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Brooks Koepka Bags His Fifth Major
Add-on posted early Wed. a.m.
--The Denver Nuggets took out the Lakers Monday night, 113-111, sweeping their Western Conference finals series, as Nikola Jokic had 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. Jamal Murray added 25. Jokic’s eighth triple-double broke Wilt Chamberlain’s 1967 record in a single postseason. Jokic also played the final 33 minutes of the game.
The Nuggets overcame LeBron James’ career playoff best 31-point first half and a 73-58 deficit at the intermission, LeBron finishing with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, playing all 48 minutes, but he missed two key shots down the stretch, similar to other games in the series.
Afterwards, LeBron stirred things up when in the press conference he was asked if he knew his plans for next year and James wasn’t definitive, leaving open the possibility he’s played his last NBA game.
“We’ll see, we’ll see what happens going forward,” LeBron said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ve got a lot to think about, to be honest. Just for me, going forward with the game of basketball, I’ve got a lot to think about. Appreciate it.”
James just completed his 20th season. He has two years and $97 million left on his contract, with the final year being a player option.
Suffice it to say, despite L.A.’s successful season after starting out 2-10, the future is murky for the franchise.
Meanwhile, Denver awaited the conclusion of the Miami-Boston series, the Heat up 3-0 as they played Game 4 Tuesday in Miami.
The Heat blew out the Celtics in Game 3 Sunday night, 128-102, Miami scorching hot from behind the arc, 19 of 35, Gabe Vincent leading the way, 29 points, 6 of 9 from 3, while Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson were a combined 9 of 14 from downtown.
Boston, on the other hand, was 11 of 42 from 3, putrid. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were a combined 12 of 35 from the field, not exactly stepping up when it mattered most.
The entire playoffs everyone has been talking about the amazing story being carved out by the Heat, from play-in to the NBA Finals, and doing it with three key undrafted players; Vincent, Martin and Robinson. Just three of Miami’s seven main players in the playoff rotation were drafted. And the Heat have been doing it without Tyler Herro, the third-leading scorer in the regular season at 20.1 ppg, and the team’s best 3-point shooter, as well as Victor Oladipo, a key reserve who averaged 10.7 points, both of them hurt within the first two games of the opening Milwaukee series.
Well, last night Boston flipped the script, defeating the Heat 116-99, after trailing at the half 56-50.
The Celtics went on a staggering 18-0 run early in the third quarter that took Boston from down nine to up nine, 70-61, and they controlled things from there. Jayson Tatum had 23 of his 33 points in the second half, and the Celts shot 18 of 45 from 3 (40%), while it was Miami spitting the bit this time, just 8 of 32. Ergo, Boston outscored Miami by 30 points from 3.
No team in NBA history has ever come back from down 3-0, 0 for 150, but Boston heads home to play Game 5 Thursday and there is reason to watch.
--Monday night, the Florida Panthers continued South Florida’s dream season, with a 1-0 shutout over Carolina to take a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference final.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves for the Panthers, and over the last two games has stopped 69 of the 70 shots he has faced.
Sam Reinhart provided the lone goal on a power play, assisted by Matthew Tkachuk, who won the first two games in overtime in Raleigh.
Game 4 Wednesday night.
--In the Western Conference final, the Las Vegas Golden Knights took on the Dallas Stars in Game 3 last night and Vegas whipped Dallas 4-0 in Big D to take a 3-0 series lead.
Game 4 Thursday night.
--The Yankees entertained the Orioles last night in a big 3-game series at the Stadium. Gerrit Cole, though, was ineffective (and has been so-so his last five starts), yielding 5 earned in 5 innings, his ERA up to 2.53.
But the Yanks rallied and tied the game 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth on Aaron Judge’s 14th home run, and then won it on a sac fly from Anthony Volpe in the tenth, 6-5, New York 30-20, the Orioles falling to 31-17.
--The Mets lost to the Cubs at Wrigley, 7-2, last night, but at least the Dodgers defeated the Braves 8-1.
--In College Baseball…the latest Baseball America Top Ten (5/22)
1. Wake Forest
8. Coastal Carolina
The ACC tournament began play Tuesday, Wake Forest playing Thursday and Friday in pool play. Clemson and Virginia are hot so I’ll just be happy to win the pool and whatever happens in the semis is not important re: seeding for the NCAA tournament. We’ll be a 1-seed.
The real action is the first weekend in June.
--Brooks Koepka, in winning his fifth major, joined some rather elite company…golfers who began playing professionally in 1970 or later and won five:
Tiger, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson, Seve Ballesteros, Koepka.
As Michael Rosenberg of SI.com noted, “Think of how many great male golfers have played in the last half-century. Those are the only six to win five majors – and Koepka is only 33.
“Five majors puts a player in a different category. Good players can win one. Really good ones can win two if they get a little lucky or certain majors tend to suit them well. Three is a sign of a player who does everything extremely well and (usually) of greatness over a long period of time. Four is historically elite.
“But five? Five majors says something about a player that goes beyond how he hits the 14 clubs in his bag. Five is a window into his head and heart. A player who wins five majors has the rarest combination of mental toughness and emotional stability, and Koepka might be the best example in golf history of that….
“What Brooks Koepka has done better than anyone else of his generation is win majors. It sounds simple to the point of mindlessness. But it’s true. The man knows how to cash in….
“Koepka is healthy now. He has dropped some of the public posturing, and he found whatever it was inside him that made him so good in majors in the first place. It was never about the haters, even as he pretended it was (and maybe even told himself it was). Koepka’s greatness was always about what is inside Koepka.
“Koepka’s old feud with Bryson DeChambeau was fueled, mostly, by the enormous personality differences between the two, and there are many ways to capture those, but on the list is this: DeChambeau wanted attention but not scrutiny. Koepka didn’t seem to enjoy attention, but he loves the moments when everybody is watching him play.
“He has now won three PGAs and two U.S. Opens. His excursion into LIV is part of his story, and for some golf fans, Koepka’s lack of a Masters of British Open affects his historical standing. But five majors is a monstrous haul and should be appreciated as such. Whatever the tour, whatever the era, Brooks Koepka is an all-time great golfer.”
--Koepka is the first player to win majors at three different venues in New York.
--In winning the first major championship by a LIV Golf League player, other LIV members felt it proved they belong in the major championships.
“It validates everything we’ve said from the beginning: That we’re competing at the highest level and we have the ability to win major championships,” Bryson DeChambeau said. “I really hope people can see the light now that we’re trying to provide the game of golf with something new and fresh. I think at the end of the day, both sides are going to have to come together at some point. It’s for the good of the game.”
“Yeah, I definitely think it helps LIV, but I’m interested in my own self right now, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “Yeah, it a huge thing for LIV, but at the same time, I’m out here competing as an individual at the PGA Championship. I’m just happy to take this home for the third time.”
When Koepka was asked about the pride he felt on behalf of his LIV peers, Koepka wasn’t interested in furthering the cause or that narrative.
“Look at it, I think I was the first guy to win two LIV events. To win a major is always a big deal no matter where you’re playing,” he said. “All it does, I just think, I guess, validates it for myself. I guess maybe if anybody doubted it from Augusta or whatever, any doubts anybody on TV might have or whatever, I’m back, I’m here.”
Greg Norman congratulated Koepka on Twitter, writing in part, “Congrats @BKoepka your comeback has been impressive. I am so proud of you. As for the @livgolf-league players they belong and the Majors and golf knows.”
Any good golf fan doesn’t mind seeing guys like Koepka, DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Cam Smith, competing in the majors as long as they qualify through past play in the big ones. All of the preceding can play in them for years to come by virtue of their wins, as well as LIV golfers such as Patrick Reed, who will be at the Masters, for one, for a couple decades.
Yes, LIV has some good golfers…some of the best in the game. That was never the issue. In fact, it was the problem, initially, but you haven’t seen an elite golfer flee the PGA Tour since Cam Smith.
DeChambeau goes on: “We’ve got a lot of great players out there, and I think people need to start looking at the brighter side of things that we’re trying to do something good for the game.”
--To correct the record, I estimated Michael Block would earn $317,000 for his T15, and it ended up being $288,333.
Koepka won $3,150,000. He also appeared at both the Florida Panthers and Miami Heat games.
--Sergio Garcia qualified for the U.S. Open by advancing through a final qualifying stage event in Dallas on Monday. There were 120 golfers vying for eight spots at Northwood Club and Bent Tree Country Club, and Garcia finished tied for fourth.
--In the women’s NCAA golf championship, Rose Zhang of Stanford won the individual title for the second straight year, becoming the first woman to do so, a helluva claim the rest of her life. Should get her onto some rather exclusive courses I imagine. Zhang also won eight times over the course of the season, tying Lorena Ochoa’s single-season NCAA record for victories.
2-seed Wake Forest made it to the final eight for match play, the others qualifying were 1-seed Stanford, Texas, Florida State, South Carolina, Southern Cal, Texas A&M and Pepperdine.
The Lady Deacs then beat FSU in the quarterfinals and took on Texas A&M in one semifinal; Stanford vs. Southern Cal in the other.
And Wake is in the finals today against USC, the Trojans upsetting Stanford. [Rose Zhang lost her match for the Cardinal.]
C’mon, girls! This would help the baseball Deacs immensely. Positive mojo.
--We have the Indy 500 on Sunday, Alex Palou winning the pole. But the big story was Graham Rahal failing to qualify on the last day, bumped from the field by teammate Jack Harvey by .007 miles per hour.
Graham, son of Bobby Rahal (1986 Indy winner), and part of the Rahal (David) Letterman Lanigan Racing team, had qualified 15 consecutive years, keeping the family tradition going, with two thirds and a fifth-place finish. It was an emotional scene, his daughter just as upset as Graham was.
But then on Tuesday, it was announced that Rahal is replacing Stefan Wilson after Wilson fractured his thoracic vertebrae in a crash during practice Monday. This is now an interesting side story, Indy always full of them.
--Marine biologists are exploring a spate of encounters between orcas and boats off the Iberian coast, as reported by the Washington Post’s Bryan Pietsch, “as seemingly coordinated ambushes by the killer whales led to the sinking of three vessels. The reason for the attacks, according to one scientist who has studied the phenomenon, may be revenge.
“The leading theory is that a female orca suffered a traumatic incident with a boat – a ‘critical moment of agony’ – that caused her to start attacking the vessels, Alfredo Lopez Fernandez, a marine biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal, told the industry publication Live Science.”
Lopez Fernandez says the encounters between orcas and boats off the Iberian Peninsula in the past few years have been in the hundreds, though they’ve been brief and caused minimal physical damage to the vessels. But on at least three occasions, including one incident this month involving a sailing yacht, the orcas sunk the boats.
“The female orca, whom scientists named White Gladis, appears to have taught the aggressive behavior to other adult orcas, whose children have begun imitating the behavior, Lopez Fernandez said.”
Well, so much for my plans to go solo in a rowboat across the Atlantic.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted early Sunday p.m.]
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.
NCAA Division I Golf Championship Quiz: 1) The women’s first championship was 1982. Name the top two schools in titles. 2) The men’s modern championship commenced in 1939. Name the top two in titles. Answers below.
--The weather was going to be a factor at Oak Hill and right off the bat, we had a 2-hour frost delay on Thursday. But they did a great job getting everyone through 36 on Friday, given Saturday’s ugly forecast, and the rain arrived….
After 36 holes we had the following leaderboard….
Scottie Scheffler -5
Viktor Hovland -5
Corey Conners -5
Justin Suh -3
Bryson DeChambeau -3
Brooks Koepka -2
Callum Tarren -2
DeChambeau was the leader after the first round, -4, having arrived at this major with a new slimmed-down look, pain free after his hand injury cleared up, and a new attitude it seemed.
And then Saturday’s rain arrived and it essentially rained at a moderate to hard pace all day, a real mess…Oak Hill becoming Soak Hill.
But incredibly, there was no suspension of play, everyone had the same godawful conditions, save for a little respite towards the end of a very long day, and after 54 holes, we had….
Conners -5 …a terrific round Saturday, save for No. 16
Justin Rose -2
Rory McIlroy -1
Michael Block E
Koepka fired his second straight 66, and Saturday’s was the best round of the day.
Scheffler, on the other hand, had a miserable 39, +4, on his front nine and couldn’t get it back the rest of the way.
But Michael Block remains a huge story; the only one of the 20 club professionals to make the cut, sitting in eighth after three consecutive even-par 70s.
The top 15 finishers earn an automatic exemption into the 2024 PGA Championship. The top four will earn a spot in the 2024 Masters. The top five get into next month’s U.S. Open at L.A. Country Club.
Block is also looking to be the first club professional to finish in the top ten. The best finish by a PGA club pro in championship history is T-11.
Block revealed that the largest check he ever earned at a golf tournament was $75,000 in 2014 at the Club Professional National Championship at the Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C. As he teed off Sunday, he stood to make multiples of that. If he finishes ninth, for example, that would net him a cool $500,000, with a top-20 finish bringing home $213,000.
So the weather cleared for Sunday’s final round, brilliant sunshine though with a little breeze, and Brooks Koepka’s mission was to forget about his Sunday at The Masters six weeks earlier, when he had a 2-shot 54-hole lead and then shot a 75.
Koepka birdied Nos. 2-4, but bogeyed No. 6, while Hovland birdied Nos. 4 and 5, and after six holes….
Koepka and Hovland both bogeyed No. 7.
Koepka -7 thru 7
And after No. 11….
And after No. 13…
Koepka -8…after a huge 2-putt par on 13
Hovland -7…birdieing 13
Scheffler -6…after birdieing 13 and 14
Both Koepka and Hovland birdie the short par-4 14th. And then par the 15th.
And then on the par-4 16th, Hovland hit his tee shot in the same bunker Corey Conners did yesterday, and Hovland hit the same freakin’ 9-iron into the bank, advancing all of about 5 feet. Unreal….absolutely unreal. And just like Conners, Hovland doubles it.
Koepka then seals the deal with a terrific approach shot and birdie.
Koepka -10 thru 16
Hovland -7…terrific birdie on 18
Koepka joins an elite club with five majors. Good for him. And as I said going into this tournament, no problem from me, re the LIV-PGA debate.
--As for Michael Block, he came through down the stretch, 1-over final round, T15, including an ace on No. 15, jarring it. Phenomenal. So he qualifies for next year’s PGA and takes home about $317,000, by my back of the beer coaster calculation.
--Among those missing the cut were Rickie Fowler, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jason Day, and LIV golfers Anirban Lahiri, Joaquin Niemann, Talor Gooch and Abraham Ancer. I was particularly happy to see Gooch miss the cut, since he’s been bitching up a storm, egged on by Phil Mickelson, over not getting an invitation to the U.S. Open.
Speaking of Phil, I said he would play poorly at Oak Hill and he did…just making the cut at +5 and finishing T58, +10.
--Rory McIlroy, in his pre-tournament press conference, was asked to look back on the first LIV Golf event, which happened almost exactly a year ago, and in turn, “look through a crystal ball” to predict what professional golf might look like three years from now.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Rory said.
To a follow-up asking if he cared to speculate on the future of the PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf battle, McIlroy simply responded, “No.”
Asked later if he’d be consciously avoiding discussion of the topic going forward, Rory said, “Yes.”
Rory, by putting himself out front as the face of the PGA Tour in a tumultuous year, put so much pressure on himself that he had to get away. “I needed to be home,” he said this week, even if it cost him $3 million of his Player Impact Program bonus.
--Jon Rahm had an opening round 76, 6-over, but at least made the cut, finishing T50, +7.
--Tiger Woods scored a major court victory in the sexual harassment case brought against him by former girlfriend Erica Herman.
Judge Elizabeth Metzger essentially said that the attorney for Herman laid out a weak case and failed to “provide factual specificity for any claim relating to sexual assault or sexual harassment.”
Metzger ordered the dispute to be resolved in private arbitration proceedings instead of public court.
The case isn’t over, though Metzger’s ruling gave support to the notion that this was all a leverage play by Herman for a financial settlement.
--In College Golf, Wake Forest’s men’s team failed to reach the NCAA Championship, which is pretty poor, finishing seventh in their reginal when only the top five teams advanced.
But the Lady Deacs made the Women’s Championship, which started off this weekend at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, and after the first two rounds, 2-seed Wake led 1-seed Stanford by two shots and are virtually assured of being in the final eight for match play.
However, they stumbled today, losing nine strokes to Stanford, but in round four Monday, the Lady Deacs should end up in the top eight, 11 strokes clear of eighth today, tied with Texas, seven behind the Lascivious Cardinal.
--The Lakers fell behind 2-0 in their Western Conference finals series against the Nuggets Thursday night in Denver, 108-103, as Jamal Murray erupted for 23 points on 6-7 shooting in the fourth quarter, after just 14 points on 5-17 shooting through the first three quarters.
Nikola Jokic had another triple-double: 23 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists. Jokic has seven triple-doubles in his first 13 games this postseason.
LeBron James had 22 points but was dreadful down the stretch, including fumbling a wide-open dunk out of bounds – one of several uncharacteristic misses – and appeared to hurt his ankle late. James is 0-10 from 3 in the first two games of this series. And Anthony Davis’ maddeningly inconsistent play continued. He had 18 points on just 4-15 shooting, Thursday.
So, onto Game 3 in L.A. Saturday night, and despite a subpar performance from Jokic (24 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists), the Nuggets defeated the Lakers 119-108, as Murray had 37, and the supporting cast came up big.
For L.A., A.D. had a good game, 28 points, 18 rebounds, but LeBron once again didn’t get it done down the stretch, finishing 23-7-12, but 3-of-9 from 3, and D’Angelo Russell, the late-season acquisition that had paid dividends, continued his mysteriously dreadful play in this series, going 1-of-8 from the field, Russell with just 21 points in the three games.
So it’s Game 4 Monday in Los Angeles, the Lakers looking to avoid a humiliating sweep.
--Friday night in Boston, the Celtics lost again to the Heat in Game 2, 111-105, as “Playoff Jimmy” Butler had 27, Bam Adebayo with 22 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists.
Butler, who scored 35 in Miami’s Game 1 123-116 win on Wednesday, has the playoff moniker because he continually comes up clutch when it’s needed most. His playoff scoring average is 3 points better than his career average. The Heat are 8-0 this postseason when Butler scores over 25 points.
Miami’s incredible run looks likely to end up in the NBA Finals. The odds of a Boston comeback on the road aren’t good, as they continue to have issues in crunch time. Star Jayson Tatum, who committed two costly turnovers in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, had 34 points Friday, but missed all three shots he took in the fourth.
Game 3 is tonight after I’ve gone to post.
--The Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes opened their Eastern Conference final series on Thursday and the game went on and on and on…until the Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk ended it in the final seconds of the fourth overtime, 3-2. It was the sixth-longest game in NHL history.
The two goaltenders, Carolina’s Frederik Anderson and Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky, combined for 120 saves.
The longest game in NHL history came on March 24, 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the sixth overtime at 116 minutes, 30 seconds of extra play.
It was Florida’s seventh straight road win in these playoffs and the Panthers’ improved to 5-0 in overtime.
So less than 48 hours after the teams played more than two full games worth of hockey, they hit the ice in Raleigh again Saturday night, and it was the same result, the Panthers won 2-1 in overtime on another Matthew Tkachuk goal, only this time it was just 1:51 into the first OT.
So make that eight straight road wins, 6-0 in overtime this postseason, as Florida heads home with a 2-0 lead, the Panthers closing in on their first Stanley Cup Final since 1996.
After they stunned Boston by rallying back from a 3-1 first-round deficit, no one is really surprised.
--Dallas took on Las Vegas in Game 2 of their Western Conference final today and the Golden Knights have gone up 2-0, a 3-2 win.
--The Arizona Coyotes plan to play the 2023-24 season at Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University despite a new arena plan hitting a roadblock.
The Coyotes’ plan to build a new arena in Tempe as part of a $2.1 billion entertainment district was rejected by voters on Tuesday, throwing the future of the franchise into uncertainty. So now there is lots of talk of relocating the team to Houston, Salt Lake City, Kansas City or Quebec City as early as next season.
I hope it’s Quebec City, though for now, Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez, told ESPN the team will play the 2023-24 season at ASU.
--The Yankees have been playing better, a 7-4 win in 10 innings on Saturday at Cincinnati moving the team to 28-20, winners of 10 of 13.
Aaron Judge, who had seven home runs in his last seven games going into yesterday’s affair, went 4-for-4 Saturday with the game-winning hit in the tenth. He entered play Sunday with 13 homers and 32 RBIs in 38 games, a 1.042 OPS. That’s MVP form all over again.
Judge got the day off Sunday, and the Yanks kept it going, 4-1 over the Reds, Luis Severino making his season debut on the mound, 4 2/3 of 1-run ball, 75 pitches, 5 Ks…all good. So the Yankees are a season-high 9 over .500, 29-20.
Saturday, the Yanks cut outfielder Aaron Hicks, designating him for assignment, in a move Yankees fans would argue should have taken place last year, if not sooner.
After a respectable 2018 season, with 27 home runs, 79 RBIs, and an .833 OPS, the Yanks inexplicably gave Hicks a seven-year, $70 million deal, of which the Yanks are eating approximately $28 million. Hicks has hit .218 since the contract, the strikeouts soaring, the fans disapproval vicious at times.
Hicks is being replaced by speedster Greg Allen, who played briefly for the Yanks in 2021 and was reacquired from Boston.
--When I posted my Add-on early Wednesday morning, the Mets were 20-23, fans having just booed Justin Verlander off the mound Tuesday night in an 8-5 loss to the Rays, and then everything changed.
Wednesday, the Mets had a stirring comeback 8-7 win over Tampa Bay, Pete Alonso hitting a 3-run walk-off homer in the 10th. Rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez had tied it in the ninth at 5-5 with a dramatic 2-out, 3-run homer of his own, which came after recent callup Mark Vientos hit his first home run of the season to tie it at 2-2.
The Mets beat the Rays again, Thursday afternoon, 3-2, Alonso homering, the Mets taking their first series in forever and against the best team in baseball.
Then Friday night, the Metsies staged another comeback from down 5-0 to the Guardians at Citi Field, with New York pulling it out in the 10th with three runs, led by the Baby Mets, Alvarez and Brett Baty going yard, Vientos an RBI single, and Alonso with a home run in his fourth straight game.
Three straight ridiculously exciting wins bringing the team back to .500, 23-23, as the Baby Mets (Alvarez, Baty and Vientos) have injected the needed energy and pop to the lineup.
The Mets were rained out Saturday, so they played a day-night doubleheader Sunday.
And they won an up-and-down affair, Starling Marte with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the eighth for the 5-4 win, after closer David Robertson gave up a 2-run homer in the top of the eighth that gave Cleveland a 4-3 lead, part of a 4-run inning for the former Indians.
But Robertson closed it out in the ninth…so the Metsies are back over .500, 24-23, with another tonight after I go to post.
The Mets did waste six scoreless from Max Scherzer in his best outing of the year.
--The Padres’ Manny Machado has a small fracture in his left hand and the team initially wasn’t sure if he would require a stint on the injured list.
Machado was hurt when he was hit by a pitch in Monday night’s 4-0 win against the Royals. X-rays didn’t show a fracture, but a CT scan and MRI revealed a fractured metacarpal.
Friday, the team put him on the 10-day IL, Machado saying it was getting better every day.
Like the rest of the team, he is off to a slow start, batting .231 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 40 games.
San Diego lost to the Red Sox Saturday, 4-2, to fall to 20-26. Chris Sale had his second straight outstanding effort for Boston, going 7 innings to move to 4-2.
--The Dodgers’ Dustin May, off to a terrific start in 2023 and just 14 starts removed from Tommy John surgery, is back on the shelf having suffered a flexor pronator strain, manager Dave Roberts said. May was removed Wednesday after just 16 pitches during a 7-3 win against the Twins. He was 4-1, 2.63 ERA, but will now miss at least a month.
Saturday, L.A. lost to St. Louis 6-5 to fall to 29-18. But the Cardinals, after their 10-24 start, have won 10 of 13 to claw back into the conversation in the NL Central at 20-27.
And the Dodgers have further problems in their starting rotation as Julio Urias was placed on the 15-day IL with a strained left hamstring.
--The Miami Marlins are carving out a terrific early story, 24-22 after Saturday’s 1-0 win in San Francisco, the lone run of the game unearned. The Marlins are an incredible 15-2 in one-run games.
--The Braves (29-17) beat Seattle 3-2 today, as former Demon Deacon Jared Shuster had his best big-league outing, 6 innings, one run…career win No. 1. Go Deacs!
--Speaking of the Deacs, in College Baseball, Wake Forest won another ACC series, its tenth of the season, 10-0, by taking 2 of 3 from Virginia Tech at home.
The Deacs won Thursday’s opener, 6-3, as Rhett Lowder improved to 12-0, 1.73, with 12 strikeouts in six innings, though he yielded the 3 runs.
Friday, Wake had a program record 3,023 fans in attendance as the Deacs won 7-5. They then lost Saturday 14-6.
So Wake heads into ACC tournament play, which starts Tuesday, at 45-9, 22-7 in the ACC, and 29-3 at home. We should still be No. 1 with Monday’s Baseball America poll, and are certainly one of eight No. 1 seeds for the upcoming NCAA championship. It’s crunch time.
I do have to note having expressed concerns over the bullpen, in Thursday and Friday’s games, the pen pitched a combined six innings, with 17 strikeouts! Yes, 17 of 18 batters. No hits.
Horse racing had another dark day Saturday, as in the lead-up to the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico, one of trainer Bob Baffert’s horses, Havnameltdown, a 3-year-old colt who was the favorite in the sixth race, stumbled near the final turn and threw his jockey, Luis Saez. Track officials and medical personnel converged on both jockey and horse, Saez taken off by ambulance to a hospital with an apparent leg injury, and Havnameltdown was euthanized. Baffert was crushed.
Hours later we had the Preakness. First Mission had been scratched from the Preakness field the day before, meaning there were just seven entrants, the smallest field since 1986.
Kentucky Derby winner Mage was a co-favorite with Baffert’s National Treasure, and National Treasure pulled it off in a terrific stretch run, edging Blazing Sevens, Mage third.
Baffert choked back tears and his voice cracked while trying to explain the feelings of one of his horses winning the Preakness and another being put down on the same track.
“This business is twists and turns, the ups and downs,” he said. “To win this – losing that horse today really hurt… It’s been a very emotional day.”
Jockey John Velazquez was aboard National Treasure. Much like Mage jockey Javier Castellano, who won the Derby in his 16th try, Velazquez broke an 0-for-12 drought in the Preakness.
While horse racing deaths in the U.S. are at their lowest level since they began being tracked in 2009, adding another at Pimlico after seven deaths Derby week at Churchill Downs, only intensifies the internal and external scrutiny of the industry.
New national medication and doping rules are set to go into effect on Monday. The federally mandated Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which already regulated racetrack safety and other measures, will oversee drug testing requirements for horses that should standardize the sport nationwide for the first time.
Jim Brown, RIP
We learned of the passing of the single greatest football player in NFL history*, Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame running back and social activist passing away Friday at the age of 87. His wife, Monique, made the announcement.
“It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my husband, Jim Brown. He passed peacefully last night at our LA home,” Monique Brown wrote in a statement shared to Instagram. “Our hearts are broken.”
*Brown and Jim Thorpe are the two greatest athletes of the 20th century.
Brown spent his entire nine-year career with the Cleveland Browns and led the team to a title in 1964.
The franchise released a statement:
“It’s impossible to describe the profound love and gratitude we feel for having the opportunity to be a small piece of Jim’s incredible life and legacy. We mourn his passing, but celebrate the indelible light he brought to the world,” the Browns statement said, adding, “Jim Brown Forever.”
LeBron James said all Black athletes “stand on your shoulders Jim Brown,” in an emotional Instagram tribute, where he shared photos of himself and Brown, including a video of James bowing to Brown during the 2015 NBA Finals while he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“If you grew up in Northeast Ohio and were Black, Jim Brown was a God,” James wrote. “As a kid who loved football, I really just thought of him as the greatest Cleveland Brown to ever play. Then I started my own journey as a professional athlete and realized what he did socially was his true greatness. When I choose to speak out, I always think about Jim Brown. I can only speak because Jim broke down those walls for me.
“I am so grateful that I was able to call you my friend. I hope I can continue to honor your legacy with my words and actions. My prayers to your family. I know they are all incredibly proud of everything you did for our community! #LegendsNeverDie”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Brown was “one of the most dominant players to ever step on any athletic field, but also a cultural figure who helped promote change. …He inspired fellow athletes to make a difference, especially in the communities in which they lived.
Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders said Brown “will be greatly missed.”
“You can’t underestimate the impact #JimBrown had on the @NFL,” Sanders tweeted. “Additionally, his generosity and friendship with my family is a gift that we will always treasure. Our thoughts & prayers are with the Brown Family & @Browns fans at this time.”
Jarrett Payton, the son of Walter Payton, said Brown became an “important father figure in my life” following the passing of his father in 1999: “He was always there for me. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Jim Brown dominated the running back position like few in history have done. Playing from 1957-65, he played in 118 games, never missing one for injury, rushing 2,359 times for 12,312 yards, the only back in NFL history to rush for over 100 yards a game for his career, 104.3.
Brown averaged 5.2 yards per carry, one of just a handful of running backs to average over 5 yards, and in 1963, he averaged 6.4 yards per carry as he rushed for 1,863 yards.
In nine seasons, Brown made eight AP All-Pro teams, the honor that separates the greats from the so-called greats, leading the NFL in rushing eight of his nine seasons. He was the league MVP three times.
At 6 feet 2 and 232 pounds, Brown was a speedster who loved contact. If he couldn’t run past a defender, he’d try to run him over.
“Jim Brown was a combination of speed and power like nobody who has ever played the game,” Dick LeBeau, a Hall of Fame defensive back with the Detroit Lions and later one of the longest-serving coaches in league history, said to Sports Illustrated 50 years after Brown had walked away from the game.
“Obviously, arm tackles were not going to slow him down, but he was so elusive… He was so good at setting you up, then making you miss. You just didn’t know if you were going to get a big collision or be grabbing at his shoelaces.”
And said John Mackey, who, like Brown, played his college football at Syracuse and then went on to a 10-year career as a terrific tight end for the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers, “He told me, ‘Make sure when anyone tackles you, he remembers how much it hurts.’”
Author David Halberstam wrote in 2001 that Jim Brown “was something completely new” when he joined the NFL. “I have never again seen a running back who was so much better tan everyone else who did what he did at the time he was doing it. He dominated his field in his era like few athletes ever have, perhaps matched only by Babe Ruth and Bill Russell.”
Former Washington defensive back Jim Steffen was once asked how to stop him. “Hold on and wait for help,” he advised.
Football was just one sport Jim Brown excelled in. At Manhasset High School on Long Island, N.Y., he also played lacrosse, baseball, basketball and water polo and ran track. As a sophomore at Syracuse, he was the second-leading scorer on the basketball team, competed in track and field, and continued to cultivate his love for lacrosse, which he preferred to football.
One spring day in the mid-1950s, Lefty James, Cornell’s football coach, took in a Syracuse-Cornell lacrosse game and was surprised to see Brown, the All-American running back, leading the Syracuse team.
“Oh, my goodness,” he sputtered, “they let him play with a stick!”
In 1956 in track field, Jim Brown finished fifth nationally in the decathlon!
By the time he graduated from Syracuse, Brown had accumulated 10 varsity letters, three each in football and lacrosse, and two each in basketball and track, and was an All-American in lacrosse as well as football.
He is in both the college and pro football halls of fame, and the lacrosse hall as well. In celebration of 150 years of college football, 150 judges for ESPN named him the best college player ever.
[Brown once scored 43 points in a game for Syracuse – six touchdowns and seven extra points as a kicker – to set an NCAA record that stood for more than 40 years.]
And yet there was Brown, hanging it up after his 30th birthday, to pursue a career in Hollywood, where he would perform in 44 movies, as well as becoming an influential activist at the peak of the civil rights era.
Jim Brown was never referred to as the “greatest actor ever” – in most of his roles he played himself, brooding and intense – but his cinematic career did have its moments. In 1969, he was billed over co-stars Raquel Welch and Burt Reynolds in “100 Rifles,” and his love scene with Welch in that movie was hailed, not particularly accurately, as filmdom’s first featuring an interracial couple.
Brown was making a bit more than $60,000 at the peak of his football career, and had already worked on one movie and was working on a second when he decided to call it quits. He had accepted an off-season role in “The Dirty Dozen,” a big-budget, multi-star movie about hardcore military prisoners offered a suicide mission against a French chateau held by top Nazi officers during World War II.
But filming was delayed by weather problems, and when training camp started in 1966, Brown was still in England, working on the movie.
Browns owner Art Modell was pissed and said he was fining Brown $100 for every day he missed camp.
So Brown called John Wooten, his friend and teammate, telling him he was retiring and to wish the team well. The next morning, the 30-year-old Brown, wearing Army fatigues and sitting in a director’s chair in front of a tank on the movie set, announced his retirement to the world.
“My original intention was to try to participate in the 1966 National Football League season,” he said. “But due to circumstances, this is impossible.”
A day later, he told Tex Maule of Sports Illustrated: “I could have played longer. I wanted to play this year but it was impossible. We’re running behind schedule shooting here, for one thing. [And] I want more mental stimulation than I would have playing football. I want to have a hand in the struggle that is taking place in our country and I have the opportunity to do that now. I might not a year from now.”
Brown had already formed the Black Economic Union, a group founded in the belief that economic development was the key to equality for Black Americans. Among the high-profile members and spokesmen were Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali. Years later, Brown told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that more than 400 businesses had been launched with the help of the BEU.
And in 1967, when Ali refused to be drafted into the military to protest the Vietnam War, you’ve seen the famous photo, Brown gathering an impressive group of successful Black athletes such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to publicly support Ali.
Brown was deeply conscious of the influence athletes had over young people, and he often criticized other high-profile Black athletes for ignoring what he considered their responsibility to be role models.
In 1988, living in Los Angeles, Brown founded Amer-I-Can, a national organization to rehabilitate gang members and former prisoners. This was the organization I really admired. Brown often brokered peace deals between rival gangs.
Jim Brown was also the first Black American to announce a televised boxing match in the U.S. – Ernie Terrell’s 15-round decision over George Chuvalo in 1965 for a portion of the heavyweight title. He is also credited for suggesting to Bob Arum, then a little-known lawyer, that he seek a new career in boxing. Arum took the advice and became the most influential boxing promoter of his day.
But Jim Brown’s story had some dark chapters. His former coach Paul Brown struggled to understand his young star and also saw what he considered flaws in his character.
“Jim’s biggest problem was his attitude, and his worst enemy was himself,” Brown wrote. “By nature he was an unhappy man, it seemed to me. Throughout his time with us he was a loner and never said much to anyone. He had few friends on the team, and none of long standing.”
Jim Brown said his coach did not appreciate the social changes unfolding at the time.
“Paul represented in general what White America thought at the time,” he told the Washington Post in 1979. “White America always felt that Black Americans who enjoyed great status in football ought to be satisfied.”
But Jim Brown conceded that coach Paul Brown’s criticism of his ineffective blocking was absolutely right. “It is difficult to be a racehorse and a plow horse at the same time,” Jim Brown said.
He was known for his extramarital affairs, and divorced his first wife Sue Jones in 1972 after 13 years and three children.
In his autobiography, “Out of Bounds,” Brown acknowledged having a robust sex life.
In 1965, married to Jones, Brown was arrested in a hotel room on suspicion of assault and battery against his 18-year-old girlfriend. He was acquitted, but a year later faced a paternity suit filed by the woman.
In 1968, he was charged with assault and attempted murder after another girlfriend, model Eva Bohn-Chin, was found injured under the balcony of his second-floor apartment. Brown claimed that Bohn-Chin had climbed over the balcony railing during a heated argument over his alleged affair with feminist Gloria Steinem. The charges were dismissed when Bohn-Chin refused to cooperate with the prosecution, but Brown was fined $300 for hitting a deputy during the investigation.
In 1975, Brown spent a day in jail, was put on two years’ probation and fined $500 for beating and choking a golfing partner.
There were other women, other incidents and other children.
But in 1997, Brown settled down and married actress-producer Monique Gunthrop, a woman 38 years his junior. They had two children and remained married until his death.
The issues continued, however, and in 2000 Brown was sentenced to six months in jail for ignoring a court-ordered punishment related to a 1999 arrest for threatening Monique with bodily harm.
Brown was at least a model prisoner and was released after three months.
Jim Brown’s rough edges never softened. He had a stormy relationship with the Browns. Finally, in 2013, the team honored him with a ceremony during a game in Cleveland and named him a special adviser.
Brown never looked back, but did a little that day. He never seemed to understand the game missed him more than he missed it, as the Washington Post put it.
“I quit with regret,” he said, “but not sorrow.”
Brown also said in a 1999 documentary on ESPN Classic: “I am who I am, and if you don’t take the time to learn about that, then your perception is going to be your problem.” [Sources: USA TODAY, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and others…]
--Manchester City was crowned Premier League champion Saturday for a third year in a row, fifth in six seasons for manager Pep Guardiola, without having to play as Arsenal lost to Nottingham Forest 1-0 (a huge win for Forest).
The loss left Arsenal four points behind City with one to play.
In other games of note Saturday, Manchester United beat Bournemouth 1-0 to move closer to wrapping up a Champions League slot, while Liverpool suffered a costly 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.
Everton picked up a big point, 1-1 vs. the Wolves.
With Forest’s win over Arsenal, they secured another campaign in the Premier League.
Today, Man City celebrated its title in front of its fans, a meaningless 1-0 victory over Chelsea nonetheless.
But Leeds’ hopes of avoiding relegation suffered a big blow, falling to West Ham 3-1.
Table…Played (36/37 of 38) – Points
1. Man City…36 – 88
2. Arsenal…37 – 81
3. Newcastle…36 – 69
4. Man U…36 – 69
5. Liverpool…37 – 66
16. Nottingham Forest…37 – 37
17. Everton…37 – 33
18. Leeds…37 – 31
19. Leicester City…36 – 30
20. Southampton…36 – 24
Leicester is at Newcastle Monday…and then all the teams play Match No. 38 at the same time next Sunday. Leeds needs to beat Tottenham and have Everton fall to Bournemouth.
--City delivered a relentless performance in its Champions League second leg against Real Madrid, 4-0, and will now face Inter Milan in the CL final on June 10 in Istanbul, City looking to win the Champions League for the first time and keeping its treble hopes more than alive.
The FA Cup Final is Sat. June 3, City vs. Man U at Wembley. Man U, 1998-99, is the last club to win the treble.
--Rafael Nadal announced he will not compete at the French Open, where he’s a 14-time champion and the reigning champ, due to a nagging hip injury suffered at the Australian Open.
Furthermore, Nadal, 36, expects 2024 to be his final season.
Nadal owns an astonishing 112-3 record in 18 appearances at the French Open.
Nadal said his motivation to return is “to try and enjoy and say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important to me.” He has not, however, set a target return date.
Nadal remains tied, for now, with Novak Djokovic for the men’s record with 22 Grand Slam titles.
--It’s a big deal to cancel a Formula One race, but that’s just what they had to do this weekend, call off the Emilia Romagna F1 race in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, after the worst flooding in 100 years hit the area, killing at least 14, washing out hundreds of roads, displacing thousands, just a freakin’ disaster. Our hearts go out to the people there.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/20/72: #1 “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Roberta Flack… “Play Misty for Me”…Donna Mills…oh baby…) #2 “Oh Girl” (Chi-Lites) #3 “I’ll Take You There” (The Staple Singers)…and…#4 “I Gotcha” (Joe Tex) #5 “Look What You Done For Me” (Al Green) #6 “Rockin’ Robin” (Michael Jackson…ugh…) #7 “Betcha By Golly, Wow” (The Stylistics) #8 “Tumbling Dice” (The Rolling Stones) #9 “Back Off Boogaloo” (Ringo Starr) #10 “Morning Has Broken” (Cat Stevens…B- week…)
NCAA Division I Golf Championship Quiz Answers: 1) Top two women’s schools in titles…Arizona State 8; Duke 7. 2) Top two men’s schools in titles…Houston 16; Oklahoma State 11. [But Houston’s last title, kind of shockingly, was 1985.]
Add-on up top by noon, Wed. The amazing Orca revenge tale.