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In Sports from United Press International

March 13, 2003 at 4:16 PM   |   Comments

Minnesota inks Rogers

WINTER HAVEN, Fla., March 13 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Twins have added 38-year-old southpaw Kenny Rogers to their rotation.

MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball, reported Rogers got a one-year contract worth $2 million. The deal has $500,000 in performance incentives.

"We have a good opportunity here to do some great things with this baseball team," said Minnesota Manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team won the American League Central last season. "You take every advantage you can when you have a good shot. Our ball club is hungry. They want to win. We want to get back where we were last year, back in the playoffs. This is a great move by our organization. He's a great pitcher. He knows how to pitch and how to win."

Rogers is a 14-year veteran with playoff experience who became a free agent in the offseason after turning down a two-year offer to return to the Texas Rangers. He was 13-8 with a 3.84 ERA last season, and owns a 145-106 career record with a 4.20 ERA with two tours in Texas, plus stops with the New York Yankees, New York Mets, and Oakland.

He still has to pass a team physical.


Uecker headed to Hall of Fame

MILWAUKEE, March 13 (UPI) -- Bob Uecker, the longtime Milwaukee Brewers radio announcer, was honored Thursday with the Ford Frick Award for contributions to baseball broadcasting.

Uecker, 68, who became a goodwill ambassador for the game through television and commercials, will be presented his award during Hall of Fame ceremonies on July 27. He will be part of an induction class that includes Eddie Murray, Gary Carter, and J.G. Taylor Spink winner Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News.

Uecker, a native of Milwaukee, is a member of the Radio Hall of Fame, and has been selected as the Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year five times. He became a mainstream celebrity with beer commercials, many of which poked fun at his baseball ability and fame, and later had his own prime time television series called "Mr. Belvedere."

He earned the monicker of "Mr. Baseball," and also appeared in the baseball movie "Major League" and the comedy "Fatal Instinct."

"I am thrilled that Bob has been elected to the Hall of Fame," said Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. "He has not only been a great broadcaster for the past three decades, but a great member of the Brewers and baseball family in every way. Bob and I have been friends for the past three decades, and I'm sure Brewer and baseball fans everywhere share his joy and excitement over this well deserved honor. It is a great tribute to his wonderful career."

"He may not have had a Hall of Fame career on the field, but he certainly has had one in the booth," said longtime Brewer and fellow Hall of Famer Robin Yount. "Throughout my career in Milwaukee, of all of the people I've known in the organization, he's one of my closest friends."

Previous Frick winners include Ernie Harwell, Vin Scully, Harry Kalas, Red Barber, Jack Buck, and Mel Allen.

The award is voted upon annually and named in memory of the sportswriter, radio broadcaster, National League President and Baseball Commissioner. The seven-member voting committee includes Bob Costas, Joe Garagiola, Curt Gowdy, Ernie Harwell, Joe Morgan, Vin Scully, and Curt Smith.


David Segui hurt again

FORT MYERS, Fla., March 13 (UPI) -- David Segui, the oft-injured first baseman of the Baltimore Orioles, is out again.

This time, he suffered a thumb injury while fielding ground balls, and is expected to miss the start of the regular season.

It is the latest injury for Segui, who has missed 216 games over the past two seasons. He was fielding grounders during batting practice at spring training when he was hit by a ball off the bat of Jay Gibbons.

"I don't think it's anything serious," said Manager Mike Hargrove. "It's just a bruise. It happens a million times to a lot of people. I don't anticipate it being anything bad. We'll see. It may turn out to be cracked. I don't know, but I don't anticipate it being that way. We've all had ground balls bounce off our thumb. It stays sore for a while, and you get over it. It hurts, believe me."

The Orioles have a number of options to replace Segui, including rookie Jack Cust, who was acquired from Colorado on Tuesday, but were hoping to have the veteran hitter in the middle of their lineup.

Segui was off to a hot start this spring with 11 hits in 27 at-bats. He has broken the thumb twice previously, with Montreal in 1996 and with Seattle in '99. He is a career .292 hitter in 1,371 games.


Peterson signs with Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., March 13 (UPI) -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed free agent linebacker Mike Peterson to a multi-year contract.

The deal is thought to be for $21 million over six years.

"He's a good linebacker who knows how to run and hit," said Coach Jack Del Rio. "We signed him to be an impact player on the defense. We think he's an every-down player, so we can take advantage of what he does best."

The 6-1, 234-pounder is late of Indianapolis, played collegiately at Florida, and lives in nearby Gainesville with his family.

He said he can't wait to get started with the Jaguars.

"I'm at the peak of my game," Peterson said. "My strength is up, my weight is up, and I'm ready to be a great football player."

Last season, Peterson, 26, led the defense at Indianapolis in tackles with a career-high 104 tackles, including 69 solos. He started all 16 games, and had three interceptions but no sacks or forced fumbles.

In 57 career games, he has 318 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks, and four interceptions.


Jets match offer sheet for Morton

NEW YORK, March 13 (UPI) -- The New York Jets likely will lose wide receiver Laveranues Coles to Washington, but they will keep kick-returner Chad Morton.

Morton was signed to an offer sheet by the Washington Redskins on March 6, and the Jets had until Thursday to match the offer, and have done so.

Terms were not revealed, but ESPN reported the deal to be worth $8 million over five years, including a $2.5 million signing bonus.

Morton, 25, ranked second in the AFC last season, averaging 26 yards per return. He totaled a team-record 1,509 return yards and two touchdowns, both in a Week One win at Buffalo, including a 98-yarder in overtime.

He is the second player in NFL history to return a kickoff for a touchdown in overtime, and has averaged 24.4 yards per return in three seasons, two with the Jets and one with New Orleans.

On Tuesday, the Redskins signed Coles to an offer sheet. Various published reports say Coles has agreed to a seven-year, $35 million offer sheet that includes a $13 million signing bonus.

If New York does not match the offer to Coles, Washington would give the Jets their 2003 first-round draft pick, which is 13th overall.


Walker signs with Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn., March 13 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Vikings, trying to shore up a porous defense, have agreed to terms with free agent cornerback Denard Walker.

Terms of his contract were not released.

Walker, 29, has spent the last two seasons with the Denver Broncos, starting 31 of 32 games. Last season, he was second on the team with 14 passes defensed. He also had 69 tackles and one interception.

He admitted to being relieved.

"I think, from day one, I was a little shocked when I got released from Denver," Walker said. "To be honest with you, when I got released, I got a phone call within a short period of time from my agent and he said listen I want to tell you something. There is one team that has been honest, they are after you, they have an interest you, and he said that is the Minnesota Vikings. To me to be in a place where you feel wanted it's a very special feeling. It also puts a lot of added pressure on me to come in here and solidify that left side."

"I said over the last couple of weeks that it was very important for us to help our defense out by adding players to our secondary," said Coach Mike Tice. "With that said, we really targeted five guys that we were helpful we could come out of it with. Denard was one of those people."

The 6-0, 190-pounder spent his first four seasons with the Tennessee Titans, and has 379 tackles and 11 interceptions in 93 games, including 87 starts. He started in Super Bowl XXXIV, when the Titans lost to the St. Louis Rams.

The Vikings were ranked 26th in the NFL in pass defense last season. They allowed an average of 256.4 passing yards per game, and gave up a league-high 33 touchdown passes.


St. Bonaventure names interim AD

OLEAN, N.Y., March 13 (UPI) -- Paul Grys, a member of the St. Bonaventure basketball team that reached the Final Four in 1970, Thursday was named interim athletic director at the school.

Grys inherits a program in turmoil following the basketball team's decision to bypass its final two games of the season after being banned from the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament.

The team was punished for violating NCAA rules by admitting Jamil Terrell, a junior college transfer.

Former University president Robert Wickenheiser overruled the admissions department to admit Terrell, who had a welding certificate instead of the requisite associate's degree.

The conference forced the Bonnies to forfeit six victories and prohibited them from competing in the tournament. As a result, the team decided not to play games against Massachusetts and Dayton.

The scandal has resulted in the resignation of Wickenheiser and Athletic Director Gothard Lane, men's basketball Coach Jan van Breda Kolff, and assistant coach Kort Wickenheiser, the president's son, were placed on administrative leave.

Assistant Billy McCaffrey, a former player at both Duke and Vanderbilt, was named interim coach.

Grys, who spent 30 years with IBM, had been serving as an industrial design and development consultant. He is a 1971 graduate of the university.

"Paul understands and respects the Bonaventure traditions of integrity and academic excellence," said Dominic Monti, the school's interim president. "We are grateful to have his business expertise and management experience to lead our athletes department through this transition period."

"I'm very proud of what the Trustees and administration are doing, and I'm happy to be a part of it," Grys said. "I have a passion and a deep belief in what we do and what this University stands for, and I'm looking forward to creating a team and moving forward."

Reports have surfaced that the conference is considering dropping the Bonnies from the league because of the forfeits.


Austin coming back to Mississippi State

ATLANTA, March 13 (UPI) -- Star center Mario Austin of Mississippi State has announced that he will return to the SEC school for his senior season next winter.

Austin, a 6-9, 255-pounder from York, Ala., was thought to be one of the top candidates for early withdrawal this year, especially after he missed the Bulldogs' first six games because of an NCAA probe regarding his eligibility.

"There's no question with all Mario went through that he's become an even more knowledgeable person," said Coach Rick Stansbury. "Now that he's been here and sees his degree in sight, it's become even more important to him."

Austin, who thought about doing the same thing last year, said getting his degree was critical in his decision.

"It's very important," Austin said. "I'm the first one in my family to go to college. I told my mom I'd get my degree before I left here. Once I've made a decision to do something, it's set. Whenever I do interviews, the question always comes up. I just decided to let everyone know what I was going to do. I'm solid. "I haven't (yet) played up to my expectations for myself."

Austin, who was thought to be a likely lottery pick, is 10th in the SEC in scoring (15.6), third in rebounding (7.9), and second in field goal percentage (55.0) entering this week's SEC Tournament in New Orleans.

He also was a finalist for the Wooden Award as the best player in the country.

Mississippi State, the defending SEC Tournament champion and ranked 25th in the latest USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, drew a first-round bye this year, and will meet the winner of Thursday's South Carolina-Mississippi contest in Friday's quarterfinals.


Two more qualify for NCAA Tournament

NEW YORK, March 13 (UPI) -- Dereck Whittenburg made former Coach Jim Valvano proud Wednesday night, taking tiny Wagner College to its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.

The Seahawks dumped St. Francis of New York, 78-61, in the Northeast Conference Tournament championship game.

Weber State (26-5) clinched its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999, beating Eastern Washington, 60-57, in the Big Sky Conference title game.

The campus gym at Wagner, on Staten Island in New York City, holds slightly more than 2,000 fans, and nearly all of them rushed onto the court to celebrate at the final buzzer. Even Whittenburg, best known for shooting the airball that Lorenzo Charles grabbed and dunked for North Carolina State's winning basket in the 1983 national championship game, took off his suit jacket and hugged players and fans.

"Jimmy V is watching over me and I just hugged the first person I saw," Whittenburg said, referring to Valvano's search for someone to hug following the Charles dunk. Valvano died of cancer in 1993.

NEC Player of the Year Jermaine Hall wrote a storybook ending in his final home game, scoring 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting and grabbing 12 rebounds.

"He's one of the best players the country hadn't seen until tonight," said Whittenburg, who is in his fourth year at Wagner.

Hall had 22 points in the first half, when Wagner built a 40-30 advantage. The Seahawks pulled away in the second half, and held their biggest lead at 76-49 after a jumper by Hall with 5:29 left.

Courtney Pritchard added 19 points for Wagner (21-10), which has been a member of the NEC for 15 years.

John Quintana led St. Francis (14-16), the tournament's sixth seed, with 16 points.

Another Jermaine also excelled in his final home game as Jermaine Boyette scored 29 points in Weber State's victory.

Boyette, the Big Sky Player of the Year, netted 22 points in the second half as the Wildcats extended their winning streak to 17 games.

The loss was the third straight for Eastern Washington (18-12) in the Big Sky championship game.

Eastern Washington had a 48-44 lead before Boyette highlighted a 9-0 run with a pair of layups.

Boyette converted a three-point play and a pair of free throws in the final 88 seconds. Eastern Washington had a chance to tie, but Danny Pariseau missed an off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer.

Chris Hester and Marc Axton scored 17 points apiece for Eastern Washington.

Wagner and Weber State join the dozen schools that already secured berths in the 65-team NCAA Tournament field.

The other schools that already have qualified are IUPUI, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Western Kentucky, North Carolina-Wilmington, San Diego, Manhattan, Austin Peay, Creighton, Troy State, East Tennessee State, Pennsylvania, and UNC-Asheville.


Simons quits at Elon

ELON, N.C., March 13 (UPI) -- Mark Simons, who posted a 69-109 record in 10 seasons as basketball coach at Elon College, has announced his resignation.

The Phoenix finished 12-15 this season after a 68-66 overtime loss to eventual champion UNC-Asheville in the first round of the Big South tournament.

"I truly appreciate my 10 years here and the opportunity afforded me by (Athletic Director) Alan White," Simons said. "I will miss my relationships with the Elon community and especially my relationship with the players."

Simons posted a 47-66 record in the last four seasons after the Phoenix made the jump to Division I.

"Mark Simons is a man of character and quality values who has guided us through some challenging times in our national and conference transitions," White said. "I have nothing but praise for his efforts, attitude, and mentorship."

Simons is married to Duke women's basketball coach Gail Goestenkors. He spent seven years as head coach at Georgia College and St. Andrews before coming to Elon in April of 1993.

Elon will move into the Southern Conference next season.


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