Sunday, May 31, 2009
The 131st running of the Belmont Stakes provided a feel-good story: A former claimer that came from out of nowhere to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, ridden by a jockey that fought many personal battles to return to the top of his game. However, a race that started with nothing but promise for Charismatic ended in tragedy.
Jockey Chris Antley kept Charismatic close to the lead for most of the mile-and-a-half race, making his move on the far turn and taking the lead briefly from Silverbulletday at the top of the stretch. However, Antley may have kept him too close, considering he won the Derby and Preakness aboard Charismatic with a mid-pack closing move. This opened the door for 29-1 longshot Lemon Drop Kid to pass the favorite at the eighth pole. Lemon Drop Kid went on to win the race by a head over fellow longshot Vision And Verse, but the 1999 Belmont will be forever remembered for Charismatic being pulled up by Antley shortly after the finish, when the horse broke a bone in his leg. Antley stayed with the horse until the track veterinarian made his way to him, and was credited with saving the horse's life. Charismatic currently stands at stud in Japan and has foaled many successful runners, including the Nick Zito trainee Sun King.
Sweden's Robin Soderling, seeded 23rd in French Open, walks away with biggest upset in tournament as he knocks out top-seeded Rafael Nadal in four-set round of 16 matchup, handing Nadal his first loss ever in Paris. (Photo courtesy of London Times Online)
The king is dead, long live the king. At least for another year.
Rafael Nadal, who had won his first 31 matches on the clay of Roland Garros, is undefeated no more; falling in the round of 16 to 23rd seed Robin Soderling this morning at the French Open. Soderling defeated Nadal 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 to advance to the quarterfinals.
With Nadal out of the running for an unprecedented fifth straight French Open title, the door is now wide open for Roger Federer to tie Pete Sampras' record of 14 career Grand Slam titles. Other winners today included No. 3 seed Andy Murray and 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez, who will play one another in the quarters.
Friday, May 29, 2009
What was expected to be a move that defined the career of Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been anything but defining, as the most popular driver in NASCAR has just one win in 48 races with Hendrick Motorsports, not counting last year's Budweiser Shootout; not to mention he has still not won a series championship. This week, car owner Rick Hendrick attempted to rectify the problem by making wholesale changes in the pit crew on the 88 team, replacing crew chief Tony Eury Jr., Earnhardt's cousin who had worked with him since his days at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Brian Whitesell, a former member of Jeff Gordon's crew who is now acting as Earnhardt's team manager, will be atop the pit box this Sunday at Dover. Lance McGrew will eventually become Eury's permanent replacement, with his first race being next Sunday at Pocono Raceway. McGrew was the crew chief for former Hendrick driver Brian Vickers when he won the 2003 Nationwide Series championship at just 20 years of age, and was also the crew chief when Vickers won his lone Sprint Cup race in October of 2006 at Talladega.
Earnhardt Jr. is currently 19th in points, and is 203 behind teammate Mark Martin, who sits in 12th. The top twelve drivers in the standings make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins at New Hampshire on September 20th.
After riding him to an improbable Kentucky Derby win and then riding against him to win the Preakness, Calvin Borel and Mine That Bird will be reunited in next Saturday's Belmont Stakes, as the connections of Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra announced that their filly will not be entered into the mile-and-a-half race that is the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Mine That Bird will now certainly be the heavy favorite to win the Belmont, with Borel on board looking to become the first jockey to win the Triple Crown aboard two different horses. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas accomplished this feat in 1995, winning the Derby and Belmont with Thunder Gulch while saddling Timber Country to victory in the Preakness.
"We know the media and many fans would have liked to see her run in the Belmont Stakes," said Jess Jackson, who owns Rachel Alexandra. "We feel the same." It is unknown as to when the filly will return to the track.
Two years ago, the Colorado Rockies had a sensational end to the regular season, capped off by a win in their winner-take-all playoff game to represent the National League as its wild card; where they eventually made it into the World Series against the Red Sox. If Colorado is to get there again, however, they will have to do it under the direction of a new manager after Clint Hurdle was fired today. Hurdle had been the Rockies' skipper since replacing Buddy Bell less than a month into the 2002 campaign, but started 18-28 this season. He will be replaced by Rockies bench coach Jim Tracy, who has previous managerial experience in the National League West with the Dodgers. Tracy also managed the Pittsburgh Pirates before landing in the Coors Field dugout.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, as Rachel Alexandra made sure of that by becoming the first filly since 1924 to win the Preakness, holding off a late charge from Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. However, it's really been just fourteen years since the Triple Crown was last won; albeit in an unconventional fashion.
In 1995, trainer D. Wayne Lukas captured the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes with Thunder Gulch, who finished third in the Preakness; beaten less than a length by stablemate Timber Country, giving Hall of Fame trainer Lukas the Triple Crown with two different horses. Here we are in 2009, and jockey Calvin Borel has a chance to replicate Lukas' unorthodox success by winning the Derby, Preakness and Belmont aboard two different horses. Regardless of who he rides, Borel is sure to have the mount on the post time favorite, whether it is Mine That Bird or Rachel Alexandra.
Borel made history by riding against Mine That Bird, who he teamed with to capture the Run for the Roses to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, winning the second leg of the Triple Crown by a length over the aforementioned Derby winner. In yet another similarity to 1995, Mine That Bird would be the first Derby winner to capture the Belmont since Thunder Gulch fourteen years ago should the small gelding lead the field to the wire in the mile-and-a-half marathon.
"We're going to give Calvin the opportunity to ride him," said Chip Woolley, who trains Mine That Bird. Borel is the regular rider for Rachel Alexandra, and he would most likely take the mount on the filly if owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen decide to run her against the boys once again. If that is the case, Woolley has a contingency that he has yet to reveal. This time, Mike Smith, who rode Mine That Bird in the Preakness, will not be available due to a prior commitment at Hollywood Park.
Henrik Zetterberg, who won Conn Smythe Trophy during Red Wings' march to Stanley Cup championship last year, must help his team overcome adversity and injuries as they meet Pittsburgh for second straight year in Cup Finals. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)
Alexander Ovechkin doesn't play in the Western Conference yet, so NHL commissioner Gary Bettman must feel as if he has the next best thing in the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals; with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins advancing to face the reigning champion Detroit Red Wings in a reprisal of last year's Cup final, where the Wings got the better of Pittsburgh in six games; the final seconds of the last game ranking among the most dramatic since the NHL's return from the 2004 lockout.
Game 1 is at the Joe Louis Arena with an 8 p.m. Eastern time face-off, with the second game taking place one night later. The reason for games on consecutive nights is due to NBC, which owns the TV broadcast rights to the Stanley Cup Finals, not wanting to pre-empt the "Tonight Show" Monday night, when Conan O'Brien takes over the hosting duties of the popular late-night program from outgoing host Jay Leno.
Crosby and Malkin have combined to score 26 goals during the postseason, (Crosby has 14; Malkin 12) matching the total Detroit put up with its two top scorers last year. (Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, who each tallied 13) For Detroit, Chris Osgood has been lights-out behind the net, posting a minuscule 2.06 goals against average for the Red Wings, the first defending champion to advance to the Cup Finals since New Jersey in 2001, when the Devils took the Colorado Avalanche to seven games one year after hoisting the Cup against Dallas. The Penguins are still looking for their first Cup win since 1992, when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr lifted the Pens to a championship.
Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy has every reason to enjoy life right now, as his Orlando squad is just one win away from franchise's second Eastern Conference championship. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)
Ever since he broke into the NBA head coaching ranks with the Miami Heat, there are many people that still believe Stan Van Gundy has yet to escape the shadow of his brother Jeff, who led the Knicks to an Eastern Conference title in 1999, along with several playoff appearances before moving into his current line of work as a color commentator and studio analyst for ABC's NBA coverage. A win tonight in Cleveland could move Van Gundy into his own zip code in NBA history and differentiate him from Jeff for the rest of his career.
Van Gundy's Orlando Magic take a 3-1 lead against the Cavaliers into tonight's Game 5 at the Quicken Loans Arena, one win away from a return trip to the NBA Finals for Orlando, who hasn't been there since getting swept by the Rockets in 1995. Van Gundy would be making his Finals debut if the Magic prevail, and all he needs to do once he gets there is take at least two games from either the Lakers or Nuggets to eclipse Jeff's showing in the Finals, when his Knicks advanced as a No. 8 seed before falling to San Antonio in five games.
Mark Teixeira makes his Yankee Stadium debut during his introductory press conference in January. Four months later, Teixeira is hitting .275 with 15 home runs and 39 RBI for Yankees, who are tied with Red Sox for first place in AL East. (Photo courtesy of Newsday)
It took over a year, but the New York Yankees are back in the residence where they have been accustomed to in recent years: First place in the American League East.
Mark Teixeira continued his sensational month of May, while Hideki Matsui hit two home runs to pace the Yankees in a 9-2 rout over Texas last night, moving them into a share of the division lead along with the Boston Red Sox after Toronto has dropped nine straight to open the door to the top.
The Yankees were equally as impressive in the field as they were at the plate, with A.J. Burnett tossing six scoreless innings to improve his record to 3-2. In addition, Chien-Ming Wang returned from a stint on the disabled list to throw two scoreless frames in relief, lowering his ERA to 20.45 in a performance that drew rave reviews from manager Joe Girardi. "That's as good as I've seen him this year," said the Yankee skipper. "That's what we want to see him. That's a huge building block."
Besides Burnett and Wang, the other star of the night was the Bombers' first baseman, whose production has increased drastically since the return of Alex Rodriguez on May 15th. In the 19 games that A-Rod has been back, Teixeira has hit .373 with 10 homers and 24 runs batted in. "I hope this is me for the rest of the year," Teixeira said after the game. "I feel great from both sides of the plate.
The Yankees start a weekend series in Cleveland tomorrow, with Andy Pettitte on the mound for the first game, followed by CC Sabathia pitching against his old Indians team for the first time.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Jay Wright flirted with the NBA, but apparently the chemistry isn't strong enough for a second date.
After Wright met with Philadelphia 76ers president Ed Stefanski to discuss the Sixers' head coaching vacancy, the 47-year-old Wright decided to return to the collegiate game where he is one of the best coaches in the nation, ensuring Villanova that their celebrated leader will be back on the Main Line after one of the most successful seasons in Wildcats history, one that saw the team go to its first Final Four since its 1985 national championship, as well as Wright pick up his 300th career win, which came in 'Nova's Elite Eight victory over Pittsburgh.
"I love Villanova and it is where I want to be," remarked Wright after his brief tryst with Stefanski. "I am grateful to the Sixers for including me in the process." A number of candidates have already interviewed for the job, including former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan and Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau, who has long been regarded as a potential head coach in the NBA.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
WWE chairman Vince McMahon is in a real-life storyline, this time against the Denver Nuggets; who are preparing to play Game 4 of Western Conference finals on their home court as the Pepsi Center on Monday night, even though McMahon has booked the arena for "WWE Monday Night Raw." (Photo courtesy of USA Today)
His past track record indicates that Vince McMahon will do anything for publicity. Past examples include a feud with Donald Trump, faking his own death on WWE programming, and of course, the legendary interactions with wrestling stars Hulk Hogan and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
McMahon isn't taking on a wrestler this time. Instead, the WWE chairman has called out the Denver Nuggets and team owner Stan Kroenke after the Nuggets announced they plan on playing Game 4 of their Western Conference final series against the Lakers on Monday night at the Pepsi Center, despite the fact that McMahon and the WWE booked the venue in August for its "Monday Night Raw" show. The Nuggets started their series against the Lakers last night, losing Game 1 by the score of 105-103. "Quite frankly, it's my view that Stan Kroenke should be arrested for impersonating a good businessman," said McMahon in an interview with ESPN. "A good businessman doesn't book a WWE live event on Monday night realizing that his team in all likelihood would not make the playoffs."
The Nuggets are supposedly working with the WWE to resolve the situation, and NBA commissioner David Stern is leaving the dispute and resolution up to the two parties involved.
The City of Angels may be welcoming another gifted basketball player into its population on June 25th.
After the Los Angeles Clippers won last night's draft lottery with a 17.7 percent chance of acquiring the top pick, Griffin could be joining an up-and-coming Clippers team that already includes the likes of Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Zach Randolph and Marcus Camby. Memphis moved up from the No. 6 spot to win the second pick, with the Oklahoma City Thunder selecting third. Sacramento, which had the best chance to get the first choice, fell to fourth; with the Washington Wizards rounding out the top five.
"It's a great day for Clipper fans," said team president Andy Roeser after the winning announcement was made. "We're going to get a great player who will help our franchise for a long, long time." All indications are that the player in question will be Griffin, the consensus top player available after his two dominating seasons at the University of Oklahoma.
This is the third time that the Clippers have won the lottery; selecting Danny Manning of Kansas in 1988 and following that up with Pacific's Michael Olowokandi ten years later.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The Orlando Magic have already survived a scare from Philadelphia in the first round, and handed the reigning champions their first loss in a series where they were one win away from advancing to the next round. Now, the Magic take on a Cleveland Cavaliers team they defeated in two out of three regular-season contests. Therefore, it would seem easy for the Magic to advance to the NBA Finals for just the second time in franchise history and first since 1995 if games were played on paper.
However, they are not; and Cleveland possesses a player who makes just a mild difference: A man known as LeBron James, who just happens to be regarded as the best player in the game. Oh, by the way, James just won the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award less than a month ago. Magic center Dwight Howard may not be taking James lightly, but he remains optimistic.
"I believe we can win a championship," Howard was quoted as saying after the Magic defeated Boston 101-82 on Sunday. "We're not going to stop going after one until we get it."
Game 1 between the Magic and Cavaliers tips off tomorrow night from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland at 7:45 p.m. Eastern time.
Phil Coke picks up his first career save in Yankees' 7-6 win over Twins, the sixth straight victory for Bombers. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)
Six was the number of the day for the New York Yankees last night at the Stadium.
Six, as in the number of runs the Bombers scored in the first inning, or even the number of consecutive wins they now possess. Maybe even the number of runs the opposing team scored, as the Minnesota Twins did in their 7-6 loss to the Yanks, which gave New York a four-game sweep and put them four games over .500 (21-17) for the first time this season. Hey, four may be the number of the day for Yankee fans.
Here's some more numerology for you: Four and six are the digits on the jersey of last night's starter. Andy Pettitte picked up right where he left off, continuing a stellar start to 2009 with a solid outing, pitching 6 2/3 innings.
Despite giving up four runs, Pettitte was aided immensely by a pair of home runs from Mark Teixeira, who homered from both sides of the plate; as well as a solo homer from Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod's fourth homer of the season marked the third consecutive game where he has hit one out of the park. A shaky bullpen proved solid enough to hold down the win, as Phil Coke got Mike Redmond to ground out to first to end the game, earning his first career save since Mariano Rivera was unavailable after pitching in both of the previous two games for the Yankees, each of which had gone to extra innings.
"We're not used to seeing anyone save games besides Mo very often," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "It's a little different."
What is not different, however, is the latest Yankee surge, which hopes to continue at the Stadium tonight against the Orioles, with CC Sabathia taking the mound for the Bombers, looking for an encore performance of his impressive eight-inning outing against the Blue Jays last week at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Chicago Blackhawks make their return to Western Conference finals, where they will face reigning Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Above, Chicago's team leaders: captain Jonathan Toews (19) and last year's Calder Trophy winner, Patrick Kane. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)
It's been forty-eight years since the Chicago Blackhawks last won the Stanley Cup, and they haven't been relevant in the National Hockey League since the days of Ed Belfour, Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios and Tony Amonte in the mid-'90s. That is, until now.
After a long wait, the team best known for being the inspiration for the fictitious "Stan Mikita's Donuts" shop in the movie "Wayne's World," the Blackhawks are just four wins away from advancing to their first Stanley Cup Finals since they were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992. Ironically, the Penguins are also in the conference finals in the Eastern Conference, facing off against the Carolina Hurricanes as they look for their second consecutive Prince of Wales Trophy as the Eastern Conference champion.
The lone Original Six team remaining in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Blackhawks are also the one team left that has not been to a Cup Final since the lockout; never mind the fact that none of the current roster was even born the last time Chicago saw Lord Stanley's Cup in 1961. Led by Patrick Kane, whose hat trick Monday night iced the Blackhawks' Western Conference semifinal series against Vancouver; along with captain Jonathan Toews and free agent acquisition Brian Campbell, Chicago looks to return to the promised land and revitalize a long-suffering and devoted fan base, starting Sunday at the Joe Louis Arena for Game 1 against the Detroit Red Wings, who by the way are the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
Kane spoke on Versus Tuesday night during Detroit's game against the Anaheim Ducks, and said that the Blackhawks had their advantages against whichever team they ended up facing: Detroit since Chicago would be playing relatively close to home and not having to fly out to the West Coast as they had to against Calgary and Vancouver, and Anaheim for home-ice advantage, as the first two games of the series would be played at the United Center had the Ducks closed out Detroit in Game 7. However, growing up in Buffalo, last year's Calder Trophy winner said he "hated" Detroit sports teams while playing in Michigan before being drafted first overall by Chicago in 2007.
"Actually, I hated the Red Wings and Pistons, and that's all I heard about," Kane told the Detroit News. "Detroit was fun to watch, but I was a big Sabres fan." In a matchup where old school and new school will take to the ice, both teams will be fun to watch, and Kane agrees.
"We're a young team, but we're looking forward to the challenge and see if we can pull something off."
Game 1 between the Blackhawks and Red Wings takes place Sunday night at the Joe Louis Arena.
Wayman Tisdale, regarded to be among greatest players in history of Oklahoma's basketball program, died today after a long battle with cancer. He was 44. (Photo courtesy of SoonerSports.com)
When he enrolled at the University of Oklahoma two years ago, Blake Griffin donned number 23, which had been retired for legendary Sooners power forward Wayman Tisdale; this after Tisdale had been asked by Griffin for the number. Today, the man that the likely first pick in next month's NBA draft paid tribute to is once again being remembered, this time under the most unfortunate of circumstances.
After a two-year fight against cancer that cost him one of his legs, Tisdale succumbed to the disease today at the age of 44; a tragic end to the life of a great basketball player turned jazz musician who inspired all who knew him.
"Oklahoma has lost one of its most beloved sons," said Oklahoma governor Brad Henry. "Wayman Tisdale was a hero both on and off the basketball court. He was one of the most inspirational people I have ever known."
Griffin, who received the Sooner great's blessing to wear his number, said Tisdale had "helped him in ways he probably doesn't even know.
Tisdale is survived by his wife and four children, and his death comes less than a week after Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly died of pancreatic cancer Saturday at the age of 78.
If Mine That Bird is to continue his path to the Triple Crown, he will need to do it from post 2.
The upset winner of the Kentucky Derby was installed as a 6-1 choice for Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, and will break from the inside under new jockey Mike Smith. Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird to victory at Churchill Downs, will instead ride morning-line favorite Rachel Alexandra, who drew the outside post in the field of 13 after her smashing win in the Kentucky Oaks. Rachel Alexandra is 8-5 under Borel, who became the first Derby-winning jockey to race against the Derby winner in the Preakness.
Rachel Alexandra will be making her first start for new trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Preakness in 2007 with two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. Ironically, Borel finished second to Curlin in that Preakness aboard Derby winner Street Sense.
The complete field from the rail out is: Big Drama, (John Velazquez) Mine That Bird, (Smith) Musket Man, (Eibar Coa) Luv Gov, (Jamie Theriot) Friesan Fire, (Gabriel Saez) Terrain, (Jeremy Rose) Papa Clem, (Rafael Bejarano) General Quarters, (Julien Leparoux) Pioneerof The Nile, (Garrett Gomez) Flying Private, (Alan Garcia) Take The Points, (Edgar Prado) Tone It Down, (Kent Desormeaux) and Rachel Alexandra. (Borel) Post time is slated for 6:15 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow evening, with NBC providing coverage for the 134th running of the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
At a position that is dominated by the likes of Alex Rodriguez and David Wright, you sometimes wonder how Ryan Zimmerman is not included in the group of elite third basemen; even if he does play for the Washington Nationals, who; let's face it, haven't exactly set the baseball world on fire since moving to the nation's capital from Montreal in 2005.
Zimmerman is making short work of proving his critics wrong, however, extending his hitting streak to 30 games last night against the Giants, getting it out of the way early with a first-inning single against San Francisco starter Matt Cain. "I'm not taking it any different than any other at-bat," the third baseman said after the game. "I'm just trying to keep things simple up there."
If a 30-game hitting streak is what Zimmerman considers simple, Nationals fans and manager Manny Acta can start rejoicing now, even if their team is 10-21. Zimmerman's streak matched George Brett for the longest hitting streak by a third baseman. Brett's 1980 streak was also 30 games. Zimmerman is also the fifth player in as many years to have a hitting streak of 30 games or more; and the first since Moises Alou in 2007. However, the young slugger said he would give up the streak for a win after the Nationals were defeated 9-7 last night. "I'm disappointed about the team. I could care less for all the individual stuff."
Now there's a guy you would love to have on your team, no matter where he plays.
Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood stops Anaheim's Corey Perry during Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series. Perry got the better of Osgood last night, however, scoring the game-winning goal in Ducks' 2-1 win over Detroit to force a seventh game at the Joe Louis Arena. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)
The Stanley Cup playoffs have always been championed for the simple fact that any team, regardless of seeding, can make a run to the finals to play for the right to hoist Lord Stanley's chalice. The Anaheim Ducks only validated that last night.
Down three games to two, the eighth-seeded Ducks needed a win on their home ice against the reigning Cup champion Detroit Red Wings to force a deciding Game 7, and the Ducks prevailed by a score of 2-1; with goals from young stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. It wasn't easy, however, as Detroit cut a 2-0 deficit in half with 2:25 remaining in regulation on a Johan Franzen goal, and the play of the game was Jonas Hiller's save against Detroit's Marian Hossa in the final seconds.
Game 7 will be held tomorrow night, with the winner advancing into the Western Conference finals to take on the Chicago Blackhawks, who closed out Vancouver Monday night. "It was unacceptable the way we played last game," said Getzlaf after the final horn sounded. "We were excited about tonight."
The 2007 Cup champion Ducks will have many more reasons to be excited tomorrow night in Hockeytown, as they look to move closer to a second championship in three years.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Mark Martin takes the checkered flag in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix last month. Through 11 races this season, the 50-year-old Martin is 11th in points, with two wins, the latest coming in Saturday night's Southern 500. (Photo courtesy of ABC News)
Hendrick Motorsports has four wins in the first eleven races of 2009. Not surprisingly, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each have one. Dale Earnhardt Jr., you ask? Junior is still looking for victory lane for the first time in 2009. That leaves just one other name, who wouldn't normally be a surprise winner, but given his age in relation to other drivers on the track, he is.
Mark Martin took his second checkered flag Saturday night at Darlington Raceway, holding off Johnson to win the Southern 500. After starting out the season with a front-row start at Daytona, the 50-year-old suffered several engine failures early in the year before rebounding with wins at Phoenix and Darlington to move up to 11th in points, just ten markers behind Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth; but more importantly, enough to get him into the Chase for the Sprint Cup if the season ended today.
"It's absolutely unbelievable," said an ecstatic Martin after a call by crew chief Alan Gustafson to stay out during the last caution of the race with 46 laps to go helped Martin hold off Johnson and Tony Stewart. "This is a big surprise. We had a strong car, but I never expected to win."
Ironically, the last time car No. 5 was in victory lane at Darlington was also due to the same circumstances, when Terry Labonte stayed out with 33 laps to go in the 2003 Southern 500.
Johnny Damon connects for a home run for Yankees. This year, Damon has been consistent for Yanks, with nine home runs and 25 runs batted in during his contract year. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)
It seems like the story is the same every year for the New York Yankees. An injured star leaves a gaping hole in the lineup that is plugged by role players that keep the team near contention. Meet this year's latest subject of that story, Johnny Damon.
At 36, Damon is no stranger to this landscape in the Bronx, in this his fourth campaign in pinstripes. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to find that Damon, in his contract year, leads the team with nine home runs and 25 runs batted in. To spice things up further, he's doing this with a bum left shoulder that he's been treating regularly as of late, and maybe in the future too, according to the outfielder himself.
"I keep getting treatment and it's been all right so far," said Damon, whose three-run shot in the seventh inning yesterday gave the Yankees a 5-3 win over Baltimore at Camden Yards, one day after pitching phenom Phil Hughes gave up eight runs and couldn't get out of the second inning. Manager Joe Girardi, who has faced a battle of his own thus far this season, praised Damon as "a big spark for us, and we've really needed it."
In addition to the power numbers, Damon is hitting .314 through the first month of the season.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
After a memorable career that included two NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal, Hall of Fame basketball coach Chuck Daly has died.
The 78-year old succumbed to pancreatic cancer this morning in his Florida home, surrounded by his family. Daly had won 638 games as coach of the Cavaliers, Pistons, Nets and Magic in his career; but will be best remembered for the back-to-back championships he won as the head man of the "Bad Boys" teams he had in Detroit, which featured the likes of Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer and Joe Dumars, who praised Daly as a "special coach, but more importantly, a special human being."
NBA commissioner David Stern also issued a statement commenting on Daly's passing, saying that the "void left by his death would never be filled."
Daly was the first head coach to win an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal, earning the latter in Barcelona in 1992.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Manny Ramirez slides into home plate with Los Angeles Dodgers. After today's revelation that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Manny won't be sliding anywhere anytime soon, except down the Hall of Fame ballot. Ramirez has been suspended 50 games, and will not be eligible to return to Los Angeles until July 3rd. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)
Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, and Alex Rodriguez. All of these names have a common thread between them: They have all admitted to; or tested positive for, performance-enhancing drugs. Today, this exclusive Who's Who of baseball welcomed a member whose credentials are just as impressive.
In a bombshell revelation, the Los Angeles Times reported today that the offensive volcano that is Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez, regarded by many to be among the best pure hitters the game has ever seen, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs; and therefore would be suspended 50 games. Ramirez will forfeit $7.7 million of his salary according to the Times, and will not be able to wear Dodger blue again until July 3rd.
Ramirez attributed his positive test to a "personal health issue." He also stated that his physician had given him a "medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me." He later added that the medication was "banned under our drug policy. Under the policy, that mistake is now my responsibility." With Alex Rodriguex having admitted his steroid use during the 2001-2003 seasons, when steroid testing had yet to be implemented in Major League Baseball, Ramirez now becomes the biggest name to be suspended under the testing, inheriting that title from disgraced slugger Rafael Palmeiro, who failed a steroid test in 2005, just months after a memorable testimony to Congress where he emphatically pointed his finger and said that he "had never done steroids. Period."
The Ramirez revelation further vindicates Jose Canseco, regardless of how one may see him in the steroid era. Last month, Canseco went on record saying that there was a "90%" chance that Ramirez was one of the 104 players that failed a steroid test in 2003, a test that was supposed to be kept in anonymity. However, this infamous list produced A-Rod as one of the 104, the only player to be publicly outed as a steroid user of that group.
With Ramirez out of the lineup, Juan Pierre is his likely replacement in left field tonight for the Dodgers, who continue their series against the Washington Nationals tonight at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers currently possess the best record in baseball at 21-8, and are a perfect 13-0 at home.
The world famous 17th hole at the TPC of Sawgrass, known for its island green, is once again the center of attention as the PGA Tour tees off at The Players Championship, held on Pete Dye's Stadium course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Golf Digest)
The leaderboard after the first day of The Players Championship is not what you would expect after 18 holes at an event that many golf fans refer to as the season's fifth major.
Currently, Ben Crane is the leader in the clubhouse, finishing with a 7-under par total of 65, one shot ahead of John Mallinger, Richard S. Johnson and Alexander Cejka, who each shot 66. In fact, the first name that a casual fan would recognize on the leaderboard would be that of Retief Goosen, who carded a 67 to put him within two shots of the lead in a tie for fifth.
Tiger Woods ended his first round with a 1-under 71, and after birdies at three of his first four holes, Phil Mickelson wound up at 2-over through 17 holes. Last year's winner, Sergio Garcia, also shot 71, tying him with Tiger and Vijay Singh, among others, who are at minus-1.
David Toms was the hottest player on the course at one point, with birdies on eight of his first fourteen holes to head to the 6th at 8-under. (He teed off on the back nine first, so No. 10 was his first hole) However, the 2001 PGA champion bogeyed three of his last four to finish with a 67.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Big Brown coasts to victory in last year's Preakness under Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux. This year, the middle leg of the Triple Crown will not feature a prohibitive favorite, especially after Mine That Bird lit up the board in yesterday's Kentucky Derby. (Photo courtesy of Daily Racing Form)
In recent years, the Preakness Stakes has been nothing more than a prelude to a much-hyped and anticipated Belmont Stakes, with seven horses in the last twelve years leaving Baltimore's Pimlico Racecourse with a shot at the Triple Crown looming in New York.
This year, the 134th edition of the Preakness looks like it could be a lackluster one, as the top three finishers in yesterday's Kentucky Derby have yet to commit to running next Saturday in Baltimore. Winner Mine That Bird and runner-up Pioneerof The Nile are possibilities according to their trainers, and third-place finisher Musket Man is also "under consideration," says trainer Derek Ryan. So far, the only confirmed starter on May 16th will be Take The Points, who will go for trainer Todd Pletcher, whose three horses in the derby each failed to hit the board, making America's hottest trainer 0-for-24 in the Run for the Roses.
All week, the Kentucky Derby had been a wide-open race from the moment the field was set at Wednesday's post position draw. Yesterday's early scratch of morning-line favorite I Want Revenge due to concern over the Wood Memorial winner's ankle made it an even more wide-open affair. Enter a horse whose last race prior to lining up in the Churchill Downs starting gate was a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Park Derby in New Mexico, and you have yourself an outcome that few, if any, pictured happening.
Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot and third-longest shot on the board, pulled away in the stretch after coming through on the rail turning for home to post the second-biggest upset in the 135-year history of the Kentucky Derby, winning the Run for the Roses by 6 3/4 lengths and paying $103.20 to win on a $2 bet. Only Donerail provided a higher payout, lighting up the tote board to the tune of $184.90 in 1913. Mine That Bird becomes the third horse in the last four years (Barbaro and Big Brown are the other two) to win the Derby off a five-week layoff, something that until three years ago, had not been done since 1956. Jockey Calvin Borel also cemented his status as one of the best riders in the country with his second trip to the Derby winner's circle in three years, having been there aboard Street Sense in 2007.
"I wasn't worried," said Borel about coming up the rail with the winning gelding. "He's a small horse and I knew I could squeeze him through." Borel won the 2007 Derby in similar fashion, guiding Street Sense to the rail after dropping back early and making his move at the top of the stretch, finding the shortest way home.
Bob Baffert trainee Pioneerof The Nile finished second in his first start on a dirt surface, while Musket Man finished third, hitting the board for the seventh time in as many starts. Papa Clem rounded out the superfecta, while favorite Friesan Fire finished 18th for trainer Larry Jones, who had finished second in each of the last two years with Hard Spun and Eight Belles.
Winning trainer Bennie (Chip) Woolley became the sixth conditioner in the last seven years to win the Derby in his first attempt yesterday.
Friday, May 1, 2009
From top to bottom are the favorites in this year's Kentucky Derby: Florida Derby runner-up Dunkirk, (photo courtesy of ESPN) Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire, (photo courtesy of ESPN) and Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge, the 3-1 morning line favorite. (Photo courtesy of NBC)
The 135th Kentucky Derby goes to the post tomorrow evening, and just like in recent years, any of the twenty horses that enters the starting gate has a chance to win it.
Even though favorites have won three of the last five Runs for the Roses after chalk had only won twice between 1979 and 2003, this is the most wide-open Derby since 2006, when Barbaro dominated at Churchill Downs at 6-1 odds. This year's prohibitive choice is I Want Revenge, who broke last in the Wood Memorial three weeks ago, only to win the race impressively for trainer Jeff Mullins and 19-year-old jockey Joe Talamo, who will be making his Derby debut.
Not to be outdone is Friesan Fire, who looks to be the first horse since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 to win the Derby after a seven-week layoff. Friesan Fire's last start came in the Louisiana Derby over a sloppy track, which is the condition expected at post time tomorrow in Louisville. Friesan Fire won that race by 7 1/4 lengths for trainer Larry Jones, who has finished second in the Derby in each of the last two years with Hard Spun and Eight Belles.
Todd Pletcher, who is still looking for his first Derby winner, will saddle three horses, his best being Dunkirk, who is 2-for-3 lifetime with his lone defeat coming in the Florida Derby last month against Quality Road, who will miss the Derby due to a quarter crack.
The complete Derby field from the rail out is West Side Bernie, (ridden by Stewart Elliott) Musket Man, (Eibar Coa) Mr. Hot Stuff, (John Velazquez) Advice, (Rene Douglas) Hold Me Back, (Kent Desormeaux) Friesan Fire, (Gabriel Saez) Papa Clem, (Rafael Bejarano) Mine That Bird, (Calvin Borel) Join In The Dance, (Chris DeCarlo) Regal Ransom, (Alan Garcia) Chocolate Candy, (Mike Smith) General Quarters, (Julien Leparoux) I Want Revenge, (Joe Talamo) Atomic Rain, (Joe Bravo) Dunkirk, (Edgar Prado) Pioneerof The Nile, (Garrett Gomez) Summer Bird, (Chris Rosier) Nowhere To Hide, (Shaun Bridgmohan) Desert Party, (Ramon Dominguez) and Flying Private. (Robby Albarado)
Post time for the Kentucky Derby is 6:24 p.m. Eastern time, and the race will be televised on NBC. Legendary track announcer Tom Durkin will call the Run for the Roses for a ninth consecutive year, as he is the voice of the Triple Crown.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose drives over Celtics' Ray Allen in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Rookie of the Year Rose and Chicago take on the Celtics tomorrow night in deciding seventh game at TD Banknorth Garden. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times)
It looks like history is repeating itself for the Boston Celtics, and not in a good way.
Ray Allen's playoff-high 51 points weren't enough to stop the Chicago Bulls from shocking the reigning champions 128-127 in triple overtime last night at the United Center, as the Bulls have tied the best-of-seven series at three. This is the second year in a row that the Celtics have been pushed to seven in the first round against a team that critics said would get knocked out. Last year, however, the Celtics had a healthy Kevin Garnett.
John Salmons led Chicago with 35, Derrick Rose had 28, and Brad Miller added 23 for Chicago, who looks to close Boston out in its own building tomorrow night.
"We're going to race like that until we kill somebody. Then they will change it."
Those were the words of a visibly shaken Carl Edwards after Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, where he was involved in a last-lap crash that precluded him from winning the race. Edwards instead took out his frustration in a post-race interview, stating that restrictor plate racing has yet again put more than just the drivers in danger, with his car flipping into the safety fence at the Alabama track, injuring seven. "I'm not sure I could live with myself if I went into the grandstand," Edwards also said. Ryan Newman, who was also involved in the Edwards wreck, added that "Talladega stands for 'We're going to crash, but we just don't know when.'" Brad Keselowski won the race, picking up his first Sprint Cup Series win, but the story was driver safety, just like it was at another restrictor plate track on what can arguably be described as NASCAR's darkest day.
Eight years ago, Dale Earnhardt, who was one of the sport's two greatest drivers, was killed in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500, and his death overshadowed all else at the track. In the wake of the Earnhardt tragedy, NASCAR mandated use of the HANS device that restrains the driver's head and neck while they are in the car, a move that should have been made before Earnhardt's tragic death.
One can be certain that when NASCAR returns to Daytona in July, safety will again dominate the headlines, and hopefully NASCAR will take a stand by restricting more than just the speeds on the cars in an action that will save many lives, starting with those of the drivers.
Ramiro Pena (top) gets first runs batted in of his major league career in Yankees' 7-4 win over Angels last night at Yankee Stadium, just after Melky Cabrera (bottom) breaks 4-4 tie with bases-loaded single in eighth inning. Bombers have now won three in a row after snapping a four-game losing streak. (Both photos courtesy of New York Daily News)
Tuesday's hero was Phil Hughes. Wednesday, it was Joba Chamberlain. Last night, the offensive youth of the New York Yankees provided all the spark the Bronx Bombers would need to open their four-game set against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at the new Yankee Stadium.
After Angels reliever Justin Speier intentionally walked Nick swisher in the bottom of the eighth inning with the score tied at 4, Melky Cabrera took advantage of the bases-loaded situation with a clutch RBI single. Ramiro Pena, seeing action at third base with Cody Ransom on the disabled list and Alex Rodriguez still recuperating from hip surgery, followed with a 2-run double for the first runs batted in of his major league career; and Phil Coke pitched a perfect top of the eighth for the win as the Bombers topped the Halos by the score of 7-4.
"He's taken full advantage of his opportunity," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who has used Cabrera in center field instead of Opening Day starter Brett Gardner. "I thought he had a great approach tonight." Cabrera is hitting .327 on the season, compared to Gardner's .220 clip. After the offensive explosion, Mariano Rivera, who at 39 is the elder statesman on the Yanks' 25-man roster, pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth save of the year, which came less than a week removed from giving up clutch home runs to Boston's Jason Bay and Detroit's Curtis Granderson.
The Yankees continue their series against the Angels tonight at the Stadium, with Andy Pettitte opposing Jered Weaver on the mound. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. Eastern time.