NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Baseball avoided a potentially crushing shutdown Friday by reaching a four-year bargaining agreement that included increased revenue sharing, steriod testing and the promise that no teams will be eliminated from the sport for the life of the contract.
"There are a lot of people who thought they would never live long enough to see these two parties come together and make a meaningful deal," Commissioner Bud Selig said.
"When I think back to all the heartache, this is a day that many believed would not happen. For that reason, I am very grateful."
Wealthy franchise owners and players with an average income of $2.3 million a year have become bitter enemies over the years, leading to a work stoppage after each of the eight previous contract negotiations. Another walkout seemed likely after the players had set a Friday strike deadline.
But with opinion polls showing popularity in the sport dwindling and fans expressing outrage that playoffs and the World Series might be called off for the second time in less than a decade, an all-night bargaining session eventually led to Friday's settlement.
The proposed contract must still be ratified by owners and players, a process Selig said would take about a week and was expected to be a formality.
Going into the negotiations, baseball officials felt they had to create a greater competitive balance within the sport.
In hopes of achieving that, owners were able to negotiate larger revenue sharing and luxury tax numbers. During the next four years, close to $1 billion will be transferred from teams with the highest payrolls to those with smaller salary structures.
How the teams receiving that money use it will be one of the most-watched aspects of the contract.
On the players' side, meanwhile, the idea of contraction will be abandoned for at least the next four years. Selig had hoped to eliminate two teams for the 2002 season -- the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos -- but legal issues forced a delay. One of the biggest stories of the 2002 season has been that Minnesota, after being on the brink of extinction, is on its way to an almost certain American League Central championship.
Other aspects of the new contract involve random testing of players for steriod use, the creation of a worldwide draft and the boost of baseball's minimum annual salary from $200,000 to $300,000.
Yankees hold off Blue Jays
TORONTO, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Alfonso Soriano hit his 33rd and 34th home runs, including a prodigious two-run blast in the second inning, as the New York Yankees built a big lead Friday night and held on for a 9-7 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
While the Yankees may pay the price in the long run under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, few teams stood to lose more in the short term had players gone on strike. They have won 13 of their last 18 and own an 8 1/2-game lead over Boston in the American League East.
On a personal level, Soriano would have lost a shot at joining Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez as the only middle infielders with 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in the same season.
Soriano wasted little time resuming his pursuit. After a single in his first at bat, he followed an RBI single by Shane Spencer in the second by crushing a 1-0 pitch from Pete Walker (7-4) into the fifth deck in left field.
Soriano, who has 35 stolen bases, gave New York a 9-6 cushion in the ninth with a solo shot off Scott Cassidy.
Other American League results: Boston 15, Cleveland 5; Chicago 4, Detroit 3.
Braves halt slump
MONTREAL, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Damian Moss allowed four hits over eight innings and Darren Bragg had two hits and scored twice Friday night as the Atlanta Braves stopped a slump with a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Expos.
Moss (9-5) gave up one run, walked three and struck out two as he improved to 5-1 in his last nine starts. The Australian lefthander matched the longest outing of his brief career and has gone eight innings three times in his last six starts.
John Smoltz allowed an unearned run in the ninth but registered his major league-leading 47th save for the first-place Braves, who had lost six of their previous nine games but averted their second three-game losing streak in a week.
Bragg, a reserve outfielder, started in right field for the injured Gary Sheffield and was two for five. He also drove in a run and stole a base.
Other National League results: St. Louis 6, Chicago 3; Florida 4, Pittsburgh 3; Milwaukee 9, Cincinnati 4; Philadelphia 7, New York 5; Houston 8, Los Angeles 4.
Sooners warm up in second half
TULSA, Okla., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Quentin Griffin rushed for 237 yards and Kejuan Jones ran for two touchdowns Friday night as the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners warmed up in the second half to down Tulsa, 37-0.
Oklahoma had only a 3-0 lead at halftime.
The 2000 national champions who also were in contention deep into last season, the Sooners boast a demonic defense but an erratic offense led by quarterback Jason White, who beat out Nate Hybl for the job.
White completed 15 of 26 passes for 126 yards, throwing an interception in the end zone to kill a second-quarter drive. He spent most of his time handing off to Griffin and Jones, who tore through Tulsa's defense.
Griffin carried 17 times, including breakaways of 49 and 44 yards. Jones had 11 carries for 70 yards, going eight yards for a score in the third quarter and one yard for a touchdown in the fourth period.
Renaldo Works and Jerad Estus had scoring runs in the final five minutes for Oklahoma, which rolled to a 58-0 home victory over Tulsa last season.
Kuerten surprises Safin
NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Gustavo Kuerten eliminated second seed Marat Safin, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, in just over two hours Friday to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open. It was the Brazilian's first victory over a top-10 player this year.
No. 1 here last year but unseeded this season, Kuerten has sunk in the rankings after missing two months due to arthroscopic surgery on his right hip in February. Just last month, the three-time French Open champion retired from his first-round match against Andrei Pavel at the Tennis Masters Series event in Toronto because of his hip.
But Friday, Kuerten had all his brilliant weapons at his disposal. He had 13 aces to counter 15 from Safin, hit 45 winners with 24 unforced errors and won 82 percent of his first serves.
Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Lindsay Davenport and Pete Sampras all continued to cruise with straight set victories Friday. and in the match of the day, Greg Rusedski outlasted Paradorn Srichaphan in a five-set battle.
Third seed Tommy Haas of German was coming off a five-set victory in the first round, but found more than enough to dispatch of Slovakia's Karol Kucera, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
Also Friday, fifth seed Tim Henman of Britain cruised past Belgian qualifier Dick Norman, 6-3, 6-5, 7-5; seventh seed Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain bested Argentine qualifier Gaston Etlis, 6-2, 6-7, 6-0, 7-5; and No. 11 Andy Roddick celebrated his 20th birthday with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Dutchman Raemon Sluiter.
The women were engaged in third-round action.
Fourth seed and 1998 champion Davenport routed French qualifier Marion Bartoli, 6-3, 6-1, in 43 minutes. Davenport advanced to the fourth round here for the seventh straight year.
No. 8 Justine Henin of Belgium posted a 7-5, 6-1 victory over qualifier Bea Bielik. The two women combined for 10 double faults and nine breaks of serve in gusty conditions.
Masters to be commercial free
AUGUSTA, Ga., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Masters Chairman Hootie Johnson announced Friday that because a national women's group is putting pressure on the companies that buy advertising time on the tournament's telecast, next year's event will be shown without commercials.
The National Council of Women's Organizations began lobbying this year for the Augusta National Golf Club to admit a woman member. Johnson has said that while the club would eventually women members, it would decide when the move would be made.
After that, the NCWO sent letters to the various companies that sponsor the Masters telecast each April in a bid to add pressure on the tournament and the club.
"We are sorry, but not surprised, to see these corporations drawn into this matter but continue to insist that our private club should not be "managed" by an outside group," Johnson said in a statement released Friday. "As I previously said, there may come a day when women will be invited to join our club, but that decision must be ours.
"We also believe that The Masters and the club are different, and that one should not affect the other. Augusta National is NCWO's true target. It is therefore unfair to put the Masters media sponsors in the position of having to deal with this pressure."
In recent years, the Masters' telecast has been sponsored by Citigroup, IBM and Coca-Cola.
The Masters has limited commercial time on its telecasts to four minutes for each hour.
Americans survive scare
INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Paul Pierce saved the United States from its first big scare at the World Basketball Championship Friday night, producing a sensational third quarter to turn a one-point deficit into a 104-87 victory over Germany.
NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki put on another one-man show that briefly threatened to hand the United States a shocking setback.
But Pierce scored 15 points in the third period, claimed three rebounds, had three assists and three steals -- all of which were turned into points.
The Americans thus improved to 2-0 and clinched a spot in the second round of the 16-team tournament.
The United States will play China Saturday night in the third and final round-robin game of the opening phase of the event.
While Team USA avoid an upset, Yugoslavia did not. Rookie of the Year Pau Gasol scored 25 points as Spain stunned heavily favored Yugoslavia, 71-69.
It was the first victory for Spain over Yugoslavia in a senior men's competition since the 1984 Olympics and the first in the World Championship since 1950.
Spain's win came in Group A, where Angola also pulled off a surprise by downing Canada, 84-74.
In Group B, Brazil beat Turkey with a three-point shot at the buzzer, 88-86, and Puerto Rico rolled past Lebanon, 99-77. The Group D games saw Venezuela defeat New Zealand, 98-85, and Argentina whip Russia, 100-81.
Big weekend for college football
Hired to restore the tarnished image at Notre Dame, Willingham begins that quest Saturday night when the Fighting Irish play 20th-ranked Maryland in the final Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
Willingham decided to leave Stanford and take over Notre Dame, a storied program that has not won a national championship since 1988. He was hired following an embarrassing sequence of events in which George O'Leary was forced to step down over discrepancies on his resume. That came after Bob Davie was fired following a 5-6 season.
Despite all the troubles, it was the tradition that helped bring him to South Bend.
"History and tradition, you embrace it, enjoy it, because there are very few places that can match it, so that's something that you put in your pocket and you call on it when you need it," Willingham said.
Carr, coach of 10th-ranked Michigan, will call upon his Wolverines to seek redemption when they face No. 9 Washington in Saturday's lone college football matchup between top 10 teams.
Michigan controlled the tempo against the Huskies for three quarters last year in Seattle. But Washington's Omare Lowe blocked a field goal attempt that was returned 77 yards for a touchdown and took back an interception 27 yards for a score 51 seconds later to lift the Huskies to a 23-18 win.
The Labor Day weekend will be a busy one in college football, with No. 11 Ohio State the only ranked team not in action.
Top-ranked Miami opens defense of its national title when it hosts Division I-AA Florida A&M on Saturday night. The Hurricanes own the nation's longest winning streak at 22 games and should use the contest as tuneup for a Sept. 7 date at No. 7 Florida.
The Gators will play their first game under coach Ron Zook on Saturday when they host Alabama-Birmingham. Zook replaces Steve Spurrier, who left to become coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins.
Second-ranked Texas, with Chris Simms at quarterback, opens its season at North Texas. No. 4 Tennessee, minus injured receiver Kelley Washington, opens its season when it plays Wyoming in Nashville. Washington is sidelined with a knee sprain.
No. 5 Florida State (1-0) struggled to a 38-31 win over Iowa State last week and will play its homer opener Saturday against Virginia (0-1). The Cavaliers played the first game of the season on Aug. 22, losing to Colorado State, 35-29.
Colorado State (1-0) seeks its second win in as many weeks when it plays Colorado in Denver. The Buffaloes must find a way to contain Cecil Sapp, who exploded for 178 rushing yards in the win over Virginia.
Barlow leads on PGA Tour
VANCOUVER, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Craig Barlow shot a 6-under-par 65 Friday that put him one shot in front after the second round of the Air Canada Championship.
A relative unknown who is 151st on the money list and winless since joining the tour in 1998, Barlow had eight birdies and a pair of bogeys en route to his best effort of the year.
Barlow, whose previous low round was a 66 at the Byron Nelson Classic in May, was at 10-under 132 through 36 holes.
Robert Allenby was a shot back after also shooting his best round of year, a 9-under 62. The Australian native was at 9-under 133 overall.
Allenby fell one shot shy of matching Scott McCarron's course record at the Northview Golf and Country Club.
Fellow Australian Peter Lonard and David Gossett also were one shot off the pace.
Carr injured in final exhibition
HOUSTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Quarterback David Carr suffered a sprained right knee Friday night and the Houston Texans allowed defensive and special teams touchdowns in the first quarter of a 17-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Next week, the games count, and the expansion Texans appear to have some problems. One spot where they thought they were set was quarterback, where Carr was installed as the starter after being tabbed with the top overall pick in the draft.
In his final tuneup, Carr completed five of nine passes for 58 yards. But on his last play -- the first of the second quarter -- he took a hit to the knee and departed. The injury was not considered serious and he is listed as day-to-day.
By the time Carr left, the Texans (1-4) were in a 14-0 hole, even though the Buccaneers (1-1) did not score on offense.
Other NFL exhibition results: New Orleans 25, Indianapolis 21; New York Jets 23, Philadelphia 16; Carolina 20, Cleveland 19; Green Bay 21, Tennessee 20; Kansas City 23, St. Louis 16.
Jets sign Wayne Chrebet
NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- One day after signing five-time Pro Bowl running back Curtis Martin to an extension, the New York Jets locked up receiver Wayne Chrebet.
Terms were not disclosed, but Chrebet, who was eligible to become an unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2002 season, reportedly signed a seven-year contract worth $20 million with a $5 million signing bonus.
Signed in 1995 as an undrafted rookie free agent from Hofstra University, Chrebet ranks third on the team's all-time list with 456 receptions. Hall of Famer Don Maynard is the franchise leader with 627 catches followed by Al Toon with 517.
Sparks go after WNGA title Saturday
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Sparks have two chances on their homecourt this weekend to win their second straight WNBA title. The New York Liberty are one setback away from losing in the WNBA Finals for the third time in six seasons.
The Sparks posted a 71-63 victory at New York in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night.
Los Angeles is trying to join Houston as the only teams to win consecutive titles in the seven-year history of the WNBA. The Comets won the first four league titles.
Rain cancels NASCAR qualifying
DARLINGTON, S.C., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Steady rain Friday canceled qualifying for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington International Raceway.
After heavy rain in the morning washed out qualifying for the Busch Series race, officials were hoping to start track drying by 2:30 p.m. EDT. However, rain persisted and NASCAR officials called off qualifying later in the afternoon.
Two 45-minute Winston Cup practice sessions will be held Saturday morning on the 1.366-mile oval before the start of the Busch Series race. The Southern 500 is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Rain is in the forecast for both days.
The 43-car starting lineup was determined by points standings. Sterling Marlin, driver of the No. 40 Dodge Intrepid and the winner of the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 here in March, will start on the pole.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]