Archive for April, 2014
(Los Angeles) (AP) – Several hours after owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life, the Los Angeles Clippers sprinted and soared through a playoff game as if a weight had been lifted from their collective shoulders.
The Clippers finished a tumultuous day with a 113-103 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, leaving their home court to high-fives and standing ovations from fans enthralled by the prospect of watching an NBA title chase without Sterling in his front-row seat.
“We have a tough locker room, all of us are tough, but it almost brought out tears to your eyes just to feel the support from the fans,” said Chris Paul, the Clippers’ star point guard.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver delivered the extraordinary punishment to Sterling after a recording of racist statements by the real-estate mogul was made public several days ago.
The ban is one of the harshest penalties in the history of U.S. sports, but was met with near-universal acclaim from fellow owners, civil rights observers and NBA players who strongly contemplated a playoff boycott if Sterling wasn’t punished harshly.
“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” Silver said while announcing his first major action as the league’s commissioner. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage. Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league.”
Sterling was fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowable under the NBA constitution. Silver also will urge the NBA’s board of governors to compel Sterling to sell the Clippers, and if three-fourths of the other 29 owners agree, the league’s longest-tenured owner almost certainly will be forced to give up the team he has owned since 1981.
Sterling made no public comment about the ban, but the owner is among the most litigious people in sports. Team spokesman Seth Burton said in an email that the Clippers had no plans to issue a statement from Sterling on Tuesday, but the franchise released a statement “wholeheartedly” supporting Silver’s decision.
While the league waited to see whether Sterling will fight to keep his team, the Clippers got back to basketball with a flourish.
Two days earlier, with news of Sterling’s comments still fresh, the Clippers dumped their team warmup jerseys in a pile at center court in Oakland in a gesture of defiance against their owner before losing Game 4 of the series.
After Silver’s announcement and an emotional team meeting, the Pacific Division champions methodically beat the Warriors to take a 3-2 series lead. Los Angeles is on the brink of just its third playoff series victory since Sterling bought this star-crossed team nearly 33 years ago.
“I was really proud of them,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought they were tired a lot tonight. I thought you could see them getting tired from all the emotional baggage over the last four days. They had great mental toughness tonight.”
Even while Sterling contemplates his next move, the Clippers organization rushed to distance itself from Sterling. Shortly after Silver’s announcement, the Clippers’ website featured only a black screen with a simple message: “We are one.” The mantra was repeated by the team’s public-address announcers and chanted by their fans several times during their playoff game.
Sterling is banned from Staples Center and the Clippers’ training complex in Playa Vista, a beautiful $60 million facility constructed by Sterling. He is prevented from participating in any decisions by the Clippers, or from any league activity, including board of governors meetings.
Most of the advertising signage at Staples Center was either covered in black cloth or removed for the game. Many sponsors dropped the Clippers or re-evaluated their relationships with the NBA over the past several days, and Silver is hopeful they will return with Sterling’s departure.
Sterling’s long-estranged wife, Rochelle, watched the game from a seat in the lower bowl, not in the courtside chairs usually occupied by the couple – or by Donald Sterling and a string of young female friends. One of those friends, V. Stiviano, was the other voice on the recordings made public last week.
Silver said Sterling had confirmed his voice was on the recordings. He criticized Stiviano for posting pictures of herself online with black athletes Magic Johnson and Matt Kemp.
“Don’t bring him to my games,” Sterling said of Johnson, the former Lakers star and current Los Angeles Dodgers owner. “Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast, that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
Despite the urgency of the potential move, Sterling seems almost certain to get the highest sale price in history for an NBA franchise if he is indeed forced to sell. After decades of incompetence under Sterling’s watch, the Clippers are now a successful team located in glamorous Los Angeles – and they’re about to get much more valuable when they sign a new broadcast deal in 2016.
After the news of Sterling’s comments broke last weekend, Rivers clearly questioned whether he would stay with the team that pried him away from the Boston Celtics a year ago with a lucrative contract. The championship-winning coach, who is black, said he still hadn’t made up his mind before Game 5.
“I had given it zero thought, as far as that goes,” said Rivers, who briefly played for Sterling with the Clippers. “Obviously, Adam’s decision, if there was going to be one, makes mine easier.”
(Los Angeles) (AP) – A majority of NBA ownership groups reached Tuesday by The Associated Press say they will vote to force embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to sell his club.
The teams were then contacted by The Associated Press on the specific question of whether Sterling should be forced to sell, and 16 ownership groups said yes, while another eight declined to reveal their stance.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants Sterling to sell as part of the extremely stiff series of sanctions brought against the league’s longest-tenured owner in response to racist comments. Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and said he will press the other teams in the NBA to support his desire to make Sterling sell.
Within minutes of Silver announcing the sanctions in New York, most of the clubs in the league – including the Clippers – put out statements supporting the league’s moves.
Five ownership groups, not including the Clippers themselves, could not be reached Tuesday. None of the teams contacted by AP said they would vote in favor of Sterling retaining his ownership, and most teams requested that their stance be kept private.
“The Commissioner was correct to ban Mr. Sterling from all official NBA business, to levy the stiffest allowable fine, and we will support his recommendation to press for Mr. Sterling to relinquish his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise,” read a statement from Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and team president Michael Reinsdorf. “We believe Commissioner Silver’s decision reflects the best interests of the NBA and public civility.
For Sterling to be forced to sell, 75 percent of NBA clubs would have to vote in favor of such a move. That means if 29 teams vote, Silver would have to get 22 yes votes. If all 30 clubs have a vote, the number needed for passage rises to 23.
“I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him,” Silver said.
Fox News reported that Sterling said Tuesday he has no plans to sell the club. Under NBA rules, the league will have to present Sterling with some sort of notice announcing that it intends to seek the termination of his ownership, and give him an opportunity to respond. At some point, the league’s Board of Governors would then be called, presumably for a vote.
“We are whole-heartedly behind Adam’s recommendation and plan to vote accordingly,” Orlando Magic chairman Dan DeVos said.
(Philadelphia) (AP) – As they trailed in the series, the Flyers always believed they’d return to New York.
Even on short rest, they’re ready for one more comeback.
“If we win Game 7, it’s going to feel even more special because it’s over there,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said.
Wayne Simmonds scored three goals, Steve Mason stopped 34 shots and the Flyers beat the Rangers 5-2 Tuesday night to even their first Eastern Conference playoff series at three games apiece.
Erik Gustafsson also scored as Philadelphia added a third Game 7 to the NHL schedule for Wednesday night. While the other two series last played on Monday night, the Flyers and Rangers have a quick turnaround before their final game at Madison Square Garden.
“We know we can win a game up there,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “It’s confidence. Our guys realize that we can do it.”
Simmonds scored in the first period and twice more in the second for his first career postseason hat trick. Mason survived a busy first period and stopped 31 straight shots until Carl Hagelin scored late in the third. Mats Zuccarello also scored for New York in the final minute.
By the third, Simmonds had ready helped stake the Flyers to a 4-0 lead and the outcome was a mere formality.
Giroux had an empty-netter for the Flyers, who will try for a second win in New York this series.
Simmonds, a 29-goal scorer who had one in the first five games, completed the hat trick with 4:41 left in the second. With a short break, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was yanked for Cam Talbot to open the third period.
Lundqvist stopped 19 of 23 shots. He couldn’t stop Simmonds.
“I already started thinking about (Game 7),” Lundqvist said. “You don’t want to analyze this too much. We have a Game 7 at home.”
Simmonds camped out in the dirty area, in front of the crease, and pounded home three short goals that had Flyers fans going wild. On the brink of elimination, about the only thing that could slow down the Flyers were their fans – the game was delayed for a lengthy cleanup after they littered the ice with hats. Someone even threw a shoe.
Outplayed for most of the series, the Flyers were lucky to escape the first period with a 1-0 lead. They were careless with the puck in their own zone and had nine turnovers, which led to a ton of work for Mason, who made 13 saves in the period.
“It’s always important to feel the puck early,” he said. “I was able to make a couple of timely saves to start off the game and feel good for the rest of it. It was nice to be busy a little earlier in the game.”
Simmonds put Philadelphia in front with his third hack at a rebound on a power play. Across the street, the rain-delayed Philadelphia Phillies rang the home run Liberty Bell in celebration of the goal.
Simmonds, a 6-foot-2, 183-pound forward, was just warming up.
Brayden Schenn stripped New York’s Dan Girardi of the puck, and then lost control in front of the crease. Simmonds was perfectly positioned off to Lundqvist’s right side and pounded in the trickling puck for a 2-0 lead just 1:32 into the second.
Simmonds again was just outside the crease to knock in his third goal late in the second for the 4-0 lead.
“We knew the situation,” Simmonds said. “You’ve got to get pumped up for games like this.”
After a sloppy first, the puck just seemed to bounce Philadelphia’s way.
Gustafsson, who did not play the first five games, came storming out of the penalty box in the second period, his stick hit the puck in a flash and he scored for a 3-0 lead.
“It was a lot of fun when I saw the puck come down to me,” he said. “I think it took a fortunate bounce.”
Mason, who had never won a postseason game until this season, was hardly challenged in the last two periods as he chased the shutout. He snared Benoit Pouliot’s point-blank shot in the second period and made an out-of-nowhere kick save against John Moore in the third.
“You’ve got to hop on the train and put it behind you. I’ve got a few episodes of `Scandal’ to catch up on,” Mason said, referring to the popular TV show.
The Rangers had scored four goals in three other games this series. New York is 13-2 in series it has led 3-2, but the Rangers have lost 12 straight games in which they had a series lead.
“There’s nothing better than playing in those Game 7s when you’re a part of them,” Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. “I think we have to forget about it and put it behind us.”
(Fayetteville) (AP) – A four-run second inning was all Arkansas would need to hold off Missouri State in college baseball.
The inning included a two-run home run by Michael Bernal as the Razorbacks batted around in Tuesday’s game at Hammons Field in Springfield.
Arkansas improves to 29-18 with the win while Missouri State falls to 19-21.
(Fayetteville) (AP) – The University of Arkansas softball team is set to host Oklahoma in college softball.
The Razorbacks and Sooners are to play starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Bogle Park in Fayetteville.
Arkansas is 27-24 overall while OU goes into the game at 39-10 on the season.
from USA Today
(Los Angeles) – Denouncing Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments in strong language, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the league has banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million.
“The central findings of the investigation are that the man whose voice is on the recordings … is Mr. Sterling and that the hateful feelings are those of Mr. Sterling. The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply disturbing and alarming,” Silver said.
“As for Mr. Sterling’s ownership interest in the Clippers,” Silver said. “I will urge the board of governors to force a sale of the team and will do everything in my power to ensure that happens.”
Silver said he made the decision to ban Sterling Tuesday morning and that he will begin immediately the process of trying to get Sterling to sell the team.
“This has been a painful moment for all members of the NBA family,” Silver said.
Sliver said he didn’t poll the owners, but did speak to several who he said supports the decision.
“The owners have the authority subject to 3/4 vote, to remove him as owner,” Silver said.
In Silver’s first seminal moment as commissioner since taking over for David Stern in February, he issued the heaviest penalty possible under his power, which is governed by the NBA’s private constitution and bylaws.
Sponsors began pulled out Monday and Silver said marketing partners should judge NBA based on league’s response to Sterling incident.
Promising a quick investigation, Silver said Sterling confirmed the voice on the audio is his and said the recording was not tampered with, as the Clippers suggested was possible in a statement on Saturday.
Comments by Sterling surfaced Saturday when TMZ posted the audio recording on its web site. In a conversation between he and a female friend, he chastised the woman for posting pictures of herself on Instagram with minorities, including Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Kemp.
“Why are you taking pictures with minorities, why?” Sterling said.
He continued: “Don’t put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me…And don’t bring him to my games, OK?” the person said on the audio recording.
“Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” Sterling also said.
“When I first heard the comments I was hoping it was doctored and hoping it wasn’t Donald,” Silver said. “I’ve known Donald for over 20 years.”
“I haven’t been that close to him, but never seen anything that would indicate that he held the views that were expressed in these audio tapes.”
(West Plains) – Area basketball fans took one last look at some of their favorite senior high school players Saturday afternoon, April 19, at the Grizzly All-Star Classic at the West Plains Civic Center arena.
Hosted by the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball program, the annual event gives these student athletes an opportunity to display their skills on the court one more time.
“We were thrilled for the opportunity to honor these seniors one last time as members of their high school basketball teams,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said. “Without a doubt, we had two competitive games. The girls’ game was close with a minute left before the girls Dark Team spread the lead just out of reach. The boys’ game was very exciting, with the Dark Team coming back to tie the game and then win convincingly in overtime.”
In the girls game, the Dark Team defeated the Light Team 68-57. Scoring for the Dark Team, coached by Doyne Byrd of Bakersfield, were Sarah Cook, Seymour, 18 points; Betsy Minkler, Bakersfield, 12; Brianna Walters, Koshkonong, and Sam Kuk, Bakersfield, each with 10; and Taylor Emberton of Couch, Alicia Bland of Bunker, and Jessica Storm of Licking, each with 6. Kody Smith, Bakersfield, also was a member of the team
Scoring for the girls Light Team, coached by Norman Hollis of Alton, were Alex Mills, Alton, 19 points; Lakin McDaris, Hartville, 13; Shelby Acklin, West Plains, 8; Sydney Cremer, Houston, 7; Brianna Strain, Gainesville, 3; Kianna Frieze, Alton, 2; and Chandra Hollis, Alton, 1. Jordyn Edwards, Alton, also was a member of the team.
In the boys game, the Dark Team tied the contest at 117 at the end of regulation before pulling away to a 137-124 victory in overtime. Scoring for the Dark Team, coached by Pat Rapert, Gainesville, Darrien Dickey, Iberia, 31 points (8 in overtime); Seth Hensley, Hartville, 24; Hunter Simmons, Hartville, 22; James Denton, Mtn. View-Birch Tree Liberty, 15; Harley Taylor, Gainesville, 14; Zach Voss, Gainesville, 8; Jacob Womack, West Plains, and Eric Honeycutt, Alton, each with 5; and Josh Foster, Couch, 4.
Scoring for the Light Team, coached by Matt Pitts, Thayer, were Shade Piper, Hartville, 39 points; Justin Washington, Crane, 30; Levi Hargrove, Thayer, and Chris Lewis, Norfork, Ark., each with 16; Kyndal Smith, Salem, Ark., 9; Chad Sturdefant, Seymour, 4; and Austin Mays, Winona, 3. Jacob Foley, Thayer, and Cody Whitaker, Salem, Mo., also were members of the team.
Sarah Cook of Seymour and Darrien Dickey of Iberia were named MVPs of their respective games.
The event also included a slam dunk contest for the boys and a 3-point shooting contest for both boys and girls. Alicia Bland, Bunker, and Seth Hensley, Hartville, took home the 3-point shooting contest trophies, and Dickey won the slam dunk contest. Walker pointed out Hensley hit the 3-pointer for the Dark Team that sent the boys game into overtime. He also offered his congratulations to each for their respective individual honors.
“The neatest thing about this year’s event was that I saw several of our all-star game alumni in the stands watching,” Walker said.
Walker said organizers of the all-star games would like to thank the sponsors from each of the players’ communities that supported their respective players, as well as the event’s corporate sponsors, Screen Shots Printing and Design, Rebecca Simmons Photography, Colton’s Steak House and Grill, and the West Plains Civic Center.
“We had a great crowd, and that is very fitting. It is admirable how our local communities support their athletes,” Walker said. “I also want to thank our sponsors. I received several thank yous for continuing to host these games, but we couldn’t do it without the support of our sponsors.”
(Washington) (AP) – Albert Pujols smiled as he explained why he felt the need to apologize to his wife for hitting homer No. 500 so quickly after No. 499.
She had planned to be there in person once he got within one of the milestone.
He didn’t give her the chance.
Pujols became the first major leaguer to get his 499th and 500th homers in the same game, connecting twice Tuesday night and driving in five runs in the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-2 victory over the Washington Nationals. He’s the 26th player in big league history to reach 500.
“I went and made a phone call and I called her, and she was doing her nails. And everybody in the salon, I guess, was telling her, `Congratulations!’ And she was like, `Did you just hit your 500th?’ I was like, `I’m sorry,’” Pujols said with a laugh.
“She would have loved to be here with my kids and my family. She drives me every day to try to be a better person, a better player,” he added. “I would have loved to share this moment with her here.”
Hitting like the Pujols of old, the three-time NL MVP delivered a three-run homer in the first inning and two-run drive in the fifth, both off Taylor Jordan (0-3).
“I knew this year, it was going to happen, whether it was tonight, tomorrow, two months from now,” Pujols said.
He also hit his 400th homer at Nationals Park.
“I admire his ability and the way he goes about playing the game, and I have for some time,” said Washington manager Matt Williams, who played against Pujols. “I just wish he’d do it against somebody else.”
About three months past his 34th birthday, Pujols is the third-youngest to get to 500; Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx were 32.
Pujols has eight homers in the past 13 games and leads the Angels with 19 RBIs.
“That’s the Albert I’m used to seeing,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said.
The 500th homer went to left-center field on an 89 mph pitch with the count at 1-2. The ball was grabbed – and later given to Pujols – by a man who identified himself as Thomas Sherrill, a 29-year-old Air Force staff sergeant from Pomona, Calif.
“That pitch was supposed to be low and away,” Jordan said, “and I guess I tried too hard to get it there.”
Pujols clapped his white batting gloves together a few strides before reaching home, then pointed both index fingers to the sky. Fans gave Pujols a partial standing ovation, and he tipped his red batting helmet as he approached the dugout. After heading down the steps, he came back out for a curtain call.
“That’s something you tell your kids when you get older. I don’t know the next guy who’s going to hit 500,” said Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs (2-0). “Nobody knows how to react. You don’t see it too much.”
Teammates said Pujols told shortstop Erick Aybar before the game he was going to hit two homers.
“Albert’s Albert. If he tells you something, he’s going to do it,” Trout said. “I’m not surprised he said that, because I’ve seen it before.”
After a couple of down-for-him years with the Angels following 11 transcendent seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols appears ready to reclaim his spot among the game’s elite hitters. He homered Friday and Saturday at Detroit to lift his total to 498, and now he’s reached the round number of 500 – a total that remains hallowed despite losing luster lately because so many players surpassed it.
Of the 26 members of the 500-homer club, 11 reached the mark in the last 15 years, according to STATS. Gary Sheffield was the previous player to do it, hitting No. 500 in April 2009.
“You don’t see 500, obviously, every night,” Pujols said. “It’s been a great career.”
The Cardinals selected him in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, and Pujols won a batting title in 2003, NL MVP awards in 2005, 2008 and 2009, and World Series titles with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. Pujols was the first player to hit 30 homers in each of his first 12 seasons and the second – after Al Simmons in 1924-34 – to reach 100 RBIs in each of his first 10.
A nine-time All-Star, Pujols hit 455 homers with the Cardinals.
“I’m so excited for him. He’s a great friend of mine and a great teammate of mine over the years,” Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright said. “Nobody deserves it more than he does, `cause he works so hard.”
After his decade-plus of excellence in St. Louis, Pujols signed a 10-year deal worth $240 million with the Angels following the 2011 season. Almost immediately, the 6-foot-3 slugger appeared to be slowing down. He hit .285 with 30 homers in 2012 – impressive numbers for most players, but career lows at that point for Pujols.
Things got worse in 2013. Injuries limited Pujols to 99 games and he hit .258 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs.
But not surprisingly, Pujols’ bat did not stay quiet for long.
Sitting at a news conference with the balls he hit over the fence Tuesday resting near his left elbow, Pujols smiled as he said: “Now we’ve got to start on the next milestone, I guess.”
(Chicago) (AP) – Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, marks the 100th anniversary of its first game on Wednesday with a matchup against Arizona. The ballpark that opened as Weeghman Park on April 23, 1914, has hosted millions of fans and been the scene of some of baseball’s most indelible moments. Some stars who graced its friendly confines offer their memories:
Mike Ditka has a question.
“Can you name another championship that was won there?” he asked.
Well, an iconic Chicago franchise won its share at Wrigley Field, and it’s the one that Ditka played for and coached.
The last time a team won a major title at Wrigley Field, Ditka was a star tight end and the 1963 Bears knocked off Y.A. Tittle and the New York Giants 14-10 in the NFL championship game.
“Papa Bear” George Halas was the man in charge. Hall of Famer Bill George led the defense back then. And in that final game, Ed O’Bradovich set up the go-ahead touchdown with an interception and Richie Petitbon sealed it with a pick in the end zone in the closing seconds. That gave Chicago its eighth and final title under Halas.
The Bears also won NFL championship games at Wrigley in 1933, 1941, 1943, and Ditka was the head coach when the 1985 team won it all, with Walter Payton, Jim McMahon and that dominating defense. The team was long gone from the old ballpark by then, having moved to Soldier Field in 1971. But Ditka has fond memories of the old home, quirks and all.
“It was a great place,” he said. “The fans were close to you. They did a great job with it. It was what it was. It was a baseball stadium. It was fine. The accommodations in those days, the locker rooms, everything in those days was fine. There was not a problem with it.”
It was just, well, different. The gridiron was wedged in a north-south direction from left field toward home plate with no room to spare.
The south end zone was cut off in one corner by the visitor’s dugout, which was filled with pads for safety, and was only 8 yards deep instead of the regulation 10. One corner of the north end zone came almost right up against the left-field wall, another hazard for the players.
The locker room was hardly spacious for a baseball club let alone a football team. In that sense little has changed at Wrigley, although newer clubhouses have been constructed since the Bears moved out.
“We had 40-some players at that time so it wasn’t quite as hard – and five coaches,” Ditka said. “It wasn’t like you had a staff of 20.”
There’s something comforting to Mike Veeck every time he goes to a baseball game in Chicago, whether it’s on the North Side or South Side.
He feels a connection to his past, to his dad and grandfather.
“To be able to sit in the bleachers where your dad did something and where relationships that lasted more than a lifetime where forged, it’s quite a feeling,” Veeck said.
The Veeck family has strong ties on both sides of town, with his dad, Bill Veeck Jr., having owned the White Sox on two occasions after working for the Cubs, and his grandfather having served as president of the National League club.
As Wrigley Field turns 100, it’s worth noting that the Veecks played big roles along with the Wrigleys in shaping the way the game was marketed and presented. Whether it was cleaning up the ballpark and creating a more family-friendly atmosphere or embracing the idea of broadcasting games on radio, they helped transform the fan experience.
Then there’s the ivy. That was Bill Veeck Jr.’s idea.
He had it planted at the base of the new brick outfield walls in 1937, the same year the Cubs replaced the ground-level bleachers with elevated brick bleachers and installed the famed scoreboard above them.
“He worked for the Wrigley family, and there wasn’t much that he and the Wrigleys could agree on after my grandfather died,” Mike Veeck said. “The one thing they could really agree on was the horticultural display that now is arguably one of the most famous.”
P.K. Wrigley “loved the vines, supported it, and Dad got a chance to install the scoreboard.”
Bill Veeck Jr. went on to own the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns in addition to the White Sox, and Mike Veeck went to work for his father on the South Side in the 1970s.
“One of the things that’s been so magical all these years is beautiful Wrigley Field,” Veeck said. “When I was with the White Sox in the late `70s, we never worried about marketing vs. the Cubs. Actually, we were back then outdrawing them. But what did always worry us was beautiful Wrigley Field even though Comiskey was older, built in 1910.”
The White Sox left Comiskey following the 1990 season. Wrigley, however, remains.
“Wrigley spent a great deal of money on that ballpark,” said Mike Veeck, a minor league team owner and executive. “Comiskey fell into disrepair many times, and that didn’t happen, Wrigley knew what he had. They understood it’s just a comfortable bandbox to watch a ballgame.”
Even so, he wants to make a few things clear.
He only goes to Cubs games when his friend and business partner Bill Murray drags him. Mike Veeck is a White Sox fan, and he jokes his memories of Wrigley Field “aren’t so warm and fuzzy.”
One other thing. Harry Caray leading the fans in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch? That started at Comiskey Park – not Wrigley Field – in the 1970s with Bill Veeck Jr.’s encouragement.
“Ninety-seven percent of people interested in revisionist history because of the super channel (WGN), and because of Harry’s larger-than-life personality, think that (it) started on the North Side, which of course it didn’t,” Mike Veeck said. “It started at Comiskey. Sometimes revisionist history works in your favor.”
Steve Stone has memories of Wrigley Field, both as a pitcher who played there for and against the Cubs, and as a broadcaster, sitting in the booth next to Caray for years and later next to Caray’s grandson, Chip.
He learned about the wind the hard way, watching helplessly as batter after batter sent his pitches over the fence. “I once gave up five homers in 2 1-3 innings,” he said.
A student of the game, Stone knew the record was six homers, so when manager Jim Marshall came to take him out, he joked that since it was only the third inning he knew that if he stayed in the game he could shatter the record. Marshall had seen enough and lifted Stone.
As a broadcaster, he saw firsthand what a huge Cubs fan the elder Caray was when, upon his return to the booth after suffering a stroke in 1987, Caray got a call from President Ronald Reagan while he was on the air.
Just as Reagan launched into a story about his wife, Nancy, and her connection to Chicago, Caray cut him off to say that Bobby Dernier had just hit a bunt single. Then, said Stone, “He hung up the phone. Because of a bunt single by Bobby Dernier.”
For Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, the most important event at Wrigley Field did not occur between the foul lines. It happened in the center field bleachers.
Ricketts and his siblings were at a game against the Braves in July 1991 when his life changed forever. He met his wife, Cecelia.
“All my siblings were with me,” he said. “We used to hang out there all the time. We were just making small talk, and we were talking about Omaha, where I grew up. And my wife was with all of her friends from Creighton, which is in Omaha, where she went to college. We just kind of started talking. Twenty years and five kids later …”
So when Ricketts talks about the connection fans have to the ballpark, he speaks from personal experience. He lived across the street in an apartment at the corner of Addison and Sheffield with his brother Peter.
His bond with the Cubs really started to take hold as a freshman at the University of Chicago in 1984, when the team ended a playoff drought that dated to 1945 and launched a legion of bleacher bums who made Wrigley the place to be. A quarter of a century later, the Ricketts family purchased controlling interest of the team from the Tribune Co.
“All the years we hung out as single guys in the bleachers, those were great years,” Ricketts said. “I think just walking about and talking to people and just knowing how much the ballpark means to them, it’s really special. Everybody has a story. I think it’s just a unique place with unique memories.”
Ryne Sandberg took a seat in the visitors’ dugout at Wrigley Field, and that was a little odd. But just a little.
“This is a home for me,” he said.
The Hall of Famer was back at Wrigley for the Cubs’ home opener this year, managing the visiting Philadelphia Phillies and reliving a flood of memories.
He thought back to the playoff run in 1984, to the charged atmosphere that developed around the ballpark. And, yes, he recalled the game that put him in the spotlight. Cubs fans simply refer to it as “The Sandberg game.”
Chicago beat St. Louis 12-11 in 11 innings on June 23, 1984, and what Sandberg did was nothing short of eye-popping. He had five hits and drove in seven runs, crushing tying home runs against Bruce Sutter in the ninth and 10th innings.
“That was a special game for sure, for the team and for me personally as far as taking my game to a different level and changing my expectations of myself as a player with power,” Sandberg said. “(Manager) Jim Frey talking to me that spring training about driving the ball and hitting a home run every now and then and adding power to my game. That game really told me that I could do that. It was really a different mindset that game gave me, and it was something I wanted to live up to the rest of that year, which led to the MVP and also brought new standards for me each and every year.”
He won the NL MVP award with a .314 average and 19 homers after hitting just eight the previous season. He made the first of 10 All-Star teams and won the second of nine gold gloves.
From the historic to the strange, Billy Williams saw it all at Wrigley Field during his Hall of Fame career.
“The ballpark’s 100 years old; a lot of stuff has happened,” he said.
He thinks back to 1969, when the Cubs looked like they were on their way and maybe in position to end their championship drought, only to get caught down the stretch by the New York Mets.
He recalls Willie Smith kicking off that season with a game-winning homer against Philadelphia in the 11th inning at Wrigley. He mentions Ken Holtzman tossing a no-hitter against Atlanta that August, a gem that got preserved when a gust of wind knocked down what looked like a home run by Hank Aaron in the seventh. Williams made the catch against the ivy in left.
About that ivy …
“Some of the strangest things have happened with the vines,” he said, whether it was balls getting stuck or Jose Cardenal hiding stuff in them.
Williams remembers Cardenal, the right fielder, hiding balls in the ivy during batting practice. During games, Cardenal would on occasion pull one of them out and throw it back to the infield.
What stands out most to Williams is how Wrigley – and Boston’s Fenway Park – have stood the test of time.
“A lot of stuff has happened here,” he said. “The history has stayed here. That’s what I like about it. That’s why we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary.”
Ernie Banks remembers it was a scorching day in 1967 at Wrigley Field. He walked into the clubhouse and saw a bunch of teammates dreading the heat when he delivered three famous words.
“Let’s play two!” he bellowed.
The way Banks recalls it, everyone in the room thought he’d lost his mind.
“Everybody was there – all the players, the writers,” he said. “I said, `Boy, it’s a beautiful day! Let’s play two!’ And they all looked at me, `This guy’s crazy. It’s 90, 100 degrees out there. He’s talking about playing two games.’ That kind of stayed with me.”
Kind of stayed with him? That’s kind of an understatement.
It’s a statement that came to define Banks and his enthusiasm for the game. And for Wrigley: Banks wanted to live at the ballpark.
Bob Lewis, the club’s traveling secretary, lived in an apartment near the home players’ entrance along the left-field side that now houses the stadium’s catering operation. Banks wanted to stay there. Instead, he lived in an apartment elsewhere.
“It was a place that I didn’t want to leave,” Banks said.
(Los Angeles) (AP) – After Patrick Marleau’s fourth career playoff overtime goal silenced Staples Center for maybe the next-to-last time this season, the veteran San Jose Sharks forward attributed his knack for postseason heroics to one simple trait.
“Well, you just try to shoot it on net,” Marleau said. “This one was not a hard shot by any means, but you just get it to the net.”
That’s how good things happen for Marleau and the Sharks, who weathered the Los Angeles Kings’ best game of the series and emerged on the brink of advancement.
Marleau scored 6:20 into overtime, and the Sharks beat the Kings 4-3 on Tuesday night to take a 3-0 first-round series lead.
Rookie Tomas Hertl tied it with 10:43 left in regulation for the Sharks, who had to grind out a nail-biting victory after two blowout wins in San Jose. But the Sharks have won five straight overtime playoff games and 10 of their past 11, with Marleau repeatedly delivering the decisive blow.
“For Patty Marleau to come up with that goal, it’s just huge for us,” captain Joe Thornton said. “It was just going back and forth.”
The Kings largely controlled overtime until Marleau’s shot banked off Kings defenseman Slava Voynov’s stick on its way past Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves in his third straight loss. Marleau’s goal was his third of the series.
“They had the bat in their hands, and they were going to swing it,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “They had us on our heels, but sometimes it goes that way. We will take that break.”
Matt Nieto got his first career playoff goal for the Sharks, and Brent Burns also scored. Antti Niemi stopped 28 shots for San Jose, winning three straight in the matchup of Stanley Cup-winning goalies.
Game 4 is Thursday in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles has slipped to the brink of first-round elimination just two years after its Stanley Cup title run. The Kings were the NHL’s best defensive team during the regular season, but they’ve allowed 17 goals in the first three games of this series.
Only three teams have ever rallied to win a best-of-seven NHL playoff series after trailing 0-3.
“It was a better effort,” said leading scorer Anze Kopitar, who doesn’t have a goal in the series. “We had some chances, but it wasn’t enough. We’re going to have to come back in a couple of days and throw everything at them.”
Jeff Carter tipped in a tiebreaking goal for Los Angeles on a power play early in the third period, but Hertl evened it right after a power play expired. San Jose dominated the third, but Quick made 23 saves to send the Kings into their first overtime playoff game at home in three years.
Marian Gaborik scored and Jarret Stoll ended his 29-game playoff goal drought for the Kings, who stumbled back home after opening the series with two disastrous games at the Shark Tank.
The Kings’ nervous fans got quiet early on when Burns partly whiffed on a wrist shot and produced a knuckling puck that sailed past Quick just 10 seconds into a Sharks power play.
Stoll evened it with his first playoff goal in two years early in the second period. Stoll hadn’t found the net in the postseason since his series-clinching overtime goal against Vancouver in 2012.
Gaborik then put the Kings ahead all by himself, lugging the puck from the opposite blue line and beating Niemi with a vicious backhand.
“I think our better players were better,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “That was noticeable. That will give us a chance next game.”
San Jose evened it 1:18 later when Nieto, from nearby Long Beach, scored into an open net. Quick had been knocked to the ice by Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr moments earlier.
Carter capitalized in the waning seconds of a power play by tipping Anze Kopitar’s shot in front for his first playoff score since Game 2 of last season’s Western Conference finals, ending a personal 393:34 drought.
Hertl converted his own rebound midway through the period to even it again, scoring on the rink where a knee-on-knee hit from Dustin Brown sidelined the Czech rookie for 45 games earlier this season.