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posted November 08, 2005 09:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Urbina Charged With Attempted Murder 2 hours, 13 minutes ago

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Ugueth Urbina was arrested on a charge of attempted murder after he and a group of men allegedly attacked several employees at his family home using machetes and trying to set them on fire, police said Tuesday.

Urbina, who was detained late Monday, has insisted he had nothing to do with the violence that broke out at his home last month. Five workers were injured in the incident, and one of them suffered burns on the back and right arm, police said.

One of the five, Argenis Farias, has accused Urbina of being among several men who threatened the workers with machetes and poured gasoline on them in an attempt to set them afire.

Urbina's lawyer has said the pitcher was sleeping at the time and was not involved. The authorities said Urbina would be formally charged soon once he appears before a judge.

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posted December 21, 2005 09:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Yankees snatch Damon from Red Sox
Center fielder gets 4-year deal worth $52 million, must pass physical

The Associated Press
Updated: 10:25 a.m. ET Dec. 21, 2005

NEW YORK - Johnny Damon gives the Yankees their first big-time leadoff hitter since Chuck Knoblauch was at the top of the order a half-decade ago — an era when New York won three straight World Series titles and four consecutive AL pennants.

Damon’s decision to bolt Boston and accept a $52 million, four-year contract from the Yankees on Tuesday night also provides New York with a center fielder who covers a large amount of ground.

Details of the deal were still being negotiated and Damon must pass a physical, a baseball official said on condition of anonymity because negotiations were not yet final. The physical could take place Thursday, allowing the deal to be completed this week.

Moving from Fenway Park to Yankee Stadium will mean a change of style and scenery for the long-haired, bearded Damon — a fan favorite in Boston for his scrappy play and scruffy look. A razor is in his future because New York owner George Steinbrenner bans beards and long hair.

“Sad to say bye to some of the greatest fans in the world. Unfortunately they had to see this day, but it’s time for me to move forward,” Damon told WBZ television in Boston. “They were coming after me aggressively. We know George Steinbrenner’s reputation.

“He always wants to have the best players, and I think he showed that tonight. He and Brian Cashman came after me hard,” he said, referring to New York’s general manager.

Damon will hit at the top of a potent lineup that includes Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi. The bottom of the order has Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano and the designated hitter (or the first baseman spelling Giambi).

Bernie Williams’ defense declined significantly over the past four seasons, although he is expected to remain with the Yankees as a reserve in a deal where only the performance bonuses remain to be negotiated. And while Damon’s arm is not much better, the two-time All-Star will get to a lot more balls in the gaps.

Agent Scott Boras had been seeking a seven-year contract for Damon. The offer Damon accepted was the same as the deal Matsui agreed to with the Yankees last month — $13 million annually.

Damon said Boston did not attempt to match New York’s offer. Red Sox owner John Henry said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that Damon did not go back to the team to give it a chance to top the Yankees’ offer.

“A good leadoff hitter is tough to find, and I think that New York just found the best leadoff hitter in the game,” he told WBZ.

Damon is the first star player to switch sides in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry over the past few years, although role players such as John Olerud, Alan Embree, Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Myers have done it.

“We were notified at 11:55 tonight that Damon had accepted an offer from the Yankees,” Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

New York, baseball’s first team with a $200 million payroll last season, had a relatively quiet offseason until now. The Yankees, eliminated by the Los Angeles Angels in the first round of the AL playoffs, were overshadowed by the splashy Mets, who acquired slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado from the Florida Marlins and signed free-agent closer Billy Wagner to a $43 million, four-year contract.

Damon, who turned 32 last month, led Boston with a .316 batting average. He had 197 hits and scored 117 runs.

When Myers finalized his contract with the Yankees last week, he gushed about the prospect of having Damon in New York’s lineup.

“I would put the over/under on Damon scoring 125, and I’d take the over any day of the week,” Myers said. “I think the fans would absolutely love him there, just his hustle and his passion for the game, the way he goes about his business. I think he’d fit in great in the clubhouse, even though I don’t know what the clubhouse is.”

Earlier in the day, the Yankees reached a preliminary agreement on a $2 million, one-year contract with reliever Octavio Dotel, who is recovering from elbow surgery.

“I feel very happy with this contract,” Dotel said. “This team has a lot of tradition, and it pleases me to know that they want me to pitch for them.”

Dotel would get a $250,000 bonus if added to the 25-man active roster and could earn $3 million more in performance bonuses based on games. His deal contains an additional $2.5 million in bonuses based on games finished, in case he is traded to another team.

He had 36 saves for Houston and Oakland in 2004 but struggled last season with Oakland, going 1-2 with seven saves and a 3.52 ERA before he went on the disabled list May 20. From April 30 to May 11, he blew four saves in five outings.

Dotel had reconstructive elbow surgery June 6 to repair a torn ligament. He hopes to be pitching by midseason.

“What I do know is that it’s going to help me to go back to what I like and that is to be a closer,” he said.

With the Yankees, Dotel joins several newcomers in the bullpen: right-hander Kyle Farnsworth and left-handers Ron Villone and Myers. New York has struggled to find middle-inning pitchers in recent years, and setup man Tom Gordon left to become the Philadelphia Phillies’ closer.

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posted March 06, 2006 05:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett dies

By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writer
March 6, 2006

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kirby Puckett died Monday, a day after the Hall of Fame outfielder had a stroke at his Arizona home, a hospital spokeswoman said. He was 44.

Puckett died at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Kimberly Lodge said. He had been in intensive care since having surgery at another hospital following his stroke Sunday morning.

Puckett carried the Twins to World Series titles in 1987 and 1991 before his career was cut short by glaucoma. His family, friends and former teammates gathered at the hospital throughout Monday.

The hospital said Puckett was given last rites and died in the afternoon.

"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am terribly saddened by the sudden passing of Kirby Puckett," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "He was a Hall of Famer in every sense of the term.

"He played his entire career with the Twins and was an icon in Minnesota. But he was revered throughout the country and will be remembered wherever the game is played. Kirby was taken from us much too soon -- and too quickly," he said.

The buoyant, barrel-shaped Puckett broke into the majors in 1984 and had a career batting average of .318. Glaucoma forced the six-time Gold Glove center fielder and 10-time All-Star to retire when he went blind in his right eye.

"This is a sad day for the Minnesota Twins, Major League Baseball and baseball fans everywhere," Twins owner Carl Pohlad said.

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posted March 30, 2006 10:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Baseball to investigate Bonds, other players
Giant reportedly won't cooperate with ex-Senate majority leader Mitchell

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - The alleged steroid use by Barry Bonds and other players will be investigated by Major League Baseball, and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell will lead the effort.

A baseball official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that final plans were to be announced at a news conference Thursday, and commissioner Bud Selig was scheduled to make an announcement 2 p.m. ET at his office. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Selig has not yet made his intentions public.

Selig’s decision to launch the probe, first reported by ESPN, came in the wake of “Game of Shadows,” a book by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters detailing alleged extensive steroid use by Bonds and other baseball stars. The commissioner has said for several weeks that he was evaluating how to respond to the book.

Some in Congress have called for an independent investigation. Mitchell, a Maine Democrat and a director of the Boston Red Sox, has been a director of the Florida Marlins and served on an economic study committee that Selig appointed in 1999. He also is chairman of The Walt Disney Co., whose ESPN subsidiary is one of baseball’s primary broadcast partners.

Mitchell’s possible involvement was first mentioned Wednesday in The New York Times. The name of a lawyer who will run the mechanics of the probe also was to be announced.

No matter what the findings of an investigation, it would be difficult for baseball to penalize anyone for steroids used before Sept. 30, 2002, when a joint drug agreement between management and the players’ association took effect. Baseball began drug testing in 2003 and started testing with penalties the following year.

“I will only comment on things about Barry’s on-field performance or contractual status,” said his agent, Jeff Borris.

It is unclear whether current or former players would cooperate with an investigation or could be forced to do so by baseball. Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the Major League Baseball Players Association, declined comment.

Under pressure from Congress, baseball toughened penalties last year and again this season, when an initial positive test will result in a 50-game suspension. Twelve players, including Rafael Palmeiro, were suspended for 10 days each following positive tests last year.

“Game of Shadows” details alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs by Bonds for at least five seasons beginning after the 1998 season.

Former commissioner Fay Vincent called this month for an investigation and suggested it be headed by Mitchell or John Dowd, who led baseball’s 1989 probe into gambling by career hits leader Pete Rose, who agreed to a lifetime ban.

“I think the investigation is the right step,” Vincent said. “I don’t think the issue is punishment, I think it’s: ‘Shouldn’t the players be called to task for cheating, even if there is no punishment?’ I think baseball has to recapture the moral high ground.”

An after-hours message left for Mitchell at his New York office was not immediately returned Wednesday. The New York Daily News first reported March 16 that Selig would launch an investigation, but Selig said no decision had been made at the time.

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posted March 31, 2006 11:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Disney Chairman To Investigate Steroids In Baseball

The decision by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to select Walt Disney Chairman George Mitchell to head an investigation into charges of steroid use in baseball has touched off widespread criticism. Disney owns the ESPN sports cable network and Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox. "While George Mitchell is certainly a man of great integrity, I believe that baseball would have been wiser to pick someone who is not as close to the game and may be able to take a more objective look into the facts," Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher, told today's (Friday) Philadelphia Inquirer.

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posted April 03, 2006 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Ticket prices going, going...up

Survey finds 5.4 percent increase in average baseball ticket prices, though big jumps aren't as bad as they initially appear to be

By Chris Isidore, senior writer
April 3, 2006: 3:57 PM EDT

NEW YORK ( - As the new baseball season starts, teams will be looking for fans to dig deeper into their pockets this season, according to a recent survey which shows a 5.4 percent rise in average ticket prices, with 21 out of 30 teams raising prices.

America's cheapest pastime
The survey, conducted by industry trade publication Team Marketing Report, showed a $22.21 average price for a major league baseball game this year. That's a fraction of the cost of the average ticket for any other major team sport, and the 5.4% increase is also slightly less than the 6.3 percent rise in average ticket prices found in the 2005 survey.

Major League Baseball set an attendance record by selling 73.1 million tickets in 2005, and it opens the 2006 season with fewer seats available, as some teams have trimmed capacity.

Team Marketing Report also calculates a "Fan Cost Index," using the cost of food, parking and souvenirs at a game for a family of four. That calculation rose slightly less than did the average ticket price -- 4.6 percent to $171.89.

But the ticket price hikes aren't as steep as they would first appear.

For example, the Oakland Athletics posted a average price increase of 25.2 percent, the biggest jump in the majors. But a big part of that increase comes due to a 14,000-seat reduction at the team's stadium, which closed off most of the upper deck, thus reducing the supply of the cheapest seats. The cheapest seats left increased to $9 from $8 a year ago, a 12.5 percent increase, while the most expensive seats rose about 7 percent, to $32 from $30.

The other team posting a big ticket-price increase, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is instituting a two-tier pricing plan. The team's regular tickets, which are good for about three-quarters of home games, are actually less expensive than last year's tickets. But there are 22 premium games against teams such as the New York Yankees, where fans in attendance will pay between 25 and 100 percent more than they do for the regular games.

Team Marketing Report calculates that Devil Rays tickets have jumped by 24.7 percent, although at $17.09 the average price of a ticket is still below the league average. Team spokesman Rick Vaughn points out that prices for the majority of its games are still lower than a year ago. "I don't know what formula they used," he said. "We made the ballpark experience here considerably less expensive than it was."

The Devil Rays could have been spurred to cut ticket prices at most games because they had the majors' worst attendance in 2005, with only 1.1 million fans. Some of the other teams that are struggling on the field, and at the turnstile, such as the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates, are leaving prices unchanged. The Royals have the cheapest average ticket price: $13.71.

Modest increases
The two teams to cut average ticket prices were the Atlanta Braves and the Colorado Rockies, trimming average prices 2.5 and 1.3 percent, respectively.

Some other teams saw relatively modest price increases.

The St. Louis Cardinals' average ticket price went up 12.1 percent to $29.78, giving it the third highest average price in the majors, behind the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. But the Cardinals just moved a new stadium, and the jump in their ticket prices was far smaller than the 50 percent average increase seen in the last ten teams to move into new homes since 2000.

The Cardinals new stadium also trims the supply of tickets available to 43,975 from 49,676 at the old park.

The Chicago White Sox, who won their first World Series in 88 years last year, raised prices only 2.5 percent, even though world champions generally see a big jump in demand the season after they win the title. In 2005, the defending champ Boston Red Sox raised prices 9.3 percent, even though it already had the league's most expensive tickets.

The Houston Astros, who made it to their first World Series in the team's 45-year history in 2005, raised prices 7.4 percent.

The Red Sox again kept the title of the most expensive average ticket price at $46.46, up 4.3 percent.

But much of that was due to the fact that the Red Sox added 1,500 seats, the majority of which were in premium areas of the park. The highest ticket price at Fenway went to $90 from $80 in 2005.

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posted April 11, 2006 04:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Cheers, boos as Cheney opens U.S. baseball game
Tue Apr 11, 2006 2:01 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A loud mixture of cheers and boos greeted Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Nationals baseball game.

Cheney, wearing a red Nationals warmup jacket, tossed a pitch that reached Nationals catcher Brian Schneider on one bounce.

The vice president, whose popularity is slumping along with that of President Bush, walked out on the field to cheering and booing from the near-sellout crowd. The boos appeared to be little louder than the cheers at RFK Memorial Stadium.

On the field with him were three U.S. servicemen, two of whom had been wounded in Iraq and a third who was injured in Afghanistan.

Cheney was the eighth vice president to throw out a first pitch for Washington's baseball team on opening day at home. He was the first since 1968 when Hubert Humphrey tossed the first pitch when the team was the Washington Senators.

Before the game, Cheney visited the locker rooms of both the Nationals and the visiting New York Mets. Nationals manager Frank Robinson, who was taking the field for his 51st pro baseball season, escorted Cheney and introduced him to the players.

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posted April 12, 2006 09:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Keaton Slams Baseball Owners

Hollywood star Michael Keaton has angered bosses of the Pittsburgh Pirates, his local baseball team, by telling them how to run the club. The Batman Returns star, who was a guest of the struggling team at their match on Monday, hit out at owners for not spending enough money on top class players. The Pirates' payroll is currently the fourth lowest in the majors, and has been reflected in a string of defeats, prompting a Keaton backlash. He says, "Look, I'd do it, too, if I were a businessman. But, at some point, you've got to win. I think fans have been gracious. And maybe not vocal enough. Maybe not vociferous enough with their displeasure. That's my opinion. I fear they (club owners) will take advantage of the good will of the people who continue to show up. For my money, that's disrespectful. At some point, you either have to write the check or do something and not assume, well, we're OK."

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posted May 22, 2006 09:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Time Warner's Talks To Sell Braves Said 'Chugging Along'

Stephen Greenberg, the point man for Time Warner Inc.'s negotiations to sell the Atlanta Braves, said Friday talks are "chugging along" with "no hang-up whatsoever." Greenberg would neither confirm nor deny Time Warner is in exclusive talks with Colorado-based Liberty Media Corp., though he talked positively about the company as the Braves' potential new owner. "I've known for a long time that John Malone is a big sports fan," said Greenberg of Liberty Media's chairman. "If in fact Liberty does buy this team, I think Atlanta fans have no need to worry." There have been local concerns that Liberty Media may see the Braves as more of a short-term tax benefit than a long-term investment. Time Warner would reclaim a significant block of its stock in a tax-free exchange that would give Liberty Media cash and the Braves. Liberty Media owns about 4% of Time Warner. For Braves veteran players who remember the local and passionate presence of former owner Ted Turner, a tax-exempt stock swap between out-of-town corporate buyers is not an exciting notion. "Yeah, it matters," said third baseman Chipper Jones recently. "If a company is buying us for investment purposes, then it doesn't benefit us at all." Malone, however, has said recently that his interest in the Braves isn't as a short-term venture. "I don't think that would be the case at all," agreed Greenberg. "That's not to say it's a done deal. Frankly I think all three of the bidders have demonstrated the appropriate interest in and passion for baseball and the Braves in particular. I don't think we could have three better bidders." Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and a group led by Atlanta real estate executive Ron Terwilliger are the other bidders. Blank and Terwilliger are believed to be on standby in case Time Warner's talks with Liberty Media break down. Greenberg said the talks with the Braves aren't affected by baseball owners Thursday giving their unanimous approval to the $450 million sale of the Washington Nationals to Theodore Lerner and former Braves president Stan Kasten. "It doesn't affect our time schedule," Greenberg said. "Our schedule has been pretty much independent of what's going on with Washington. We're chugging along, trying to reach a resolution. There has been no hang-up whatsoever. "We're still in that period where we're still grinding through documents and agreements in the process, which normally we do in the cover of darkness. This is a little more difficult." Greenberg said the process could be completed before the baseball owners meet in August.

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posted June 05, 2006 09:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
The arm that changed the Major League draft

By Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports
June 5, 2006

BEAUFORT, N.C. – As a gift to himself, Brien Taylor bought a black Mustang 5.0 when the New York Yankees gave him the largest signing bonus ever offered to an amateur. Taylor still drives that car, to work in the morning and by the ocean at night, around the sleepy backroads where he was born poor and the bourgeois streets downtown. He toyed with the engine and souped it up and now it's running at least 500 horses, and best of all, it's street legal, says his mama, proud of her son today as she was 15 years ago.

That's when Brien Taylor, a 19-year-old born with a left arm that launched baseballs like a Howitzer, changed modern baseball. Drafted No. 1 overall by the Yankees, Taylor, on the advice of his mama and his agent, kept refusing lowball offers and turning down more money than he could fathom. Taylor and his family lived in a trailer with one light bulb. He could buy a lot of light bulbs with what the Yankees were offering.

Pride intervened. Growing up impoverished, pride is currency. Pride is what got Taylor's bonus to $1.55 million and has since allowed hundreds of other obscene baseball bonuses, and pride is what slew Taylor's career, and pride is what brought him back here, back home, a year and a half ago.

Taylor moved to his parents' house, on Brien Taylor Lane, for the time being, at least. It's at the end of an unpaved road, past a clothesline where the afternoon wash dries, eight miles from the Piggly Wiggly. In the back yard, mosquitoes attack like kamikazes. There are three smashed-up cars, one with an open, rusted toolset on top – a job unfinished. Riding lawnmowers hide in the overgrown grass, and the wind chips more paint off an ATV, and the bottom of a boat that looks like it hasn't been used in years corrodes.

He's not here today, and he's not going to be, either.


"I'm sorry, says a woman answering Taylor's cell phone. "He's not interested in talking. He's having a family day today. Thanks."

Brien Taylor's mama named him after the lead character in "Brian's Song," which still, to this day, makes her cry. Maybe that is Brien Taylor's story, a sad one. Or maybe it's a cautionary one, of one decision and its consequences.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's a tale of fate and the way things always seem to end up like they should.


He was 6-foot-4 and not fat and not skinny. He looked like a man. He swaggered like one, too, when he was on that mound, all presence and intimidation and fear. Batters started the walk to the plate with a chrysalis in their stomach, and by the time they saw that fastball, it metamorphosed into a full-on butterfly. Lord, that fastball. They swear it tickled 85 when he was 12, and Willie "Ray" Taylor, his daddy and catcher, remembers the sting when it caught the mitt's heel. Like a thousand bees at once.

"I've been through 28 drafts," Scott Boras says, "and Brien Taylor, still to this day, is the best high school pitcher I've seen in my life."

Boras is the agent who got Alex Rodriguez a $252 million contract, and in Taylor, he saw a player just as transcendent. In his back yard, Taylor used to throw rocks that his mama, Bettie, swears would hit birds and kill them on the spot.

Word spread about the kid at East Carteret High, the school Bettie had integrated in 1965, and scouts started attending Taylor's games like a guilty man does church. They wanted to meet him. Just go past the Mount Tabor Baptist Church, Bettie told them, and turn right down the second dirt path. The street wasn't named Brien Taylor Lane then.

By the end of his senior season, though, Beaufort no longer was known as a weekend destination or a crabbing sanctuary. It was the hometown of Brien Taylor.

"There are certain pitchers who come along every so often and you don't know how to describe them," says Mike Fox, the head coach at the University of North Carolina. "Well, you can describe Brien pretty quickly: No one could touch him."

In his senior season, Taylor worked 88 innings, struck out 213 hitters and walked only 28. His fastball rested at 95 mph and often hit 98 and 99. Even if his curveball needed refining and his changeup didn't flutter like others', he still had that fastball, his meal ticket.

"He wasn't a good No. 1 draft pick," Boras says. "He was a great one."


Bettie Taylor's feet hurt. Diabetes stole her job, and now it constrains her travel. She spends most of the time at home with Brien's youngest daughter, Mia, a 3-year-old who's already learned to roll her eyes.

"I feel old," Bettie says. "It's like everything that happened took all my energy."

Fifteen years ago, Bettie was a star. Sports Illustrated wrote almost 5,000 words on her and Eric Lindros' mom, and "60 Minutes" devoted a segment to her. She popped up in The New York Times accusing the Yankees of racism, and she fought for her son from the moment the Yankees proffered their first insulting offer.

Now, $300,000 was more than Bettie and Ray had made in their lives. She picked the meat out of blue crabs and got paid by the pound, and he was a bricklayer. They never had too much, but they always had enough.

The offer was also $900,000 less in guaranteed money than Todd Van Poppel, the ballyhooed Texas right-hander, had signed for in the previous draft.

"They had the attitude that these poor black people from the South were stupid and didn't know any better," Bettie says. "And we were. But, let me tell you, we learn quick."

From June 3, the day the Yankees chose Taylor, Bettie drew the line of demarcation: Pay him Van Poppel money or he's going to college. The Yankees raised their offer to $650,000. She said no.

"When I went in, I told them what I wanted," Bettie says. "And I wasn't going to budge from that."

Along came Boras, who Bettie had read about. She knew he wrangled the Van Poppel deal, and she was going to need help. Major League Baseball had sent in a representative to kindly ask the Taylors to accept the Yankees' offer. The scene resembled a mafia sitdown, and Bettie wouldn't have been surprised if a dead fish showed up on her windshield.

Single-handedly she was changing how baseball did business, empowering the players who, for so long, had been stunted by a rigid bonus structure.

"She's a mother who loved her son," Boras says. "And when I first saw her, I said, Mrs. Taylor, as a lawyer and an adviser, the only guarantee I can give you is the first contract your son signs.' "

August dawned, and Taylor enrolled at Louisburg College, a junior college near Raleigh, N.C. He was playing chicken, and he seemed content with crashing. The Yankees, hours before Taylor started school, offered him $1.55 million to be paid over two seasons. Taylor rushed back to sign the contract before the Yankees could think twice.

Bettie thinks about that day and laughs. Ray was getting cold feet. Brien really didn't know much better. It was her, alone, a pioneer just like in 1965.

"It was not about the money for me," Bettie says. "I told them what I expected, and it was a matter of respect and equality and pride."


In a North Carolina trailer park on Dec. 18, 1993, a blur of shoves and a tangle of arms ended Brien Taylor's career. He was sticking up for his older brother, Brenden, who had been beaten up by a local heavy named Ron Wilson. When Taylor went to Wilson's trailer, he tussled with Jamie Morris, Wilson's friend, and, when falling to the ground, dislocated his left shoulder and tore his labrum.

"I can remember [surgeon] Frank Jobe sitting me down," Boras says. "He said, This is one of the worst shoulder injuries I've ever seen,' and I believed it. The way he tore it was unnatural."

Taylor's first two seasons were magnificent. At Class A Fort Lauderdale, he struck out 187 in 161 innings and posted a 2.57 ERA. The next year, as a 21-year-old at Double-A Albany-Colonie, Taylor went 13-7 with a 3.48 ERA and struck out almost a hitter an inning. Baseball America had named him the game's best prospect, and Taylor could do no wrong on a baseball field.

Back in Beaufort it was different. The Taylors had always lived on their swath of land, just like Bettie's family, the Murrells, had lived on theirs, just like most families in the North River section of Beaufort did. Ever since Taylor signed with the Yankees, Bettie felt the stares from people, the vibes that emanated. When Taylor was injured, she sensed they were laughing.

Surgery did no good. Taylor returned missing 8 mph off his fastball, and he still couldn't get his curve over the plate. He never made it past Class A again. The Yankees cut him in 1998. Seattle signed him, then released him. Cleveland gave him a shot in 2000, and he gave up 14 baserunners and eight earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.

Taylor left baseball a beaten man. He moved to Raleigh and worked as beer distributor. He was near his first daughter, from a previous relationship, and lived with the four daughters from his relationship at the time.

"When it was over," Bettie says, "it was over."

"That's right," Ray says. "He's had some tough times and some happy times. And some more tough times."


Ray Taylor sits on the couch and fans his face. The Disney Channel is on, and he's too tired to change it. Masonry is hard. It's still about 80 degrees outside at dusk; in the afternoon, when the sun beats down, it feels damn near 100 and the bricks are like huge coals to the touch. Ray tugs at his T-shirt, riddled with holes. When he puts his hand on his thigh, a cloud of mortar dust puffs from his jeans.

He went to work with his son this morning. Brien's been laying bricks with his daddy for a while now. He used to do it when he was a teenager and wanted something fancy, like a new pair of Nikes, that his parents couldn't afford. Taylor moved back to Beaufort when his relationship ended, and he needed some honest work to help pay for his daughters.

"I've been doing it 40 years now," Ray says, "so I like it. For a man like him, it ain't a lot of excitement."

A pair of old fans spin off their axes, clackity-clacking in the background; Ray soaks in their current. He's 58 years old, his hair still black, his voice deep and warbling and unmistakably Southern.

"Do you play the lottery?" he asks.

He reaches into his pocket.

"I got a ticket today," he says. "Powerball. Big money. Don't buy them very often. I mean, what are the chances of winning the lottery?"


If this is a story of fate instead of sadness or caution, it is because Brien Taylor lays bricks just like his daddy, just like he would have had he blown out his shoulder as a sophomore or junior in high school and been Brien Taylor, nondescript kid and trade apprentice, and not a pawn in baseball's huge game where everything is success or failure, boom or bust and there's no in between.

Fate means Friday nights usually reserved for playing pool at the Royal James Cafe on Beaufort's waterfront instead of pitching for New York in Baltimore or Boston or at Yankee Stadium.

"He'll be home at 3 a.m.," says Jada, Taylor's 6-year-old daughter.

"How do you know that?" Bettie asks.

"Because we stay up when he's playing pool," Jada says, "and he gets home at 3 a.m."

Another daughter, Brittany, 8, nods.

Turns out Taylor, now 34, has other plans for the night. He doesn't show up at the pool hall, and he doesn't pick up his phone. Baseball, much as his bonus money, is in the past, and he wants to leave it there even if history refuses to.

"He seems to like it back here," Bettie says. "Well, I don't know. I mean, I can't say for sure. What I do know is, this is who he is."

A boy and a man, a son and a father, a baseball player and a bricklayer, pulling the black Mustang down a dirt road that's named after him.

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posted July 07, 2006 04:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Scout's honor

By Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports
July 7, 2006

The sound of twisting metal woke up the whole neighborhood. There had been a nasty accident. A 16-year-old fussing with the radio lost control of his car, crashed into a parked one and thrust it into the next driveway. The kid was OK, just nervous that the guy whose car he destroyed might kill him.

Brian Wilson, Cincinnati Reds scout, husband, father of three girls, pig farmer and, in this case, vehicle owner, emerged from the house. He was staying with Jimmy Gonzales, his good friend and also a Reds scout, and rather than survey the damage with narrowed and angry eyes, he walked to the car and emptied it.

"He knew it was totaled," Gonzales says. "So he got his stuff out of his car. His car was dirty, too. Things everywhere. In the back, he had a bunch of Reds hats. And with everybody outside, at 6:30 in the morning, he started passing out Reds hats. To the neighbors. To the cops. He gave one to the kid."

Scouts are the traveling salesmen of baseball, sentenced to lives on the road and overworked odometers. They are also the nurses, eminently underappreciated, and the teachers, terribly underpaid. And that is why when Brian Wilson, 33 years old, died of a heart attack on June 17, the news was relegated to a two-sentence blurb.

Paring Wilson's life down
Back row: Brian Wilson and his wife, Prairie. Front row: daughters Conor, 10; Carson, 12; and Curry, 8.

to a handful of words was like whittling a Sequoia into a walking stick. For the last 10 years, he worked his way up from area scout to supervisor for all of Texas. He signed the Reds' last two first-round picks, outfielders Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs. He was Willy, parent-charmer and joke-teller, the walking compound adjective.

"He was the backbone of our scouting department," Gonzales says. "He wasn't just one of the veterans. He was the best evaluator, not even close, and he was as hard a worker, as far as production."

In Albany, Texas, the town of 1,900 where he grew up and lived, he was Brian. Whose daughters, Carson, 12, Conor, 10, and Curry, 8, let him clip and paint their toenails, because he was afraid their mom, Prairie, wouldn't do it right. Whose nose – protruding some might say, big and beautiful he'd contend – forced him to turn a soda can sideways if he wanted to drink it. Whose absent-mindedness seemed to lead his sunglasses astray, until someone pointed out they were resting atop his head, which would prompt him to say, "Hey, I'm just a redneck from West Texas."

For a redneck from West Texas, he gave good advice, and so friends and peers sought him out often to hear his simple wisdom. Two weeks before Wilson died, he got a call from Tyler Wilt, a scout with the Reds out of Chicago. He was Wilt's best friend, though a lot of people say that about Wilson. He helped Wilt ascend from a birddog in Texas to an integral part of the Reds' operations in the Midwest, and Wilt, suffering from a temporary bout with confidence, needed some reassurance.

"Don't let this job get to you," Wilson said. "If you have a heart attack and die, they'll just move on and give the job to someone else."


One summer, Brian Wilson lived in the press box at Hays Field at Lubbock Christian College. It was 1991, and an injury forced him out of the summer Jayhawk League. He didn't want to go home to Albany, and the 750-seat stadium sat empty during the summer, so Wilson plopped a bed in the radio booth and hooked up a TV in the adjoining room.

"Cribs" it wasn't.

"But Brian was like Tom Sawyer painting the fence," Wilt says. "He made it sound so good. I was living in a four-bedroom house with my parents, and I was like, 'Boy, I wish I could live in a press box.' "

Born in Graham, Texas, Wilson moved an hour Southwest to Albany while in first grade. His mother, Vickie, was an English teacher, and his father, Carl, taught agriculture. And Wilson was the small-town jock incarnate: the football and baseball star who dated the captain of the cheerleading squad.

Coaches and scouts skipped over Albany on their tours of Texas, so Wilson called Lubbock Christian coach Jimmy Shankle every week. He wanted to play middle infield. Shankle relented, let Wilson try out and brought him on. After two years in Lubbock, Wilson followed Shankle to Texas-San Antonio, and Cincinnati drafted him in the 33rd round.
Wilson raised pigs in his native West Texas.

By that time, he was married to Prairie, and she accompanied him to Billings, Mont., for rookie ball two straight seasons, and Charleston, W.Va., where his career petered out. To keep Wilson in the organization, the Reds offered him a scouting job and later sent him to coach Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns and B.J. Ryan, among others, in Billings.

"In the wintertime, I'd go pheasant hunting, and I invited Brian along," says Ted Power, the former Reds pitcher and a coach with Wilson in Billings. "We hooked up with some old high school friends of mine, good ol' boys, farmers. Brian fit in like he'd known these guys for years. We were hunting in some really bad weather, snow and sleet. Any time a bird got up, it was hard to hit him. Brian missed four or five in a row. And then, when he missed another, one of my friends said, 'Now I can see why you went into coaching. You must've had a lousy average.' "

Wilson roared. If Prairie was the pragmatist, he was the romantic who welcomed change. So if his baseball career ended, his coaching career would start. And when that concluded, he'd move on to scouting.

"Brian was always the kind of person who jumped off the cliff and built his wings on the way down," Prairie says. "He didn't think of how he was going to do it. He didn't waste his time trying to figure it out. He just did it."

Like with his pigs. Wilson loved his pigs. He bought 80 acres in Albany and built his dream house, replete with a pig barn. His show pig, carefully bred, won first place in its class at a recent ag show in Houston. Once when Power called, Wilson was sitting on top of a 300-pound sow delivering babies. He kept talking anyway.

"He took his girls to the shows," says Johnny Almaraz, the Reds' farm director and Wilson's scouting mentor. "He kept asking me to bring my little girl along. So I did. And after the show, seeing what Brian did with the pigs, she said, 'I want pigs, too.' "

"Those girls," Wilt says, "thought he hung the moon. He loved baseball, but family is why he lived."

Family is probably also why he died.

Wilson's father had triple-bypass surgery at 40. His mother died in her early 50s after two strokes. Wilson went to a heart specialist in Houston following Vickie's death with a two-week chart of everything he ate and how much he exercised. Even though Wilson's diet and exercise plans were exceptional, his cholesterol remained high.

On June 17, a Saturday, Wilson, his brother-in-law Trent Tankersley and his youngest daughter, Curry, were lifting farrowing crates in which they would place their pregnant sows. Tankersley used a Bobcat to lift the crates, and Wilson was trying to slide a piece of piping to help roll them toward the back of the barn. He bent at the waist and collapsed. Tankersley rolled Wilson over. There was no pulse. His eyes were fixed. Tankersley thinks Wilson died before he hit the ground.

Nearly 1,000 people attended the funeral, family and friends, scouts and players. They asked why, aloud, and no one knew the answer.

"Somebody said after the funeral that Albany was going to need a new mayor," Wilt says. "Everywhere he went, Willy was mayor."


He looked slick. At the Big 12 baseball tournament in 2002, Wilson showed up in Arlington, Texas, wearing shiny leather shoes, pressed slacks and a tailored dress shirt.
Wilson played three years and coached three years in the Reds' farm system before going into scouting.

How he ended up squatting, with a pair of tennis shoes on his feet and a white T-shirt sheathing his torso, is part of what made Wilson a great scout.

Fearlessness is a scout's vital quality. To have inherent confidence in one's assessments and not worry about others' judgments separates the employed and unemployed, and Wilson, on that particular day, fully believed he could catch Scott Kazmir as he tried to learn a changeup.

Kazmir was no ordinary pitcher. He was a left-hander who threw 95, the Gala, Red Delicious and Granny Smith of every scout's eye. The Reds wondered if he could throw a change. When Kazmir, now an All-Star at 22 years old, volunteered to try, the group backed away like his arm was made of anthrax while Wilson stepped forward.

"So Willy changes – he's still wearing those dress pants – and gets down," Wilt says. "He doesn't have a cup, and here's a kid learning a pitch that sometimes bounces. You know what Willy was doing the whole time? Laughing."

No, Wilson wasn't an ordinary scout. He loved mining backwoods towns for players. When Prairie would ask where he was going, Wilson would answer: "To find the arm behind the barn."

Wilson started scouting in 1996, the year he retired, and would traverse Texas with Gonzales, from high schools to colleges to tryout camps, where he would test his heart by throwing eight or nine hours of batting practice. It always held up just fine.

He lagged in his organization. Instead of carrying a day planner, Wilson lugged around a huge desk calendar, taking each page, folding it until it fit in his back pocket, which bulged like a goiter. Consequently, his driving skills were fodder for teasing, too. With Wilson placing the calendar atop his dash board, talking on the phone and adjusting the radio, it's a wonder he wasn't the one who caused the morning accident.

Driving is a given in scouting life, though, so Wilson found ways to pass the time. He would blast '80s music, call Wilt and put the phone up to the speaker. If Wilt knew the band and the song, they would talk. If he didn't, Wilson hung up. Sometimes, even when Wilt got the answer right, Wilson hit the disconnect button anyway.
[The girls] are where Brian is going to live on," Prairie Wilson says.

"We would stay up late at night arguing about players," Wilt says, "and what I always took away from that was to have your opinion, stick to your guns, be passionate about what you believe and have some conviction to your thought process."

Everyone had those talks with Wilson. Because as much as Wilson enjoyed scouting, he hated that his schedule meant driving six hours, on deserted back roads, just so he could make it home to cook breakfast and take the girls to school.

"The job didn't help any," Gonzales says. "Stress is stress. And that was the most stressful time of the season. He had just signed Stubbs on Wednesday night. He was driving back home Thursday and was going to see another kid that day. I talked to him at 9 o'clock on Friday night. I was at a national showcase in Fayetteville. I said, 'I'll talk to you tomorrow.' I called him all day Saturday and couldn't get a hold of him."

Wilson was gone. Gonzales found out from Tankersley, and word spread quickly in the scouting community. Every time he dialed a number, Gonzalez numbed himself a little more. Scouting Texas without Wilson would be like watching black-and-white TV after years of seeing brilliant colors.

Gonzales used to called Wilson so much, Prairie joked they were the ones who actually were married.

"A few times," Gonzales says, "I've caught myself picking that phone up."


Every day, Prairie Wilson reminds herself that she loves her husband as much as she did in fourth grade. Brian was a year ahead of her, and in between class, they would pass notes. He would write: "Do you like me? Circle yes or no." She saved the notes. She'll look at them when it's time.

For now, she's got two things: her memories and her daughters. She can think about two weeks ago, when she stepped outside and saw a rattlesnake. Wilson was on the road, so she called and asked how to kill it. Shoot it, he said. She took out his .410 shotgun and unloaded three blasts. Miss, miss, miss. Prarie fumed; Wilson calmed her.

"You still have one shell left," he said. "You can do it."
Brian and Prairie started passing love notes in elementary school. They married when he was 20 and she was 19.

He told her where to aim, and she split the snake in half.

"When I think of that story, I think of the girls, because they're where Brian is going to live on," Prairie says. "Our oldest has his quiet strength and ability to listen to people. Our second daughter has his fearlessness and his courage. And our youngest daughter has his free spirit, his love of life. Those are the things that carry me through. Looking at them and seeing him.

"He may not be here physically, but he's still here."

When Wilson returned from signing Stubbs, three days before he died, Prairie had tested out some paint for the downstairs of the new house, which they moved into Thanksgiving day. She brushed four potential colors on the wall.

"I really don't like it," Wilson said.

On Thursday, he came home after visiting a scouting friend's house. He had been looking for the right color and found one he liked. It was called Squirrel's Tail. The name made Prairie suspect.

"Today," she says, "I went to Abilene and bought Squirrel's Tail. That's fixing to be the color of our kitchen and living room."

She opened the can and pulled a long brushstroke down the wall. Prairie thought of her husband, gone at 33, and looked at the color he chose, and she said, "It really is beautiful."

A memorial fund has been set up for Brian Wilson's family:

Brian Wilson Memorial Fund
c/o First National Bank of Albany
Attn: Randel Palmore
PO Box 157
Albany, TX 76430

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posted July 07, 2006 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for N F S I 2   Click Here to Email N F S I 2     Edit/Delete Message
Fox Hits Home Run with All-Star Game Sales

Reflecting the resurgence of baseball as the national pastime, Fox announced Thursday that it had sold out all its available spots for next week's All-Star Game at a record average price of $375,000 for a 30-second spot. Fox Sales President Jon Nesvig indicated that the price was nearly 10 percent above last year's and comes at a time when Fox is in negotiations to extend its current deal with Major League Baseball, which concludes this year. Fox Sports President Ed Goren said that the network has already sold 95 percent of its available spots for its regular-season baseball telecasts, well ahead of last year.

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posted July 11, 2006 11:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for N F S I 2   Click Here to Email N F S I 2     Edit/Delete Message
Fox and TBS Play Ball

The Fox broadcast network and the TBS cable network have approved seven-year deals with Major League Baseball to televise weekend games during the season, the entire first round of the playoffs, plus one of the two league championship series, the All-Star Game and the World Series, Bloomberg News reported today (Tuesday), citing three people familiar with the negotiations. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Under it, Fox would broadcast 26 Saturday games (up from the current 18), while TBS would carry 26 Sunday games. TBS would carry the American and National League first-round playoffs, sharing them with sibling cable network TNT. Fox would continue to air the All-Star Game, the World Series and either the American or the National League championship series. The other series is still up for grabs. Further details are expected to be announced before tonight's All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.

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posted July 11, 2006 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Major League Baseball sees indictment coming for Bonds

July 11, 2006

NEW YORK (AFP) - Several senior figures in Major League Baseball expect Barry Bonds will be indicted by a San Francisco grand jury investigating the record-setting slugger, a US newspaper reported.

The New York Daily News, citing several unnamed major league sources in a Tuesday internet posting, said indictments for perjury and tax evasion could be issued by next week or the end of July against the San Francisco Giants outfielder.

A grand jury looking into revelations stemming from the BALCO steroid scandal is scheduled to expire by the end of the month.


The Daily News said their sources had no inside information regarding the grand jury but anticipated that Bonds will be indicted, which would create a nightmare scenario for Major League Baseball during its usual late-season peak.

That expectation, the newspaper reported, came from information about Bonds uncovered in a secret investigation launched more than a year ago - well before former US Senator George Mitchell was named in April to lead an MLB-inquiry into doping allegations.

Bonds has denied knowingly taking any performance-enhancing substances even though his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was among four men convicted in the BALCO steroid distribution scandal.

Anderson was sent back to prison last week for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Bonds.

Prosecutors think substances Bonds accepted from Anderson were "the cream" and "the clear", once-undetectable steroid substances whose discovery has rocked athletics and cast a shadow on Bonds's historic baseball achievements.

Bonds, who turns 42 on July 24, has 720 career home runs, 35 shy of matching the all-time US major league record set by Hank Aaron.

Bonds has hit 12 homers this season and on May 28 passed Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time list with homer 715. He is batting .249 with 74 walks and has batted in 39 runs this season for the Giants, 45-44.

A majority of the grand jury must find probable cause of a crime to indict. The jury could decide not to indict or seek an extension of time to look into the matter.

Perjury charges could stem from the fact Bonds told a BALCO grand jury in December of 2003 that he did not knowingly take performance-enhancing drugs, according to testimony published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Tax charges could relate to claims made by ex-girlfriend Kimberly Bell, who reportedly told the grand jury Bonds gave her 80,000 dollars in possibly undeclared cash and admitted using anabolic steroids before his BALCO links.

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posted July 12, 2006 01:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
All-Star Game Scores Strongly

Ratings for Fox's telecast of Tuesday night's All-Star game averaged a 10.6 rating and an 18 share, 7 percent above last year's 9.9/16, according to Nielsen overnights. The telecast won every half hour of primetime, including the 8:00 p.m. pre-game hour. The ratings results reflected the continuing resurgence of baseball as the national pastime, also signaled by record rises in attendance at many ballparks. Last week Fox announced that it had sold out all its available spots for the All-Star Game at a record average price of $375,000 for a 30-second spot -- a figure that was nearly 10 percent above last year's.

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