April 18, 2013
By Kenneth D. Miller
LAWT Asst. Managing Editor
Born January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play major league baseball. Throughout his decade-long career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he made advancements in the cause of civil rights for black athletes. In 1955, he helped the Dodgers win the World Series. He retired in 1957, with a career batting average of .311
The youngest of five children, Robinson was raised in relative poverty by a single mother.
He attended John Muir High School and Pasadena Junior College, where he was an excellent athlete and played four sports: football, basketball, track, and baseball. He was named the region's Most Valuable Player in baseball in 1938.
Robinson's older brother, Matthew Robinson, inspired Jackie to pursue his talent and love for athletics. Matthew won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash—just behind Jesse Owens—at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
Jackie continued his education at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he became the university's first student to win varsity letters in four sports.
In 1941, despite his athletic success, Robinson was forced to leave UCLA just shy of graduation due to financial hardship.
He moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he played football for the semi-professional Honolulu Bears.
His season with the Bears was cut short when the United States entered into World War II.
From 1942 to 1944, Robinson served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.
He never saw combat, however; Robinson was arrested and court-martialed during boot camp after he refused to move to the back of a segregated bus during training.
He was later acquitted of the charges and received an honorable discharge.
His courage and moral objection to segregation were precursors to the impact Robinson would have in major league baseball.
After his discharge from the Army in 1944, Robinson began to play baseball professionally.
At the time, the sport was segregated, and African-Americans and whites played in separate leagues.
Robinson began playing in the Negro Leagues.
He was soon chosen by Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to help integrate major league baseball.
He joined the all-white Montreal Royals, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1946.
He later moved to Florida to begin spring training with the Royals.
Jackie Robinson his first game in Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Rickey knew there would be difficult times ahead for the young athlete, and made Robinson promise to not fight back when confronted with racism.
From the beginning of his career with the Dodgers, Robinson's will was tested.
Even some of his own teammates objected to having an African-American on their team.
People in the crowds sometimes jeered at Robinson, and he and his family received threats.
Despite the racial abuse, particularly at away games, Robinson had an outstanding start with the Royals, leading the International League with a .349 batting average and .985 fielding percentage.
His excellent year led to his promotion to the Dodgers.
April 15, 1947, marked the first time an African-American athlete played in the major leagues.
The harassment continued, however.
Philadelphia Phillies and their manager Ben Chapman, during one infamous game, Chapman and his team shouted derogatory terms at Robinson from their dugout.
Many players on opposing teams threatened not to play against the Dodgers.
Even his own teammates threatened to sit out. But Dodgers manager Leo Durocher informed them that he would sooner trade them than Robinson.
Leo Durocher’s loyalty to Jackie set the tone for the rest of Robinson's career with the team.
Others defended Jackie Robinson's right to play in the major leagues, including League President Ford Frick, Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, Jewish baseball star Hank Greenberg and Dodgers shortstop and team captain Pee Wee Reese.
Jackie Robinson succeeded in putting the prejudice and racial strife aside, and showed everyone what a talented player he was. In his first year, he hit 12 home runs and helped the Dodgers win the National League pennant.
That year, Robinson led the National League in stolen bases and was selected as Rookie of the Year. He continued to wow fans and critics alike with impressive feats, such as an outstanding .342 batting average during the 1949 season. He led in stolen bases that year and earned the National League's Most Valuable Player Award.
Robinson soon became a hero of the sport, even among former critics, and was the subject for the popular song, "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?"
An exceptional base runner, Robinson stole home 19 times in his career, setting a league record.
He also became the highest-paid athlete in Dodgers history, and his success in the major leagues opened the door for other African-American players, such as Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron.
Robinson also became a vocal champion for African-American athletes, civil rights, and other social and political causes. In July 1949, he testified on discrimination before the House Un-American Activities Committee. In 1952, he publicly called out the Yankees as a racist organization for not having broken the color barrier five years after he began playing with the Dodgers.
Robinson has also been recognized outside of baseball. In December 1956, the NAACP recognized him with the Spingarn Medal, which it awards annually for the highest achievement by an African-American. President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded Robinson the Presidential Medal of Freedom on March 26, 1984 and on March 2, 2005, President George W. Bush gave Robinson's widow Rachel Robinson the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress; Robinson was only the second baseball player to receive the award, after Roberto Clemente. On August 20, 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, announced that Robinson was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts in Sacramento.
A number of buildings have been named in Robinson's honor. The UCLA Bruins baseball team plays in Jackie Robinson Stadium, which, because of the efforts of Jackie's brother Mack, features a memorial statue of Robinson by sculptor Richard H. Ellis. The stadium also unveiled a new mural of Robinson by Mike Sullivan on April 14, 2013. City Island Ballpark in Daytona Beach, Florida was renamed Jackie Robinson Ballpark in 1990 and a statue of Robinson with two children stands in front of the ballpark. His wife Rachel was present for the dedication.
April 18, 2013
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) – Brittney Griner is ready for a new challenge.
After dominating women’s college basketball for the past four years, Griner will head to Phoenix. The Mercury took the two-time AP Player of the Year with the top pick in the WNBA draft Monday night.
The city welcomed her with a giant billboard and renamed a street near the arena.
Griner admitted she was nervous before the draft despite knowing she was going to be taken first.
“I thought I was going to have a heart attack at the table,” she said.
Griner is excited about getting the chance to play with Diana Taurasi and the other talented players on the Mercury.
“I’m bringing the dunking element of my game to Phoenix,” Griner said. “Everyone would love to see Dee throw that alley-oop, I catch it and slam it. The high energy I bring to the table.”
Mercury coach Corey Gaines said it took about a second for the team to decide on their choice.
“I think with the talent we have already, and it’s not going to be all forced on her to do everything, it makes her even more of a game changer because there’s no pressure on her, she can just do the things that she does naturally – rebound, block shots, putbacks and then as it goes on, she’ll learn more,” Gaines said.
The 6-foot-8 star finished as the second all-time scorer in women’s NCAA history, with 3,283 points. She owns the shot block record, shattering both the men’s and women’s college marks with 748. She also had a record 18 dunks - including 11 this season.
WNBA President Laurel Richie opened the draft by offering the league’s thoughts and prayers to those affected by the bombings in Boston. She said earlier in the evening that the WNBA had discussions whether to hold the draft before deciding to go ahead with it.
Soon after the draft started, she announced Griner as the first choice.
Griner joins a very talented Mercury squad that was plagued by injuries most of last season. Taurasi played in only eight games and Penny Taylor missed the entire year while recovering from an ACL injury. Candice Dupree also missed 21 games because of a knee injury.
“I’m ready to get there and ready to learn from (Taurasi),” Griner said. “I got to play with her a little bit at USA Basketball. I’m ready to feed off her and give all I can to the Phoenix Mercury.”
Phoenix had the second-worst record and a 28 percent chance of getting the first pick. Washington, which had the worst record in the league, picked fourth.
“We have a team of All-Stars already,” Phoenix Mercury President Amber Cox said. “To add her to the mix solidifies us for a long time. When Phoenix comes to town it will be must-see basketball.”
The Mercury have had the first pick in the draft two other times, including when they took Taurasi in 2004.
It was an eventful day for Griner. Not only was she the top pick, but she bumped into her skateboarding idol, Tony Hawk, who was also at ESPN.
“Getting drafted being the No. 1 overall pick that was above it, but Tony’s right there at No. 2,” Griner said.
Like Phoenix, Chicago added a budding star to an already stacked roster that just missed making the playoffs last season, taking Elena Delle Donne with the No. 2 pick. The 6-foot-5 forward, who can play multiple positions, was second in the nation in scoring (26.0) and averaged 8.5 rebounds. She finished her career at Delaware with 3,039 career points – fifth all-time in NCAA history.
“This is a phenomenal team I’m joining, mentors who will help me out along the way,” Delle Donne said. “I’ll learn a ton from these players. We definitely have a great team. I felt I was a good puzzle piece for this team. You don’t say where you want to go before it was happening, but Chicago was my pick and I wanted to go there really badly.”
Tulsa took Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins with the third pick. Diggins averaged 17.1 points, 6.1 assists and 3.1 steals while helping the Irish reach the Final Four the past three seasons.
“When I entered Notre Dame we had lost in the first round of the tournament the year before,” Diggins said. “At the end of my career we had brought the program back to an elite level. I’m looking forward to get to Tulsa and show my leadership skills.”
While the first three picks were almost a lock, the rest of the draft was a bit more of a mystery with no clear-cut choices going in.
Washington took Ohio State guard Tayler Hill fourth.
“I didn’t know for sure,” Hill said. “I talked to a few WNBA coaches. I talked to coach (Mike) Thibault a few times and he was excited about me. I’m excited, really a feeling you can't explain.”
The New York Liberty and new coach Bill Laimbeer took Texas A&M's Kelsey Bone fifth and then two picks later drafted Oklahoma State’s Toni Young. Seattle, which will be without Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird this season because of injuries, took Maryland’s Tianna Hawkins in between the Liberty picks.
San Antonio took Syracuse center Kayla Alexander eighth, Cal’s Layshia Clarendon went ninth to Indiana. Los Angeles took Kentucky’s A’dia Mathies 10th. Connecticut drafted UConn forward Kelly Faris 11th and Minnesota closed out the first round by picking Nebraska’s Lindsey Moore.
“There’s no question that this draft class has potential to be a moment in time and we’ll look back 10, 20 years and remember that class that came in with Brittney, Skylar and Elena,” Richie said. “Having spent the last two days with a couple of the other prospects there are a couple surprises in there too.”
This was the first season that the draft was televised in prime time.
Training camps open May 5, with the league’s 17th season set to being on May 24.
April 11, 2013
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) —Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has announced a new investor to help fill the role vacated by billionaire Ron Burkle in the city’s bid to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle.
Johnson said at his weekly news conference Tuesday that Sacramento developer Mark Friedman has joined the group. The announcement comes a day after Burkle backed out because of a conflict of interest stemming from his ownership stake in Relativity Sports, which manages some NBA players’ careers.
Friedman said he will help build the planned arena in downtown Sacramento. He also said he had been in contact with the mayor since January and the timing of Burkle's decision had nothing to with his emergence.
Sacramento is trying to block a bid from a group that has a deal with the Maloof family to buy the Kings and move the franchise to Seattle next season. NBA owners are vetting both offers.
April 11, 2013
By TIM TALLEY
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday accuses 34 people and 23 companies, many of them registered in Central America, of operating an illegal sports bookmaking business that solicited more than $1 billion in bets.
The 95-page indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury in Oklahoma City on March 20, accuses the defendants of operating from San Jose, Costa Rica, and Panama City to take bets almost exclusively from gamblers in the U.S.
The indictment says that since 2003 the operation known as Legendz Sports used the companies to operate as payment processors, launder gambling funds and make payouts to customers. It alleges a conspiracy and accuses the defendants of violating federal racketeering and money laundering statutes as well as operating an illegal gambling business.
The indictment also accuses the defendants of violating illegal gambling statutes in several states, including Oklahoma, California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, New York and Texas.
“Legendz Sports solicited millions of illegal bets totaling over $1 billion on sports and sporting events from gamblers in the United States,” the indictment alleges. As part of the conspiracy, Legendz Sports operated Internet websites and telephone gambling services from facilities located in Panama, the indictment says.
U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats of Oklahoma City said the charges culminated a multiyear investigation by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service.
“The defendants cannot hide the allegedly illegal sports gambling operation behind corporate veils or state and international boundaries,” Coats said.
The acting chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division, Mythili Raman, said the government is determined to crack down on illegal online gambling by U.S. citizens, regardless of where the business operates or where the defendants live.
“These defendants allegedly participated in an illegal sports gambling business, lining their pockets with profits from over a billion dollars in illegal gambling proceeds,” Raman said.
Among the individual defendants listed in the indictment is Bartice Alan King, 42, of Spring, Texas, who's accused of conspiring with others to operate gambling services that took wagers almost exclusively from U.S. gamblers.
The enterprise allegedly used bookies in the U.S. to illegally solicit and accept sports wagers as well as settle gambling debts. The 34 individual defendants were allegedly employees, members and associates of the Legendz Sports enterprise, the indictment says.
Bob Troester, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oklahoma City, said King remained at large Wednesday but that 22 other defendants including King's former wife, Serena Monique King, had been taken into custody.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering, up to 20 years for conspiring to commit money laundering, up to 10 years for money laundering and up to five years for operating an illegal gambling business.
In addition, the indictment seeks forfeiture of at least $1 billion in numerous assets including real estate, bank accounts, brokerage and investment accounts, certificates of deposit, IRAs, domain names, an aircraft, a gas lease and several vehicles.
Troester said the investigation is not related to illegal gambling charges against Teddy Mitchell, 58, who is awaiting trial on a federal indictment that accuses him of making millions of dollars by hosting illegal high-stakes poker games at his Oklahoma City home and by illegally taking bets on sporting events.
“This is a completely separate case,” Troester said.
April 11, 2013
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has been named to the NFL's competition committee.
Commissioner Roger Goodell named Tomlin to the committee on Tuesday. Tomlin will replace former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. Tomlin had worked on the coaches subcommittee of the Competition Committee since 2009.
The 41-year-old Tomlin is 68-36 in six seasons with the Steelers and led them to victory in the 2009 Super Bowl.
“Coach Tomlin will bring additional strength to the committee from the coaching perspective,” Goodell said. “Mike has strong, perceptive views about the game and is effective in expressing them. We look forward to his contributions to the committee’s ongoing mission to improve the game.”
Tomlin says he is “excited” about the appointment and is looking forward to contributing. The nine-man committee — which is co-chaired by Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay and St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher — recommends rules and policy changes to the NFL.