Put a sock in it: Red Sox fire Valentine, and Schilling may have to sell his bloody hosiery to pay debts

As the news breaks about the Boston Red Sox firing manager Bobby Valentine comes this from the Associated Press concerning on of Valentine’s loudest critics while sitting on the ESPN “Baseball Tonight” set this season:

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By Erika Niedowski
The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling might have to sell or give up the famed blood-stained sock he wore on the team’s way to the 2004 World Series championship to cover millions of dollars in loans he guaranteed to his failed video game company.

Schilling, whose Providence-based 38 Studios filed for bankruptcy in June, listed the sock as collateral to Bank Rhode Island in a September filing with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office. The sock is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Schilling also listed a baseball hat believed to have been worn by New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig and his collection of World War II memorabilia, including some the filing said is being held at the National World War II Museum.

Messages left for Schilling were not immediately returned. A spokesperson for the Hall of Fame did not immediately return a message left for comment.

The Boston Globe first reported the filing today. It said Schilling personally guaranteed as much as $9.6 million in loans from Bank Rhode Island and $2.4 million in loans from Citizens Bank related to 38 Studios.

Schilling, who also pitched for Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia and Arizona and who won the World Series three times, is perhaps best remembered for pitching Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series with an injured ankle that bloodied his sock. The sock now listed as collateral was stained during the second game of the World Series, which the Red Sox won that year for the first time in 86 years.

38 Studios — which was lured to Rhode Island from Massachusetts with a $75 million state loan guarantee — had a spectacular collapse. Its financial problems spilled into public view last spring when it missed a $1.1 million payment to the Economic Development Corp. Within weeks, 38 Studios had laid off its nearly 300 employees in Providence and another 100 at an affiliate in Maryland ahead of a bankruptcy filing in June.

The firm owes $150.7 million and has assets of $21.7 million, according to court filings. 38 Studios Baltimore made a separate bankruptcy and owes more than $121.4 million, with assets of more than $335,000.

The state of Rhode Island, by far the firm’s largest creditor, is now likely on the hook for some $100 million related to the loan guarantee deal, including interest. The company’s assets are scheduled to be auctioned off.

Schilling has conceded he was “absolutely” part of the reason the company failed. But he repeatedly accused Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who was sharply critical of the loan guarantee, of having an agenda that hurt 38 Studios. He called Chafee a “dunce of epic proportions” and a “buffoon.”

Chafee, an independent, has said he did everything he could to help the company.

Schilling also recently put his 20-room home on 26 acres in Medfield, Mass., on the market for $3.45 million. The house, which has a heated pool with waterfall, a beach volleyball court, batting and pitching cages and a putting green, was also listed for sale in 2008.

Schilling has said he invested as much as $50 million in 38 Studios and has lost all his baseball earnings.

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Fox + Turner + ESPN = MLB security through 2021

A $6.8 billion, eight-year media rights extension with Fox and Turner Sports, coupled with a deal already done with ESPN, gives Major League Baseball a huge financial security blanket through 2021.

Added together, the MLB will gain about $12.4 billion over the eight years starting in 2014. That is more that double its current standing deals.

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“I have often said in recent years that we are living in the golden age of baseball and that the game has never been more popular,” commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “But to see the unprecedented and historic commitment these networks have made to televising Major League Baseball for years to come is truly amazing.”

The agreement announced this morning keeps the World Series, All-Star game and one of the two league championship series on Fox, as well as giving the network more games in the divisional series starting in 2014. Fox is going to pay an average of $525 million a year for the extension.

In addition Fox will claim two exclusive windows for its weekly Saturday regular-season games, one at 1 p.m. PDT and another at 4 p.m. PDT. That doubles their national windows from 26 to 52. At least one of the two games each week will go to a Fox cable channel, most likely the soon-to-be-renamed Speed Channel.

TBS keeps the rights to the other league championship series, plus two division series and one of the wild-card games. TBS ends up paying about $325 million a year. The network will also cut its Sunday morning regular-season game schedule from 26 to 13 — the last 13 weeks of the season — and games will not be blacked out any longer in home markets.

ESPN agreed last month to a new extension through 2021 that will cost it about $700 million a season. It also has a wild-card game in the new deal.

The league-owned MLB Network will also keep the rights to two division series games, taking them from Fox’s allotment. MLB Network has two playoff games on the current schedule, including one this Sunday and one on Oct. 10, to be determined.

All the new deals include digital “TV Everywhere” rights to stream televised games and other MLB-related programming online and through mobile devices.

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A sign of the times: Who’s autograph is that again?

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By Mike Schmidt
Special to The Associated Press

Since when did the signatures of today’s celebrity athletes become worse than your local physician’s scrawl on a prescription slip?

Yes, I know, some now put their uniform number under their scribble. Have the constant paparazzi-like, autograph-stalking fans caused players to rebel by putting a bumpy line with a number as their autograph? Is it the chicken scratch on the ball that fans seek, or is it just being able to say, “I was there”?

This spring, while with the Phillies in camp, I asked the clubhouse guy to get me some famous Phillies on balls for my charity auction. I must sign thousands every year for charity. It’s funny how you get tired of the same requests over and over until you need one.

Anyway, I get 10 signed balls given to me in a box that I bring home. A few weeks later, I’m doing inventory on some items I have gotten for the auction and I open the box of balls and I can’t read any of the signatures. I study and study, hoping to see a curve or a clue that would lead me to the name.

I asked my wife if she recognized any. None. I made out Roy Halladay, Jim Thome and Jimmy Rollins. A couple had the number — thank you Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence. That was a great clue, at least for me, but what about the person who buys it at the auction and may not know the numbers?

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Play It Forward: Oct. 1-7 on your sports calendar

UPDATED: 8 a.m. Wednesday:

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Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium, tonight (7:10 p.m., Prime), Tuesday (7:10 p.m., Channel 9) and Wednesday (4:15 p.m., Prime):

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Vin Scully once talked about the Dodgers taking a “roll of the dice” when they brought Kirk Gibson off the bench to pinch hit during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The probability of the Dodgers converting a roll into the 2012 playoffs? Maybe it’s no dice. Maybe not. According to the ESPN.com MLB standings that calculates a team’s playoff appearance percentage, St. Louis is a 95.1 percent lock to get the final NL wildcard spot, and the Dodgers are at 4.9. However unrealistic it may seem that they can pull off a sweep against the NL West champion Giants, it is compounded by the Cardinals needing to win only one of three at home against Cincinnati to create a one-game tiebreaker at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night. The winner then goes to Atlanta for another one-and-done on Friday, and the winner of that goes to the NLDS. An even crazier scenario is a Dodgers’ sweep and the Cards lose all three, allowing the Dodgers to waltz right in unaccosted. For the Giants, this is a chance to set their starting rotation up for the playoffs, but they’ll allow Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong to tune up as much as they need. The Dodgers’ last-ditch attempt rests in the arms of Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and, in all likelihood for the 4:15 p.m. finale, Clayton Kershaw. The defending Cy Young Award winner could actually have a shot at repeating (despite what R.A. Dickey supporters may say) if he continues to lead the league again in ERA and strikeouts. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, the NL Central-leading Reds have playoff preps for Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey against the Cards’ Jamie Garcia, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

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MLB: Angels at Seattle, today (7:10 p.m.), Tuesday (7:10 p.m.) and Wednesday (3:40 p.m.), FSW:

A trip to the Emerald City requires the Angels to click their heels three times — and have the Oakland A’s also take a dive in their last three at home against Texas — to create an opportunity for the last AL wild-card spot. The Angels, who won two of three against the Mariners in their last two series, start with C.J. Wilson against Felix Hernandez before Dan Haren and 20-game winner Jered Weaver take their best shots. If it all comes down to the last day, the A’s-Rangers contest on Wednesday starts at 12:35 p.m. and could be done by the time the Angels start their final game. An Angels-A’s tiebreaker Thursday would be played in Oakland. Hey, it could happen.

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MLB playoffs: AL and NL wild-card game, Friday at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., TBS:

A year ago, that season-ending crush of do-or-die games all carried on different TV outlets was enough to inspire at least one author to put it into some lyrical pose for the ages. The result was that baseball’s earthly gods decided they needed to try to recreate it with another level of wild-card teams. You’ll never duplicate that magical night of 2011, but these two win-or-go-home contests are apt to set the tone again for the ’12 postseason. Even wilder will be to see if a couple of tiebreakers are needed on a moment’s notice to be played Thursday to see who lives to see Friday. Stay flexable, folks. This could get messy.

MLB playoffs: AL and NL Divisional series Game 1: Saturday at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. TBS:

TBS also has games lined up Sunday at 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., but it’s all dependent on whether a West Coast or East Coast team needs a certain slot locked down. Things will be sorted out as the week goes on. For a look at how things could shape up, go to MLB.com (linked here).

MONDAY

NFL Week 4: Chicago at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

There’s an internet rumor (OK, from TMZ) that former Chicago Blackhawks great Chris Chelios assisted in burning a jersey in effigy of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s jersey at Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap in downtown Chitown. If Cutler flames out again in Dallas, there could be as a big a mess in the Windy City as that night when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow got too frisky.

TUESDAY

MLB: N.Y. Mets at Miami, 4:10 p.m.:

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AP photo/Steve Mitchell
Florida Marlins catcher Paul Lo Duca comes to the aid of Chicago Cubs rookie Adam Greenberg who gets drilled in the head on first pitch he faces as a major leaguer in 2005.

Adam Greenberg faced just one pitch in his major-league career — a 92-mph fastball that struck him in the head, on July 9, 2005, delivered by Miami pitcher Valerio De Los Santos. The rookie Greenberg didn’t even take first base. Nor was he even credited with an official at bat that day at Wrigley Field, playing for the Cubs. Game, season, career apparently over. Kinda like Moonlight Graham, eh? Only one other player has had the same experience — Fred van Dusen, with Philadelphia in 1955. Greenberg’s attempts to come back have been plagued by concussion symptoms as he’s been given opportunities by the Dodgers, Angels and Royals after the Cubs released him. The last three years, he’s been in the Independent League. A documentary film maker in Chicago has championed his effort to at least get one big-league at bat — prodding the Cubs to come through. But where they haven’t stepped up, the Marlins have. Miami signed him to a one-day contract and plan to use him today against the Mets. “Life’s going to throw you curveballs — or fastballs in the back of your head,” the 31-year-old Greenberg said. “I got hit by one of them. And it knocked me down and I could have stayed there. I had a choice . . . and I chose to get up and get back in the box.” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen says he may have Greenberg lead off and play left field to get his at-bat against Mets scheduled starter R.A. Dickey. Sure, if the knuckleball hits Greenberg, at least it won’t hurt. But he’ll still be missing an AB. Read more by Tyler Kepner in the New York Times (linked here).

WEDNESDAY

MLB: Texas at Oakland, 12:35 p.m., MLB Network; Boston at N.Y. Yankees, 4:05 p.m., ESPN; Baltimore at Tampa Bay, 4:10 p.m., ESPN2:

The Yankees and Orioles will likely take the AL East title down to the wire in this regular-season ender, as both began the week tied at the top, with the loser taking a wildcard spot against either the Angels or A’s. In New York, Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68) faces Hiroki Kuroda (15-11, 3.34). In Tampa, it’s Chris Tillman (9-2, 2.78) against Jeremy Hellickson (9-11, 3.20). MLB Network also has Tuesday’s Red Sox-Yankees game at 4 p.m.

THURSDAY

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College football: USC at Utah, 6 p.m., ESPN:

The Trojans haven’t been to Salt Lake City to play the Utes in 95 years — you remember that 51-0 triumph back in 1917 where the alums all traveled by covered wagons? Depending on your perspective, the Trojans edged/trounced the Utes in the first Pac-12 game ever played a year ago, escaping with either a 17-14 or 23-14 victory depending on whether you believe a late-game score should be ruled a touchdown. That was when Matt Kalil blocked Utah’s 41-yard field goal attempt on the final play that could have tied it and sent it into OT. Instead, Torin Harris returned it for a score that officially didn’t count until two hours after everyone left. Matt Barkley passed for 264 yards for the Trojans, while sophomore Jordan Wynn threw for 238 yards with a touchdown. Utah (2-2, 0-1 in the Pac-12, coming off a loss to Arizona State) is 53-25-5 in Thursday games; USC is 22-10-3.

NFL Week 5: Arizona at St. Louis, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:

These Cards are 4-0 for the first time since winning their first seven in 1974. Those 2-2 Rams continue to make a rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein from Division II Missouri Western State their offensive MVP.

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WNBA Playoffs: Western Conference final Game 1: Sparks at Minnesota, 5 p.m., ESPN2:

The Sparks come home for Game 2 (12:30 p.m., Channel 7). And home means Staples Center for a change. But it’s a best of three, so if they need one more, it’s next week.

FRIDAY

College football: Pittsburgh at Syracuse, 5 p.m., ESPN; Utah State at BYU, 7:15 p.m., ESPN:

BYU freshman quarterback Taysom Hill ran for 143 yards and a touchdown and passed for two more scores in his first start as the Cougars cruised 47-0 against Hawaii in their last game.

SATURDAY

College football: UCLA at Cal, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Network:

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The 4-1 Bruins have wormed their way back into the AP Top 25 coming off a rather expected victory, as the 1-4 Golden Bears continue to be a team few can bear to watch — even on their home field — after another non-surprising loss. Cal QB Zach Maynard, picked off three times by the Bruins’ Tevin McDonald in UCLA’s 31-14 victory a year ago, has just one more TD pass (5) than picks (4) this season, and heard the home fans boo the team off the field as they trailed Arizona State by 10 at halftime last Saturday. It remained a 10-point loss, and it’s just a matter of time before coach Jeff Tedford is updating his Monster.com resume.

College football: Navy at Air Force, 8:30 a.m., Channel 2; Washington State at Oregon State, noon, Pac-12 Network; Arizona at Stanford, noon, Channel 11; LSU at Florida, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2; Georgia at South Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN: West Virginia at Texas, 4 p.m., Channel 11; Miami vs. Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago, 4:30 p.m., Channel 4; Nebraska at Ohio State, 5 p.m., Channel 7; Washington at Oregon, 7:30 p.m., ESPN:

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The fashion-conscious Irish are digging up … uh … new … helmets and unis for this game against the Hurricanes at Chicago’s Soldier Field. It’ll be a bit of a cultural shock for some. “If you didn’t like what we had last year, you’re definitely not going to like it this year,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly. “We’ve just resigned to the fact that we’ll have one game a year where we try to appeal to the younger audience.” A Notre Dame win is far more appealing — it means a 5-0 start to the season for the first time in 10 years (Ty Willingham’s first year of 2002 that began the year 8-0) heading into its game next week against Stanford.

MLS: Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m., NBC Sports Network:

Coming off a lame tie in Colorado, the Herbalifers have three regular season games left, starting here was they try to pass RSL for the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference, and they’re still a point behind.

NBA exhibition: Clippers vs. Denver in Las Vegas, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

At the Mandalay Bay Events Center, it’s not so much a prize fight but a prelude to a trip to Beijing where the Clippers will play the Miami Heat twice and pretend it matters.

SUNDAY

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NFL Week 5:
San Diego at New Orleans, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4:
Denver at New England, 1:25 p.m., Channel 2:
Green Bay at Indianapolis, 10 a.m., Channel 11:
Cleveland at N.Y. Giants, 10 a.m., Channel 2:

Even if NBC wanted to try to flex out of this one featuring the AFC West-leading Chargers and the winless Saints, it’s not going to happen. Instead, they’re going to promote the heck out of the fact that the only thing New Orleans has going for it these days is Drew Brees throwing at least one touchdown in 47 straight regular-season games, tying the NFL’s all-time mark set by Johnny Unitas. This would have been the week to shoot Peyton Manning into prime time against Tom Brady. Or even have a look at Andrew Luck in Indy against the Packers’ defense.

NASCAR: Sprint Cup Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega, Fla., 10 a.m., ESPN:

Brad Keselowski pulled away from Kyle Bush on the final lap to win at Talladega back on May 6, the 10th stop of the year.

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NBA exhibition: Lakers vs. Golden State in Fresno, 7 p.m., TWC SportsNet:

It’s only practice, but at least you get to see how small Steve Nash’s No. 10 looks on him.

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Five things we learned this weekend: Sept. 28-30

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AP Photo/Tom Lynn
Green Bay Packers Mike McCarthy talks to referee Jeff Triplette about a review call during the second half of Sunday’s game in Green Bay, Wis.

Just a little help staying ahead of the sports world learning curve:

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1. You gotta understand: Zebra migrations work differently in North America. The weakest of the herd is allowed to roam NFL stadium sites for the first three weeks of a designed season (including exhibition viewings). But as soon as one of them missteps and goes over a cliff on national TV, the entire population is called into question. Some, depending on local Fish and Game regulations, are returned to their nearest Foot Locker store. Eventually, they all return to their natural habitat – Lingerie Football games, the UFL, possibly Pop Warner rules interpretation committees. At that point, the elders are begged to come back to graze on specially designated artificial turf, with added benefits and security that their legacy will be fully protected with or without WWE certification. Yes, the national nightmare has ended, and no longer is the NFL worth watching just so see how something will go rule-wrong at a critical juncture. And that’s a shame. Green Bay fans were already sniping at the regular refs when they returned to the tundra on Sunday, but that’s to be expected. They had enough of the subs. In the end, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, viewed as the nation’s most anti-union state boss by labor activists, even got his wish after his Green Bay Packers were hosed on a “Monday Night Football” game – the unionized officials were officially put back on the job. And if you decide to dress as a replacement referee during Halloween, don’t be surprised if someone rules a beer thrown to you isn’t yours unless you have full possession.

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2. NBC’s Peter King proclaimed that by 2016, the three leading candidates to be playing in AEG’s new 75,000-seat Farmers Field in downtown L.A. are the Chargers, Raiders and Rams. Seems to really be going out there on a limb, eh? Oh, and don’t rule out the Bills or Jaguars, added Mike Florio. Since the L.A. City Council unanimously approved the stadium to go ahead, all kinds of speculation comes into play now. And Tim Leiweke gets to sit back, knowing he has a five-year deal with whomever buys up AEG’s assets, and he’ll be gloating about bringing the NFL back to the No. 2 TV market. Councilwoman (and potential new mayor) Jan Perry proclaimed: “We’re gonna have our own football team” after the 12-0 vote. Go ahead, guess who it’ll be.

3. There are “magic numbers” and then there are “Magic numbers” that the Dodgers can focus on for the last three games of the regular season. Any sniff of a continuation past Oct. 3 means a combination of two more St. Louis wins and/or Dodgers losses. The Dodgers are failing to cooperate in just going away quietly by scoring seven or more runs four times in their last five wins. If they don’t go post-season, Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson knows what numbers matter most: Attendance will finish around 3.3 million, fifth best in all of baseball and about 300,000 more than the Angels, a huge jump from a year ago.

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AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Tiger Woods scratches his head as he walks off the course after the Ryder Cup tournament Sunday at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill.

4. It’s not so much that the U.S. dirty dozen choked away the four-point Ryder Cup advantage going into the final day against 12 angry Euros. Maybe it was more a meltdown. A monumental meltdown at Medinah. A colossal collapse in Chicago. A 14 -13 loss that not even Tiger Woods could rescue them from down the stretch. We’re not sure which alliterative adjectives adhere best here. “The U.S. played so poorly on (the) 17 and 18 (holes during the event,” said NBC’s Johnny Miller. “They earned the loss.” That’s one way of sizing it up. “I think we have seen probably the two greatest days in a row in the history of the Ryder Cup (but) it’s the most confusing feeling,” said golf analyst David Feherty on Golf Channel. “Like being handed a bottle of French fries. ‘What the hell just happened?’ You know, one of those moments.” Yup, we just saw it.

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5. This Heisman thing just might be West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith’s to lose. For those who need some razzle dazzle to determine their ballot, take the Mountaineers’ 70-63 Big 12 opening victory over Baylor, when he completed 45 of 51 passing for 656 yards, 8 TDs and no picks. That’s video game stuff. The games on their non-Big East schedule will only get Smith more exposure – starting with trying to mess with Texas this Saturday. Keep in mind, too, that he still doesn’t have an interception this season.

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