Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wales rugby legend Gravell dies

Wales rugby great and BBC presenter Ray Gravell has died at the age of 56.

The former Wales and Lions centre was taken ill on Wednesday while on holiday in Spain. He is survived by wife Mari and daughters Gwennan and Manon.

Gravell won 23 caps for his country and made the 1980 Lions tour to South Africa, playing in all four Tests.

After finishing playing rugby, Gravell carved out a new career as a broadcaster and an actor in both the English and Welsh languages.

Welsh Rugby Union chairman David Pickering led the tributes to his former team-mate, with whom he played alongside more than 100 times for Llanelli.

"Ray epitomised all the best elements of the game of rugby and he will be sadly missed, not just in the world of rugby but by everyone who knew him," Pickering said.

"He was an inspiration both on and off the field and he will never be forgotten by anyone who truly loves this game of ours."

Born in Kidwelly on 12 September 1951, Gravell made his name playing for his beloved Llanelli, the club he would eventually become president of.

A hard-running centre who loved the crash ball, Gravell also proved he could link skilfully with any of the hugely talented wings he played with during his career.

Gravell was part of the Llanelli side that famously beat New Zealand on 31 October 1972 during the All Blacks' tour of Britain.

Three years later, on 18 January 1975, the fiercely patriotic Gravell made his Wales debut in a fine 25-10 win over France in Paris.

He remained a key member of the Wales teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s which dominated the Five Nations, winning two Grand Slams, four titles and four Triple Crowns.

A shoulder injury denied Gravell a place on the 1977 Lions tour to New Zealand, but he did make the 1980 tour to South Africa.

His impact as a replacement in the first Test was such that Gravell claimed a starting berth at centre for the second and he repaid the selectors' faith with a try.

His final international appearance came in March 1982, although there was no fitting send-off as Wales lost 34-18 to Scotland in Cardiff.

Gravell played on for three more years with Llanelli before joining the BBC in 1985, taking the leading role in the BBC Cymru film for S4C, Bonner.

A variety of roles followed, including a part in the big-screen adaptation of the Dylan Thomas book Rebecca's Daughters, which starred Peter O'Toole.

Gravell's career on radio also blossomed and he presented regular chat and entertainment series for both BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru.

But it was as a member of the Welsh language rugby commentary team for the BBC and S4C where he was in his element, swapping banter with players as he interviewed them and never forgetting to let everyone know that "west is best!".

One honour Gravell was most proud of was becoming a member of the Gorsedd of Bards and he was a regular at the National Eisteddfod.

Gravell was diagnosed with diabetes in 2000 and he then faced an on-going battle with ill-health.

A combination of factors, including problems with blood flow in one of his arteries, eventually led to the amputation of two toes on his right foot in April this year.

Unfortunately a second operation proved necessary and his right leg was amputated below the knee.

In typical 'Grav' style he bounced back and proudly displayed the Llanelli livery of his custom-built false leg.

Gravell was a big man with a personality to match and WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis said his death leaves a void in Welsh rugby.

"We are all in total shock because Ray was so full of life even through the difficult health problems he suffered recently," Lewis said.

"He was a wonderful ambassador for rugby and for Wales and a great example of how the game can bring out the best in a man.

"He stayed close to rugby as a broadcaster and was always in the tunnel to greet the teams with a handshake and a hug before and after big games.

"We will miss him as a rugby legend but more importantly, we will miss Ray as a great friend and a fine, family man."

Source: BBC Sport

Luton 0-1 Everton (aet)

Tim Cahill struck in extra time to end Luton's brave challenge and send Everton into the last eight of the Carling Cup at Kenilworth Road.

Kevin Blackwell's League One side tested Everton, with David Bell twice coming close from long-range.

Everton improved and came close several times before substitute Cahill turned in Thomas Gravesen's corner at the far post after 101 minutes.

Joleon Lescott cleared off the line from Matthew Spring as Luton pressed.

Everton made six changes from the side that won at Derby on Sunday - and it showed in a disjointed first 45 minutes in which Luton were the better side.

Bell was the main danger to Everton, blasting just wide from 25 yards, and he was then narrowly off target again with another long-range effort.

But Luton suffered a blow after only 19 minutes when veteran striker Paul Furlong limped off to be replaced by Calvin Andrew.

Everton's powerful young striker Victor Anichebe had been kept under control, but he escaped his marker Jaroslaw Fojut in first-half stoppage time and it needed a swift intervention from Chris Coyne to clear away from James McFadden.

David Moyes' side turned up the heat after the break, with Leon Osman forcing two fine saves from Luton keeper Dean Brill.

Alan Stubbs fired a free-kick narrowly wide and central defensive partner Lescott, who had an outstanding game, shot just inches wide.

Spring then scrambled Anichebe's header off the line as Luton came under pressure.

But Luton showed great strength of character and were able to turn up the heat on Everton as time ran out.

Everton sent on James Vaughan for his first appearance of the season after recovering from a dislocated shoulder, and he almost made an instant impact but headed just wide from eight yards.

Gravesen made his entrance three minutes into extra-time, and he played a key role as Everton finally broke the deadlock after 101 minutes.

The Dane's corner found its way through to Cahill at the far post, and he stretched to turn the ball high past keeper Brill.

Luton were acquitting themselves very well, and Lescott rescued Everton with a goal-line clearance from Spring with only eight minutes left.

Everton keeper Stefan Wessels then saved his side after 117 minutes with a fine save from Andrew when he looked poised to equalise.

Luton: Brill, Goodall, Perry, Coyne, Fojut, Bell, Currie (Morgan 104), Robinson, Spring, Furlong (Andrew 20), Edwards (McVeigh 104).
Subs Not Used: Hutchison, Jackson.

Booked: Fojut, Perry.

Everton: Wessels, Lescott, Stubbs, Jagielka, Nuno Valente, Neville, Pienaar (Gravesen 94), Osman, Carsley, McFadden (Vaughan 71), Anichebe (Cahill 77).
Subs Not Used: Howard, Yakubu.

Booked: Cahill.

Goals: Cahill 101.

Att: 8,944

Ref: Steve Tanner (Somerset).

Source: BBC Sport

Kitna sorry for naked man Halloween costume

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna and his wife dressed up as a naked man and a fast-food drive-through attendant at a teammate's Halloween party, depicting an embarrassing moment for one of the team's assistant coaches.

Now Kitna is getting some flak on local TV and in a newspaper column. Kitna said he was just trying to have fun, but regrets the scrutiny the costumes created.

"If I would've known this, I wouldn't have done it because I didn't want to try to bring attention to it," Kitna said Wednesday while surrounded by reporters and television cameras.

Defensive line coach Joe Cullen pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and guilty to impaired driving after he was arrested twice last year, once in August 2006 after police said he was driving nude through a Wendy's drive-through lane, and a week later when they said he was driving under the influence of alcohol.

Cullen later was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings twice a week.

"He's done everything they've asked of him," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said before this season started. "And, there's a lot more that he's had to do."

Marinelli said Kitna's costume was a non-issue with the team.

"It's Halloween," Marinelli said. "I'll leave it at that."

Cullen said "no comment" as he walked off the practice field Wednesday, but the team said it asked him if the costume bothered him.

"No, not at all," Cullen said in a statement released by the team. "It's in the past.

Kitna and his wife wore the costumes to a teammate's charity party Monday in suburban Detroit, where the prize for the best outfit was a car.

"All I was trying to do was wear a costume that people would have fun with," Kitna said. "I wasn't trying to demean Joe. If he hadn't come so far, I would not ever have done it. He's very confident of who he is and is very peaceful about what's happened in the past.

"When we talked yesterday, the first question out of his mouth was, 'Did you win?' He seemed to not have a problem with it."

Defensive tackle Cory Redding backed that notion.

"He was still red this morning because Kitna didn't win," Redding said. "It was all fun and games."

Kitna, a born-again Christian who invites teammates to his house to explore their faith, also laughed at the costumes that poked fun at him and his wife.

"Somebody dressed up as me and my wife and came in Bible-thumping," Kitna said with a grin.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Tottenham 2-0 Blackpool

Goals from Robbie Keane and Pascal Chimbonda ensured Juande Ramos avoided a Carling Cup shock in his first game in charge at Tottenham.

Keane lifted the ball over Blackpool keeper Paul Rachubka from Dimitar Berbatov's flick-on after 18 minutes.

Blackpool striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher headed onto the bar after the break and then had a shot saved by Paul Robinson.

But Chimbonda headed in Steed Malbranque's corner to seal Spurs' quarter-final place on 57 minutes.

Despite the victory, Ramos was provided with plenty of evidence as to the size of his task at White Hart Lane.

The new coach restored Robinson to the starting line-up after his calf injury but the England keeper's crisis of confidence appears to continue.

The England international flapped unconvincingly at a Blackpool corner and then sliced a kick as he came charging out to clear a long ball.

But Robinson did at least set up the opener, providing the long ball for Berbatov to head on, leaving Keane to score his ninth goal of the season.

Simon Grayson's Championship side came out in the second-half determined to make Spurs sweat and they did.

Taylor-Fletcher was desperately unlucky with a header which smacked against the bar and then Robinson boosted his confidence with a fine save as the striker's shot headed for the top corner.

But Tottenham's second sucked the life out of the visitors and substitute Jermain Defoe almost scored with his first touch, only for Rachubka to tip over the crossbar.

Source: BBC Sport

Chelsea 4-3 Leicester

Carling Cup holders Chelsea needed two late Andriy Shevchenko goals to reach the last eight of the competition.

Gareth McAuley's header gave Leicester an early lead, but the home side went in at the break in front, thanks to two calm finishes from Frank Lampard.

Keeper Marton Fulop kept Leicester in the game and DJ Campbell's header set up a tense finale at Stamford Bridge.

Carl Cort's tap-in put the Foxes ahead, but Shevchenko - with a rasping shot and scrambled finish - turned the tie.

Source: BBC Sport

Celtic 0-2 Hearts

Two cracking late goals from substitute Andrius Velicka earned earned Hearts a place in the CIS Cup semi-finals.

Following an tepid first half, Celtic upped the tempo and created several chances, with substitute Evander Sno wasting two good opportunities.

Anthony Basso made good saves to deny Scott McDonald and Massimo Donati before Velicka shot the visitors in front on 77 minutes.

The Lithuanian wrapped up a surprise result with a fierce strike soon after.

Hearts started the match brightly, using the extra personnel in their five-man midfield to hold on to possession.

However, the hosts were first to threaten when Aiden McGeady embarked on a lung-bursting 70-yard run down down the left flank before firing across the face of goal and wide.

Celtic's gradually upped the pace after a sluggish opening and McDonald drew a save from Basso with a shot from point-blank range.

McDonald was then slipped in by a great pass from the impressive McGeady and cut into the box from the left, only to chip over the crossbar.

The home side could have snatched the lead just before the break when Paul Hartley played a short free-kick to Scott Brown and the Scotland midfielder's dipping strike from distance had to be tipped away by Basso.

Brown and McDonald linked well early in the second period but the Australian striker's shot was saved smartly by the feet of Basso. Close to the hour mark, Brown was again the creator, swinging in a dangerous cross that the stretching Sno could only divert over the top from inside the six yard box.

Hearts' lone striker Calum Elliot was not seeing much of the ball but did manage to send in a neat shot on the turn from 20 yards only to see it float straight into the arms of Artur Boruc.

With 69 minutes gone, Donati did well to dance past two Hearts challenges and his low strike from the edge of the penalty area was well held by the increasingly busy Basso.

Sno then blazed a great chance over the crossbar after more good set-up work from Brown.

And Celtic were made to pay for the profligacy when the visitors snatched a goal from a swift counter-attack.

Andrew Driver did well to keep the ball in play and, with several home players claiming a throw-in, ran out to cut the ball back for Velicka to pick his spot in the far corner of the net from 14 yards.

McGeady tested Basso with a fierce shot, with Chris Killen firing the loose ball too high from a tight angle as Celtic came roaring back.

However, Velicka stunned the home crowd further when he picked the ball up on the edge of penalty box and smashed a screamer beyond the despairing Boruc and into the top corner of the net.

Source: BBC Sport

Sheff Utd 0-3 Arsenal

Striker Eduardo scored a superb brace as Arsenal's young guns eased into the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.

Billy Sharp wasted a rare chance for Sheffield United before Eduardo struck with a sizzling left-foot shot after eight minutes.

The Croat made it 2-0 shortly after half-time, coolly slotting home debutant Kieran Gibbs's long pass.

Denilson finished off a comfortable win for the Gunners with a deflected shot from long-range.

Sheffield United boss Bryan Robson picked only four of the players that started Saturday's draw with Hull, striker James Beattie among those to get a rest.

And as expected, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger overhauled his team completely.

Gibbs, 18, was handed a first-team debut alongside fellow teenagers Denilson, Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner.

Only the presence of 31-year-old Gilberto - who was overlooked for the captaincy in favour of keeper Lukasz Fabianski - pushed the average age of the team over 21.

But despite the unfamiliar names in Arsenal's line-up, the Blades seemed overawed and failed to put Arsenal's inexperienced defence under any prolonged pressure.

Sharp's shot - which was well saved by Fabianski after four minutes - was as close as the Blades came to a shock.

Four minutes later, Bendtner slid the ball through for Eduardo and with Chris Lucketti standing off him, almost daring the Croat to try his luck, he did exactly that.

The summer signing hammered an unstoppable left-foot shot into the top corner.

The hosts' inability to keep possession allowed Arsenal's youngsters to stroke the ball around confidently in midfield, dominating possession without creating too many clear-cut chances.

Fabianski, meanwhile, was tested only by the odd long throw and free-kick from the disappointing Blades.

Eduardo deservedly made it 2-0 on 50 minutes before Walcott hit the post from a tight angle after ghosting past keeper Ian Bennett.

And as Sheffield United's beleaguered defence stood and watched, Denilson roamed forward and unleashed a shot which deflected off Chris Morgan and looped over Bennett.

Source: BBC Sport

Mets bring Alou, Easley back for 2008 season

The Mets announced Wednesday that they had picked up outfielder Moises Alou's $7.5 million option for 2008.

Moises Alou


Left Field
New York Mets


2007 Season Stats
87 13 49 51 .392 .341

"Last year, Moises showed us what type of hitter he was," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "He's coming back on a mission, to help us play a significant part in helping us get back to the postseason.

Alou, 41, hit a team-high .341 with 19 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 49 RBIs, 27 strikeouts and 30 walks in 2006 and had a team-record 30-game hitting streak.

However, Alou missed a large chunk of the season with a quadriceps injury.

"I'm angry at what happened last year and our fans deserved better," Alou said of the Mets blowing a big division lead down the stretch. "I'm coming back to help us win a championship. From the first day of spring training we have to show people that 2008 will be different."

The Mets also re-signed utility player Damion Easley to a one-year deal worth $950,000.

"Damion Easley is a valuable component to the team, in the infield, the outfielder or off the bench," Minaya said. "He's completely recovered from his injury and should be ready to go by spring training."

Easley, who hit .280 with 10 home runs off the bench, missed the final month of the season with a severe ankle sprain.


World Cup bid Q&A

Q. What are England's chances of succeeding in their bid to host the 2018 World Cup?

Better than last time, but hardly nailed on. Their first priority is to persuade the voting Uefa members on Fifa's executive committee to prefer their bid over other European rivals - Holland and Belgium for certain, rather more menacingly, perhaps also Russia. That is achievable. Then they must capitalise on their improved relationships with other football associations around the world to grab those pivotal votes from Africa and South America.

Q. What do they need to do to create a successful bid?

Like London's 2012 Olympic bid, they have to create a reason for people to vote for them: Find a story, stick to it and sell it with conviction. China will be able to create a persuasive sell based on the development opportunity for the game in that vast nation. England need to find another angle, probably focused on the excellence of the facilities and the passion of the fans. Then they have to put together a watertight technical bid, and try to avoid creating any reasons for people NOT to vote for them.

Q. What is the breakdown of votes and associations? And how many do England need to gain to be awarded the 2018 World Cup?

As things stand, there are 24 votes to play with, from six confederations, about a third of them - the largest single group - from Europe. If as expected, there are bids from Asia and the Concacaf confederations, that's likely to split the first round of voting several ways so an outright straight majority is unlikely. It's likely to come down to second preference votes, and trying to switch the Asian and Concacaf votes as and when their candidates are eliminated. But we're probably getting ahead of ourselves: if 10 or more candidates come forward, Fifa is likely to hold an elimination vote well ahead of time to whittle the candidates down to a more manageable four or five. England might have to make the cut first.

Q. Who are the early contenders and what are their chances compared to England's?

Already with their flags up the mast are Holland and Belgium, USA, China, Australia and Mexico. Russia are rumbling, but not yet committed. As to their chances, I'd pick China and Russia, if they go for it, as the biggest threats. The development opportunities for the game are greater in either of China and Russia, but so too are the risks.

Q. What went wrong in the 2006 World Cup bid? And, what will have been learnt from that failed attempt when they lost out to Germany?

In the bidding for 2006, England's problem was Germany. There was supposedly a long-standing gentlemen's agreement brokered in a smoke-filled room that Germany would stand aside and support England for Euro '96, if England would do the same for the World Cup a decade later.

Whatever the truth of that (and it remains disputed), enough people within Uefa thought England had done the dirty on Germany by bidding to oppose them. England simply didn't have enough influence in the corridors of power, and the FA wasn't doing enough to win friends around the world. Post-vote, they invested in the international development department, setting up seminars on coaching and administration which they still take around the world, and have managed to throw bodies onto committees at Uefa and Fifa, all in recognition that they had to shrug off an image of arrogance and complacency.

Q. What is in England's favour and what is not?

The world's best stadiums, the most passionate fans, the 2012 Olympics. Franz Beckenbauer thinks England should host 2018. It'll be a relatively inexpensive World Cup for Fifa to stage, and the TV rights will be lucrative. Does anyone think England couldn't pull off a decent World Cup? Against that, football is already highly developed in England, there's little opportunity for expansion of the game, unlike the major rivals. What's the reason why Fifa Executive Committee members should vote for England? The FA really need to work on that idea, and be difficult to turn down.

Q. So what happens now?

The next formal steps are some way away, but in reality, the campaigning starts now. It'll be 18 months or so before the bid process is formally launched, and 2011 before there's a vote. The candidates will need a lot of stamina, endless ideas, and a sizeable war-chest to keep the momentum going, and peak at the right time!

Source: BBC Sport

E-ticket: A Sport To Die For

Why would anyone jump from a stationary object and hurtle to the ground at 80 mph? BASE Jumpers don't have a death wish. They just want to feel alive.


The race for 2014

For voters on 9 November, the choice of hosts for the 2014 Commonwealth Games will be a stark one.

Abuja has the emotional pull of hosting the first African games, while Glasgow is seen as the technically superior bid.

The games themselves have been running since 1930 which could lead many to see a visit to the world's poorest continent as being somewhat overdue.

With 18 of the 71 countries eligible to vote coming from Africa this could pose a threat to the Glasgow bid.

The Nigerian bid will offer more hard cash (around �15,000) in the form of a sports development grant to each competing nation.

But Glasgow have been assiduous in their campaigning ahead of the ballot, visiting 67 of the member nations (including all the African countries with the exception of Sierra Leone).

They have also invited all delegates to visit Scotland ahead of the games - one group of Carribean representatives were particularly impressed by the scenes in the city centre as James McFadden scored the winning goal against France in October.

There is no arguing with the technical superiority of the Scottish bid.

September's official evaluation report praised Glasgow for being able to "continue to enhance the image and prestige of the games".

It went on to criticise Abuja for a "lack of detailing planning" and having "significant matters requiring amendment regarding the overall programme".

The statistics are also fairly damning for Nigeria.

Seventy percent of Glasgow's infrastructure is already in place, with funds for the remaining 30% clearly shown to be available.

Another strength of the Glasgow bid are the personnel behind it.

Chair of the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland Louise Martin has just been elected unopposed for a third term as Honorary Secretary of the Commonwealth Games Federation and has been beating a path round voters to emphasise the strength of the bid.

Director Derek Casey was also involved in Manchester's successful bid for the games, while spokesman Rob Shorthouse has previously worked for both The Scottish Executive and at 10 Downing Street.

And in terms of big name backers all voters have received a letter from Sir Sean Connery urging them to support Glasgow's bid.

But it remains to be seen whether 007 will help Glasgow reach its own magic number of 36 votes in Sri Lanka.


  • 36 is the number of votes required at the meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • All 71 member countries have a single vote and with just two cities competing a simple majority is all that is required.
  • Both Glasgow and Abuja will offer voters a half hour presentation on their bids - followed by an ten minute question and answer session.
  • The Scottish team are up first at 1100 GMT.
  • The announcement is expected around 1245 GMT - and will be live on both BBC One Scotland and BBC Radio Scotland.
  • In the event of a draw after the first vote (which could happen with a spoiled ballot paper or if a delegate is unable to attend) all delegates will vote again.
  • If Abuja and Glasgow are STILL level, the Commonwealth Games Federation President Mike Fennell will have a casting vote.
  • Back in Glasgow, the announcement will be covered on big screens at The Fruitmarket, with events also being held at some of the sports venues where the 2014 games would be held.

Source: BBC Sport

Report: Lakers' Odom suffers concussion in crash

HAWTHORNE, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom suffered a slight concussion in a two-car accident Tuesday.

Lamar Odom


Odom, who is inactive for the Lakers because of left shoulder surgery in the offseason, was on his way to the team's pregame shootaround prior to Tuesday night's season opener against Houston, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The paper reported that Odom went to the hospital in an ambulance and was given a CT scan. That showed the slight concussion.

Odom's Mercedes-Benz was totaled, the paper reported. The woman driving the other car in the accident had to be taken out by the jaws of life.

Odom later attended the Lakers' 95-93 loss to the Rockets.


Live - League Cup

Chelsea v Leicester, 1945 GMT
Luton v Everton, 1945 GMT
Portsmouth v Blackburn, 1945 GMT
Sheffield United v Arsenal, 1945 GMT

Bolton v Manchester City, 2000 GMT
Liverpool v Cardiff, 2000 GMT
Tottenham v Blackpool, 2000 GMT


To get involved use 606 or text us your views & comments on 81111 . (Not all contributions can be used)

1921: TEAM NEWS Sheffield United v Arsenal
Ian Bennett, Michael Tonge, Chris Armstrong and Jon Stead are the only Blades to survive from the weekend draw against Hull. But that's nothing compared to the Gunners. Just the 11 changes for them, but they can still call on seven internationals.

1919: TEAM NEWS Luton v Everton
Luton, the lowest-ranked team left in the competition, are unchanged from the side that beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 at the weekend. Everton bring back Phil Neville after suspension - one of six changes - and start with James McFadden and Victor Anichebe in attack.

1917: Bouts of predicitions break out on 606. All fairly standard. No shocks, but please, no penalties. That's what awaits us if teams can't be split over the course of 90 minutes or 120 minutes.

1915: There are less little people than usual in north London as Arsenal have taken their kids to Sheffield United. Arsene Wenger's young Gunners have been impressing people but they are still only third favourites for this competition behind Chelsea and Liverpool.

1913: That's no Elvish greeting. It is in fact the term for those who suffer from a fear of Halloween, which is perfectly understandable. Loads of little people running around in a sugar rush wearing freaky plastic masks! Sounds like some horrible cross between 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Lord of the Flies', so you're in the right place. Pull the curtains, dim the lights and stay across the football at your computer.

1910: Samhainophobia.

Source: BBC Sport

Carling Cup photos

Source: BBC Sport

Cardinals ready to promote Mozeliak to GM role

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals will remove the "interim" tag from general manager John Mozeliak's title at a 4 p.m. ET news conference.

Mozeliak has been the team's interim GM since Walt Jocketty was fired on Oct. 3. He had been Jocketty's assistant.

Mozeliak will get a three-year contract, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Mozeliak has been with the Cardinals for 11 seasons. He has been involved in the team's scouting department in addition to being Jocketty's assistant.

Other candidates who interviewed included Cleveland Indians assistant general manager Chris Antonetti, Arizona Diamondbacks assistant general manager Peter Woodfork, Chicago White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn and Colorado Rockies manager of minor leagues Jon Weil, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Antonetti turned down an offer to be GM of the Cardinals, despite calling it "one of the best jobs in the game" and admitting to being "blown away" and "immensely impressed" with Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt.

It appeared Antonetti was leaning toward moving to St. Louis until Indians owner Paul Dolan stepped up, defined the succession process under which Mark Shapiro will eventually be the club president and Antonetti the GM and made other promises.

Antonetti said he was "very fortunate to have a choice of two of the best jobs there are with two of the best owners to work with," Antonetti said. "The Cardinals may be one of the top five GM jobs in the business, but we are very happy where we are and Paul Dolan made it impossible to leave."'s Jerry Crasnick and ESPN's Peter Gammons contributed to this report.


Carr projects as Panthers' likely Sunday starter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Panthers quarterback Vinny Testaverde missed practice Wednesday, leaving David Carr the front-runner to start Sunday at Tennessee.

The 43-year-old Testaverde aggravated a right Achilles tendon injury in the first half of Carolina's loss to Indianapolis. He sat out the second half and has been receiving extensive treatment the past three days.

Carr, who missed the Panthers' win over Arizona, replaced Testaverde despite still recovering from compression fractures in his lower back. Saying he was only at 80 percent, Carr threw for 103 yards, but the Panthers were outscored 21-0 in the second half of the 31-7 loss.

"He was well enough to play last week. There aren't a lot of players out there that are 100 percent at this stage of the season," coach John Fox said. "He looked sharp in practice today. He had a good day of preparation both in the classroom and out on the field."

Carr became the No. 1 QB after Jake Delhomme was lost for the season in Week 3 with a right elbow injury that required ligament replacement surgery.

With Testaverde's status uncertain -- Fox gave no update Wednesday -- undrafted rookie Matt Moore could serve as Carr's backup. Moore, who has played briefly in two games, was signed after projected third-string QB Brett Basanez was lost to a season-ending wrist injury late in the preseason.

Linebacker Dan Morgan (Achilles tendon) sat out practice again Wednesday, but linebacker Adam Seward did participate. Seward hasn't played since suffering a calf injury against Houston on Sept. 16.

The Panthers also signed cornerback Patrick Dendy and placed cornerback Curtis Deloatch on injured reserve. Deloatch tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Indianapolis on Sunday.

Dendy was released by Green Bay before the start of the season.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Chadiha: NFL's Top 5 rivalries

It's hard to imagine a regular-season game that could generate more hype than Sunday's matchup between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. This has everything you want in a rivalry, including history, talent and an understanding that they ultimately have to go through one another to claim a championship.

In fact, the game is so eagerly anticipated that it got us thinking: How does it measure up against some of the hottest rivalries in NFL history?

Rank The Rivalries

Where would you rank Pats-Colts among these five NFL rivalries? SportsNation lets you rank 'em.

Now before you start forming your own opinions on this subject, let's establish some ground rules. First, we're going to stick to a specific time frame so we don't have to consider every rivalry in the history of pro football; we'll talk only about rivalries that started after the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Second, we need rivalries that involve two championship-caliber teams playing in meaningful games, which is why Pats-Colts has become so huge.

This will explain why the usual suspects -- Bears-Packers, Giants-Eagles, Browns-Steelers, 49ers-Rams -- aren't on this list. Simply put, those teams played too many games against each other in the past 37 years that nobody cared about outside of their local areas.

So with all that in mind, here are the best five pro football rivalries since 1970:

1. Cowboys-Redskins (1970-83)

Cowboys-Redskins (1970-83)

Games played: 29
Cowboys wins: 16
Redskins wins: 13
Playoff games:
1972 NFC Champ. (Was, 26-3)
1982 NFC Champ. (Was, 31-17)
Overall series (since 1960):
Cowboys lead, 55-37-2

How big was this rivalry? American Express even made a commercial tied to it. A Redskins-Cowboys game not only fired up the most laid-back fans of both teams, it also captured the attention of the rest of the NFL during its heyday. After all, you're talking about two marquee franchises and a rivalry that dates all the way back to when former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall opposed the proposal of an expansion team in Texas in the late 1950s. Marshall eventually backed down -- with the Cowboys finally entering the league in 1960 -- but these teams were destined to despise each other ever since.

There actually is so much history between Dallas and Washington that it's hard to pin down a time frame that stands above all others. However, these 13 years will suffice. There were great coaches (Tom Landry for Dallas, George Allen and Joe Gibbs for Washington). Great players and interesting personalities (including Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, John Riggins and Joe Theismann). And above all else, great moments from two teams that combined to win three Super Bowls during this time.

Landry and Allen

Dallas head coach Tom Landry (left) and Washington patriarch George Allen took special precautions whenever they faced each other, legend has it.

Take the 1974 Thanksgiving game that featured Clint Longley, an obscure backup quarterback, leading Dallas to a 24-23 comeback win. Five years later, the man Longley replaced on that day, Roger Staubach, led the Cowboys back from a 13-point deficit in a regular-season victory that knocked the Redskins out of the playoffs. Of course, Washington has its favorite memories, as well, including blowout victories in the 1972 and 1982 NFC Championship Games. That's what made this series so compelling. Sooner or later, both teams landed their best blows.

&; Signature moment: On Dec. 12, 1979, Staubach threw two touchdown passes in the final 140 seconds to erase a 13-point deficit and give host Dallas a 35-34 win. The Redskins missed the playoffs with that defeat, and former Washington coach Jack Pardee said later, "The Lord giveth and He can take it away in a hurry; that's the only way to understand what took place here."

2. Raiders-Steelers (1972-77)

Raiders-Steelers (1972-77)

Games played: 10
Raiders wins: 5
Steelers wins: 5
Playoff games:
1972 AFC Div. (Pitt, 13-7)
1973 AFC Div. (Oak, 33-14)
1974 AFC Champ. (Pitt, 24-13)
1975 AFC Champ. (Pitt, 16-10)
1976 AFC Champ. (Oak, 24-7)
Overall series (since 1970):
Raiders lead, 12-11

It's an understatement to call this a rivalry. These games were so vicious that they easily could've been staged in a back alley. On one side stood the Raiders, a team that openly embraced a desire to intimidate any opponent that lined up across from it. On the other side were the Steelers, the most dominant team of the 1970s, a blue-collar bunch that backed down to nobody. When it came down to it, these two squads couldn't stand each other.

To understand how serious this rivalry was, just consider that it actually spilled into a courtroom battle in 1976. Steelers coach Chuck Noll became so infuriated by a blow that Raiders safety George Atkinson laid on Pittsburgh wide receiver Lynn Swann -- a forearm to the head that knocked the unsuspecting Swann unconscious -- that Noll claimed Atkinson brought "a criminal element" to the NFL. Atkinson responded by suing the coach for slander and a heavily publicized trial ensued. Noll eventually was found not liable of the charges, but you get the point. These were ugly times.

The main reason there was so much bitterness is that these teams were both blessed with insane talent (19 players who competed in these games have been inducted into the Hall of Fame) and they were constantly battling for the right to reach the Super Bowl. They met in three straight AFC Championship Games during 1974-76, with the Steelers winning the first two contests. Of course, their most memorable meeting came in a 1972 playoff game, when Steelers running back Franco Harris turned what seemed like an innocent deflected pass into The Immaculate Reception. You still can find former Raiders who claim the officials cheated them on that play. That's how deep the wounds ran in this rivalry. And that's what made it great.

&;  Signature moment: The Immaculate Reception. On Dec. 23, 1972, Harris' miracle 60-yard catch-and-run on a deflected Terry Bradshaw pass beat the Raiders 13-7 in an AFC divisional playoff game. The Raiders contended that the Steelers' John (Frenchy) Fuqua had batted the ball to Harris, in violation of a rule prohibiting two offensive players from touching a pass in succession. But officials ruled the ball had deflected off Raiders safety Jack Tatum, who collided with Fuqua and the pass at the same time. The final-minute touchdown gave the Steelers franchise its first playoff victory.

3. Cowboys-49ers (1992-96)

Cowboys-49ers (1992-96)

Games played: 7
Cowboys wins: 4
49ers wins: 3
Playoff games:
1992 NFC Champ. (Dal, 30-20)
1993 NFC Champ. (Dal, 38-21)
1994 NFC Champ. (SF, 38-28)
Overall series (since 1960):
49ers lead, 16-14-1

Former San Francisco wide receiver Dwight Clark heated up this rivalry with The Catch back in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, but it wasn't until the early 1990s that Cowboys-49ers reached an unforgettable level. What made this rivalry so intense was the history of both clubs. The 49ers had dominated the 1980s ever since Clark's catch, winning four Super Bowls between 1981 and 1989. Dallas, on the other hand, went through a down period before emerging with a swagger that emanated from coach Jimmy Johnson. The Cowboys' desire to claim what the 49ers owned ultimately raised the stakes of this series.

Dallas first shocked the 49ers in the 1992 NFC Championship Game, upsetting a San Francisco team that many favored to win the Super Bowl that season. The following year proved even sweeter for the Cowboys. They didn't just beat San Francisco in the NFC title game -- they routed the 49ers 38-21 in a victory that Johnson predicted prior to the contest. By the time the 49ers finally beat Dallas in the 1994 NFC Championship Game, these teams had set themselves apart from all others in the NFL.

Ricky Waters

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Cowboys and 49ers battled in three consecutive NFC Championship Games in the early 1990s.

It helped that both teams were loaded with talent (the games featured future Hall of Famers such as Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Steve Young and Jerry Rice) and the subplots were just as attractive. There was Young trying to overcome the shadow of succeeding Joe Montana. Deion Sanders altering the fortunes of both teams by swapping sides in 1995. And Johnson and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones re-establishing the Cowboys' dominance before egos and jealousy led to their heavily publicized split.

In retrospect, this was the last time we saw two legitimate powerhouses tussling on an annual basis.

&; Signature moment: Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman hit Alvin Harper on a slant pass that turned into a 70-yard catch-and-run late in the 1992 NFC Championship Game. That play set up the game-clinching touchdown in the Cowboys' 30-20 win, setting up the Cowboys' first of three Super Bowl wins in the decade.

4. Colts-Patriots (2001-present)

Patriots-Colts (2001-present)

Games played: 9
Patriots wins: 6
Colts wins: 3
Playoff games:
2003 AFC Champ. (NE, 24-14)
2004 AFC Div. (NE, 20-3)
2006 AFC Champ. (Indy, 38-34)
Overall series (since 1970):
Patriots lead, 43-27

These teams played in the same division for decades -- as part of the old AFC East prior to realignment in 2002 -- but it wasn't until 2003 that this rivalry really intensified. That was when Colts president Bill Polian and several offensive players seethed over the Patriots' penchant for manhandling receivers during New England's 24-14 AFC Championship Game win over the Colts. The Colts actually balked so much that the league's competition committee listened intently. A year later, the NFL had a new rule (defenders weren't allowed to touch receivers more than 5 yards away from the line of scrimmage). That turned up the flame on a rivalry that will offer another chapter this weekend.

This rivalry actually has elevated itself into top-five status because the Colts have matured. Prior to a 40-21 win over New England in Foxborough, Mass., during the 2005 regular season, Indianapolis had lost six straight games to a Patriots team quarterbacked by Tom Brady. In those first two wins, Brady was filling in for an injured Drew Bledsoe. The Colts seemed soft in those losses, reinforcing the notion that they were built for gaudy numbers instead of championship trophies. Of course, that image has changed now that Indianapolis has won three straight games in this series. Their high point came in the most recent AFC Championship Game, when they overcame a 21-3 deficit to claim a 38-34 win.

Now it's hard to imagine two other teams in the NFL who can carry a national audience when they face off. They've even given us one of the hottest debates in the league over the last couple years -- the one that asks whether Brady or Peyton Manning is the better quarterback. To be honest, it doesn't matter how you answer that question. It only matters that they've helped to give us a contest to look forward to year after year.

&; Signature moment: In a 2004 AFC Divisional Playoff game, Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi stripped Colts running back Dominic Rhodes of the football in New England's 20-3 victory. Bruschi literally took the ball away from Rhodes, who had caught a short pass from Manning, and that play exemplified the defensive effort the Patriots produced in shutting down the NFL's top offense that year.

5. Giants-49ers (1984-90)

Giants-49ers (1984-90)

Games played: 10
Giants wins: 5
49ers wins: 5
Playoff games:
1984 NFC Div. (SF, 21-10)
1985 NFC 1st Rd. (NY, 17-3)
1986 NFC Div. (NY, 49-3)
1990 NFC Champ. (NY, 15-13)
Overall series (since 1952):
49ers lead, 17-16

What made this vastly underrated rivalry so compelling was the contrast in styles. Giants head coach Bill Parcells led a team that was built on a strong running game and a physical defense. 49ers head coach Bill Walsh ran a squad that appealed to the intellectual fan, one blessed with a diverse, imaginative offense and a savvy quarterback who turned out to be the best to ever play the position. In short, the Giants were meat and potatoes. The 49ers were wine and cheese.

As dominant as the 49ers were in the 1980s, the Giants were the only team that consistently caused them problems. These two teams played 10 times between 1982, when Parcells was named New York's coach, and 1990. Each franchise won five games, although the Giants produced more memorable moments. They battered 49ers quarterback Joe Montana during a 1985 NFC playoff win, and Giants nose tackle Jim Burt literally knocked Montana out of New York's 49-3 playoff victory a year later.

Jim Burt and Joe Montana

Vernon Biever/

New York nose tackle Jim Burt (64) was a constant nuisance to San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana (16) in plenty of important Giants-49ers' duels, including this 1985 NFC wildcard game.

Of course, the one play that devastated the 49ers came in the 1990 NFC Championship Game. San Francisco was making a run at an unprecedented third consecutive Super Bowl victory when it met the Giants. The Niners' luck dried up when New York's Lawrence Taylor recovered a fumble by running back Roger Craig late in that contest and set up the game-winning field goal in a 15-13 win. That also happened to be the only time a visiting team won a playoff game in this series.

&; Signature moment: In a 1986 "Monday Night Football" game in San Francisco, Giants tight end Mark Bavaro caught a pass over the middle from Phil Simms and rambled nearly 20 yards with 49ers defenders clinging to him. As many as seven San Francisco players -- including Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott -- took shots at Bavaro before dragging him to the turf. The Giants won 21-17.

Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for


Djokovic falls in second round of Paris Masters

PARIS -- Weakened by medication after dental surgery, U.S. Open finalist Novak Djokovic lost to Fabrice Santoro 6-3, 6-2 Wednesday in the second round of the Paris Masters.

Djokovic had two wisdom teeth pulled after the Madrid Masters in October.

Tennis scores

Need the scores from any match played in this or any other tournament? Results

"I wasn't moving well," the third-ranked Serb said. "Santoro took over the control. I was having all the unforced errors and making free points for him. Unfortunately I couldn't give my 100 percent -- not even 30 percent."

Djokovic, who returned to training Monday, lost to David Nalbandian in the Madrid Masters semifinals.

Rafael Nadal defeated Filippo Volandri 6-3, 6-1 to reach the third round. Nadal, ranked No. 2, will next play Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, who beat Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-1.

"I'm happy with my serve," Nadal said. "I made some mistakes at the start, but after that I played very well."

Andy Murray beat Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 7-6 (5), 6-3 to stay in contention for the season-ending Masters Cup in China. He will next face Santoro.

Murray, who won his third career title at St. Petersburg, Russia, on Sunday, trailed 3-1 in the second set but broke Nieminen three straight times.

Only two of eight spots remain for the Shanghai event, with James Blake and Richard Gasquet among those in contention.

Gasquet rallied from 4-1 down in the first set to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 7-6 (3). The sixth-seeded Blake was scheduled to face Nicolas Mahut of France.

No. 13 seed Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia saw his slim Shanghai hopes end after a 6-4, 7-6 (4) loss to Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, who next plays defending champion Nikolay Davydenko.

The fourth-seeded Davydenko beat Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina 7-6 (3), 6-1, but is hampered by a sore elbow.

"It's not really 100 percent," he said. "I'm really scared. You cannot practice very well and you cannot prepare for the tournament."

Later, Roger Federer was to play Ivo Karlovic. Federer has qualified for Shanghai, along with Nadal, Djokovic, Davydenko, Andy Roddick and David Ferrer.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Report: Teams get advance notice of drug tests

NEW YORK -- Baseball teams regularly receive up to nearly two days' notice before drug testing of players, The New York Times reported on its Web site Tuesday.

Officials of home teams are notified in advance to leave stadium and parking passes for the testers.

According to The Times, up to five players at a time are tested.

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, and players' union general counsel Michael Weiner were quoted as saying players are not given advance notice of tests and that it was not an issue.

Manfred told The Times: "We are very confident that no player has ever received advanced notice of a test. Even if a player knew a few hours before, there is precious little that can be done to subvert a test."

The Times reported that Manfred said that one person with each team -- often the general manager or the assistant general manager -- arranges access for the testers and a place to conduct the tests. One team told The Times that trainers "routinely" learn of the tests in the morning to prepare for them.

"This is scandalous that anyone would insert this kind of loophole in a system and not include it in the written regulations," John Hoberman, a doping expert, was quoted as saying. "They are opening the door to serious doubts about the integrity of the program."

Don Catlin, who founded the Olympic Analytical Lab at UCLA, told The Times that players could benefit from advance notice. Patches or cream-based steroids clear the system more quickly than others. He also said that low doses of steroids, such as short-acting testosterone, could clear a user's system within hours.

"As soon as you know you are going to be tested, you rip off the patch and take a shower and urinate, and in an hour or two you will get numbers down real fast," said Catlin, according to The Times.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.


Jags' Stroud faces suspension

Jaguars defensive tackle Marcus Stroud is facing a four-game suspension, which could start as early as this weekend, for a violation of the NFL steroids and related substances policy.

Marcus Stroud


News of Stroud's pending suspension was reported by the Florida Times-Union on Wednesday morning and confirmed by league and team sources and sources close to Stroud.

A three-time Pro Bowl performer, Stroud registered a positive test within the past two weeks, a source said, and he's exercised his right to have the so-called "B-sample" of his urine tested. If that test is also positive, Stroud would be suspended.

Stroud still would have the right, under the collective bargaining agreement, to appeal the suspension. But two sources close to the seventh-year veteran said he might forgo an appeal and serve the suspension immediately in order to return in time for the final month of the season and possibly the playoffs.

If the Jaguars receive notification of the positive test this week -- and some club officials expect this to occur by Friday -- then Stroud might begin his four-week hiatus beginning Sunday when the Jaguars play at New Orleans.

The banned supplement for which Stroud tested positive is not known. A suspension would cost him $332,941 of his scheduled base salary of $1.415 million for 2007. In 2005, Stroud signed a five-year, $31.5 million contract extension.

Stroud, 29, underwent offseason microfracture surgery on his chronically problematic right ankle, and it is believed he may have taken supplements to speed his recovery.

A first-round pick in the 2001 draft, Stroud teams with fellow Pro Bowl performer John Henderson to provide Jacksonville one of the premier tackle tandems in the league. Neither tackle has performed, however, to his usual standards so far this season. In seven games, Stroud has 21 tackles and three sacks.

For his career, the former University of Georgia player has 443 tackles, 22 sacks, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 22 passes defensed.

Perhaps knowing that Stroud was facing suspension, the Jaguars on Tuesday reached a one-year contract agreement with 11-year veteran defensive tackle Grady Jackson, who had been released by the Atlanta Falcons last week. The Jaguars are expected to place second-year defensive tackle Tony McDaniel on injured reserve with a wrist injury.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for


Cameron fails stimulant test; suspended 25 games

SAN DIEGO -- Mike Cameron, the Padres' Gold Glove center fielder, was suspended for the first 25 games of next season on Wednesday after testing positive a second time for a banned stimulant.

Mike Cameron


Cameron, who plans to file for free agency, said he believes he took a tainted supplement.

"The one thing I wanted to make sure was explained is, no steroids," Cameron told AM 1090, the Padres' flagship radio station. "I never took nothing like that before in my life. That would be 50 games, and that would affect me a whole lot more."

Cameron issued a statement through his agent, saying doctors for the players' association helped him narrow down what triggered the positive test.

"After all of the analysis and testing, I can only conclude that a nutritional supplement I was taking was tainted," he said. "Unfortunately, the actual supplement is gone, and therefore cannot be tested. Without the actual supplement in hand, the rules are clear, and I must accept the suspension."

Players who initially test positive for a stimulant receive counseling. Suspensions begin only with a second positive test.

"Mike has been a valuable member of the Padres over the last two seasons who has been respected for his contributions on the field, his stature in the clubhouse and his involvement in the San Diego community," Padres CEO Sandy Alderson said in a statement. "Accordingly, the Padres are extremely disappointed that Mike has tested positive for a stimulant banned by MLB's drug policy. Nonetheless, the Padres staunchly support that policy and hope that Mike's suspension serves as a reminder that performance-enhancing drugs have no place in professional sports."

Cameron missed almost the entire final week of the season after fellow outfielder Milton Bradley inadvertently stepped on his right hand while the two pursued an inside-the-park home run by Colorado's Garrett Atkins on Sept. 23. Cameron made a pinch-running appearance in San Diego's 13-inning loss at Colorado on Oct. 1 in the wild-card tiebreaker game.

In his second season with the Padres, Cameron's offensive numbers fell off this season, as he hit just .242 and struck out 160 times. He hit 21 homers.

Cameron is best-known for hitting four home runs in a game in 2002 and for a frightening collision in Petco Park's outfield three seasons later.

On May 2, 2002, while with Seattle, Cameron became the 13th player in big league history to hit four home runs in a game. On Aug. 11, 2005, he was seriously injured when he collided face-to-face with Mets teammate Carlos Beltran in a game against the Padres. The Padres obtained Cameron in a trade with the Mets that offseason.

The only other player suspended for testing positive for stimulants under Major League Baseball's drug plan was Detroit infielder Neifi Perez, who received a 25-game suspension on July 6 following his second positive test, and an 80-game suspension on Aug. 3 following his third positive test.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Dodgers: No Torre deal yet but 'mutual interest'

Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti sidestepped the Joe Torre question Tuesday, but on Wednesday he admitted to's Jayson Stark that there is "mutual interest" between the team and the former Yankees manager.

Experience on Resume

Grady Little has his share of wins in the regular season for his short managerial career, but Joe Torre (right) knows the playoffs.

Reg. season Win Pct..552.539
Playoff Seasons213
Playoff Win Pct..400.603

Colletti told Stark that the Dodgers and Torre are "in the early stages of getting to know each other."

Grady Little resigned Tuesday as Dodgers manager after two seasons.

Little's resignation comes amid multiple media reports that Torre will be named the Dodgers' next manager. The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that the Dodgers and the former Yankees manager had agreed to terms of a contract but were resolving issues related to the coaching staff and player personnel moves.

The New York Post reported on its Web site Tuesday night that Torre had agreed in principle to a $14.5 million, three-year contract with the Dodgers, but a baseball official with knowledge of the search said no deal was imminent. Torre's reported average annual salary would be worth slightly less than the $5 million, one-year deal that the Yankees offered Torre to manage in 2008.

On Tuesday, Colletti said: "We haven't hired anybody. We're talking to some people, that's all I'm going to tell you. We'll talk about where we go from here at a later date."

He also refused to put a timetable on picking Little's successor. The GM stressed that Little would have kept his job for next season had he decided to come back.

Colletti said he sensed Little was leaning toward stepping down, so he began discussing the job recently with potential replacements. One of those candidates, the GM acknowledged, was Joe Girardi, hired by the Yankees as Torre's successor earlier Tuesday.

When asked if rumors of Torre taking over had an influence on his decision, Little replied, "None whatsoever."

"I have my personal reasons," he said.

He added: "It's nothing in particular. It's just a decision we've come to. This is all personal. There's a lot of belief I've been dealt an injustice here. That couldn't be further from the truth. My plans? To play with my grandkids."

Little had one year remaining on his contract with a club option for a second year.

The Dodgers entered this season as the clear-cut favorite to win the NL West and had the league's best record in mid-July. But they dropped 11 of their last 14 games to fade out of contention, finishing at 82-80.

Clubhouse unrest surfaced between veterans and young players during the season's final two weeks, when the Dodgers lost seven straight games to the NL champion Colorado Rockies.

The Dodgers went 88-74 to win the NL wild card in Little's first season as manager before they were swept by the New York Mets in the first round of the playoffs. The Dodgers have won only one postseason game since winning the 1988 World Series.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Stern condemns conduct of Knicks management

David Stern on Issues Surrounding the NBA

NEW YORK -- Even with the NBA season under way, commissioner David Stern hasn't forgotten the New York Knicks' embarrassing offseason.

In an ESPN interview broadcast Tuesday, Stern questioned the conduct of Knicks management, which lost a sexual-harassment case in early October.

Asked about the state of the Knicks, Stern said: "It demonstrates that they're not a model of intelligent management. There were many checkpoints along the way where more decisive action would have eliminated this issue."

It wasn't clear if the "checkpoints" Stern was referring to were the franchise's decision not to settle the lawsuit brought by former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders, or its internal handling of Browne Sanders' allegations when they first surfaced.

Madison Square Garden chairman James L. Dolan, who hasn't spoken publicly since a jury ordered his team to pay $11.6 million to Browne Sanders, said in a statement Tuesday that "we have high regard for the commissioner.

"Right now, what we can all agree on is that the best thing for the Knicks is to get on the court and win some basketball games."

The Knicks open their season Friday at Cleveland.

Knicks coach Isiah Thomas was the primary defendant in the Browne Sanders lawsuit. He said he didn't hear Stern's comments but said Dolan spoke for the Knicks.

"Jim made a statement for the organization, and the statement speaks for itself," said Thomas, who has maintained his innocence since the lawsuit was filed last year.

In the past, Stern has not punished teams over civil judgments but he has not ruled out sanctions against the Knicks and Thomas. The Knicks have appealed the decision.

Stern said the case was "very much under review.

"I'm not considering any range of disciplinary action,'' Stern said, "but my powers are very broad if I choose to exercise them."

Stern's shot at Knicks management was as stinging as the fallout from the sexual-harassment case.

A portion of Thomas' deposition was shown in court during the trial and the tape showed Thomas saying he made a distinction between a black man calling a black woman "bitch" and a white man doing the same thing. The coach was criticized for that by Al Sharpton, who threatened to lead protests at Knicks games unless Thomas explained his remarks.

Thomas' remarks also drew the ire of C. Vivian Stringer. The Rutgers women's basketball coach was previously forced into the issue of men using derogatory language toward women when radio host Don Imus made a racist and sexist remark about her team after it lost to Tennessee in last season's national championship game.

In a recent interview with ESPN, Stringer said Thomas' comments were "disgusting."

"What does he think? This was a woman first," Stringer said. "He has no right to put her down, and then think it's OK for me to put her down but it's not all right for a white man to put her down. What are you talking about? She is a human being and as a female, and in particular as a black female, I took tremendous offense to that."

Thomas has said that his remarks were mischaracterized and he urged Stringer to "get the facts" about what he said during the sexual-harassment trial.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Schilling's list: 13 teams he'd consider for 2008

Stark: Schilling's Not Out of Boston Yet

A day after saying he'd written goodbye letters to some of his Boston Red Sox teammates, Curt Schilling has posted a list of 13 teams he'd be willing to play for next season as he enters free agency for the first time.

The right-hander, who turns 41 on Nov. 16, made a list that includes the Red Sox but not the New York Yankees. Schilling filed for free agency Tuesday.

Schilling wrote on his Web site that his first choice remains re-signing with Boston.

"There are a million little things that go into this from stadiums to school districts to travel to spring training to etc. etc. etc.," Schilling wrote, "but the list represents the teams after Boston that have some of the off the field things that are big to us, plus the potential to go into October next year."

He listed 2007 playoff teams Cleveland, the Los Angeles Angels, Philadelphia, Arizona and the Chicago Cubs, plus 2006 World Series teams Detroit and St. Louis, the New York Mets, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego and Milwaukee.

On Tuesday, Schilling said he was looking for a one-year deal.

"If truly, physically, I was at the end of my rope, this would be the ultimate way to walk away," Schilling said in his weekly radio appearance in Boston. "I don't think I'm there."

He also said he wrote goodbye letters to selected teammates and Red Sox officials.

"I actually broke out a pen and paper the last couple days and wrote letters to some people here, just to say goodbye," Schilling said on the radio, apparently before he filed for free agency. "There's a very realistic chance I won't ever play with them again."

Schilling promised fans that he'd keep them updated on his free agency journey through his blog.

"If October 28, 2007, was the last time I ever wear this uniform, thank you," Schilling wrote on Monday. "It was an honor and a privelage [sic] to be allowed to play here."


Prep football team piles up 72-point first quarter

SMITH CENTER, Kan. -- Smith Center scored 72 points in the first quarter of a high school football game Tuesday night on the way to an 86-0 win over Plainville, according to a report in the Salina, Kan., Journal.

Smith Center forced six turnovers in the first quarter as it racked up what is believed to be a record for points in a quarter by a high school team, the paper reported. The previous record was 66 by Prescott, Ariz., in 1925.

The defending state champion has outscored its opponents 640-0 so far this season, including a 69-0 win over Plainville earlier this year.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Nadal strolls to victory in Paris

World number two Rafael Nadal eased into round three of the Paris Masters with victory over Filippo Volandri despite an uneven display.

The pair swapped breaks early on, but Nadal dominated after that with Volandri determined to take the Spaniard on from the back of the court.

Nadal, in the opposite half of the draw from Britain's Andy Murray, broke five times in sealing a 6-3 6-1 victory.

Elsewhere, reigning champion Nikolay Davydenko beat Juan del Potro 7-6 6-1.

The Russian number four seed recovered from a slow start to put Argentine Del Potro under severe pressure and eventually raced through the match to set up a third-round match against Ivan Ljubicic or Marcos Baghdatis.

It was Davydenko's first match since being fined $2,000 (�976) for not trying hard enough during his defeat by Marin Cilic at the St Petersburg Open.

Nadal will meet Stanislas Wawrinka after the Swiss beat Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3 6-1.

Source: BBC Sport

Lady Vols rule preseason coaches' poll

They ended last season No. 1 and they'll start this season the same way.

Poll Positions

The top five teams in the ESPN/USA Today preseason coaches' poll:

For the complete ESPN/USA Today poll, click here.

The defending NCAA champion Tennessee Lady Vols were voted the top team in the nation in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 coaches' preseason poll released Wednesday.

The Lady Vols received 26 of 31 first-place votes to outdistance rival Connecticut in the second spot. UConn received four first-place votes.

Tennessee and UConn will not play a regular season game in 2007-08, the first time since their inaugural meeting in 1995 that the women's basketball superpowers are not scheduled to play. UConn sent Tennessee a contract to continue the series, but Tennessee chose to terminate the series.

The Huskies lead the overall series 13-9 and are 4-0 against the Lady Vols in national championship games. Their last meeting came in January, a 70-64 Tennessee victory in Hartford that featured a dunk by Lady Vols star Candace Parker.

NCAA runner-up Rutgers, which returns all five starters, was ranked third in the preseason poll after a 27-win season that included the Big East tournament title. The run led to a seven-year contract extension for coach C. Vivian Stringer, who will be paid the same base salary as football coach Greg Schiano.

Maryland made a solid jump in the offseason, finishing the 2006-07 season ranked 14th but vaulting to No. 4 in the preseason poll.

LSU, which also received a first-place vote, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Stanford, Duke and Georgia rounded out the top 10.

Tennessee kicks off its season at home on Nov. 11 against Chattanooga. The Lady Vols face No. 6 Oklahoma on Nov. 15 in a key early-season battle.

Rutgers has a difficult early test as well, opening against No. 8 Stanford on Nov. 11 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).


Brother of Notre Dame running back shot to death

CHICAGO -- Authorities in Chicago were investigating the shooting death of the older brother of Notre Dame running back Robert Hughes.

Authorities said 24-year-old Earl Hughes was gunned down early Tuesday on Chicago's West Side. The incident is being investigated as a homicide.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis has granted Robert Hughes an indefinite leave from the team. The freshman has rushed for 42 yards on 16 carries with one touchdown this year for the Fighting Irish (1-7).

"I told him to come back when he's ready to come back," Weis said Tuesday, according to the Chicago Tribune. "Something like that, how can you give him a time frame?"

A witness told investigators that she heard arguing and then shots fired before Earl Hughes, who worked as an athletic trainer, was found on a sidewalk with a gunshot wound, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Hughes was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:12 a.m. while undergoing surgery, the Tribune reported, citing the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Liverpool star's payslip on web

An inquiry has been launched by Liverpool Football Club after a top player's payslip, detailing a �139,634 monthly wage - was put on the internet.

Liverpool FC are looking at how John Arne Riise's pay document, which reveals the Norwegian's net pay and home address got into the wrong hands.

It also shows his national insurance number and appearance bonuses.

A spokesman for the club, said: "We are taking the matter extremely seriously and we are investigating."

The payslip which appeared on a series of football fans' forums, shows he was paid �4,000 in appearance bonuses.

A club insider said: "It must have been stolen but the player simply doesn't know how it has happened.

"I can assure you that John Arne Riise is not in the habit of throwing payslips out, it's clearly been stolen and taken without his permission."

The Kop ace also landed a Champions League salary increase of �15,384.

His take home pay was �82,413 and his monthly tax payment �55,508, while �65 was deducted for meals.

Several Liverpool players' homes have been broken into during the last 18 months but Mr Riise's home has not been burgled.

Source: BBC Sport

Fifa veteran opposed to GB team

Hopes of a British football team at the London 2012 Olympics have been dealt a major blow after heavy criticism of the plan by a former Fifa vice-president.

David Will retired from Fifa in May but has urged Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to oppose the plan.

Will said: "We should not take the chance of joining a British team.

"There's nothing to stop an association saying 'the four British associations have played together at an Olympics so they can do at a World Cup as well'."

Will's opinion carries enormous weight with the home nations because of his years of experience inside world football's governing body - and he says Fifa President Sepp Blatter's assurances cannot be relied upon.

A Scottish lawyer, Will added: "We should not take the chance of joining a British team.

"I'm sure Sepp Blatter means what he says but why should the associations take that chance?

"I have never accepted that we should take such a risk."

British Olympic chiefs may now have to examine whether they can field a team of English players as a British representative side in 2012.

Will said in terms of importance between participating in the World Cup or the Olympics there was only one winner.

"The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world and not the Olympics, despite what they say," he said.

"The World Cup has more spectators and more televisions viewers so why should we put our independence on the line?

"It is more important to be in the World Cup as independent associations than in the Olympics as one.

"For many years there were threats to the independence and those could surface again."

Source: BBC Sport

Samuels to face bookmaker inquiry

The West Indies Cricket Board is to investigate alleged links between their batsman Marlon Samuels and an Indian bookmaker earlier this year.

This follows a statement from the International Cricket Council, whose anti-corruption officials found enough to suggest further investigation.

The WICB has been asked to report back by 31 January 2008.

Samuels is alleged to have passed team information to a bookmaker while the West Indies were on tour in India.

An ICC statement said the investigation would focus on two sections of the Code of Conduct regulations.

The first concerns the receipt by a player of "any money, benefit or other reward (whether financial or otherwise)" which could bring him the game of cricket into disrepute".

The second relates to "conduct which, in the opinion of the (ICC) Executive Board... is prejudicial to the interests of the game of cricket".

Samuels, who denies any wrongdoing, was reportedly taped in conversation with the bookmkaer on the eve of the opening one-day international between India and the West Indies in Nagpur on 21 January.

But despite the allegations hanging over him, the 26-year-old was cleared to play in the World Cup and also toured England during the summer.

The Jamaican made his international debut in 2000 and most recently played in the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, when the West Indies lost both their matches.

Source: BBC Sport

FA exploring 2018 World Cup bid

The Football Association is proceeding with caution amid rumours that it will apply to host the 2018 World Cup.

The Government wants the English game's governing body to issue a statement of their intention to bid for the event.

But the FA will consider its options at a board meeting on Wednesday after �4m was ploughed into the failed 2006 bid.

An FA spokesman told BBC Sport: "We will look at many aspects before a feasibility study on a possible bid for 2018 is commissioned."

The only time England hosted the World Cup, in 1966, they won the tournament and Fifa president Sepp Blatter has already said that its return is long overdue.

And Fifa's decision last week to end its policy of staging the tournament on different continents in rotation has paved the way for an England bid.

However, any bid is likely to face stiff opposition from the likes of China, Australia, the United States, Mexico and Canada.

British prime minister Gordon Brown has already thrown the Government's weight behind a bid, should the FA decide to proceed.

Source: BBC Sport