MINNEAPOLIS, July 11 (UPI) -- The second half of the baseball season opens Thursday night with the Minnesota Twins trying to maintain their status as the surprise team in the majors this year.
Minnesota will take a 7 1/2-game lead over Chicago into the second half when it hosts the Texas Rangers.
The biggest lead in any division is in the National League East, where Atlanta is in front by 9 1/2 games over Montreal. The Expos host the Braves tonight.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, meanwhile, vowed Wednesday he would find a way to prevent another All-Star Game from ending in the haphazard manner which brought a close to the 2002 version.
"This will never happen again," Selig said.
Tuesday night's game ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings when both the American and National League managers ran out of players to put on the field. After AL manager Joe Torre and his NL counterpart Bob Brenly consulted with Selig, the commissioner agreed to call off the game.
"It was horribly painful," Selig said on the day after making a decision that was met with disapproval from fans who paid $150 a ticket.
"I know how hard everybody in Major League Baseball worked on this," he said. "It was a beautiful five days for all but a few minutes.
"While calling the game off to that point had not even entered my mind, I was faced with a decision."
Selig did not offer any immediate plan to ensure the All-Star Game could be played to a conclusion. It was only the second tie in the game's history and the first to be brought about by something other than weather.
Authorities consider case against Iverson
PHILADELPHIA, July 11 (UPI) -- NBA superstar Allen Iverson is expected to face charges for allegedly brandishing a gun in a domestic incident.
The Philadelphia 76ers acknowledged night that charges are "imminent" against the three-time scoring champion.
Philadelphia police commissioner Sylvester Johnson told the Philadelphia Daily News in Wednesday's edition that a warrant for Iverson's arrest will be submitted to the district attorney.
Citing unidentified sources, the newspaper reported that Iverson will turn himself in if the district attorney approves the arrest warrant.
According to police reports in Philadelphia newspapers over the last several days, Iverson went to his cousin's apartment early on July 3 looking for his wife, Tawanna, and his cousin, Shawn Bowman.
The report said Iverson was accompanied by a friend and allegedly threatened Bowman's roommate. A neighbor told reporters Iverson had a gun.
Armstrong improves to third in Tour de France
CHATEAU-THIERRY, France, July 11 (UPI) -- Igor Gonzalez Galdeano of Spain grabbed the overall lead in the Tour de France at the end of Wednesday's team time trial while three-time defending champion Lance Armstrong moved into third place, just seven seconds behind.
The team time trial, only one of which is contested during the three-week competition, was raced over 67.5 kilometers and Armstrong's U.S. Postal team did just what it had hoped to do.
Armstrong's team produced the second-fastest time of the day, ensuring the world's most famous cyclist would not have much time to make up when the tour reaches the mountains next week.
In Wednesday's stage, each of the 21 nine-man teams race as a unit and the time turned in by the team is assigned to each individual member of that team. The clock stops when the fifth member of the team crosses the finish line.
The ONCE team recorded the best time of 1:19.49 with U.S. Postal being clocked in 1:20.05.
Gonzalez Galdeano was the best-placed member of the ONCE team going into Wednesday, having started the day in 12th place, 26 seconds behind front-runner Erik Zabel.
But with the ONCE team finishing more than two minutes ahead of Zabel's German Telekom team, Gonzalez Galdeano leaped to the top of the overall standings. Another ONCE rider, Joseba Beloki of Spain, emerged in second place -- four seconds behind.
Gonzalez Galdeano, who finished fifth overall in last year's tour, is the first Spanish rider in seven years to lead the race.
Since Armstrong has dominated in the mountains and in individual time trials during the last three tours, he is expected to pull away from the field when those stages arrive in the coming days.
Thursday's stage will be a pack ride of 195 kilometers from Soissons to Rouen.
NASCAR levies fines
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., July 11 (UPI) -- NASCAR came down hard on rulebreakers Wednesday, handing out multiple fines to crew chiefs, including a $25,000 penalty to Chad Knaus.
Knaus is the crew chief for the No. 48 Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Jimmie Johnson, the top rookie on the Winston Cup circuit this year who finished eighth in Saturday's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
The track is one of two where teams are forced to use restrictor plates, which limit air flow to the carburetor and somewhat equalize the field. With teams looking for any edge possible, NASCAR was on the lookout for infractions and found plenty of them.
Knaus was penalized for using offset mounting bolts for the front of the truck trailing arms. The team also was penalized 25 points in the Winston Cup standings and 25 points in the owner's championship standings.
In the Busch Grand National series, Jason Ratcliff, the crew chief for the No. 27 Pontaic Grand Prix of Jamie McMurray, was fined $2,000 for an unapproved rear spring. McMurray used the illegal part to finish sixth in Friday's Stacker 2/GNC Live Well 250 at Daytona.
Winston Cup crew chiefs Scott Eggleston, Jimmy Elledge, Newt Moore, James Ince, Lee McCall and Chris Carrier were fined $500 apiece for various infractions.
McCall is the crew chief for Sterling Marlin, the leader in the Winston Cup standings who finished third at Daytona on Saturday.
Coyotes extend coach's contract
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The Phoenix Coyotes rewarded Bob Francis by signing the NHL's coach of the year to a four-year contract Wednesday.
Financial terms were not disclosed for Francis, who is under contract through the 2005-06 season.
Francis won the Adams Award as coach of the year on June 20 after guiding the Coyotes to an unexpected playoff berth, becoming just the third individual in Phoenix/Winnipeg franchise
history to win the award.
Tom Watt was honored in 1982 and Bob Murdock won it in 1990.
Francis led the Coyotes to a 40-27-9-6 record and 95 points. Phoenix finished sixth overall in the Western Conference and lost to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs.
2002-03 NHL schedule released
NEW YORK, July 11 (UPI) -- The NHL will open its 2002-2003 schedule on Wednesday, Oct. 9 with a game that will honor one of its legendary players.
The NHL released its complete schedule Wednesday, one that showed the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Phoenix Coyotes in one of three games on Opening Night. Prior to that game, the Kings will retire the No. 99 jersey of Wayne Gretzky, the greatest scorer in NHL history who currently serves as managing partner of the Coyotes.
The Eastern Conference champion Carolina Hurricanes host the New York Rangers and the Colorado Avalanche entertain the Dallas Stars in the other games on Oct. 9.
The 1,230-game regular season will conclude April 6, the earliest since the 1991-92 season concluded on April 5. The regular season lasted until the middle of April last season
because of the Olympic break.
The Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings will open their season with a three-game road trip to San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. The Red Wings will not raise their Stanley Cup banner until Oct. 17, when they host the Montreal Canadiens.
Portland wins eighth straight
MINNEAPOLIS, July 11 (UPI) -- DeMya Walker scored 21 points and the Portland Fire squandered a double-digit lead Wednesday before holding on for their franchise-record eighth straight victory, 75-72 over the Minnesota Lynx.
Tamicha Jackson had 14 points and Sylvia Crawley added 10 for the Fire, who have not lost since an 86-83 setback to Utah on June 25.
Katie Smith, who was added to the Western Conference All-Star team as a reserve Wednesday, led Minnesota with 21 points. The Fire appeared to be coasting to another victory, building a 33-20 lead late in the first half on a 13-foot jumper
by Walker with 2:37 left.
Minnesota trailed at halftime, 37-28, but began to chip away at the lead and finally drew even at 62-62 on back-to-back layups by Lynn Pride and Svetlana Abrosimova.
Portland regained the lead for good at 72-70 on a short jumper by Kristin Folkl with 62 seconds left. Minnesota had a chance to tie, but Abrosimova missed a pair of free throws with 39 seconds left.
Other WNBA results: Utah 82, Indiana 69; Detroit 66, New York 63.