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In Sports from United Press International

  |   Oct. 1, 2002 at 8:08 PM
Arizona begins title defense

PHOENIX, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Fireballing southpaw Randy Johnson, headed for a fourth consecutive Cy Young Award, gets the start Tuesday night when the Arizona Diamondbacks host the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of a rematch of last year's National League Division Series.

The 6-10 Johnson, perhaps the game's most intimidating, entered the playoffs last season with a major league record six-game postseason losing streak. It extended to seven in Game Two against the Cardinals after he allowed three runs and eight hits in eight innings. Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer off Johnson in the first inning.

Johnson made five more appearances after that one and won each, including Game Seven of the World Series against the New York Yankees, when he replaced fellow flame-thrower Curt Schilling and retired all four batters he faced as the Diamondbacks won, 3-2, to become the fastest expansion team to become world champions. Last season, Johnson and Schilling combined for nine wins in the postseason.

St. Louis goes with Matt Morris, who pitched brilliantly but was 0-1 in two Division Series starts last season. He opposed Schilling both times and allowed just two runs and 13 hits in 15 innings.

The other NL Division Series between the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants begins Wednesday.


Mets fire Bobby Valentine

NEW YORK, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- In a move not unexpected but still surprising, Bobby Valentine Tuesday was fired as manager of the New York Mets, two days after they finished last in the National League East with a 75-86 record.

Both Valentine and General Manager Steve Phillips had received votes of confidence from team owner Fred Wilpon in recent weeks, but he changed his mind, retaining only Phillips.

The Mets were touted as a World Series contender in 2002 after a busy offseason in which they acquired stars Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz and Pedro Astacio. However, they were never a serious threat to the Atlanta Braves and lost a National League-record 15 straight home games at one point.

The season ended in controversy following a report in Newsday that seven Mets players allegedly smoked marijuana during the season. The report claimed that Valentine worried about drug use on his team as far back as spring training.

Valentine spent six-plus seasons as manager of the Mets and twice advanced to the postseason. His highlight was taking the Mets to the 2000 World Series against the New York Yankees before losing in five games.

After that, the team began a mysterious downward spiral, starting with a disappointing third-place finish in 2001 with a mark of 82-80.


Rangers fire manager Jerry Narron

ARLINGTON, Texas, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The Texas Rangers on Tuesday fired manager Jerry Narron, two days after the team finished a disappointing 72-90 campaign.

"This has been a very difficult decision because I like and respect Jerry Narron," Rangers general manager John Hart said. "But we have some tough decisions now. Our fans deserve better than the record and performance of the 2002 Texas Rangers."

Hart announced the decision after evaluation meetings with Rangers owner Tom Hicks and assistant general manager Grady Fuson.

"John, Grady and I had a very constructive discussion of our entire baseball operation over the last two days," Hicks said. "I am convinced that John and Grady have made a thorough and complete evaluation in reaching the decision to change managers."

Narron, who had a 134-162 record in parts of two seasons with Texas, is the fifth manager fired since Sunday, following Bruce Kimm of the Chicago Cubs, Luis Pujols of the Detroit Tigers, Hal McRae of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Bobby Valentine of the New York Mets.

Hart indicated that the search for a new manager will begin immediately and will include candidates from both within and outside the organization.


Bengals lose Webb for season

CINCINNATI, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Bengals have announced that perennial Pro Bowl offensive tackle Richmond Webb will miss the remainder of the football season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Webb was hurt the injury during Sunday's 35-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He will undergo surgery in the near future.

Coach Dick LeBeau reportedly had been contemplating starting first-round pick Levi Jones in recent weeks over Webb. Now, Jones will be pressed into the starting lineup for the seven-time Pro Bowler.

Webb, a 6-6, 325-pounder, had started 20 straight games since signing with the Bengals prior to the 2001 season.

Selected with the ninth overall pick in 1990 by Miami, Webb made seven Pro Bowls during his tenure with the Dolphins. He started in the Pro Bowl as a rookie, replacing injured Hall of Famer and former Bengal Anthony Munoz.

The loss of Webb is just another blow for the Bengals, who have lost their four games by a combined 119-25. Next Sunday, they play at Indianapolis.The Bengals have been woeful offensively, allowing 14 sacks in four games and averaging 3.5 yards per offensive play.


Kurt Wagner undergoes surgery

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, the NFL's MVP two of the last three years, Tuesday

underwent surgery to repair a broken right pinky. He is expected to be out 8-10 weeks.

"The surgery went well, and we anticipate that with rehabilitation, he will recover function over eight to 10 weeks," said Rams head physician Dr. Matthew J. Mattava, who performed the surgery with Dr. Richard H. Gelberman at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

The 55-minute procedure involved the insertion of four pins into the proximal phalanx bone, which is the bone that runs along the outside of the finger from the large knuckle nearest the wrist to the middle knuckle closer to the tip of the finger.

Warner sustained the injury in the Rams' 13-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday. He broke the same finger in October 2000, but this was a new fracture.

Warner will wear a splint to protect and immobilize the finger for approximately four-to- six weeks. He will begin therapy to restore strength and range of motion. The pin will be removed after five-to-six weeks, and then Warner can begin rehabbing the finger to perform tasks such as throwing a football and receiving a snap from center.

The loss of Warner is a tremendous blow to the defending NFC champions. At 0-4, the Rams are off to their worst start in 39 years.


Flames get Drury in five-player deal

CALGARY, Alberta, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The Calgary Flames landed one of the NHL's top clutch players Tuesday, acquiring center Chris Drury in a five-player trade with the Colorado Avalanche.

"Chris Drury and winning are intertwined," said Craig Button, Calgary Flames general manager. "He is a very good player in all areas of the game and we are very excited about adding him and the elements he brings to the Calgary Flames."

The Flames also received center Stephane Yelle and shipped defenseman Derek Morris and centers Dean McAmmond and Jeff Shantz to the Avalanche.

"Stephane Yelle has been an important contributor to two Stanley Cup teams with Colorado and is a consistent and proven two-way National (Hockey) League player," Button added.

Drury, 26, is coming off a disappointing season in which he had 21 goals and 26 assists in 82 games. He added five goals and seven assists in 21 postseason games.


Croshere sidelined by foot injury

INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Veteran power forward Austin Croshere, who is in jeopardy of not finding a roster spot with the Indiana Pacers this season, likely will miss the preseason because of a foot injury.

Croshere, 27, continues to be hampered by the stress fracture in his right foot that caused a noticeable dip in his overall production last season.

His scoring average dropped from just over 10 points per contest each of the previous two seasons to 6.8, and it was common knowledge that the Pacers had him on the trading block over the summer. The Pacers have given the bulk of the playing time at power forward to Jonathan Bender and Jeff Foster.

The Indianapolis Star reported Tuesday that there is mutual agreement in a trade, but the Pacers can't seem to fashion a deal that is money-friendly. Team president Donnie Walsh is trying to avoid the luxury tax while paying a backup nearly $40 million over the next four years.

Croshere, a 6-9, 242-pounder who is a three-point threat, has played in 291 games in his five NBA seasons, all with Indiana, after coming out of Providence in 1997. He was the 12th overall pick that year, and has per game averages of 8.0 points and 4.4 rebounds.


Webb out for season with pectoral tear

CINCINNATI, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Bengals have announced that perennial Pro Bowl offensive tackle Richmond Webb will miss the remainder of the football season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Webb was hurt the injury during Sunday's 35-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He will undergo surgery in the near future.

Coach Dick LeBeau reportedly had been contemplating starting first-round pick Levi Jones in recent weeks over Webb. Now, Jones will be pressed into the starting lineup for the seven-time Pro Bowler.

Webb, a 6-6, 325-pounder, had started 20 straight games since signing with the Bengals prior to the 2001 season. Selected with the ninth overall pick in 1990 by Miami, Webb made seven Pro Bowls during his tenure with the Dolphins. He started in the Pro Bowl as a rookie, replacing injured Hall of Famer and former Bengal Anthony Munoz.


Raptors excuse Olajuwon from camp

TORONTO, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Aging center Hakeem Olajuwon of the Toronto Raptors, who has been limited in recent seasons because of an ongoing back problem and other physical ailments, has been excused by the team from its training camp.

He will remain on the team's active roster until a decision on his playing status is made at a later time.

General Manager Glen Grunwald said late Monday that the future does not look promising. The Raptors signed Olajuwon, 39, in 2001 after he had played his entire pro career with the Houston Rockets.

Olajuwon averaged only 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest in 37 starts for Toronto last season. The Raptors acquired him from Houston in August 2001 for draft picks and signed him to a three-year, $17 million deal. He has played in 1,238 games since being drafted by the Rockets out of the University of Houston in 1984. With the Rockets, he had career averages of 22.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per contest, and a league-record 3,740 blocked shots.


Pistons trade Rodney White to Denver

DETROIT, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Forward Rodney White, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft, has been shipped by the Detroit Pistons to the Denver Nuggets.

The price was fairly high for the Nuggets, who sent center Mengke Bateer, forward Don Reid and a 2003 first-round pick that belonged to Milwaukee for White.

White, 22, spent just one season at North Carolina-Charlotte. He did the same at Detroit, playing just 16 games and averaging 3.5 points and 1.1 rebounds per contest as he was buried behind Michael Curry and Corliss Williamson, who was named Sixth Man of the Year.

The Pistons also used their 2002 first-round pick on Tayshaun Prince of Kentucky, another small forward who outplayed White during the team's summer league.


Wizards bring back Bobby Simmons

WILMINGTON, N.C., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Less than three weeks after they traded swingman Bobby Simmons to the Detroit Pistons, the Washington Wizards Tuesday re-signed the small forward.

Simmons was sent to the Pistons along with Richard Hamilton and Hubert Davis in a blockbuster trade that brought them Jerry Stackhouse. Simmons was waived by the Pistons last Tuesday.

Simmons played in 30 games for the Wizards last season, averaging 3.7 points per contest. He missed 42 games on the injured list with patella tendinitis in his left knee.

The second-year pro left DePaul University in 2001 after his junior year. He was the only player in school history to record 1,000 points, 700 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 three-point field goals.


Raptors sign top draft pick

TORONTO, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The Toronto Raptors late Monday signed first-round draft choice forward Chris Jefferies.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but under the collective bargaining agreement, Jefferies is expected to make a minimum of $2.078 million over three years.

Jefferies was taken by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 27th pick in the draft before his rights were traded to the Raptors. Now, he is finally is under contract.

The 6-8 Jefferies left Fresno State after his junior season. He averaged 17.3 points in 21 games before suffering torn cartilage in his knee and missing the rest of the year. Jefferies, 22, spent two seasons at Fresno State after transferring from Arkansas. He is coming off knee surgery that cut short his junior season at Fresno State. He's still not 100 one-hundred percent, but his strength has improved considerably after the past few months of aggressive rehabilitation.


Former Oregon football coach dies

EUGENE, Ore., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Len Casanova, who retired in 1966 as the winningest football coach ever at the University of Oregon, died early Tuesday at the age of 97 after a prolonged illness.

Casanova coached the Ducks for 16 years and compiled a record of 82-73-8, still good for second on the school's all-time list. He served as athletic director from 1967-70, remained active within the athletic department and was inducted into the Oregon Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992.

Casanova's teams made several memorable bowl appearances, including a 10-7 loss to top-ranked Ohio State in the 1958 Rose Bowl. Five years later, Oregon defeated Southern Methodist, 21-14, in the Sun Bowl.

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