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Friday, April 18, 2008

Guinness World Records at the Flora London Marathon 2008

An exciting but exhausting day was had on Sunday by Guinness World Records’ very own 'Team Marathon'. The Flora London Marathon was enormous for us with over 30 record attempts among the 30,000+ runners. From clowns to superheroes, from stilt walkers to Maasai warriors, everyone was up for some marathon record breaking.

We began with an 8am start in Blackheath. The GWR team were there with all of our record attempters at the celebrity start. Some reasonably organised chaos ensued with all of us rushing getting everyone signed up and photographed. We met the team of Maasai warriors who were wedged into the celeb pen with Gordon Ramsay, James Cracknell etc.

Before you could shout 'Get ready, Set…' they were off - with our amazing stilt walking lady right at the back. All of our stars were packed into the field - including soldiers, policemen, a scarf knitting lady, one Darth Maul, one Bananaman, one Buzz Lightyear and a chain gang. There was even a young man dribbling a basketball around the whole of the marathon course. The whole scene was very inspirational.

To see them all come through at the end was incredible - whether a record was broken or not. We fully hope that we helped everyone who attempted or was awarded a Guinness World Record to receive as many donations as possible to all the wonderful causes that they were all making such a momentous effort for.

These were the Guinness World Records broken:

  • Fastest marathon as a film character: James McComish (Darth Maul) 3 hr 55 min 22 sec
  • Most linked runners to complete a marathon: Richard Kirk captained a team of 24 Metropolitan Police Officers
  • Fastest marathon by a linked team: Oliver Holland, James Kennedy, James Wrighton, Eoghan Murray and Nathan Jones: 3 hr 38 min 24 sec
  • Fastest marathon dressed as Santa: Ian Sharman: 3 hr 12 min 27 sec
  • Fastest marathon in a military uniform: 5 hr 11 min 42 sec
  • Fastest marathon on stilts: Michelle Frost: 8 hr 25 min
  • Fastest clown: Jason Westermoreland: 3 hr 24 min 04 sec
  • Fastest marathon dribbling a basketball: Jean-Yves Kanyamibwa: 4 hr 30 min 29 sec
  • Longest scarf knitted whilst running a marathon: Susie Hewer: 1 m 62 cm
  • Fastest marathon dressed as a superheroine: Christina Tomlinson: 3 hr 13 min 33 sec
  • Fastest marathon in a fireman’s uniform: Mark Rogers and Paul Bartlett: 5 hr 36 min 12 sec
  • Fastest group of Maasai Warriors to complete a marathon: 5 hr 24 min 47 sec

We would like to congratulate the new record breakers and welcome them to the family of Guinness World Records. See you at the next 2009 Flora London Marathon!

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Thomas Won’t Coach, but He Stays With Knicks

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Isiah Thomas had a .341 winning percentage as the Knicks coach. More Photos »

The last vestiges of Isiah Thomas’s authority were stripped away Friday afternoon, freeing the Knicks to begin fixing the mess he left behind.

Donnie Walsh fired Thomas as coach, two weeks after supplanting him as team president. Thomas will remain with the team as a personal adviser to Walsh, but with no title and no authority.

“Following a lot of discussion and thought, I made the decision that Isiah will no longer coach the team,” Walsh said during a late-afternoon conference call. “I value Isiah and his knowledge of the game, and he will remain with the organization, reporting directly to me.”

Walsh said the search for Thomas’s successor would begin immediately, and he acknowledged for the first time that Mark Jackson, a former Knicks point guard, would be among the candidates. Walsh gave no timetable for naming a coach, but he has said he wants someone in place before the June 26 draft.

Thomas was unavailable for comment, and a team spokesman indicated that he would not be speaking publicly anytime soon.

Thomas’s new duties are unclear, although they will probably involve some scouting and informal advice on player personnel. His dismissal had been expected for weeks, ever since Walsh was named the team’s top basketball executive April 2.

The decision to retain Thomas in a lesser role was also expected. James L. Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman, gave Thomas a multiyear contract extension 13 months ago and remains fiercely loyal to him. Walsh and Thomas are also friendly; Walsh hired Thomas to coach the Indiana Pacers in 2000.

Dolan made no reference to firing Thomas on the day that he named Walsh as president. Similarly, Walsh avoided saying that Thomas had been fired when he made his announcement Friday. Walsh, who was promised full autonomy by Dolan, said the decision about Thomas was his alone.

Since the moment he arrived, Walsh said he would keep an open mind regarding Thomas. But the Knicks’ disastrous season, combined with overwhelming ill will toward Thomas from a disillusioned fan base, made his dismissal seem inevitable.

The Knicks went 56-108 in Thomas’s two seasons as coach. They had a losing record in all five seasons of his tenure as president, despite a payroll that ranked at the top of the league.

Walsh did not specifically critique Thomas’s moves as an executive or his skills as a coach. He said that he neither asked for, nor received, any assessment of Thomas from the players during their recent exit interviews.

“If you look at it, we’ve lost for four years, and Isiah’s been the coach the last two years,” Walsh said. “And I just think that a new voice, a new coach, is necessary to change the direction of the team.”

David Lee, who was taken by Thomas with the 30th pick of the 2005 draft and is the Knicks’ most promising prospect, expressed regret over Thomas’s dismissal.

“My overall opinion is that I’m sorry to see Isiah leave as coach, because of the opportunity he gave me over the past two seasons,” Lee said in an e-mail message. “I am excited that he will remain a Knick.”

Walsh’s attention now turns to hiring a replacement. He said he wanted “somebody that can lead men, that can teach the game of basketball” and who can help retool the Knicks into a contender.

Scott Skiles, who was fired earlier this season by the Chicago Bulls, is perhaps the strongest candidate, based on his experience and hard-driving style. Rick Carlisle, who worked for Walsh in Indiana, also has a strong résumé, but is not believed to be high on Walsh’s list. Walsh would not rule out Jeff Van Gundy, the former Knicks coach, although it seems doubtful that Dolan would want him back.

The process could take longer if Walsh waits on candidates from playoff teams. Tom Thibodeau, the assistant coach who is credited for the Boston Celtics’ defense, could be one. Other possible candidates include the Detroit assistant Terry Porter, who coached Milwaukee for two years; Dwane Casey, who was fired by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007; and Mario Elie, an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, who previously worked for the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors.

Despite the scale of the job, Walsh would not rule out hiring a rookie coach like Jackson, who is an analyst for ESPN and ABC.

“He’s one of the smartest guys that ever played for us at Indiana,” said Walsh, who acquired Jackson twice during the 1990s. “He’s always been a guy that I think could make a really fine head coach, and I certainly will interview him.”

Jackson quit his job as a Nets analyst this week, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife and children in Los Angeles. He has never coached at any level. But neither had Thomas or Larry Bird when Walsh hired them to coach the Pacers.

“There are people that can overcome that,” Walsh said.

Herb Williams, a Knicks assistant for more than six seasons, will also be considered, Walsh said. Walsh will retain, at least for now, the Knicks’ current front-office staff, including Glen Grunwald, the senior vice president for basketball operations.

Thomas never wanted to coach the Knicks, but was ordered to take over the bench in June 2006 after the team fired Larry Brown. The Knicks showed modest progress in Thomas’s first season as coach before injuries intervened, and Dolan rewarded him with an extension. The Knicks entered this season with playoff aspirations but quickly came apart after Thomas feuded with Stephon Marbury and lost the faith of the locker room.

Now Thomas, after four and a half years as the face of the franchise, will retreat to a nebulous background role somewhere down the company flow chart.

“I can’t really tell you where he failed with the club,” Walsh said. “I feel like some of the bigger events that happened on the way with Isiah have overshadowed some of the good things he’s done for the franchise. I think he can help us with this franchise.”

Mike Nizza contributed reporting.

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Even Santa believes in Mantle’s 565-foot blast

Photo Ball hit by Mickey Mantle on April 17, 1953 at Griffith Stadium to set a new distance record for home runs.
(Courtesy the National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The longest home run ever hit did not go 565 feet. Not even close.

Actually, the longest home run ever hit isn’t even the longest home run ever hit.

“The truth hasn’t caught up to the original legend,” Bill Jenkinson says. He has been studying monster home runs for nearly three decades now, and he admits they’re a bit like Bigfoot or Nessie or any other great beast – untamable and apocryphal, fantasy getting one over on reality.

“Once a myth takes hold,” he says, “it very rarely is completely withdrawn.”

No home run carries the lore of the blast Mickey Mantle hit 55 years ago today, the one that still stands in the Guinness Book of World Records as the mightiest of all dating back to May 2, 1876, when Ross Barnes hit baseball’s first. Fact and fiction have blended Mantle’s shot off the Senators’ Chuck Stobbs and out of Washington’s Griffith Stadium into a grand tale, the kind that lasts more than half a century not because it’s true but because people want to believe it.

And who can blame them? The mammoth home run is the domain of gods, and Mantle, in his Yankee pinstripes, hitting from both sides with equanimity while nursing hangovers that would fell a man twice his size, was the kind in whom everyone believed. To think the Mick hit that ball 565 feet is to think that Santa Claus exists, and no one ever saw fault in that.

Photo
Mantle

Only 4,206 people could actually vouch for Mantle’s home run, the attendance sparse even with the four-time defending champions in town. It was the fifth inning. Wind gusted toward left field, where a huge sea of bleachers backed into a sign advertising National Bohemian beer.

In stepped Mantle against Stobbs, a middling left-hander. Mantle hadn’t felt right the first three games of the season, so he borrowed a 33-ounce bat from teammate Loren Babe. Of course his name was Babe.

Mantle connected on a belt-high fastball from Stobbs, and the ball kept soaring, a shooting star in the afternoon sky. It clanged off the Natty Boh sign, estimated about 460 feet from home plate, and disappeared. The ball had broken the confines of the stadium, and with it went any chance of truly knowing how far it traveled.

Still, Arthur “Red” Patterson, the Yankees’ enterprising public relations man, wanted to find out. So he returned with the ball – and a tall tale.

Patterson said he retrieved the ball from a 10-year-old boy named Donald Dunaway, who stood with it in the back yard of 434 Oakdale Lane. Patterson said he paid Dunaway $1 and sent him a pair of autographed balls in exchange for Mantle’s home run. Finding any record of a man named Donald Dunaway who would have been 10 years old in 1953 has proven elusive.

Until his death, Patterson never wavered on the Dunaway portion of the story. He did admit later in life that his claim of using a tape measure to record the distance between the ball’s landing spot where Dunaway found it and the edge of the stadium was dubious. Though the term tape-measure home run stuck, Patterson in reality walked the space himself, added the guess to 460 and, voilà, Mickey Mantle’s 565-foot home run was born.

Bat used by Mickey Mantle to hit a 565-foot home run at Griffith Stadium on April 17, 1953.
(Courtesy the National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Almost instantly, Mantle’s home run was famous. In the next day’s The New York Times, Louis Effrat wrote: “It is true that a strong wind might have helped Mantle, but if the A.A.U. will not recognize the homer, all of baseball will.” The Senators celebrated it by painting a baseball on the sign Mantle hit – at least until upper management removed it.

The more evidence surfaced to debunk it, the stronger the legend of 565 grew. Mantle himself said the home run he hit May 22, 1963, off Bill Fischer would have traveled farther had it not bounced off the right-field façade of Yankee Stadium. The work of physics professors, particularly Robert Adair, cast doubts on the ability of a ball to travel 500 feet, let alone 565.

“The ball could not have flown farther than 515 feet,” Jenkinson says, and even that, he believes, is a stretch. One physicist told him it went 498 feet. Jenkinson, whose book “Baseball’s Ultimate Power: The Kings of the Tape Measure” is set to come out next year, thinks it went 505 feet. A phenomenal home run, yes, one only a handful of players could hit. Not the best, though.

That, Jenkinson says, belongs to Babe Ruth. On June 8, 1926, at Navin Field in Detroit, Ruth hit a shot that traveled out of the stadium and, Jenkinson says, landed an estimated 575 feet away. The arc of Ruth’s swing, plus the speed he generated with a 44-ounce bat, gave him the extra 70 feet or so over Mantle’s.

Or another 121 feet, if you believe a different version of the story that says the ball jumped off the roofs of a few cars before landing. Turns out Mantle isn’t the only player whose home runs will cause a storyteller’s nose to grow, though his are the greatest culprits. Mantle hit so many prodigious drives that on one top 10 list, the 565-footer ranks sixth, and the Fischer home run is estimated at a truly impossible 734 feet.

Such nonsense bothers Jenkinson, because big home runs are his passion, and he figures the public is owed the truth. He’s right, of course, but he misses a point: There’s a piece of everyone that wants to think Mantle did hit his great home run 565 feet – that anyone could swing at a pitch and send it that far. The limits of credibility are only as big as we make them, and the inclination is to stretch them as far as the imagination allows.

“I buy into that,” Jenkinson says. “I was born in ‘47. All through the ’50s, this guy was like a golden child to me. I went on vacation with my family in August 1960, and by coincident, my great aunt, who I’d never met, lived in Oklahoma.

“I got there, and I remember seeing Mickey Mantle’s picture on her refrigerator and saying something. She said, ‘Well, do you want to meet his in-laws?’ It turns out (Mantle’s wife) Merlyn grew up next door. I was 13. Just the idea I was next door to a place where Mickey Mantle spent a lot of time gave me goosebumps.”

Mantle died almost 13 years ago. He was 63. He didn’t live to see the technological revolution that today allows the measurement of home runs to the tenth of a foot. Using everything from the temperature to the wind to the time the ball spent in the air to where it landed, Greg Rybarczyk created HitTracker, which charts every home run hit.

While the data is compelling, it’s also distressing. Part of the tape-measure home run’s beauty is the curiosity in how far it really went. Teams announce distances based off some chart, and it’s always just another guess, and you know, that’s all right. The longest home run ever hit did not go 565 feet. Maybe it went 505. Or 605. Or even longer.

Sometimes it’s OK to still believe in Santa Claus.

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Tejada two years older than Astros thought

Miguel Tejada is really 33, not 31 as he is listed on baseball records.
Melissa Phillip: Chronicle

photos
Shortstop, actually 33, lied about age when he signed in 1993

PHILADELPHIA – Miguel Tejada's life has been chronicled closely for over a decade in the United States and his native Dominican Republic, where he's referred to as the "nation's ballplayer."

Yet on Thursday morning was the first time the former American League Most Valuable Player and four-time All-Star acknowledged his real age to the world. The Astros' new shortstop is actually 33, two years older than he's listed in the club's media guide and other baseball records.

"I'm a poor kid that wanted to be a professional big leaguer," he explained as he discussed his reasoning for claiming he was 17 instead of 19 to sign with the Oakland A's in 1993. "I was thinking that was the only way that I could help my family. By the time we did it, it wasn't because we wanted to do anything wrong to be a professional. "The scout just did it just because at that time I was two years older than I (told the A's). And to play in the Dominican Summer League you got to be like 17. That's why he changed the year. Because the only change is the year."

Tejada and the Astros revealed the news after ESPN surprised him at Citizens Bank Park with a copy of his birth certificate, which the network obtained in the Dominican.

The revelation was surprising considering how much attention Tejada has garnered since he reached the majors in 1997 with the A's. A book, Away Games, was written about his journey out of poverty in his native, Bani, Dominican Republic. The scrutiny on him picked up when he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report on Dec. 13, a day after the Astros acquired him.

By January, the FBI had taken the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's recommendation and started an investigation into whether he lied to federal investigators in 2005. Throughout the subsequent scrutiny, a significant part of his life had not been revealed.

After the Astros' 10-2 loss, Tejada said his decision to announce his age had nothing to do with the ongoing federal investigation. Moreover, he said he hasn't been contacted by the FBI since it opened the investigation.

"The reason I said it now is that I'm coming to a new team and they wanted all my information," said Tejada, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on Dec. 12 in exchange for five players. "They wanted all my information. That's why I don't want to lie to them. I tell them the truth."

Now, Tejada doesn't have to worry about hiding his age. He was born on May 25, 1974, not May 25, 1976, as the Astros' media guide lists.

"In the course of a media interview, it was brought to our attention that the date that we carry for Tejada's year of birth is incorrect," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "His green card, his driver's license, everything that he uses personally shows '74 as his date of birth, (but) the media guide and that type of information shows '76.

"So we got together with Miguel yesterday and told him that we're going to go ahead and make the appropriate changes in the information we put forward, and he was fine with that."

Tejada said he was pleased to unburden himself.

"I'm feeling free now," he said. "It's something that I had in my mind."

Tejada was signed out of the Dominican Republic by Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, but he made it clear that Marichal had no part in the deception. Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. government increased its scrutiny on players seeking visas or passports to enter the U.S. "It's nothing that I do to hurt nobody to do nothing wrong," Tejada said. "At that time, I just wanted to be signed by baseball to be baseball a player, you know."

Because of the heightened security, several players were found to have altered their birth certificates or even used a relative or friend's birth certificate to appear younger for teams.

"Baseball's done a very good job over the last, probably, 10 years of verifying the ages of first-year players coming out of Latin America," Wade said. "It's not an easy process both from the standpoint of dates of birth and names.

"Sometimes mothers' maiden names get used on birth certificates. But you had a span of a couple of years there, where there were a number of adjustments made to players' birth dates."

Tejada says his green card and driver's license reflect his actual age, and that may be a reason his fabrication wasn't discovered when other players were exposed.

"The thing is I didn't want Houston to find out from somebody else," he said. "I wanted them to find out just from my face. I'm a man and I'm responsible for everything. That's why I prefer to come to them and say, 'You know what? That's the way it is and we're moving forward.'

"I was feeling like I had something to say in the last three days. That's why I waited for today to do it."

Wade didn't seem too concerned about the age discrepancy.

"Fact of the matter is that he plays like he's 25, so I don't think it really matters a whole lot," Wade said.

Indeed, Tejada says he's rejuvenated since landing with the Astros. "Right now I feel like I'm 25 years old, maybe younger," he said. "Because I think right now I feel my legs (are) stronger than they're used to be feeling. There's a lot of talk about me that I can't play shortstop no more. Everybody can see how I've responded. That's why I feel great. "I have a lot of energy. I think it's all because I'm on a team that really wants me, a team that really wants to win."

jesus.ortiz@chron.com

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