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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Canadian archer facing child porn charges

Olympic archer John David Burnes, shown in his Aug. 25, 2008, photo with his mother Mary Ann Badali, is studying for a career in medicine.Olympic archer John David Burnes, shown in his Aug. 25, 2008, photo with his mother Mary Ann Badali, is studying for a career in medicine. (J.P. Moczulski/Canadian Press)

Canadian archer John David Burnes, who placed 63rd in his event at last summer's Beijing Olympics, was charged with child pornography offences on Thursday.

Burnes, 20, was arrested as part of an Ontario-wide child pornography sweep last week that resulted in 93 charges against 31 people.

The charges against Burnes, a Toronto native, include one count each of possession of child pornography and one count of making available child pornography.

Joan McDonald, coach of Canada's archery team, said she learned of the charges from the media.

"They called me and asked me the question, and I called his parents," said McDonald, who added that the archer's parents confirmed the charges.

She called the situation a tragedy, adding, "It's always a tragedy when young people are in trouble."

To her knowledge, Burnes will continue with archery, McDonald added.

Burnes's next court appearance is May 5 in Kingston, Ont., where he attends Queen's University. He plans to pursue a career in medicine, according to the Canadian Olympic Committee website.

Michael Chambers, president of the COC, called the charges troubling.

"It's disturbing when you hear a charge of that nature is laid against anyone," Chambers said from Whistler, B.C., where he was attending celebrations to mark the one-year 2010 Winter Olympics countdown.

"If a person has been charged, they are presumed innocent until found guilty … I would not want to make any comment on what they may be facing."

Bruce Savage, president of Burnes's archery club, The Archers of Caledon, had no comment when asked about the charges.

Burnes, the youngest member of the Canadian archery squad in Beijing, won an individual bronze medal and team silver medal at the 2007 Canada Winter Games, and won a silver medal in a junior category at the 2006 Canadian Archery Championships.

He has been competing only three years and has little international experience, but shot twice a day in the months leading to the Olympic trials.

Burnes showed little emotion during the tournament until the moment he found out he'd won the third and final position over Hugh MacDonald of Vancouver.

Burnes almost had to pull out of the Olympics two days before the opening ceremony after he was hospitalized with what was first believed to be appendicitis. His condition was downgraded a day later and he was cleared to compete.

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'Grease-Gate' XXXIII: Penn talks KenFlo tip, calls GSP a roider

Some people thrive on conflict and angst. Is has to be why B.J. Penn continues to throw fresh coals into the stove to stoke the "Grease-Gate" fire. Now not only is Georges St. Pierre and his camp being smeared, Penn has turned his attention to Kenny Florian, who just happens to be his next opponent.

Penn, the UFC lightweight champ, doesn't seem too pleased to find out that Florian will train for his lightweight title shot against "The Prodigy" with GSP in Montreal. Penn said on his radio show that Florian is a turncoat:

"Oh, that's funny, he's going to tristar? He's the who who tipped us off that GSP was going to be greasing," said Penn. "He actually emailed me and tipped me off."

Florian, who is also a member of the MMA media with his spot on ESPN's MMA live show, denied the accusations:

"I don't even know BJ's email. How or why would I send that information?"

Penn's latest video tries to clarify the email statement:

"Kenny if you're going to call me a liar on stuff I'm going to call you out. You're right it was not an email, you texted someone in the camp and told them that GSP is a big roider and big greaser to watch out for him. Kenny, I'm just calling a spade a spade."

Click here to watch at BJPenn.com:

Penn says plenty of witnesses saw the alleged text including Penn's boxing coach Jason Parillo. That's pretty serious stuff. Now it's gone from greasing to St. Pierre is the ARod of the UFC. Do you believe Penn or is this just more drama to hype his next fight?

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Subway supports Michael Phelps

By Reid Cherner & Tom Weir

The Michael Phelps saga continues to surprise. After cereal and snack marketer Kellogg's said it would not resign the Olympic hero as an endorser due to his now infamous bong photo, some speculated fellow sponsor Subway would follow suit.

Surprise. After days of silence, Subway said Friday night it was supporting the Olympic swimming star.

"Like most Americans, and like Michael Phelps himself, we were disappointed in his behavior," Subway said in a statement. "Also like most Americans, we accept his apology. Moving forward, he remains in our plans."

Political campaigns and corporate marketers often wait until Friday night to release bad news. But in this case, Subway waited till the end of the week to support the Olympic swimmer.

But wait, it's not over yet. AdAge.com reported Friday that Subway was likely to "backburner" its first TV campaign starring Phelps.

What happens next? The swimmer is now giving interviews taking responsibility for his actions, expressing regret and promising to never, ever do it again.

That's the first step in Crisis PR 101. Look for Phelps and his agents to make good on his promises through speeches, public service announcements and the like. Stay tuned.--Michael McCarthy, USA TODAY

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In Hard Times, Olympic Plans Go On a Budget

By Adam Smith / London

The 2012 Olympic site in London
The 2012 Olympic site in London

Work on London's main Olympic site is progressing well. The 600-acre former industrial zone in east London that will become the focal point of the 2012 event has been transformed into Europe's biggest construction site. Steel for shoring up the massive new stadium's seating terraces is being installed. And work on the structure that will eventually support its roof is underway. But the progress masks concerns that the economic crisis will hit the world's biggest sporting event. As one member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) remarked on a recent visit to London, Britain's capital faces "the toughest time — short of wartime — to get the project to 2012."

Even in the best of times, staging an Olympic Games is an extraordinary feat. Hosting thousands of athletes and millions of spectators takes billions of dollars in investment to pull off. But with public and private funding under heavy strain in the global downturn, it's hardly the ideal time to be putting on a show. China lavished some $40 billion on last year's Beijing Games. These days "we are in a mode for lean games," IOC president Jacques Rogge said in December. (See pictures of the Beijing Olympics.)

So how do you budget for the Olympics during lean times? Some $13.8 billion in public funds has been allocated to the London Games, a huge jump from the $5 billion that was budgeted in 2005. Having fluffed the original math, though, the government insists that the event won't cost a penny more. The $290 million increase in the cost of building venues announced on Feb. 5, for instance, will come out of a $3 billion contingency fund included in the inflated budget. So too will the $682 million in extra public money needed for the media center and Olympic village — home to some 17,000 athletes during the Games, before turning into 3,000 apartments following them — after private investors spooked by the downturn backed away from the projects.

London is not the only one suffering. Caution among private investors, particularly when it comes to the enormous athletes' village, has hit other upcoming Games. The local government in Vancouver will now likely fund much of the $820-million village intended for its 2010 Winter Olympics after private backing fell through.

The cities still in the running for the 2016 Summer Games — Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo will hand their final submissions to the IOC this week — are also wary of the downturn. Chicago's plan for the Games rests almost entirely on contributions from businesses, foundations and individuals. "The private funding initiatives on behalf of the general public [are] a well-established precedent in Chicago," says Patrick Ryan, chairman and CEO of Chicago 2016. Ryan remains optimistic that Chicago can raise enough money should it win the Games, not least because Chicago's proposed athletes' village would be located on a prime waterfront site that would be "extremely attractive for private development."

Tokyo has taken a different approach. The city started a fund back in 2006 for the construction of its proposed Olympic venues and infrastructure. Tokyo's metropolitan government will have banked some $4 billion by the end of 2009. The city authority "knows that during good moments, you save money," Hidetoshi Maki, deputy director-general of the Tokyo bid, told reporters in London on Feb. 5. And with the national government pledging to cover up to 50% of the venues' construction costs, "we don't think our bid plan is hugely damaged" by the slowdown, said Maki. Limiting the number of new venues helps; good maintenance of several sites used during the 1964 Tokyo Games means that 23 of the 34 venues earmarked for 2016 already exist. That's a similar proportion to London's plan, though slightly higher than that of Chicago or Rio de Janeiro.

And while short-term costs might seem painful during an economic slump, cities will be keen to press longer-term benefits. "The London 2012 Games will provide economic gold at a time of economic need," Tessa Jowell, Britain's Olympics Minister, wrote in the latest annual report on progress toward 2012. That will mean 100,000 contract jobs to stage the Games — of those currently working on the Olympic site, one-tenth were previously unemployed — with half as many long-term positions created in the park and surrounding area. "The Games remind us," Rogge said on a recent visit to London, "that the transient difficulties of life can be overcome through hard work and determination." And a lot of the green stuff.

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Michael Schumacher crashes his motorbike

Michael Schumacher crashes his motorbike
Road safety officer: Michael Schumacher crashed on a racetrack in Spain Photo: AP

According to reports, Schumacher was testing his Honda 1000 CBR-Fireblade at a racetrack in Cartagena when the accident happened and was taken to hospital.

"Today I had an accident at the biking tests in Cartagena, and to be safe I went to a hospital," the seven times world champion said on his official website.

"The checks showed nothing and I just wanted to say that I am fine."

The doctors diagnosed a mild concussion, while Schumacher himself complained of pain in his right wrist, according to a report in Cologne's Express newspaper.

His team boss Jens Holzhauer told the paper: "This was not as bad as it sounds. It was a harmless slip and a quite normal training fall. He will still fly home this evening."

A spokesman for the Virgen de Arrixaca Hospital in the nearby city of Murcia confirmed he had been taken to the hospital but was not able to provide information regarding the extend of his injuries.

Schumacher, 40, who retired from Formula One in 2006, won 91 races in a 16-year career with Jordan, Benetton and Ferrari encompassing 250 races.

The German, who won his first title under Fabio Briatore at Benetton in 1994, won a record five consecutive drivers' titles between 2000 and 2004 when in the red of Ferrari, and also claimed seven straight victories in individual grand prix during the 2004 season.

Schumacher is the only Formula One driver to have an entire season of podium finishes, a feat he accomplished in 2002.

Since his participation in a FIA European road safety campaign, as part of his punishment after a collision at the 1997 European Grand Prix, Schumacher has continued to support other campaigns, such as Make Roads Safe, which is led by the FIA Foundation and calls on G8 countries and the UN to recognise global road deaths as a major global health issue.

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NHL fighting is back with a vengeance

By Kevin Allen

Mike Rupp of the New Jersey Devils, right, and Colton Orr of the New York Rangers fight with each other during the second period of their game on Monday night.

Mike Rupp of the New Jersey Devils, right, and Colton Orr of the New York Rangers fight with each other during the second period of their game on Monday night.

As the NHL prepares to look into the "rules of engagement" for fighting, more players are engaging in fights.

Fighting majors are up about 24% from the same point in 2007-08 and are on pace to approach numbers seen before the canceled 2004-05 season.

"The contact part of our game is on the ascendency, so I'm not surprised fighting is up," said Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. "I don't think it's going to go any higher. We want physical hockey back, but no one wants to go back to the 1970s and three-hour games."

TALE OF THE TAPE: 2007-08 vs. 2008-09

The number of fighting majors fell to 919 in 2005-06 after the NHL implemented rules changes to open up the offense. Less than two-thirds into this season, there have been 997.

"When we came back from the lockout, there was a camaraderie among players, and since then fighting has gradually increased," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations.

Despite the rise, the 1.3 fighting majors a game this season are 38% below the record of 2.1, set in 1986-87.

Still, numbers are up across the board: 25 players have 10 or more fights — led by the Columbus Blue Jackets' Jared Boll and Philadelphia Flyers' Riley Cote (17 each) — up from 12 at this point in 2007-08.

"Fighting is up because parity is so strong," said NBC analyst Pierre McGuire, a former NHL coach.

Also contributing to the rise is a change in the way players react to hits.

"As soon as you have a hit now, with it is legal or illegal, there seems to be immediate retribution upon the player who delivers the hit," said Campbell.

Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz also believes that the "honor code has grayed a little bit."

"The response after a clean hit is overexaggerated in the league right now," Trotz said. "What we used to think of as a clean hit, where players would play on, now is overblown. If it has any force to it guys overreact."

This is a change from yesteryear when clean bodychecks were accepted more by opposing players.

"I think some of this comes people people talking about hits from behind, or head hits, and asking, 'Where is the respect?' " Campbell said, noting that he believes the NHL has actually done a good job of reducing those kind of hits.

Flyers forward Jeff Carter said he doesn't notice any difference in fighting.

"I think it's just the way the game is," Carter said. "I think it's intense, tight games this year. I think a lot of teams are real close to each other in the standings."

The theory is that competitive races — six points separate fifth through 13th place in the West — create more tension.

"That kind of bunching leads to more punching," said Versus analyst Daren Eliot

Another reason why fighting might be up is what Eliot calls "the Brian Burke effect."

In 2007, the Anaheim Ducks, with Burke in command, won the Stanley Cup with a big, physical team that hit hard and fought frequently.

"Every year, everyone points to why the Stanley Cup champion won," Campbell said. "Teams that they ran over on the way to winning said, 'Not again.' I think some teams did load up after that. That's a normal pattern. Some teams just look at their rivals."

Pedators forward Jordin Tootoo, currently sidelined after suffering a hand injury in a fight with Calgary's Todd Bertuzzi, said the elimination of the NHL "goon" has also contributed to the increased number of fights.

"The game has changed so now you see more fighting from various guys," Tootoo said. "Now when you are out on the ice, there are four other guys who will step up for you. We're like brothers. Everyone is here for each other."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, responding to incidents in lower leagues, has said general managers will look at all aspects of fighting at their annual meeting March 9-11 in Naples, Fla.

Don Sanderson, 21, of the Whitby Dunlops died in an Ontario senior league game after his head hit the ice during a fight. Last month, Flyers farmhand Garrett Klotz suffered a seizure during a fight.

Bettman said, though, he didn't think there was any appetite for abolishing fighting.

Burke is a proponent of keeping fighting an integral part of the sport because he believes fighters police the game. He recently added tough guy Brad May in Toronto.

"The abuse our skill guys take here in Toronto is nothing short of embarrassing," Burke said.

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Son could make Tiger Woods even better

By Mark Reason

Father's day: Tiger Woods celebrates winning last year's US Open with his daughter Sam
Father's day: Tiger Woods celebrates winning last year's US Open with his daughter Sam Photo: REUTERS

Tiger has proved his supernatural abilities to the world. He has very nearly proved them to himself. But Woods hasn't yet proved anything to little Charlie Axel. Do you think Tiger Woods needs more motivation? Well, he now has the biggest inspiration a professional sportsman can get. A son.

You may think that is all psychological mumbo jumbo, but consider for a moment some facts. The last three first-time winners of the Masters had all just become fathers of a son for the first time. Phil Mickelson won his first major in 2003 a year after the birth of Evan. Zach Johnson won in 2007, three months after the birth of Will. Trevor Immelman won in 2008, a year after the birth of Jacob.

There is a name for this phenomenon. It is called the 'nappy factor' and was first identified by the betting guru Keith Elliott more than 10 years ago. To begin with it was nothing more than a hunch.

Then in 2000 the European Association of Labour Economists published statistics showing that fathers' salaries rise nearly five per cent every time they have a child and that the premium was far greater for a son than a daughter. "I'm sure a son will have an amazing effect even on someone as driven as Tiger," Elliott said.

Woods has already said he became a better golfer since the birth of his daughter, Sam. But what effect will a son have? Padraig Harrington won in America for the first time 18 months after the birth of Patrick. Ernie Els won his first major for five years a month after the birth of his son, Ben, and then finished in the top 10 in seven of his next nine majors.

The way that Woods has always spoken about his own father makes you wonder if the effect could be even more dramatic. Just last month Woods was riffing in Golf Digest about 'pops'.

He said: "Even to this day when I'm out there struggling and I don't have my best stuff I'll go back to: 'You know what, Daddy, I'm going to put the ball right there. Right there. I'm going to put that little two-iron right there, Daddy. No problem. I got it'. Boom, I put it right there. (Pause in silent reverie). Thanks pops."

Tiger, more than any sportsman you can think of, knows the value of fatherhood. He may even take 'paternity leave' and not return to competitive golf until next month. We don't know for sure yet. But the defending Masters champion Immelman knows what to expect when Tiger does return. He said: "I think he'll be better. I know him well and that's his personality."

And had Immelman heard the one about Tiger holing one shot in 10 from 40 yards in practice recently? The South African smiled and said: "That's his myth." The myth is about to become reality again.

Please welcome onto the first tee, Mr Tiger Woods, 14 times a major champion and the daddy of them all.

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Falcons GM says team to trade Vick

Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff acknowledged in an interview on the team's Web site that the Falcons have decided to trade the rights to their suspended quarterback, Michael Vick.

"With regards to Michael Vick, we've decided to seek a trade of his contractual rights to another NFL club," Dimitroff said in a Q & A with AtlantaFalcons.com. "We took a number of steps in the 2008 season, including using our first pick to draft a quarterback. We feel a trade is the best move for the Falcons, and it's also in the best interest of Michael.

[+] EnlargeThomas Dimitroff
Kevin Terrell/Getty ImagesThomas Dimitroff, who just completed his first year as GM, picked quarterback and rookie of the year Matt Ryan in last year's draft.

"This has been a really unique situation from a variety of standpoints and because we will actively be involved in a trade situation, I don't envision our organization speaking any more about this subject publicly until it's reached a resolution."

Vick is serving a 23-month sentence at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan., for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy. He is scheduled for release July 20 but could serve the last few months of his term at a halfway house in Newport News, Va., his hometown.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello on Friday reiterated commissioner Roger Goodell's statement when he suspended Vick on Aug. 24, 2007, that he would review Vick's status when legal proceedings are done.

Vick's attorneys did not immediately return e-mail or telephone messages left at their offices.

Vick has a contract that runs to 2013 and calls for him to receive a base salary of $9 million and a bonus of $6.43 million in 2009. The remainder of the contract is worth $45.11 million, with another possible $3 million in Pro Bowl bonuses.

"As long as Michael is suspended, his salary is tolled, but his signing bonus money would be part of the [salary] cap," Dimitroff said.

Dimitroff said the Falcons have had no discussions with other teams because Vick is under suspension by the NFL, "but we think some teams might be interested in exploring a trade."

The No. 4 mobile quarterback of all-time is Michael Vick.

NFL.com Video

The No. 4 mobile quarterback of all-time is Michael Vick.

Dimitroff said if the Falcons are unable to complete a trade, the team would re-evaluate.

ESPN'S Ed Werder reported that according to a highly placed team source, the Dallas Cowboys have had no discussions within their organization about the possibility of trading for the rights to Vick.

Last April, the Cowboys became the first team in NFL history to complete a trade for a player under suspension at the time of the transaction when they acquired Adam "Pacman" Jones from the Tennessee Titans.

Two more teams have taken themselves out of the running for the quarterback. Asked about Vick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik said, "No, I don't see that in our future," according to the Tampa Tribune.

And the New York Post reported that according to a New York Jets spokesman, "The Jets have no interest in Michael Vick."

The Falcons made a move last year for a quarterback, taking Boston College's Matt Ryan as their first-round draft choice. He ended up as the league's rookie of the year and led the Falcons to the playoffs.

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Riding the Snow in Style at the Minneapolis Art Sled Rally

By John Baichtal

ArtsledCheck out this awesome video of last Saturday's 2nd Annual Minneapolis Art Sled Rally held at Powderhorn Park. The creativity and fun totally blew me away, and even better than art cars, catastrophic crashes are encouraged! There were awesomely geeky sleds like the above 20-sider, a Star Wars landspeeder, and a great sisyphean Viking warrior rolling downhill with his boulder.

South Sixteenth Hi Jinks, a group of artists and neighborhood residents, organized the rally to get people out into the tundra and as a tribute to winter activities of yore:

We chose to create a mass sledding spectacle, in part, for the history of mass winter events at Powderhorn Park that began around a hundred years ago. You will find pictures of incredible pageantry, throngs of people and fantastically sculptured luge tracks in Powderhorn from the early 1900s on up through the sixties. We would like to see this organized enthusiasm for winter activities continue.

(video after the break)


Also be sure to check out the various Flickr sets of the event: egusto, emoeby, waitingline, analogkid138 and davidgels.

Photo by Brian Moen

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8 Players Banned From Baseball Not Named Pete Rose

Ethan Trex
by Ethan Trex

a-rod-ny-post.jpgAlex Rodriguez’s recent confession that he used steroids while with the Texas Rangers is being mentioned as one of baseball’s biggest scandals ever. (Rodriguez is the same fellow who’s been discussed as possibly the greatest player ever, and he plays for the retooled Yankees, a team that’s got an outside shot at being one of the best ever, which really just underscores how much baseball writers love to use the word “ever.”)

Sure, the revelations about Rodriguez, one of the standard-bearers for “clean” players during the steroids era, sully the game of baseball, but it’s probably not the game’s biggest scandal ever. After all, A-Rod’s not going to join the long list of players who have received lifetime bans from MLB. You probably know why Pete Rose, the “Black Sox” who threw the 1919 World Series, and countless other gamblers and fixers got the boot, but they’re hardly lonely in their baseball exile. Here are a few more bans that don’t get quite as much attention.

1. Jack O’Connor

Ty Cobb was a jerk. Truly great at baseball, but really a loathsome individual. O’Connor, the former player-manager of the St. Louis Browns, hated Cobb so much that he couldn’t let the Georgia Peach win the 1910 American League batting title on his watch. When Cobb entered the final day of the season locked in a tight duel with Nap Lajoie for the crown, O’Connor decided to intervene on Lajoie’s behalf to spite Cobb.

O’Connor’s Browns team was squaring off against Lajoie’s Cleveland squad in the season’s final game when O’Connor gave his third baseman, Red Corriden, an odd order: to go stand in shallow left field whenever Lajoie came up to bat. With no one covering third base, Lajoie could easily bunt down the line for singles, which he did eight times over the course of the day. This late surge gave Lajoie the batting title by virtue of a slight .384-.383 edge over Cobb.

Supposedly even Cobb’s teammates sent Lajoie telegrams congratulating him for his triumph, but baseball officials weren’t so amused. They banned O’Connor for life for rigging the batting crown race.

2. Horace Fogel

Some fans think it’s silly to see players and coaches get slapped with fines for criticizing officiating after heated games, but the punishments could be considerably more draconian. Just ask Horace Fogel. Fogel served as the Philadelphia Phillies’ owner and president from 1909 to 1912, but he ran afoul of the National League when he publicly claimed that the umpires preferred to see the New York Giants win and made biased calls against the Phils to ensure Giants victories. The league tired of Fogel’s bombastic claims that the pennant race was fixed, so it banned him for life in 1912.

3. Benny Kauff

Kauff, an outfielder, was a rare talent. In 1914 and 1915, he won the Federal League’s batting titles and stolen base crowns, and in 1914 he also led the league in runs and doubles. His combination of batting eye, speed, and power earned him the nickname, “The Ty Cobb of the Feds,” but he quickly got in more trouble than the actual Ty Cobb ever did.

For much of big league baseball’s history, most players didn’t scratch out enough money to live on playing the game, so they held offseason jobs. In Kauff’s case, he owned a used car dealership with his half-brother, which is where he got into hot water. In 1919 the police found a stolen car they’d been searching for, and the driver told the cops he’d picked up his new wheels at Kauff’s dealership. Kauff was arrested on a charge of receiving stolen property, and Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis didn’t even wait to see what happened in the trial. He gave Kauff the permanent heave-ho from baseball just for being indicted.

As it turned out, Kauff might not have even known about the stolen cars, and he was acquitted on the charges following his trial. In 1922 Kauff applied to Landis for reinstatement on the grounds that he wasn’t actually guilty of anything. Landis, a former federal judge, balked at the idea of letting a jury trial establish guilt and flatly refused, commenting that, “That acquittal was one of the worst miscarriages of justice that ever came under my observation.”

4. Ray Fisher

Fisher, a starting pitcher, racked up a 100-94 record with a 2.82 ERA over his career with the Yankees and Reds. As the 1921 season was starting, the Reds offered Fisher a new contract, but it would require that he take a pay cut of $1000. Instead of stomaching the lowered salary, Fisher left the Reds to take a job that seemed to offer more security, coaching the University of Michigan’s baseball team.

fisher-rickey.jpgFisher hoped the Reds would release him, but instead Landis stuck him on the ineligible-to-play list. Later on that summer, Fisher started mulling the idea of playing again. Branch Rickey of the Cardinals and an “outlaw” team from Franklin, Pennsylvania, tried to secure his services. Fisher wanted to play right by the Reds, though, so he wrote the team a letter asking what exactly his contract situation was and offering them first crack at him. To Commissioner Landis this query smacked of Fisher trying to weasel out of his contract with the Reds, which earned the pitcher a lifetime ban. [Photo: Ray Fisher & Branch Rickey.]

Things ended up okay for Fisher, though. He was by all indications a good guy, and he spent 38 very successful seasons as Michigan’s baseball coach. In 1980 then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn reinvestigated Fisher’s ban by Landis and overturned the ruling, which mean the 82-year-old hurler was once again a retired MLBer in good standing.

5. Phil Douglas

Douglas had a pretty good career as a pitcher, and he even won two games in the 1921 World Series for the New York Giants. However, he didn’t get along with hot-tempered Giants manager John McGraw. Douglas looked to be on his way to an ERA title in 1922 when he and McGraw got into an argument that ended with a suspension and a hundred-dollar fine for Douglas.

Like any reasonable person would do, Douglas went out and got sloshed to take the edge off of his anger. He then sat down to write some letters. Douglas didn’t see how he could help someone he disliked as much as McGraw win a pennant, so he decided he’s just skip out on the team. He drunkenly wrote this letter to his buddy Les Mann of the St. Louis Cardinals: “I want to leave here but I want some inducement. I don’t want this guy to win the pennant and I feel if I stay here I will win it for him. If you want to send a man over here with the goods, I will leave for home on next train. I will go down to fishing camp and stay there.”

The letter eventually ended up on Commissioner Landis’ desk, and the old hanging judge came out with his customary punishment: a lifetime ban for Douglas.

6 & 7. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays

mantle-mays.jpgThese two all-time greats were long retired when they received their lifetime bans, but that didn’t mean that Major League Baseball didn’t see fit to paternally meddle in their lives. Following their careers, Mantle and Mays spent some of their time working as goodwill ambassadors for casinos in Atlantic City. They weren’t working for MLB at the time, and it’s not like they were pit bosses, either. The two would show up to greet casino patrons, sign autographs, play in golf tournaments, and do other little appearances to raise their casinos’ profiles. In Mays’ case, his services contract with the casino actually forbid him from doing any gambling himself, so the whole thing seemed harmless enough.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn wasn’t having any of it, though. He felt that baseball legends shouldn’t be hanging around casinos, so he banned both men from working for baseball teams in any capacity. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, and Kuhn’s successor, Peter Uberroth, overturned the bans.

8. George Steinbrenner

It’s easy to revile George Steinbrenner for his rampant spending on free agents, but really, wouldn’t every fan love for their team’s owner to open his wallet so freely? It’s much easier and more sensible to deride Steinbrenner for what he did to Dave Winfield. After signing Winfield to a massive free-agent deal in 1980, Steinbrenner quit getting along with the future Hall of Fame outfielder. When Steinbrenner refused to make a contractually guaranteed $300,000 donation to Winfield’s charitable foundation, Winfield sued the owner. Instead of simply making the donation, Steinbrenner paid Howard Spira, a self-described gambler, $40,000 to “dig up dirt” on Winfield. (All over $300,000. To put all this in perspective, by the end of his career, Steinbrenner thought that figure was a fair price for three innings of work from Kyle Farnsworth.)

Since consorting with gamblers is MLB’s one unforgivable sin, and since running a smear campaign against a player isn’t exactly classy, Commissioner Fay Vincent slapped Steinbrenner with a ban in 1990. Vincent gradually lightened his stance, though, and in the summer of 1992 he agreed to let Steinbrenner have a full reinstatement at the beginning of the 1993 season.

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Now Batting, Rod Blagojevich?

(CBS) The Joliet JackHammers, a minor league baseball team in Illinois, has reportedly offered Rod Blagojevich a contract for the 2009 season.

Blagojevich's publicist said he wasn't sure how serious the team's offer was, but that the ex-Illinois governor would be interested. "The governor is a huge baseball fan, and playing in the minor leagues is something he has wanted to do as a kid and would do for nothing," Glenn Selig told the Chicago Tribune.

The club has said it would give the 52-year-old Blagojevich a standard rookie contract. Additionally, the team would hold special promotions surrounding Blagojevich, including a "Bobblehair" giveaway and the sale of "golden seats," a tongue-in-cheek nod to the ex-governor's attempt to sell President Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Also, it seems the team would give Blagojevich some extra perks. According to the JackHammers Web site, "Travel arrangements will be made exceptionally comfortable for Blagojevich. He’ll have his own seat on the luxurious coach bus during the JackHammers road trips. As is the case usually for only team veterans, Blagojevich will get his own room on the JackHammers overnight trips."

The JackHammers play a 96-game schedule as part of the Northern League.

While some fans have blanched at the prospect of seeing Blagojevich on the team, JackHammers executive vice president Kelly Sufka said he would have to earn his spot on the squad.

"He would have to work hard in spring training to find himself a regular spot in the lineup," she told the Tribune. "Most fans see the humor in it, but not all of them."

This week, Blagojevich lashed out at the lawmakers who impeached him from office. "I feel like I can serve the people in a good way now because I have all kinds of insights that virtually no one has," Blagojevich said on a Chicago radio show. "And I can give anecdotes and all kinds of stuff. I don't know if it's dirt or not. It's just facts."

"I've got my crayons ready, I'm ready to write it. I'd like to tell those stories," Blagojevich said during a Wednesday interview on WLS Radio's "The Don and Roma Morning Show."

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LeBron: A-Rod did right thing

James

James

INDIANAPOLIS -- LeBron James says he believes Alex Rodriguez did the right thing by admitting using performance-enhancing drugs.

"I think it had to be a big monkey for him to get off his back, and I think it will be good for him in the long run," James said Tuesday night before his Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Indiana Pacers. "It's another big cloud over all baseball, and his accomplishments, but I think it will be good for him in the long run."

James, a Yankees fan, said he has never heard anybody in the NBA talk about using performance-enhancing drugs.

"I look at baseball like it's one of those team sports that's kind of individual, and I guess baseball players think they need an edge on the next player," James said. "It's never mentioned in basketball and I hope it never is, or in any sport."

Rodriguez acknowledged using performance-enhancing drugs when he was a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001-03.

James and Rodriguez are two of the biggest stars in sports.

But the discussion about steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs has become an issue around the sports world. Rodriguez's admission put it back in the headlines, something James hopes will go away.

Just like the drugs themselves.

"You know guys always want to get an edge. It's just never done [in basketball], and I hope it never will be," he said. "It's dangerous."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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The All-Time Baseball Movie Team

The leader of this all-star team, Jimmy Dugan (A League of Their Own).

There is no shortage of quality baseball movies (as well as bad ones like the Angels in the Outfield remake) out there for sports fans to enjoy. What if an all-star team was compiled using these players? Talent plays a large role in this, but I would be lying if I didn't pick a few over others because I enjoyed the character more. Regardless, here is the team I would assemble, even going as far as appointing a coaching staff and filling out lineups.

One thing to note before we get started: I excluded any characters based primarily on a real player in baseball history. Yes, I know A League of Their Own was losely based on history, but if not for the movie, most would never know that to be true. This list is to give the more fictional players their glory.


Batting leadoff, and playing center field...

Willie Mays Hayes (Major League) - Every team needs some flair, and Hayes brings it. I bat him leadoff, despite my concerns for his high strikeout total, based purely on speed. Hayes and Rodriguez (below) refuse to race each other, but my money is on Hayes if they ever do. He has the green light on the base paths at all times.



Batting 2nd, and playing shortstop...

Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez (The Sandlot) - The kid can basically play anywhere, so I want him anchoring my infield. By far the fastest kid in the neighborhood, he show glimpses of a complete 5-tool player. Plus, he isn't afraid of ghosts, beasts or leading a team of scrubs to victories. With a much better supporting cast on this team, he is major part.




Batting 3rd, and playing left field...

Kelly Leak (Bad News Bears) - This kid knows he's good, and he just doesn't care what anyone thinks. You want him to go yard? He will if he feels like it. Because of his antics, I hide him in left field in case he pulls a "Kelly being Kelly" moment. My manager (later on in the article) will be quick to bench him if he acts up too much.



Batting cleanup, and playing right field...

Roy Hobbs (The Natural)
- Arguably the best player on the team, he literally hits the cover off the ball. He plays right field but excels in the batter's box. As he goes, so does the team. I mean seriously, the movie he is in says all you need to know about him.



Batting 5th, and playing 1st Base...

Jack Elliot (Mr. Baseball) - If nothing else, Tom Selleck has to be on this team if possible. He's a former World Series MVP who proved he could play both in the majors and in Japan. He's getting up their in age when the movie airs, but still has enough left in the tank to be a middle of the lineup hitter.



Batting 6th, and catching...

Crash Davis (Bull Durham) - So technically someone else would have to catch when Chapel pitches, but this guy is exactly who you need to lead a team behind the plate. It's really a mistery how someone of his caliber is stuck in the minors, but the switch-hitter has a lot of pop in his bat, and leadership skills to boot.



Batting 7th, and playing 3rd Base...

Roger Dorn (Major League)
- So every team has their stars and their role players. If Dorn can at least knock a few balls down, Benny will get to the rest of them. The talent on this team will keep him grounded and focused as well, so no need to worry about his other business adventures.



Batting 8th, and playing 2nd Base
...


Marla Hooch (A League of Their Own)
- Second base(wo)men are hard to come by, but a switch-hitter with power can help any team. Her lack of any type of personality screams she is here for one reason: drop bombs and win ballgames. She'll do.



Batting 9th, the starting pitchers...


Billy Chapel (For Love of the Game) - The crafty veteran will be my "ace", even though I have confidence in all my pitchers. Chapel just has it. He knows how to pitch, and saves his best stuff for the right time. Game 7, he is, without a doubt, getting the ball.



Steve Nebraska (The Scout) - If he can put his mental issues aside, this guy is a two-way force. He hits homeruns with ease and can run his fastball up to 112 mph (with some late arm side run at the end). His early childhood issues still pop up from time to time, but I have faith my staff can bring out the Steve Nebraska who threw an 81 pitch, 27 strikeout perfect game in the World Series.



Henry Rowengartner (Rookie of the Year) - Performance enhancers? Who needs them when you can just have a humanly impossible tightened tendon to throw frozen ropes from the center field bleachers to the catcher. If he could incorporate his eephus and trickery on the bump, he could be a solid back of the rotation starter.



Ryan Dunne (Summer Catch) - Lefties are hard enough to come by, but a hard-throwing lefty is essential for every rotation. Put the attitude problems aside, and he is a solid pitcher. He threw a combined no-no in the Cape, and despite giving up a bomb to Ken Griffey Jr., he at least made it to the Major League level. He also probably has the hottest significant other on the team (Jessica Biel).



Henry "Author" Wiggen (Bang the Drum Slowly) - He was the ace for a World Series team in the movie, and had enough quality pitches to make my rotation. He was also a good time manager, since he sold insurance on the side while playing baseball. There will be no need to do that for this team.



Middle Relief

Eddie Harris (Major League) - Another guy who has been around for a long time, Harris will be a spot starter and long reliever. He doesn't do anything well, but he knows how to pitch and can eat innings.



Amanda Whurlitzer (Bad News Bears) - This girl instantly turned the Bad News Bears into a Little League contender, showcasing a never back down attitude and a mean streak. She's an aggressive pitcher who isn't afraid to come inside.



Closer

Rick Vaughn (Major League) - His electrifying stuff and inpredictability will keep fans interested, but in the end, he just closes out games.




Utility Players

Bobby Rayburn (The Fan) - Could probably start on any other team, except his actor (Wesley Snipes) is already starting in center field for this one. In the movie, he is arguably the best current player in the league in his prime. Can play all outfield positions.



Bump Bailey (The Natural) - A great player in his own right, he clashed with Roy Hobbs. However, he could be a great defensive replacement in outfield. I don't know too many others who literally run through a wall and kill himself for the team.



Joe Hardy (Damn Yankees) - Any guy who is hitting .524 midway through the season can get playing time on my team. He can play any position as well, I just wonder if his playing style can translate to the modern game.



Stan Ross (Mr. 3000) - He has 2997 career hits, so another veteran leader who can do the job when called upon. Underrated defender as well, but he's mostly on the team to hit.



Dottie Hinson (A League of Their Own) - The overall best female player in the history of baseball, she has a problem because she plays a position loaded with talent. She definitely knows how to deal with problems on the field (like her sister) and problems off the field (husband off at war). She'll be Chapel's personal catcher as long as her husband allows it.



Jake Taylor (Major League) - More of a player-coach, he is an emergency catcher. Can get the job done, but also is very open to deferring to the talent ahead of him. Just a great teammate.




Pitching Coach

Phil Brickman (Rookie of the Year) - Yea, so what if he's an idiot. This team needs someone to make fun of and laugh at. He keeps the pitching staff loose and winning games. Hopefully he continues to lock himself in the locker room when real decisions are needed to be made.




Manager

Jimmy Dugan (A League of Their Own) - Simply put, this guy can flat out manage a team. He's not afraid to get in a player's face, but he also has a compassionate side. Will take chances, like executing suicide squeezes with his best hitters (work on your bunting Hobbs). He'll demand respect in the clubhouse.



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Shortstop Tejada charged with lying to Congress

By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer


WASHINGTON – All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada has been charged with lying to Congress about steroids, the latest baseball player to get caught up in an extensive web of cheating and juicing that has stained the sport. Tejada is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday where he is expected to plead guilty. The charges against Tejada, who currently plays for the Houston Astros, were outlined in documents filed in Washington federal court on Tuesday.

The documents indicate that a plea agreement has been reached with Tejada, who won the 2002 American League Most Valuable Player award while playing for the Oakland Athletics and is a five-time All-Star. The court papers were filed a day after superstar Alex Rodriguez acknowledged past use of performance-enhancing drugs. The New York Yankees third baseman does not face charges.

The FBI also is investigating whether Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young winner, lied to Congress last year when he denied using steroids or human growth hormone. Clemens and Rodriguez top a list of big name, drug-tainted stars, including Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, whose actions cast doubt on their on-field accomplishments.

Tejada faces as much as a year in jail if convicted on the misdemeanor charge of making misrepresentations to Congress. Under federal guidelines, he would probably receive a lighter sentence.

The charge came in a legal document called a "criminal information," which only can be filed with the defendant's consent and typically signals a plea deal. A hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. EST Wednesday in Washington, and Tejada and his lawyer plan to hold a news conference later in the day in Houston.

Messages left for his attorney, Mark Tuohey, were not immediately returned.

In the documents filed Tuesday, Tejada is charged with lying to investigators for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2005. Congressional staffers did not place Tejada under oath when they questioned him, but they advised him "of the importance of providing truthful answers," according to the court papers.

During the interview, Tejada denied knowledge of an ex-teammate's use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The teammate is not identified in court documents, but is referred to as having played with Tejada on the Athletics.

Tejada "unlawfully withheld pertinent information from the committee because defendant Tejada, before and during his interview with the committee staff, then and there well knew that player 1, one of his teammates on the Oakland Athletics, had used steroids and HGH," the papers state.

Former Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who chaired the committee in 2005, said he believed Tejada lied.

"It just shows that when you do something illegal like this, that you pay a price," Davis said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The court papers filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham charge that during spring training in 2003, Tejada had purchased a substance believed to be HGH from the player, giving him payments of $3,100 and $3,200.

In the Mitchell Report, which examined steroid use in baseball, Oakland outfielder Adam Piatt is cited saying he discussed steroid use with Tejada and having provided Tejada with testosterone and human growth hormone.

The Mitchell Report, issued in December 2007, also included copies of checks allegedly written by Tejada to Piatt in March 2003 for $3,100 and $3,200 — the same payment amounts in Tuesday's court filing.

Tejada came under scrutiny after another ex-teammate, Baltimore Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro, testified before the House committee.

In January 2008, the House panel asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Tejada lied to committee investigators when he was interviewed in connection with the Palmeiro steroids case.

When that same House panel held a hearing in March 2005, Palmeiro jabbed a finger at lawmakers and declared: "I have never used steroids, period." Palmeiro was suspended by baseball later that year after testing positive for a steroid.

The committee looked into whether Palmeiro should face perjury charges but eventually dropped the matter.

Palmeiro said his positive test must have resulted from a B-12 vitamin injection given to him by Tejada.

That prompted Congress to talk to Tejada.

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Eating $270M worth it for the Yankees to finally ditch A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez Cataffo/News

Alex Rodriguez

When the Yankees re-signed Alex Rodriguez in the fall of 2007, they envisioned the "clean" alternative to Barry Bonds - the knight in shining armor who would erase the stain of steroids from the all-time home run record, and they would bask in the glory of it with their brand.

Now that A-Rod's pursuit looks as counterfeit as Bonds', they should do what's best for the organization:

Cut him loose - no matter the cost.

As difficult as it is to imagine eating $270 million, the Bombers will be making a statement, not just for the Yankee brand but for baseball as a whole.

They will be applauded for it.

The Yankees operate under two basic tenets: The relentless pursuit of championships and the fierce protection of their brand. If they are going to remain true to both, then they have no choice but to sever ties with Rodriguez.

This winter the Yankees invested $423 million with the signings of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. All of that figures to be offset now by the reports that A-Rod was a steroid cheat. Everywhere the Yankees go this spring and into the season, they will be greeted by choruses of "A-Fraud!" and "A-Roid!" And if you think A-Rod wilted under the pressure of big games before, just imagine his delicate psyche now under the heightened scrutiny of the media and fans.

Don't think for a minute that Derek Jeter and the rest of A-Rod's teammates are privately reveling in his exposure as a true phony, as some people are suggesting. This affects all of them, and their pursuit of championships is hindered by his being a constant source of unwanted turmoil.

Is this what the Yankee brass wants as the image of the new Yankee Stadium? If so, then it's just as well that they left the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and DiMaggio across the street. It was embarrassing enough when the team's signature player was all over the tabloids squiring strippers on the road while his wife was home with their 2-year-old daughter, but now we're talking about the integrity of the game and the Yankees' association with it. They were concerned enough about Jason Giambi's involvement in the BALCO steroids scandal that they looked into ways of voiding his contract. Giambi, however, wasn't their marquee "brand" player chasing hallowed records.

In Joe Torre's book, in which the former Bombers skipper reveals the Yankee players' contempt for A-Rod, he talks about that last meeting with Yankee brass in Tampa as being one of the worst days of his life. I suspect when Brian Cashman gets around to writing his book, he'll cite Nov. 15, 2007, as the worst day of his life. That was the day Hank Steinbrenner proudly welcomed A-Rod back for $275 million. When A-Rod had opted out of the last three years of his 10-year, $252 million contract three weeks earlier, no one was happier or more relieved than Cashman, whose goals as GM were to significantly reduce the payroll and build a team in his own image. Cashman was also prepared to let Jorge Posada go, but was pressured by Hank into giving him an extra year when it looked like A-Rod was hitting the road and the Yankees would have a gaping power void in the middle of their lineup.

Not that Cashman's grand design of building from within wasn't a noble one. It's just that when A-Rod told Hank he wanted back in, Cashman was helpless to produce an alternative from the perpetually bankrupt Yankee farm system. There are still no third-base prospects in the system and in 15 years of fruitless amateur drafts, the Yankees have not produced a single impact position player since Derek Jeter.

So Cashman found himself remarried to A-Rod, for better or worse, for another 10 years in a deal that meant as much to the Yankee brass for the brand as it did for the pursuit of winning. They agreed to pay Rodriguez bonuses of $6 million when he reached each of the four milestone career home run totals of Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Henry Aaron (755) and Bonds (762) en route to the record.

Now, everything about the pursuit of championships and the Yankee brand is a mockery if A-Rod is the centerpiece of this team.

As painful as swallowing that $270 million might be, there will be consolation for the Yankees when no other team elects to besmirch their brand by taking in A-Rod - even for nothing.

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