Softball is for lesbian Supreme Court justice nominees … or something like that

By Eddie Pells
The Associated Press

Softball, that friendly, fun game many Americans grow up playing, suddenly finds itself entangled in a hardball debate about sexual orientation, editorial judgment and the future of the Supreme Court.

It all stems from speculation in the media that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is a lesbian.

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Sparking the interest was a nearly two-decades-old picture of Kagan playing softball on the front page of Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. That quickly morphed into an online debate about whether the paper used the photo to make a point — essentially, that if she plays softball, she must be gay.

The newspaper denies the photo was used for any such purpose.

Nevertheless, the president of the International Softball Federation, Don Porter, felt the need to weigh in.

Porter insists softball is for everyone, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.

“The media has chosen to try to put a label on athletes who play this sport,” he said. “I’ve heard more about softball that way in one week than I did about our sport, period, in one year during” the campaign to get softball back in the Olympics.

“While it’s good to hear our sport mentioned in the major media during the past few days, it has been more in a negative sense than positive. …”

Those who play and coach the game were equally dismayed.

“We’ve come so far,” said Jessica Mendoza, a two-time Olympian and president of the Women’s Sports Foundation from Camarillo, “and to have even one person think that showing a photo would correlate with someone’s orientation, I want to yell out and say, ‘Where have you been? Look around.’”

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Want to be in the movie ‘Moneyball’? You better have some game

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Filming for the upcoming Colombia Pictures and Sony Studios flick “Moneyball” finds its way to Pierce College this weekend, with a second tryout for players at the school’s baseball field from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Before just waltzing over there pretending to be Barry Zito, a few tips:

The listing that we’ve been forwarded says they are looking only for “REAL baseball players aged 18-35 to protray PROFESSIONAL baseball players in our film.” They’re also looking for what’s called “special ability” extras, as well as some Screen Actors Guild speaking roles.

But, they add:

“Unless you have MAJOR LEAGUE or COLLEGE baseball experience you will not be considered. If you are currently playing college baseball (or if you plan have plans on attending college) on a baseball scholarship you will NOT be considered due college eligibility issues. We are looking for players for all positions. Come dressed and ready to play baseball (pitch, hit, catch). Bring all necessary equipment needed for you to play your position (including bat).”

Oh, and it’s a closed set, according to Pierce College athletic director Bob Lofrano.

The film (linked here), based on the Michael Lewis book about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, is on schedule to start rehersals and shooting in July. Brad Pitt is on tap to play Beane, with Jonah Hill playing Paul DePodesta. Steven Soderbergh is directing it.

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Ignorance remains bliss in the Selig camp

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The Associated Press

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is ignoring calls to move next year’s All-Star Game from Phoenix because of Arizona’s new immigration law.

Asked about such demands at a news conference today following an owners meeting, he responded with a defense of baseball’s minority hiring record.

“Apparently all the people around and in minority communities think we’re doing OK. That’s the issue, and that’s the answer,” he said. “I told the clubs today: ‘Be proud of what we’ve done.’ They are. We should. And that’s our answer. We control our own fate, and we’ve done very well.”

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he wouldn’t participate in next year’s All-Star Game if it remains in Arizona because of the law, which empowers police to determine a person’s immigration status. The Major League Baseball Players Association condemned the law and Rep. Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat whose district includes Yankee Stadium, sent Selig a letter asking him to move the game.

Selig cited sports sociologist Richard Lapchick, whose annual report from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports last month gave baseball an A for race and a B for gender hiring. Selig also referenced a lifetime achievement award he received in March from the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

“We’re a social institution. We have done everything we should do — should do, our responsibility,” he said. “Privilege to do it. Don’t want any pats on the back, and we’ll continue to do it.”

Leaders of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and 10 other groups today a letter in which they ask Selig to not take a position against the state by moving the game.

The letter says a relocation would cost jobs for “innocent citizens, including our Hispanic community,” and it says baseball shouldn’t become “a pawn in a political debate.”

Presente.org, issued a statement Thursday asking Selig to move the game, saying “the commissioner is clearly out of touch with the ‘minority communities’ he says MLB is so in tune with.”

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What kind of dy-no-mite stuff TNT has planned for Lakers-Sun series

UPDATED WITH COMPLETE SCHEDULE:

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While ESPN takes control of the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs — including tonight’s Game 6 of the Celtics-Cavs series, which has become so noteworthy that local ESPN Radio affiliate, KSPN-AM 710 is airing the game live — TNT has some time to prep for the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Suns.

It starts Monday and continues Wednesday at Staples Center, both with 6 p.m. tipoffs, with Marv Albert, Doug Collins and Craig Sager. The Lakers’ radio team of Spero Dedes and Mychal Thompson on 710-AM will of course also do the games.

The rest of the schedule:
Game 3: Sunday, May 23 at Phoenix 5:30 p.m.
Game 4: Tuesday, May 25 at Phoenix 6 p.m.
Game 5: Thursday, May 27 at Staples Center, 6 p.m.
Game 6: Saturday, May 29 at Phoenix 5:30 p.m.
Game 7: Monday, May 31 at Staples Center, 6 p.m.

As part of the overall coverage, TNT plans an exclusive sit-down interview by David Aldridge with new New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, which will air during the Game 2 pre-game show on Wednesday.

Also, Albert will sit down with Lakers coach Phil Jackson and look back 40 years to the 1970 New York Knicks championship team that Jackson played on and how it shaped his coaching future. That feature will air during Game 4, likely on Sunday night.

TNT says that for the first time during conference finals coverage, TNT and NBA TV analysts will host live streaming video chats on NBA.com and Yahoo.com, to answer fans’ questions live after halftime of select games. The chats will feature Reggie Miller (Game 2), Chris Webber (Game 3), Charles Barkley (Game 4), and Kevin McHale (Game 5, if necessary).

TNT starts Games 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7 with a long-form, hour tipoff show with Ernie Johnson , Kenny Smith, Barkley and Miller, who will be on site for each game. It’ll be a half-hour pregame for Games 3 and 6.

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Dream big: $5.4 mil for a piece of baseball heaven in Iowa

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The actual Dyersville, Iowa place where “Field of Dreams” was filmed in 1989 and has been a tourist attraction ever since is for sale — $5.4 million.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports (linked here) that the site, owned by Don and Becky Lansing, includes the baseball diamond, a two-bedroom, 1-bath house (with that front porch), six outbuildings, and a parcel of land totaling 193 acres.

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The realtor handling the sale is former Brewers pitcher Ken Sanders, who has a license in the state of Wisconsin. Sanders can be contacted at (414) 803-4220 or e-mail at kensanders20@gmail.com

Universal Studios had the diamond built in just four days during the summer of 1988. Since that time, the Field’s owners have preserved it for guests at no charge. In an effort to keep it pristine and agrarian-based, they have minimized commercialism and taken on much of the land’s care and maintenance themselves.

== The official website for Field of Dreams (linked here)

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How your local Fox affiliate can catch the opponent appearing to cheat

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(AP Photo/Fox)
This two-picture sequence provided by FSN Rocky Mountain Sports shows Philadelphia Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer using binoculars in the bullpen during Monday night’s game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies.

The Associated Press

Binoculars in the bullpen? Major League Baseball didn’t like what it saw, and has told the Philadelphia Phillies to knock it off.

The Phillies insisted Wednesday they weren’t trying to steal signs when bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was caught on camera peering through binoculars from the bullpen bench at Coors Field earlier this week.

Manager Charlie Manuel told The Associated Press that Billmeyer simply was watching Philadelphia catcher Carlos Ruiz set up defensively Monday night.

FSN Rocky Mountain, the flagship broadcaster of the Colorado Rockies, showed Billmeyer using the binoculars to peer in on Colorado catcher Miguel Olivo while the Phillies were at bat in the top of the second inning.

It also showed a quick image of Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino in the dugout on the bullpen phone in the top of the second.

“We were not trying to steal signs,” Manuel said. “Would we try to steal somebody’s signs? Yeah, if we can. But we don’t do that. We’re not going to let a guy stand up there in the bullpen with binoculars looking in. We’re smarter than that.”

Olivo said Billmeyer’s actions could tarnish the two-time defending NL champions’ image.

“If you’re a good team and you win, I think you don’t need to do that because they got good hitters, they got good players,” Olivo said. “If it helps them, if they don’t get caught, then whatever. If they get caught, then they’re going to pay for it.”

FOXSports.com first reported the reprimand from the league, which reviewed video of the matter Tuesday.

The Rockies noticed Billmeyer using the binoculars from his perch in center field in the top of the first inning Monday night and asked FSN to zoom in on the visitor’s bullpen.

Armed with evidence, Rockies manager Jim Tracy brought it to the attention of crew chief Jerry Crawford, who spoke with Manuel between the first and second innings of that game.

“I didn’t know about it,” Manuel said Wednesday. “I told the umpire, ‘No, we don’t have anybody out there with binoculars.’ I come to find out that we did. He used them to watch Ruiz set up and his catching and things like that. At the same time, we’re not supposed to have them out there.”

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Our Daily Dread II: The can o’ worms came open, and the voters wormed their way back into Cushing’s favor

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If Olympic athletes can be stripped of medals that were procured illegally — in most cases, the result of admitting years later to steroid use or, in the case of Chinese gymnasts, after their birth certificates are verified — why can’t an NFL player have a post-season honor taken away?

Because, apparently, those who do the voting don’t think it’s that big a deal.

The Associated Press’ can-o-worms decision to hold a re-vote on its NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, after post-voting discovery that the recipient went against league policy and was found with a banned substance in his system, could have made a serious statement. But it didn’t.

Instead, Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing found out today that it didn’t matter what he put in his body. The former USC star was still liked enough by a panel of 50 AP voters. The 18 first-place votes he received five days after he was suspended without pay for four games because he violated the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs last year may have been fewer than the 39 he got the first time, but it was enough.

Enough to make you wonder: What was the point of that exercise?

One voter was not available to cast a ballot, and two voters abstained. So in all, 19 voters switched away from Cushing to another player. Do the math — that means one actually voted for Cushing after originally picking runner up Jairus Byrd, the Buffalo Bills safety. Byrd, again, finished second, but this time, only five votes out of the lead instead of 33.

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Cushing did lose his spot on the AP’s All-Pro second team, for which he originally had five votes and now has just one. But is that as big a deal?

Some AP voters explained themselves:

Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune: “If Brian Cushing had come out with a plausible excuse as to why he failed a test for prohibited substances, he could have kept his defensive rookie of the year award as far as I was concerned. But his silence was deafening, disturbing and damning.” Switched vote.

Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and president of the Pro Football Writers of America: “If I had known in January when we initially voted that Brian Cushing had tested positive for a banned substance, I might not have voted for him. However, Cushing won the award in January, and I don’t feel like we should revise history. I am concerned about the precedent.” Didn’t switch.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle: “In good conscience, I couldn’t not vote for him after voting for Julius Peppers in 2002 knowing he’d tested positive (and won the same award), and for Kevin Williams on the All-Pro team knowing he’d tested positive (in the StarCaps case). I also believe taking the award from Cushing would have opened up a Pandora’s box when it came to players and awards. I think the AP should make it a rule that a player who tests positive is going to be subjected to a revote.” Didn’t switch.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated: “Two wrongs don’t make a right. And just because Peppers’ rookie victory in 2002 wasn’t overturned … doesn’t mean you continue to make the wrong decision year after year. The precedent this sets, in my opinion, is a good one. I know I have changed my mind over the past couple of years, and won’t vote for any player who tests positive for any performance-enhancer.” Switched vote.

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Our Daily Dread: What do Lakers’ fans do in the meantime? Quick, create a diversion

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Hurry up and wait doesn’t always work so well for Lakers fans with too much time on their purple-and-gold-stained hands.

The term “idle time,” in computer science, is defined as when “a piece of hardware in good operating condition is unused.” In this case, a Laker flag.

In industrial engineering, it’s the period, “during a regular work cycle when a worker is not active because of waiting for materials or instruction.” Here, it’s waiting for a TV schedule to catch up to the process.

In basketball, there’s no idle worshiping. Maybe Kobe Bryant embraces the moment to heal up injuries. Lamar Odom can reconnect with his Kardashian roots.

But for rooters of the NBA playoffs, controlled tightly by network schedules and profiteering mogels, time will tell if these six days off between the end of the Lakers-Jazz series and the start of the Lakers-Suns series is worth the wait.

Here are some suggestions on how to be productive until Monday’s Game 1 of the Western Conference finals:

== Have a rooting interest in the 2010 Miss USA pageant:

Brittany Bell, the 5-foot-8, 22-year-old from Chandler going in as Miss Arizona, is a Phoenix Suns dancer. Westlake Village’s Nicole Johnson holds the title of Miss California, succeeding the controversial Carrie Prejean, and admitting she loves gay people and has never starred in a sex tape. Although as recent as two years ago, she dated Michael Phelps.

== Organize an anti-Arizona immigration bill rally for outside Staples Center:

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It’s been all the rage at Arizona Diamondbacks road games over the last couple of weeks. The Suns, aka Los Suns according to their Cinco de Mayo uniforms, are on board with those who’ve protested against the nebulous language of the state law that goes into effect in 70-something days. The backlash has already cost the Phoenix area nearly $100 million revenue from canceled conventions and events. And the 2011 MLB All-Star Game is also at risk. Go ahead. Mess with the Arizona economy.

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== Gear up — and start with a new car flag:

Sure, go ahead and visit the Team L.A. Store. Knock yourself out. Amazon.com (linked here) and GotParty.com (linked here) have the traditional yellow and purple versions, some as high as $18. But we’re thinking a clean, crisp white one would really bring out the logo. Like this one on Craigslist.com (linked here), posting 1726810841, where someone named Mookie has ‘em for $10 or less if you’re ordering in bulk. That’s enough of an incentive to bulk up.

== Hug a cactus.

== Start sculpting your very own Mitch Kupchak statue outside Staples. With a block of ice.

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== Hack into Ron Artest’s Twitter account:

Taking into account that Phil and Ron-Ron appear to have cleared the air over their recent misunderstanding, there does seem to be plenty of wiggle room left for you to help facilitate another artistic tantrum. The former TruWarier appears to be going with RONARTESTCOM (with 7,200 followers), but the tweets have been far too tame lately. Now, how do you actually bust into someone’s login? It must be pretty easy, if that’s the excuse he uses everytime there’s something posted that draws the raised eyebrow of someone.

== Break out your favorite pair of ‘Thunder’ Dan Majerle short shorts.

== Find a celebrity hottie for Adam Morrison (why should Lamar and Sasha
have all the fun?).

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== Hold those cheers for the Cavaliers:

Some believe the Orlando Magic, who’ve already wrapped up their Eastern Conference series against Atlanta with one of the most lopsided sweeps in league history, is the team that Lakers fans should worry most coming out of the other bracket. A rematch of last year’s one-sided finals maybe undeniable. So if the NBA and everyone else wants to see LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and those goofy Ronald McDonald uniforms face the Lakers, the fix better be in quickly. This Cavs-Celtics series could be over by Thursday night if Boston gets its way. It’s time to invest in a rooting interest here.
By the way, that’s singer John Legend, following his girlfriend, model Chrissy Teigan, as they return to their seats to watch the Celtics-Cavs Game 4 in Boston on Sunday. What kind of legendary Laker fans can top this power couple?

== Bombard sports-talk jocks with your brilliant idea: LeBron to the Lakers!

== Spark up a conversation about the WNBA:

The Sparks launch their 2010 gal season Saturday. Against the defending-champion Mercury. In Phoenix. Let the rivalry take on a Bizarro element with an orange-and-white ball and a couple of teams playing below the rim.

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== Start mashing on Steve Nash:

Go classy, like the Jazz fans, and start on your chants. “Yo, Nash, quit winkin’ at Dyan Cannon” … “You got something in your eye or are you really crying?” … “Is this how you go to a Black-Eye Peas concert?” Consult with Vic the Brick for more witty barbs.

== Find out where the Suns are staying and crank up the French alt-rock band
Phoenix all night.

== Build your own rock lawn.

== Catch up on “Basketball Wives” on VH1, Sunday nights:

They do know gold diggin’ drama. Shaunie O’Neal, soon to be ex-wife of Shaq, is an executive producer of a show that’s supposed to show how complicated crazy the life of an NBA spouse can be. It really shows that the women of OC have nothing on these snakes. There’s Jennifer Williams, wife of NBA forward Eric Williams; Royce Reed, the former Orlando Magic and Miami Heat dancer and mother of Dwight Howard’s son (now his ex-girl friend); Evelyn Lozada, ex-fiance of Antoine Walker; Matt Barnes’ fiance Gloria Govan and Suzie Ketcham, the former girlfriend of ex-Clipper Michael Olowokondi. If only Siovaughn Wade, in the middle of a divorce from high school sweetheart and Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade, could have made the cut. The storyline for this week’s episode: “Jen’s upcoming Haiti benefit inspires Royce; Evelyn questions motives.” Meanwhile, catch the new Common-Queen Latifa flick, “Just Wright,” which comes out Friday and deals with some of these manipulative relationship issues as well. Bottom line: Once you get the player’s mom involved, there’s no messing around.

== Stop accepting Donald Sterling’ evites for the annual Clipper lottery party on Tuesday.

== Go house hunting:

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LeBron may be looking for a new place in New York, but if for some reason he’s headed for Clipperville, turn him onto this one: A six bedroom, 4 1/4-bath home in Anaheim Hills on the market that’s listing for $2.995 million. In addition to a private tennis court, 7-hole putting green, pool with a water fall, dog run, aviary, wine cellar, party pavilion, guest house and parking for a boat, there’s a purple-and-gold indoor basketball court (that’s really about the size of a racquetball court). Original listing price: $5 mil. MLS #: P694439. It’s listed here on Prudental (linked here)

You’ve got better ideas?

== Credit Daily News staffers Brian Martin and Vincent Bonsignore with contributions/suggestions/having too much time on their hands.

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Who’s buying these numbers?

Half-witted predictions of as many as 3 million buys for the May 1 Floyd Mayweather-Sugar Shane Mosley bout can cut that in half. Or more.

HBO says there were 1.4 mil buys (740,000 on cable, 660,000 on dishes), bringing in $78.3 million, which makes it the second-best grossing non-heavyweight PPV fight in boxing history. The most: Mayweather-Oscar de la Hoya, which did $137 million and a record 2.4 million sales in ’07. The previous second-best was De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad in 1999 ($70.6 mil).

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