, like in "Seinfeld," he has an entire closet full of similar shirts. Either way, if this is his lucky black garment, he might want to reconsider just how lucky it is.
alex-gonzalez-homer.jpgThe White Sox bullpen had been lights-out this year against the Toronto Blue Jays, coming into Friday night's game having tossed 16 1/3 scoreless innings over the previous five contests.

But the unblemished mark disappeared when closer Bobby Jenks yielded an opposite-field, solo home run to John Buck to break a 3-3 tie in the ninth inning.

"The ball Buck hit, I couldn't believe it went out of the park, but he hit it up in the jet stream tonight and it blew out," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.

Matt Thorton gave the Sox a chance to win by following Jenks with two shutout innings, in which he fanned five batters. The hard-throwing lefty has now struck out 23 in 14 2/3 innings of work this season, compared to just two walks.

Unfortunately, the Jays were able to touch the bullpen yet again in the 12th inning, when shortstop Alex Gonzalez blasted a two-out, three-run homer off JJ Putz.
"The last pitch was a split that didn't do anything, just kinda stayed flat, Putz said. "The whole inning, my split was good. It was the right pitch it -- just didn't do what it was supposed to.

"When you make bad pitches like that, bad things are going to happen."

Putz had gotten ahead of Gonzalez 1-2 before yielding the home run.

"It's extremely frustrating," he said of not being able to put Gonzalez away. "When you get ahead of a guy, you want to put him away. Like I said, it was the right pitch, I just didn't execute it."

The Chicago Cubs are a team built on more than 100 years of "nexts." Next game. Next year. Next beer. Next rookie phenom.

Enter the latest in a long line of can't-miss prospects - shortstop Starlin Castro. It was only a matter of time until the 20-year-old - .376 with one homer, 14 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs in 26 games at double-A Tennessee - hit the bigs, and there's no time like the present for a team desperate to find a spark.

Castro, according to ESPNDeportes reporter Enrique Rojas, will start at shortstop tonight in Cincinnati. Ryan Theriot will move to second base defensively and the seldom-used Chad Tracy will be packing for the minors according to reports.

As usual, the team is bringing up the rookie on the road to keep as much pressure off as possible. He'll also be hitting in the eight hole so he can adjust - though he should expect a steady diet of breaking pitches with the pitcher up next, not something you see a lot of in the minors.

Cubs PR folks haven't made an official announcement yet - and no moves have been announced. But ook for a fresh face in the infield at the Great American Ballpark.

The big question, of course: Is Castro the real deal? We'll start to find out tonight.


John Ely uncorks a first inning pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Staium on Thursday night. (AP)

John Ely is a genuine pride of the South Side - Harvey, to be exact. So what is he doing helping out the Cubs?

Ely, making just his second big league start - and first home start at that - was a human wrecking ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the North Siders' nemesis Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.

With no less than Vin Scully singing his praises, Ely spun a gem at Chavez Ravine and was in position to earn the win before a Jonathan Broxton meltdown in the ninth. At one point, Ely sat down 16 in a row.

Allowing just one run in six and two-thirds innings Ely, who now has 72 games under his belt in three professional seasons, only allowed two runners as far as second base and took particular interest in embarrassing Jim Edmonds, saddled with three of Ely's seven strikeouts off a variety of high-80s fastballs and and assortment of on-the-corners breaking stuff.

It's a vast improvement on his shaky debut against the Mets, where he lasted six innings, but was touched up for 5 runs.

Ely, called up to sub for a disabled Vicente Padilla, may not get another chance on the Dodger Stadium bump with Jeff Weaver expected back from injury Friday. But with the command he showed Thursday night, he'll also likely find his way back pitching with the big club in the near future.

One thing is for sure: Ely's domination was likely just a little more painful for Sox fans. He was drafted and signed as a Sox in 2007 out of Homewood-Flossmoor, but ended his South Side career as the player to be named that completed the Juan Pierre deal in December 2009.

gordon-beckham-struggle.jpgLet's be honest here.

There's nothing wrong with being a first-round draft pick or a collegiate All-American. There's nothing wrong with a fast-tracked route to the big leagues and immediately meeting all of the lofty expectations set for you.

But there is a down side to a meteoric rise, a dark cloud to the silver lining.

That's knowing what hitting a brick wall and dealing with a particular brutal slump is like.

White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham is learning just that right now.

"Obviously, Ozzie knows -- and it's no big secret -- that I'm struggling," he said after his hitless, three-strikeout performance Thursday night -- which earned him a talk with manager Ozzie Guillen. "He basically said he doesn't really care how many oh-fors I have, how many errors I make, he just wants me to have a little bit better body language and I agree with him.

"I'm so frustrated with the way I'm playing it's gotten in my head mentally and it's causing my body to look like I don't want to be out there and that's not me. I've grown up knowing how to play the game the right way and I'm not doing it."

Beckham's bad night carried over to second base, where he made two errors. On the second one, of the fielding variety in the ninth inning, he openly showed his displeasure with himself. Nothing major, but definitely not the type of body language that's become expected of the up-and-coming second-year infielder.

Beckham is mired in a 1-for-22 slump that's caused his batting average to dip below .200 and has struck out 11 times during that stretch. Guillen said getting his player back on the right track is a much his responsibility as Beckham's.

"It's my job to make every player wearing the uniform the best I can.  I never criticize anybody about being 0-for-40, I never criticize anybody to make any errors. I think Gordon is better than what he's shown. I think there's a lot of pressure on him.

"Maybe the first time ever this kid go through this. He's the golden boy. He grew up in Little League, he hit .600. He go to high school, best player, go to college, kick some butt. He go to the minor leagues, erupted. First year in the big leagues, kicked some butt. It's easy to play this game when you're good. It's tough to play this game when you're down. He's got all my support."

How Beckham handles his first real test of adversity in the majors will be a story line to watch as the Sox try to fight themselves back into contention. The first step is getting him out of the mental funk, whether it's been perceptible to anyone besides himself or not.

"I'll regroup and definitely play the game the right way," Beckham said. "I got away from it the last couple days and I'm one step above embarrassed for that."

Guillen said he didn't think Beckham should go down to the minor leagues and didn't believe in any sophomore year jinx.

"I think this kid has a great chance to be a hell of a ballplayer," he said. "He's never went through it. I guarantee he never went through this."
North Carolina's twin towers, Travis and David Wear, are transferring from North Carolina after just one season.

The twin McDonald's All-Americans were highly toured big men from Mater Dei High School in southern California and each averaged more than 10 minutes of playing time last season. Travis averaged 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game while David averaged 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds a game.

The boys' father called coach Roy Williams yesterday to ask that they be released from their scholarships. Williams said the request "came as a complete surprise" to him.

Before deciding on North Carolina, the duo considered UCLA and Arizona.

How did White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen congratulate starting pitcher Freddy Garcia last night as he pulled the right-hander from the game after six innings of two-run ball?

By sticking a piece of chewing gum on his jersey, of course.

Garcia earned his first victory of the year and didn't really seem to mind the gum-related hijinx. No word on if the Sox' equipment manager appreciated the extra work.


The White Sox didn't waste any time setting themselves up for their second series win of the year Wednesday night, breaking out the bats early and jumping on Kansas City Royals starter Brian Bannister for five hits and four runs in the first inning en route to a 9-2 victory.

Andruw Jones belted his ninth home run of the year -- a two-run shot -- after a Gordon Beckham walk and Carlos Quentin and Mark Teahen followed with with RBI singles later in the inning to give starter Freddy Garcia a comfortable lead.

Garcia parlayed the early run support into his first win of the year and the Sox answered manager Ozzie Guillen's plea for offensive consistency sooner rather than later by tying their season-high for runs in an inning.

"That's big for us," Guillen said of the early offense. "We didn't score four runs in nine innings [Tuesday], now we score four in one. That always gives you a good cushion and more confidence."

On Tuesday, he'd bemoaned the team's lack of consistency after a 7-2 loss, saying that the team's been transforming into a completely different animal within the span of 24 hours. Wednesday's win resulted in only the second winning series for Guillen's club -- and the first against a division rival.

"Today we came back, we came fired up," said Jones, whose longball moved him past Joe Carter and into 49th on the all-time home run list. "We got on the board early and Freddy pitched a tremendous game."

"It's tough for the pitchers to go out there knowing they may give up one or two runs, they may lose," Juan Pierre said. "That's the way it's been going the last month, so to go out there and get him some runs early, get Freddy runs early so he can get into his game, it's real good."

The Sox now have a chance to win consecutive games for just the third time this season tonight in the series opener against Toronto. And while winning streaks are great, Jones pointed out that it's about taking series consistently.

"The main thing we want to concentrate about is not to win 15, 20 in a row, just trying to win any series we can and see what happens at the end of the day."


The mark of a good team -- a contending team -- is the ability to consistently string together well-played games.

After dropping Tuesday night's contest 7-2 to the Kansas City Royals, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen lamented the fact that 27 games into the season, his team has failed to do just that.

"It's kind of weird," he said. "This ballclub plays like a champ one night and 24 hours later we don't know. I get confused a lot. I expect every time we come to the game to play like we played yesterday and we're not consistent. When you're not consistent, anything can happen, a lot of bad things can happen.

"Yesterday you go home, you're excited, you think you got it back, and then those guys start going out of their slump. But we come back today, and it's another broken heart. I know we're not going to win 162 and we're not going to lose 162, I think my expectations are higher and better."

A night after Jake Peavy earned his first win of the year with a dominant outing, Sox starter Gavin Floyd surrendered a career-worst 13 hits and six runs in a rather lethargic game that ended with the Sox falling 7.5 games behind division-leading Minnesota.

If the Sox are going to make a run, this elusive consistency is going to have to be less elusive. If there's a silver lining, it's that the team knows this - and they think it will come.

"I was hoping to get on a two-game winning streak here and go in tomorrow and hopefully three," said Floyd, who lost at home for just the second time in his last 12 starts. "It just didn't happen. Hopefully we can start tomorrow and go from there."

Unfortunately for Floyd and the Sox, they've only been able to win consecutive games twice this season. According to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who connected on his first home run of the year in the seventh inning, it's not for lack of effort.

"We're doing the best we can," he said, "I never question anyone's effort. Everyone is busting their tail everyday and trying. Some days it works out, some days it doesn't. Obviously, we want to win. We all came into this year thinking we're going to win and we want to win. We've just got to do it.

"Each guy just has to take care of themselves and do what they can do to help the team in that at-bat in that day and not worry about what's been going on. If we do that, we'll be fine. I still believe in this team. There's glimpses here and there that we can do it and hopefully it will work out."

The voices of the game of baseball are often the audible history of the game. A call, a moment, a memory. All tied up in the tones that became familiar to generations of fans accustomed to following their teams on the radio and TV.

And, without hyperbole or hype, there have been few of those voices more integral, more loved and respected than the great Ernie Harwell.

Through his four decades with the Detroit Tigers, players came and went, teams rose and fell, but there was always Ernie to share the game - and a quirky catchphrase or two - with the people of Michigan.

And now that voice, one of the few that truly transcends a sport in an age of homogeneous broadcasting names, is gone.

Ernie Harwell is dead at 92 after a battle with cancer.

Many words will be spilled and emotions near the surface for legions of baseball fans in the coming days as the great broadcaster is eulogized in Tiger Nation and beyond. But in the end, the sad truth is that baseball is yet another treasure lost from the glory days. With Harry Caray passing in 1998, the Philadelphia Phillies Harry Kallas last year and now Harwell, Vin Scully stands alone as the last of the great voices of the game.

While Harwell's career stretched into the '40s and included numerous assignments, including famously his near-brush as the NBC TV broadcaster at the Giants-Dodgers "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," playoff game, he will forever be a Tiger.

Baseball survives even its biggest losses. But the gentle, iconic Harwell, even after living in retirement for the past few years, will leave a gap in the game not soon filled.

Perhaps the most fitting way to pay tribute is to let Harwell say farewell in his own words from his final Tigers broadcast, but just as poetic now as then:

"It's time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I'd much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure. I'm not leaving, folks. I'll still be with you, living my life in Michigan -- my home state -- surrounded by family and friends. And rather than goodbye, please allow me to say thank you. Thank you for letting me be part of your family. Thank you for taking me with you to that cottage up north, to the beach, the picnic, your work place and your backyard. Thank you for sneaking your transistor under the pillow as you grew up loving the Tigers. Now, I might have been a small part of your life. But you've been a very large part of mine. And it's my privilege and honor to share with you the greatest game of all."



The wife of NBA star Dwyane Wade has filed a lawsuit against the Miami Heat guard's alleged actress girlfriend, claiming her conduct around their young children has inflicted emotional distress.

Siohvaughn Wade claims actress Gabrielle Union "engaged in sexual foreplay with Dwyane Wade" in front of Wade's 8-year-old and 2-year-old sons while on an unsupervised visitation to the basketball star's Miami home, according to a suit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court.

The suit also claims Wade's oldest son was allowed to play unsupervised in or around the Miami home's pool at night. Wade and Union ignored the boy, whose "screams and cries" eventually got the attention of Wade's mother, Jolinda Wade, who took the boy inside, according to the suit.

The 8-year-old later told court appointed child representative Lester Barelay what happened and asked him "to put his father in jail..." so he would not have to return to the home, which he calls "the house where the woman kissing daddy lives," the suit said.

The suit also claims the younger child nearly drowned while in his father's care and Union drove the boys to the park with his oldest son in the front seat.

On one visitation, Wade allegedly orchestrated a meeting between Union and the boys, where he introduced the actress as his "girlfriend" and said "that is why your mom and I are going to divorce," according to the suit.

Dwyane and Siohvaughn Wade have been "sweethearts" since they were 15 years old and currently still married but are involved in a divorce proceeding, the suit said.

The boy's mother claims the sexual foreplay in front of the boys and the orchestrated meeting to introduce the children to their future stepmother caused emotional distress.

The older child has sought medical treatment for stress and anxiety, has developed nervous habits, experiences headaches, and is generally anxious to the point of "significant" hair loss causing bald spots, according to the suit. The boy is currently seeking court-mandated mental evaluations at the University of Chicago, the suit said.

Siohvaughn Wade and the boys are seeking more than $50,000 from Union at a trial.

A Tuesday night message left with Siohvaughn Wade's attorney, William P. Suriano, was not immediately returned. A message left with the NBA Players Association seeking comment from Dwyane Wade's agent was also not returned.

Dwyane Wade -- an alumni of Richards High School in Oak Lawn -- has played all seven seasons of his professional career for the Miami Heat. The 28-year-old is a six-time NBA all-star and has won an NBA championship and gold medal. He has the option to opt out of his current contract this summer, and the Chicago Bulls are rumored to be interested in signing him.
The death of University of Virginia women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love was an accident, according to a lawyer for George Huguely, a men's lacrosse player for the Cavaliers.

Huguely was arrested and charged with murder Monday after Love's body was found in her apartment.

"Until more information becomes available, it is our hope that no conclusions will be drawn or judgments made about George or his case," defense lawyer Francis Lawrence said Tuesday, reading a statement to reporters outside a courthouse. "We are confident that Ms. Love's death was not intended, but an accident with a tragic outcome."

Lawrence did not elaborate and said he would have no further comment.
Police have said that the Huguely and Love had been in a relationship.

APTOPIX Cardinals Phi_Newm.jpgA law enforcement officer chases down a fan that ran onto the field before the eighth inning in Philadelphia on Monday. Matt Slocum-AP

Philadelphia Phillies fans, notoriously, will boo anyone and anything. But one fan got a hearty cheer when the Phils took on the St. Louis Cardinals. All he had to do to earn a little love? Get the Taser.

An unnamed 17-year-old decided to jump the fence and pull a sprint across Citizens Bank Field, causing the usual Keystone Cop scene with security and police chasing him down. Until, that is, one of Philadelphia's finest decide he'd had enough running and just tazed the kid.

As the underage fan went down in a heap, several Phillies placed gloves over their faces and appeared to be stifling laughter at the wild scene.

Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore told The Philadelphia Inquirer police internal affairs will open an investigation to determine if the firing "was proper use of the equipment."

"This is the first time that a Taser gun has been used by Philadelphia police to apprehend a field jumper," Phillies spokeswoman Bonnie Clark said in a statement to the Enquirer. "The Police Department is investigating this matter and The Phillies are discussing with them whether in future situations this is an appropriate use of force under these circumstances. That decision will be made public."

The fan will be charged with criminal trespass and related offenses, the team said. The Phillies did not release his name because he is a juvenile.

Adding insult to injury, the Phillies lost to the Cardinals, 6-3.

At least they never juiced Santa.


Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey examined video of the arrest and felt the officer acted within department guidelines, which allow officers to use Tasers to arrest fleeing suspects, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore. The department's internal affairs unit is investigating, Vanore said.

The department is now reviewing whether its officers should be on the field wrangling runaway fans who aren't threatening anyone, Vanore said.

"Should we be on the field at all? I think that's what's being looked at," Vanore said. "I'm not sure we should be chasing people around the field."

The police officer chased him for about 30 seconds before the stun gun probe hit the teenager, who stumbled forward, slid face-first on the grass and stayed down for about 30 seconds before standing up and walking off the field.

Pop sensation Justin Bieber was on hand for the White Sox game Monday night, where he threw out the first pitch to Mark Buehrle as young girls went crazy and adult males tried to figure out who he is.

Then, in the third inning, it got really weird.

Sox first baseman Paul Konerko fouled a ball off into Bieber's suite, which the singer was able to corral on the bounce.

This is something that actually happened.

He then gave the ball to a fan and went about his business, which is apparently living a charmed life.

Seriously, the 16-year-old just became the youngest male solo artist to top the Billboard album charts since Stevie Wonder. Then, a rogue appearance at a baseball game nets a foul ball -- something a lifelong fan might never get to experience.

Sweet-swinging Adrian Gonzalez, the San Diego Padres first baseman, spoke out about the controversial Arizona law targeting illegal immigration.

He told Fanhouse that, if selected to next summer's All-Star Game in Phoenix, he'll boycott as a protest. He also said he'd like to see Major League Baseball move Spring Training out of the state if the law is still in effect when play begins next year.

"I'll support the Players Association 100 percent," said Gonzalez, who grew up in both Tijuana and a suburb south of San Diego. "If they leave it up to the players and the law is still there, I'll probably not play in the All-Star Game. Because it's a discriminating law.
Gonzalez joins a growing faction of players and coaches who have spoken out against the law, including White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. On Thursday, a protest decrying the practice was held outside Wrigley Field as the Diamondbacks arrived for their four-game series against the Cubs.

Since any debate over race deteriorates from thoughtful discussion to name-calling within three comments, let's focus on Gonzalez here. Do you admire him for standing up for his principles or should he keep his mouth shut and play baseball? And what of the notion that a sporting event is becoming one of the focal points of a political battle? Does that sit OK with you or would you like to see a clear line drawn between the two arenas? 


Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano has homered in three consecutive games and raised his batting average to .325 with a recent hot stretch.

As Alfonso Soriano walked to the plate in the sixth inning of the Cubs' 10-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday, the crowd rose as one to give the left fielder a rousing standing ovation.

This, of course, was in stark contrast to the treatment he received last homestand when the Wrigley Field faithful serenaded him with a chorus of boos.

An offensive explosion will do that to a crowd.

With his two-homer, four-RBI day in the series finale, Soriano continued his recent torrid hitting streak that has seen him go from public enemy No. 1 at Clark and Addison to seemingly everyone's favorite Cub.

"What a nice day he had," said manager Lou Piniella, whose team reached .500 after taking the final three games against Arizona. "His at-bats were all really good and productive. He really looks locked in at home plate."

Soriano has driven in 10 runs over the Cubs' last three games and his 24th career multi-homer game was the third consecutive contest in which he's gone deep. For Piniella, it was the swings he didn't take that revealed the most.

"Today, he took pitches really, really well," he said. "For me, that's a good tell-tale sign of hitter. When you can take pitches out of the strike zone, to me, it means you're seeing the ball really well and you're staying on it."

A notorious free swinger, Soriano has been working with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to keep the lower half of his body calm. The recent results speak for themselves.

"That's a major difference," Piniella said. "You can see that he's seeing the ball much better because he's not chasing. He's zoning in."

"I feel very comfortable at home plate," Soriano said. "I'm a better hitter when I swing at strikes. Rudy works a lot with me. I'm working hard with him in the cage and I feel so comfortable at home plate because of the work I do with him."

A day after first baseman Derrek Lee suggested that Soriano's injury problems last year were much more severe than most people realized, the red-hot left fielder seemed more content to enjoy the moment than dwell on the past.

"I don't like to make excuses in this game" he said. "Whatever happened last year, it was 2009. Now it's 2010 and I'm happy the way I play and happy the way my body feels today."

A day after a bomb scare shut down New York City's Times Square, the Pittsburgh Marathon was also affected by an explosive device.

After the elite runners had finished, police diverted the runners away from the area where a microwave containing the explosive was found. People in the area reported hearing an explosion around 10:45 a.m. A bomb squad was able to use a robot to disarm the device without incident.

The bomb squad gave the all-clear shortly before 11 a.m. and police then turned toward squelching a rumor circulating through some race checkpoints that the marathon had been called off.
The threat prompted marathon officials to call off the awards ceremony that customarily follows completion of the race.

Kipyegon Kirui, a 29-year-old Kenyan, won with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes.
jay-cutler-playboy.jpgJay Cutler turned 27 on Thursday and it looks like he found an appropriate way to celebrate it. Here he is with a dashing young lady, looking real content.

According to Blak4Rest (Sports Commentary, Media and Vegas), Cutler was presented with an exclusive Playboy Club key Friday night in Las Vegas and was joined in celebration by Brandon Marshall, Mark Sanchez, Shaun Rogers, Will Allen, Karlos Dansby, Jake Long, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Jermaine Dye and Brandyn Dombrowski.

Really quite an entourage right there.

So, in case you were wondering, it's very, very good to be an NFL quarterback.

For one day a year, on Kentucky Derby day, Louisville is the epicenter of the sports universe. People who ignore horse racing the other 364 days on the calendar tune in and read up on the most exciting 2 1/2 minutes in sports.

So last night was an extremely bad time for the Louisville Courier-Journal to suffer a printing problem that kept Derby coverage from being delivered to its subscribers and to newsstands this morning.

 Electrical problems with the printing press caused Courier-Journal home subscribers to receive only the pre-printed sections of the Sunday newspaper - Forum, Business, Travel, Comics and the advertising inserts. Those sections were expected to be delivered by 9 a.m. The remainder of the Sunday newspaper containing the A-section, Metro, Sports and the 20-page special Derby section will be delivered with Monday's paper, according to Chris Apel, vice president of finance and operations.

About 43,000 copies of the newspaper were run off the press and delivered to subscribers in parts of the state before the problems occurred. The remainder of the newspaper was being printed at The Indianapolis Star. Copies of the full newspaper are expected to be available in stores and in sales racks by later this afternoon.

It has to be extremely disappointing for the staff who busted their humps to get the most important sports section of the year out on time.

mayweather-mosely.jpgBoxing superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr. ran his career record to 41-0 with an unanimous decision over Shane Mosley last night in Las Vegas.

After the second round -- in which he came perilously close to what would have been a stunning defeat -- he won every minute of every round, making it an easy decision for the judges.

How lopsided was it?

Ringside punch statistics were as one-sided as the scorecards. They showed Mayweather landing 208 of 477 punches to 92 of 452 for Mosley.
The victory sets the stage yet again for a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout, which was close to happening before it fell apart over disagreement about drug testing. After winning, Mayweather reiterated his desire for this mega match to happen, provided Pacquiao submit to drug testing the day of the fight.

Mayweather won a promised $22.5 million for his efforts and will probably take home much, much more once the revenue from the pay-per-view audience is taken in to account.
Since news of Tiger Woods' serial infidelity became public, he's had no harsher critic than Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik. It stands to reason, too, since Parnevik was the one who introduced Tiger to Elin Nordegren -- a move he's since said he regrets.

Parnevik continued his public distaste in an article published today in the Swedish tabloid "Aftonbladet," saying Woods is not welcome at his house and that he's not looking forward to seeing the embattled golfer on the links.

Nordegren once worked as Parnevik's nanny and regularly visits his Florida home. Next time, I guess, she'll arrive sans husband.

Parnevik did say that while he's not excited to play with Tiger, he wouldn't hit him with a golf club. 
jim-leyland-smoke.JPGIt's a big day for the good people of Michigan.

The state's public smoking ban goes into effect today and applies to virtually all public workplaces.

That includes Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, where cigarette enthusiast Jim Leyland calls the shots. He's been known to disappear into the tunnel between the dugout and clubhouse for a quick nicotine fix during games.

"I'm a law-abiding citizen, so it's just the way it is," Leyland said Friday, according to The Grand Rapids Press. "We're not supposed to smoke here, and I won't do it. I'll try to find someplace outside somewhere, I guess, but I think you're not supposed to smoke at all in the park."

Leyland could theoretically sneak out to the Camacho Cigar Bar inside Tiger Club -- an exempt portion of the ballpark to get his cigar on -- but points out that it's pretty difficult to get there during the game.