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In Sports from United Press International

June 4, 2003 at 12:08 AM   |   Comments

Sosa ejected for illegal bat

CHICAGO, June 4 (UPI) -- Chicago Cubs superstar Sammy Sosa was ejected for using an illegal bat in the first inning of Tuesday's game with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The incident occurred after Sosa broke his bat hitting a ground ball to second base.

Plate umpire and crew chief Tim McClelland picked up the bat, took it out of play and ruled Sosa out - costing the Cubs a run. Sosa was ejected immediately and could be facing a lengthy suspension.


Yankees name Jeter 11th team captain

CINCINNATI, June 4 (UPI) -- New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter Tuesday was named the 11th captain in club history.

In a news conference at Great American Ball Park, where the Yankees begin a three-game interleague series with the Cincinnati Reds, Jeter had the honor bestowed upon him by owner George Steinbrenner, who was not in attendance.

"I have always been very, very careful about giving such a responsibility to one of my players," Steinbrenner said in a statement. "But I can't think of a single player that I have ever had who is more deserving of this honor than Derek Jeter."

Jeter is the Yankees' first captain since Don Mattingly, who served in the role over his final five years in the major leagues (1991-95).

Jeter's name is added to a list that also includes Babe Ruth (1922), Lou Gehrig (1935-41) and Thurman Munson (1976-79). Ruth was captain for six days before Everett Scott accepted the role.

The first captain in team history was Hal Chase (1912). The others were Roger Peckinpaugh (1914-21), Graig Nettles (1982-84), Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry. Randolph and Guidry were co-captains from 1986-89.

"In their first 100 seasons, the New York Yankees had only 10 team captains," General Manager Brian Cashman said. "Derek Jeter has no doubt demonstrated that he is uniquely qualified to be our first captain since Don Mattingly and the first of our second century."

The announcement comes during a tough time for the Yankees, the most successful franchise in baseball history. They have made the postseason each year since 1996 but have lost 17 of their last 27 games.

New York leads Boston by 1 1/2 games in the American League East.

Jeter has been a rock for the Yankees, helping them to World Series titles in 1996 and 1998-2000. His spectacular defensive play against Oakland helped New York advance to the 2001 Fall Classic vs. Arizona.

The 2003 season got off to a shaky start for Jeter, who dislocated his shoulder on Opening Day and missed six weeks. He is batting .298 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 19 games.

The 1996 American League Rookie of the Year, Jeter has been named to each of the last five AL All-Star teams. He also was voted World Series and All-Star MVP in 2000.

Although he has been criticized for his lack of power, Jeter entered the season with a .317 career batting average, 117 homers, 563 RBI and 167 stolen bases.

Jeter turns 29 later this month.


Agassi out at French Open

PARIS, June 4 (UPI) -- Guillermo Coria, one of the outstanding men's players from Argentina, upset second-seeded Andre Agassi, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, Tuesday at the French Open.

The setback ended Agassi's run at a potential ninth Grand Slam title.

Agassi, 33, who won his third straight Australian Open in January, won three of his first four matches at Roland Garros in straight sets, and rallied from two down to survive the other.

He would have regained the No. 1 world ranking if he reached the final, taking over for Lleyton Hewitt, who already was out.

Coria, 21, a former junior champion at Roland Garros, lost both of his prior meetings with Agassi, whom he referred to as his "hero," but both of those meetings were on hard courts.

"I'm very happy because I'm never going to forget this throughout my life," said the seventh-seeded Coria, a former junior champion at Roland Garros, who has won 19 of his last 21 matches.

Agassi appreciated the compliment, but still was disappointed with the setback. He was seeking his second straight Grand title, having won his third consecutive Australian Open title in January.

"I'd rather not be his idol and play him on hard court than be his idol and play him on clay," Agassi said.

Coria is the fourth different Argentine to reach the French semifinals in the Open Era. With his quick feet and a variety of shots, the Hamburg champion has won 19 of his last 22 matches.

Also in men's play, unseeded Dutchman Martin Verkerk upset No. 4 Carlos Moya of Spain with a marathon 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 4-6, 8-6 victory. Verkerk will face Coria in the semifinals.

"If you had told me one year ago that I was going to play Carlos Moya in the Roland Garros quarterfinals and beat him, I would have thought that we ought to drink more beer and then I might believe you," Verkerk said.

On the women's end, top-seeded Serena Williams, the defending champion, breezed into the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over crowd favorite Amelie Mauresmo.

"It's difficult when you play a player who the crowd loves so much and who does so much for the country and you're playing her in their country," Williams said.

Williams is aiming for her fifth straight Grand Slam title. While it's three tournaments away, she also is looking to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four majors in the same year.

Williams' semifinal opponent will be fourth-seeded Justin Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, who handed the world's top-ranked player her first loss of the season in early April at the Family Circle Cup final.

Henin-Hardenne bounced No. 8 Chanda Rubin, 6-3, 6-2, as she seeks her first career Grand Slam title. She reached the semifinals for the fifth time.

The other semifinal will pit second-seeded Kim Clijsters of Belgium and unseeded Nadia Petrova of Russia.

Clijsters crushed No. 24 Conchita Martinez of Spain, 6-2, 6-1, and Petrova outlasted fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva, the 22nd seed, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

The setback ended Agassi's run at a potential ninth Grand Slam title.


Broncos sign safety Flowers, QB Kanell

ENGLEWOOD, Colo., June 4 (UPI) -- The Denver Broncos on Tuesday signed strong safety Lee Flowers and quarterback Danny Kanell.

Flowers, 30, spent his first eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers but was not re-signed. Last season, the 6-foot, 214-pound Flowers played in all 16 games and registered 58 tackles and two interceptions.

A 1995 fifth-round pick out of Georgia Tech, Flowers became a starter with the Steelers in 1998. He collected a career-high 83 tackles in his first season as a starter while emerging into a leader in the secondary.

In Denver, Flowers should challenge Kenoy Kennedy and Sam Brandon for the starting job at strong safety.

Kanell, 29, has been out of the football since 2000, when he played for the Atlanta Falcons. He also has played for the New York Giants in his career and has completed 438-of-853 passes for 4,687 yards with 29 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.

Kanell should battle Jarious Jackson for the third-string job behind Jake Plummer and Steve Beuerlein.

The Broncos on Tuesday also signed cornerback Sam Young, who was waived during training camp last season.


NBA Finals begin Wednesday

SAN ANTONIO, June 4 (UPI) -- San Antonio and New Jersey meet Wednesday in Game One of the NBA Finals at the SBC Center.

It marks the first championship series pitting teams that originated in the ABA, the league with the colorful red, white, and blue ball and game. The Spurs joined the NBA in 1973. The Nets came over in 1976, the year of their second ABA title.

The Spurs won only one playoff series in six ABA seasons. They needed five tries to win their first NBA series, but they have one more NBA title than the Nets, winning during the lockout-abbreviated 1999 season.

While they may have something to prove in the Finals, the Spurs advanced this far by beating three very different teams, eliminating Phoenix, the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas, each time in six games.

Their go-to guy is two-time league MVP Tim Duncan, who won the same award in the 1999 Finals. He provides a defensive nightmare for opponents. The 7-foot power forward is averaging 24.9 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game, all team highs, this postseason.

The series is being billed as a battle between Duncan and star New Jersey guard Jason Kidd, who figures to be the NBA's most sought-after free agent this offseason. He likely will be hit with an onslaught of questions about a possible move to San Antonio.

It has been rumored that Kidd would consider a move to Texas to team with Duncan as one of the most formidable 1-2 punches in league history. New Jersey fans likely will beg Kidd to stay during the middle three games of the series in East Rutherford.

The reaction from fans toward Kidd at SBC Center should depend on the play of point guard Tony Parker, an unproven second-year player from France, who is second on the team with 14.9 points per game, but doesn't compare to Kidd.

He is averaging 20.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per contest during a phenomenal postseason, helping the Nets to the Finals for the second straight year. They were swept by the Lakers last season, but many give them a chance this time around.

Part of the reason is the development of former No. 1 draft pick Kenyon Martin, an inside force on both the offensive and defensive ends. The 6-9 forward leads the team in the playoffs with 20.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

The Nets will go only as far as Kidd, Martin, and their fast break take them. They have lived in an up-tempo offense, one that caused major problems for Milwaukee, Boston, and Detroit in the first three rounds of the postseason.

While both teams have point guards and big men to reckon with, the series could come down to the supporting casts.

The Spurs will rely on David Robinson, Manu Ginobli, Bruce Bowen, Malik Rose, and former Net Stephen Jackson. New Jersey will lean on Richard Jefferson, Kerry Kittles, Jason Collins, and Lucious Harris.

Game One is scheduled to tip off Wednesday at 8:30. Game Two is Friday, then the series shifts to New Jersey on Sunday.


Isles fire Laviolette, promote Striling

UNIONDALE, N.Y., June 4 (UPI) -- New York Islanders General Manager Mike Milbury fired Coach Peter Laviolette on Tuesday, saying just making the playoffs is not good enough.

Assistant coaches Jacques Laperriere and Kelly Miller also were fired.

Milbury replaced Laviolette with Steve Stirling, who spent the last two seasons coaching the Islanders' American Hockey League affiliate at Bridgeport. It was his first head coaching job at the professional level.

Greg Cronin, an Islanders assistant the last five years, will succeed Stirling at Bridgeport. Stirling will be introduced at a news conference on Wednesday.

Two years ago, Laviolette guided the Islanders to their first playoff appearance since 1994. They made it again this season, but lost in the first round both times, something that didn't sit well with Milbury.

"We felt a change was necessary for this team to move to the next level and compete for the Stanley Cup," said Milbury, who also has been on the hot seat. "Just making the playoffs is not good enough."

Laviolette was given his first NHL coaching job by Milbury in May 2001. The move paid immediate dividends as the Islanders opened the 2001-02 season with a franchise-best 9


1-1 mark.

As a rookie coach, Laviolette led the Islanders to the fourth-biggest one-year turnaround in NHL history as the team went from 21 to 42 wins.

The Islanders lost a hard-fought seven-game series to Toronto in the 2002 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, losing team captain Michael Peca in the process.

More was expected of the team this season, but Peca missed the first fifth of the season while recovering from knee and shoulder surgery, and no one else was able to take over the leadership role.

Alexei Yashin, the team's leading scorer, was quiet until the final month of the season, when the Islanders held off a pair of teams to earn the eighth seed in the East.

The playoffs started on a high note. The Islanders won Game One of their conference quarterfinal series against top-seeded Ottawa, but they lost the next four games by a combined score of 13-4.

With a mixture of veterans and youngsters with potential, the Islanders turned to a coach responsible for developing players in the minor league system.

Stirling won at Bridgeport, leading the team the Calder Cup final in 2002. The Tigers advanced to the second round of the playoffs this past season.

In two years at the AHL level, Stirling went 83-51-19-7. He has spent six seasons in the Islanders' organization, three as an assistant coach and one as a scout.

Stirling coached Providence to the 1985 NCAA final.


LOUISVILLE, Ky., June 4 (UPI) -- Midway Road, the horse that finished second in the Preakness, will not run in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

Trainer Neil Howard has confirmed that the son of Jade Hunter would skip the Belmont Stakes in favor of a run in the Grade III $300,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 21.

"We feel like this is the best thing for our horse," said Howard. "We didn't know if it would be the smartest thing right now to take him up there and go a mile and a half against those kind of horses right now, especially a horse like Funny Cide."

Bred in Kentucky, Midway Road took a huge leap in class at the Preakness after posting an 11 3/4-length win in an allowance race at Keeneland on April 24.

While the colt was second, he was still 9 3/4 lengths behind Funny Cide, which try to become the 12th horse to win the coveted Triple Crown when he competes in the Belmont Stakes.

Also withdrawing from the Belmont is Outta Here, which finished seventh in the Preakness, and was considered a long shot.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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