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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Middle America Embraces Kimbo Slice

kimbo.jpegWell, ultimate fighting is now officially an acceptable sport for mainstream America. Tomorrow night, CBS is showing a live fight featuring none other than the Miami headcracker, Kimbo Slice. He's an ex-bouncer who's risen to fame, fortune, and respectability solely through brutal, bare-knuckle fight videos of him on YouTube. A true American success story for our modern age. Half of you are saying, "Who?" The other half are saying, "My favorite was when that guy in the backyard kept trying to pause the fight, but Kimbo knocked the hell out of him anyways." Though there will be some halfhearted controversy over CBS' decision, we're calling it right now: ultimate fighting is no longer a trend, or an oddity; it's a part of the sporting establishment that families can watch together. Two of Kimbo's YouTube classics are after the jump. America will have its blood:

*Uh, extreme-violence-and-language-disclaimer-here.

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Castillo, Durham, Bowker combine for Giants' first triple play since 1999

SAN FRANCISCO -- Somehow, those involved lost track of their triple-play ball. John Bowker entrusted the souvenir ball to bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu, who also is the translator for pitcher Keiichi Yabu.

But, as it turns out, Uematsu had no idea that ball was the special one and he played catch with it -- thus, the ball got mixed up with all of the others.

Ray Durham


Second baseman Ray Durham was part of the Giants' first triple play since 1999, taking the relay from third baseman Jose Castillo and turning it to John Bowker at first in the eighth inning.

"I tried," Bowker said with a grin. This one will have to stay in their memories and on the highlight reels.

The San Francisco Giants turned a triple play in the eighth inning of their 7-3, 13-inning loss to the San Diego Padres on Friday night, the second triple play in the majors this year.

Yabu had just entered with runners on first and second and got Kevin Kouzmanoff to hit the first pitch and ground into the Giants' first triple play since June 14, 1999, on his first pitch.

"I was thinking groundball and double play, then we turned the triple play," Yabu said. "Unbelievable. I had never seen one. We usually see triple plays where they catch a line drive. It's the first time I saw a groundball triple play."

Third baseman Jose Castillo fielded the hard grounder near the bag and retired Giles on the forceout, then relayed to second baseman Ray Durham to get Gonzalez.

Durham then fired the ball to first baseman Bowker for the third out.

"When he hit it, I was thinking he would touch third and throw to second," Bowker said. "As he threw to second, I said, 'Wait a minute, I think there's time to throw to first.' We got him by a half step."

The crowd of 37,178 jumped to its feet for a long ovation. The Padres hit into their first triple play since May 5, 2005, against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I hit it hard right at him," said Kouzmanoff, who wasn't surprised to see the play turned. "It's definitely something I don't want to be a part of but that's the way it goes."

The Giants hadn't turned a triple play at home since Oct. 3, 1980, against San Diego at Candlestick Park. This was the first one for San Francisco at its 9-year-old waterfront ballpark and the sixth total in the city by either team -- four at Candlestick and one at Seals Stadium. The Giants have turned seven triple plays since moving west in 1958.

Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera turned an unassisted triple play for the Indians on May 12.

Yabu struck out one in three perfect innings and became the second Japanese pitcher to take part in a triple play along with Hideo Nomo in 1996 -- to which Yabu said, "Oh really? No. 2? That's good."

"When it was hit, I thought no, but then I saw the quickness to the bag and then I saw the first relay and I thought, 'Yeah, it could happen,' " Padres manager Bud Black said. "When the ball was in flight to second I thought it could happen. Didn't want it to. It was bang-bang."

Giants starter Matt Cain was back in the training room when the play happened, but he celebrated with the medical staff while watching it unfold on TV.

"Me and all the doctors were yelling," Cain said. "It's unbelievable. You don't see that very often. You usually see it with a line drive. To see it right around the horn is pretty cool."

On Omar Vizquel's celebratory night, the 11-time Gold Glove shortstop got to watch in awe as his teammates made the spectacular play.

Vizquel was honored before the game for becoming the major league leader for games at shortstop, passing Venezuelan countryman Luis Aparicio with his 2,584th game Sunday at Florida. He now has 2,587.

He enjoyed seeing his teammates shine on defense.

"I've been involved in a triple play with me hitting, not on defense," Vizquel said. "That was awesome. I was pulling for that. When he got the groundball, I was saying, 'We have a chance for three.' "

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Manny clubs 500th career homer

Red Sox slugger becomes 24th player to reach plateau

Manny: 'Unbelievable achievement.'
June 1: Manny Ramirez becomes the 24th player in MLB history with 500 home runs.

NBC Sports

BALTIMORE - Dreadlocks are in fashion in the exclusive 500-home run club, now that Manny Ramirez has added his name to the list of baseball’s most prolific sluggers.

Ramirez became the 24th player to reach the milestone, connecting in the seventh inning off Chad Bradford to help the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-3 Saturday night.

Boston’s left fielder hit the first pitch into the bleacher seats in right-center. He stood and watched the flight of the ball, then took off around the bases in a slow trot, a broad smile on his face.

“I’m happy, you know, about everything I accomplished in life,” Ramirez said afterward. “Not everybody has the chance to go and get to 500. I’m just proud to do it.”

It took him long enough. After hitting No. 496 on April 19, he had only three homers in 34 games before Saturday.

“Every time you get to the hotel, (people say), ’Hey, when you gonna hit it?’ I’m just happy everything’s done for now,” Ramirez said. “I can go be myself and have fun.”

Ramirez certainly had a delightful time rounding the bases. He slapped a high-five with first base coach Luis Alicea, tapped hands with third base coach DeMarlo Hale, then hugged on-deck hitter Mike Lowell as he crossed the plate. Many of his teammates greeted him as he reached the dugout, where Ramirez received more hugs and bounced up and down in an embrace with David Ortiz and Julio Lugo.

“They’re so proud to have me, a guy so loose, to play the game,” Ramirez said of his teammates. “I guess they really appreciate it.”

Boston manager Terry Francona said, “His teammates have been waiting for it and it was special to watch. ... Seeing the home run was fun, but watching his teammates show their affection was great.”

Even his former teammates were proud. Kevin Millar, who played for Boston from 2003-05, said, “I’m happy for him. He’s got a uniqueness about him that makes him easy to like. He looks like a Brazilian Rainforest guy. You take away the hair and the baggy uniform, he’s just a guy that can hit.”

The solo shot gave Boston a 5-3 lead. It traveled an estimated 410 feet.

In the bottom of the seventh, as he ran his position in the outfield, Ramirez waved to thousands of Boston fans among the 48,281 at Camden Yards. Although it was a road game for the Red Sox, many seats were filled with Boston backers, and virtually everyone in the ballpark took delight in seeing history made.

“That’s why they call it the Red Sox Nation. They follow us everywhere. Everywhere we go, we get a big support,” Ramirez said. “I’m just happy it’s over with and I’m proud to do it here.”

The 500-home run club has only two dozen members, but Ramirez also joined an even smaller fraternity. He is only the seventh player in baseball history with 500 homers, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 walks, 475 doubles and a .300 batting average. The others are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams.

“It’s nice to be part of history,” Ramirez said.

Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia also homered for the Red Sox, and Jacoby Ellsbury stole three bases in a second straight game. Ellsbury also tripled in the seventh off Lance Cormier (0-2) and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Ortiz before Bradford entered to face Ramirez.

Bradford had allowed only two home runs since May 14, 2006.

“He doesn’t give up that many,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “You think you have the right situation, but...”

Bradford left the Baltimore clubhouse without talking to reporters.

Throughout the first two games of the series, Ramirez was swinging at the first pitch. He did it again against Bradford, with positive results.

“You could see he was aggressive up there,” Trembley said. “The worst thing we did was throw him a strike. It probably would have been better if threw the ball outside of the strike zone every time tonight because he seemed like he was in a hurry to get it over with.”

Mission accomplished, against a pitcher who doesn’t give up many home runs.

“His power is so strong to center and right field. You don’t see that against a guy like Chad Bradford,” Millar said. “That’s why it’s all the more amazing.”

In the ninth inning, Ortiz hurt his left hand while swinging at a pitch and left the game. X-rays were negative; the injury was diagnosed as a strained wrist.

One batter after Ortiz exited, Ramirez popped out to finish 1-for-5. But that one hit was a whopper.

“Great, man. Finally, it’s over with. It’s a good thing, man,” Ortiz said. “I told him, ’You can finally go eat. No one’s going to ask you (about) 500 anymore.”’

The ball was retrieved by a Boston fan who claimed to have caught it on the fly. He handed the ball to Ramirez in the Red Sox clubhouse after the game.

“I don’t want to keep the ball. I want to see how much money I can get for the hospital I’m donating $1,000 for (every) home run,” Ramirez said. “That’s what I want to do.”

Pitching for the second time since his no-hitter on May 19 against Kansas City, Boston’s Jon Lester allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings. His run of four starts without yielding a home run ended when Brian Roberts connected in the fifth to give Baltimore a 3-2 lead.

Lester was replaced by David Aardsma (2-1), who pitched two scoreless innings. Jonathan Papelbon worked the ninth for his 16th save.

Notes: Ellsbury took over the AL lead with 26 steals (in 28 tries). ... Red Sox RF J.D. Drew entered in the ninth inning after missing Friday’s game with vertigo. ... All four of Roberts’ homers have been solo shots. ... Boston activated RHP Clay Buchholz from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he had been on a rehabilitation assignment.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Fan’s injury should force bat policy change

Photo The bat swung by Todd Helton at Dodger Stadium that exploded and hit Susan Rhodes.
(Image courtesy Susan Rhodes)

The wire came out of Susan Rhodes’ mouth this week. Doctors replaced it with rubber bands, so now people can understand her when she tells the story of how a maple baseball bat shattered her jaw.

“Your whole life changes,” Rhodes says over the phone, and she’s not looking for sympathy. Just an explanation as to how Major League Baseball continues to allow maple bats when their danger becomes more obvious by the injurious incident.

Photo The Rockies’ Todd Helton breaks his bat on a base hit off Dodgers reliever Cory Wade on April 25 at Dodger Stadium.
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

First came Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Don Long getting sliced along the cheek with the splintered end of a bat that snapped at the handle. Ten days later, on April 25, sitting four rows behind the visitor’s dugout at Dodger Stadium where Long was hit, Rhodes took the barrel end of a flying bat to the left side of her jaw.

What’s next? A fan or player dying?

At the recent owners’ meetings, commissioner Bud Selig highlighted maple bats as one of the game’s most pressing issues. A decade ago, they were barely in baseball. Since Barry Bonds’ record-breaking season, though, more than 50 percent of players have gone from the traditional ash bats to maple, which the converts claim feel harder.

A study commissioned by the league and the players’ union in 2005 showed maple and ash hit the ball equally well. Ash bats tend to crack innocuously, the study found, while maple bats explode, sending huge chunks of wood in every direction. When Todd Helton swung at a 2-1 pitch from Cory Wade in the seventh inning of the Colorado-Los Angeles game Rhodes attended, little did she know the remnants of the bat would reach all the way to her seats.

Rhodes, 50, wasn’t much of a baseball fan. Her friend John Andrews invited her and another friend, Gale Banks, to the game. Rhodes is a single mother of two teenaged boys, works in marketing and lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Sherman Oaks. It would be a nice time out, she figured.

And it was until Helton’s swing. He was borrowing a bat of teammate Troy Tulowitzki. While a Rockies spokesman said Tulowitzki uses both maple and ash, a clubhouse attendant speculated that because of the manner in which the bat snapped, it was almost in all likelihood maple. And a Rawlings spokesman said the last batch of bats made for Tulowitzki was maple.

Photo Susan Rhodes with her son Remy, who was on the way to his prom. before the Dodgers game on April 25.
(Image courtesy Susan Rhodes)

The bat blew up, and Rhodes’ eyes followed the ball, which landed in center field for a single. Meanwhile, the bat tomahawked toward her.

When Rhodes recovered consciousness, she kept asking Banks what had happened, the concussion robbing her short-term memory.

“All I remember is feeling this complete slam against my face and pain,” Rhodes says. “You know when you’re in such shock, you think, ‘What the hell happened?’ I figured I got hit by a ball. I was very conscious of one flying and thought we aren’t in a very safe area. I don’t know if I was looking at the ball. I can’t remember anything except for the smash and total memory loss.”

Dodgers officials summoned paramedics who took Rhodes to an on-site triage center. Once stabilized, she was offered a ride to a nearby emergency room. Instead, she sought care closer to home, where a CAT scan revealed two jaw fractures, one on the upper-left side, where the bat struck, and the other on the lower right, where the force reverberated.

Once the swelling subsided three days later, Rhodes underwent surgery in which doctors inserted four screws and a titanium plate on the right side. For three weeks, Rhodes barely slept. Once, when her nose was clogged, Rhodes says she started panicking that she couldn’t breathe. Banks brought Rhodes nasal spray for the stuffiness and a Vicodin for the pain.

Since then, it hasn’t improved much. Rhodes subsists on liquid supplements Ensure and Boost and tries to come up with palatable concoctions in the blender. Migraines dig into her skull. Doctors can’t say for certain if she will recover fully.

Photo Susan Rhodes recuperating after surgery on her jaw.
(Image courtesy Susan Rhodes)

“I had perfect teeth before,” Rhodes says. “They’ve shifted. My bite is off. The jaw on the left side has atrophied. I don’t have the same energy. I’ve got two kids, and I’m a single mother.

“It’s not easy. You just want to sleep. I don’t go out anymore. I’m exhausted.”

The medical bills have started to come in, and so far, Rhodes says, they’re more than $7,000. She’s not sure how much insurance will cover, so she contacted an attorney, Alan Ghaleb, to inquire about whether the Dodgers would help cover the costs. Ghaleb phoned the team and received a call back from American Specialty Insurance and Risk Services, an Indiana company that offers insurance to professional sports teams. The response shocked him.

“No way, no how, no way would they cover it,” Ghaleb says. “The adjuster was professional, but they would never consider helping anybody with their medical bills. It’s tough luck and you assume the risk.”

There is a reason every team announces before the game that teams are not responsible for flying bats and balls. The same is printed on tickets. Around Dodger Stadium, signs are posted: “Please be alert to bats and balls entering the seating area.” There’s a Spanish translation, too.

Fans who have brought litigation against baseball clubs for injuries due to batted balls and other projectiles have almost universally seen their cases dropped due to the assumption-of-risk doctrine. Every team that sees an injury at its stadium, no matter how serious, fights helping with medical costs because of the implications throughout the rest of the industry.

Ghaleb says that Rhodes is “considering (lawsuits) both against the Dodgers and the manufacturer.” He plans on deciding within 45 days whether cases are worth pursuing, and if he determines they aren’t, he will start a letter-writing campaign to Rawlings and the Dodgers on the dangers of maple bats.

“This is an unfortunate incident, and we wish her a speedy and full recovery,” Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch says.

Rhodes worries that the warnings aren’t enough. The issue of maple bats is so new, only the most ardent fans have heard of the danger. She figured a line drive into foul territory was enough of a threat. Now, having researched the Long incident and seen two or three or sometimes more bats per game breaking, Rhodes wonders why the netting that protects fans behind home plate isn’t lengthened to cover the baselines.

“Some child or someone’s parent is going to get killed,” Rhodes says. “I’m very fortunate this is all that happened. If it was just a few inches higher, it would’ve hit my temple or poked my eye out.

“Why wouldn’t they extend (netting)? I don’t get that. Would you like to live or would you like to see the game? If anything comes out of this, I want people to be safe.”

MLB and the union, though derelict in reaching an agreement to this point, want that as well. They will meet in June and go through a number of possible solutions, including netting, thickening the handles on bats so they’re less likely to snap or banning maple bats outright.

“We’re very concerned about this issue,” MLB spokesman Rich Levin says. “We are definitely looking into it. I know the commissioner is very concerned.”

As much as Rhodes appreciates the concern, it can’t return her life before a two-pound wooden club blindsided her. She wonders how a sport can put its players and fans in such precarious positions, prone to assaults with a deadly weapon.

Rhodes won’t find out again anytime soon.

“From now on,” she says, “I’m going to Lakers games.”

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