Monday I reported on a bit of a dust-up involving Scotland’s Andy Murray and the Queen of England. When he was told Queen Elizabeth would be appearing at Wimbledon for the first time in 33 years and that she would likely take in one of his matches, Murray said he was “unsure” if he would bow to the Queen - as has been protocol over the years.
Thanks to negative reaction to his comments, Murray quickly backed down and did his duty today on Centre Court in the presence of “H.M.” (Her Majesty.)
But Murray’s lack of enthusiasm for the tradition apparently wasn’t lost on Wimbledon officials. Nor was his past comments about the World Cup. When recently asked who he was rooting for in South Africa, Murray reportedly said, “anyone but England.” Read more…
For the first time in 30 years, Queen Elizabeth is planning to attend matches at Wimbledon this week. With players previously required to bow or curtsy when in the presence of the Queen, the appearance of the English Monarchy has apparently led to a dilemma for the U.K.’s top player and tournament fourth-seed Andy Murray.
Murray, who is Scottish, is from a country that for centuries fought England for its independence and continues to celebrate many of its customs and traditions separately from England.
So it isn’t as automatic for Murray to bow to an English King or Queen as you might think. Add on Murray’s first blush reaction to the British press about the prospect and a bit of a panic set in across the pond.
In the long run, not only did Jerry Manuel’s latest brainstorm contribute to team unity, but it’s going to save the Mets a ton of money. On Tuesday following New York’s season-worst fifth straight loss, Manuel read the riot act to his underachieving minions in a closed-door meeting, and ended things by making an unexpected transportation demand. For their game on Wednesday against the Brewers, the team would eschew their separate taxi rides and travel together in the team bus.
Not sure how much hazing occurred in the back seat where the driver couldn’t see what was going on, and … hey Beltran! Quit mooning those girls and get back in your seat! But the result on the field was positive, as the Mets prevailed 1-0 behind 7 2/3 scoreless innings from Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey, ironically, was the only player who missed Manuel’s mini-tirade the day before, having received permission to leave early to rest for Wednesday’s game.
Oh, don’t worry — they’re still the Mets. New York struck out 12 times against Yovani Gallardo (8-5). But Ryan Church’s one-out single in the sixth, which scored Luis Castillo, who had doubled, was the only offense needed. So New York (38-39) moved back within a game of .500, two games behind the first-place Phillies. The Mets head to Pittsburgh for a rainout makeup today before a weekend series at Philadelphia. That’ll be a long bus ride.
Meanwhile, check that Wimbledon ticket you just bought online — I’m pretty sure you’ve been duped. Andy MurrayMania has gripped this staid tennis event with a fervor, as tickets for Sunday’s men’s final are being offered for as much as £20,000 each on some sites. I’m not sure what that is in American money — a million bucks? — but it’s a freaking lot for tennis. Of course it’s all because Murray is British, and someone from those shores hasn’t won Wimbledon in 73 years (down with the Kaiser! Where’s the Titanic? It’s overdue!). Murray, a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 quarterfinal victor over Juan Carlos Ferrero, could be on his way to his first grand-slam title.
His semifinal today against sixth seed Andy Roddick could set up a final against Roger Federer, which even I would watch.
Fans have been queueing outside Wimbledon for 48 hours to get their hands on tickets for the semi-finals and final, while agencies report that demand is up four-fold. But the prices are higher than ever, with a pair of quarter-final tickets for Murray’s Centre Court match yesterday, worth £170, selling for £6,100.
With the avalanche of demand has come the threat of fraud. Wimbledon authorities are investigating bogus websites charging thousands of pounds for tickets that do not exist. One site under investigation — onlinewimbledontickets.com — is almost a replica of the official Wimbledon website, in the familiar green-and-purple livery, offering Centre Court tickets for the final at £2,499.
A Romanian businessman, who paid more than £11,000 online, is among more than 50 victims, mainly from mainland Europe. The website, with telephone numbers in London and Ireland, takes the money online but does not deliver the tickets. Their phone lines were dead yesterday.
And now for something completely different. It always pays to read the fine print, as a Twin Cities sportswriter has learned after mistaking the blog Sir Charles In Charge as being authored by the actual Charles Barkley. ST. PAUL PIONEER-PRESS writer Don Seeholzer attributed an item on the blog to Barkley, writing that Sir Charles was promoting Del Harris as the next head coach of the Timberwolves. Actually Barkley has nothing to do with the site, as it states in the disclaimer.
(”Is that a blog, or a duck? Damn, I’m confused.”)
You may think that Shaquille O’Neal’s arrival in Cleveland won’t make that much of a difference, but Vegas types tend to disagree. Bodog.com has just installed the Cavaliers as co-favorites with the Lakers to win the NBA title, both at 9/4. Bodog had Cleveland at 3/1 on June 15. Rounding out the top five are the Celtics (5/1), Magic (6/1) and Spurs (11/1). Once again I shall slap down a ten-spot on my Golden State Warriors, at 100/1.
Oh, and Bodog’s pick to win Saturday’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest: Joey Chestnut at 2/3 (Takeru Kobayashi is second at 6/5, Tim “Eater” Janus third at 12/1). Over-under on hot dogs consumed: 61 1/2.
Attention, Scott Boras: Eric Whitfield, 12, son of former major leaguer Terry Whitfield, had four home runs in four at-bats and also pitched two innings of perfect relief to lead his Hillsborough (Calif.) Little League All-Star team to a 17-0 win over Redwood City National on Wednesday. Hillsborough has won four of the past five District 52 All-Star titles (district play being the first rung on the ladder toward the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.).
Unfortunately, America is apparently not yet ready to see a video of Chris Cooley burning the body of a dead horse which he found on his property. After much soul-searching, Cooley decided not to post it on his blog. Even though “the video is amazing! I spent over an hour today putting it together and it is one of my finest works, one that my kids will look back on and cherish. So for now, I’m sad.” As always, the comments are the best part.
And speaking of celebrity golf, here’s your Jessica Simspon, Tony Romo, Tiger Woods fix for the week. It’s the opening ceremony of the AT&T National on Wednesday in Bethesda, Md., whee! Also on hand were Bruce Boudreau, Jason Campbell, Antwaan Randle El, Rock Cartwright, Shaun Suisham and Leon Harris. Thanks for the photos from Dan Steinberg at DC SPORTS BOG, who also noted that “Some wise soul managed to write “Go Redskins” in Romo’s yardage book, which was one of the better moments of the day.” Jessica also favored all in attendance with a tune.
The Dallas Mavericks are preparing to offer Jason Kidd $25 million over three years, according to ESPN. The Knicks may also be ready to offer a three-year deal, although for what amount, it isn’t certain.
OK, some hockey news. Fine. Marian Gaborik, the finest athlete with a Marian-sounding name since Marion Morrison, agreed to a five-year deal with the Rangers for $7.5 million per year.
Prepare for the lovefest surrounding the return of drug cheat misunderstood genius Manny Ramirez, who returns to the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup on Friday night in San Diego. LA went 29-21 without him, and are seven games up on the second-place Giants. Why not stop by Petco and give him a standing ovulation … er, I mean, ovation?
Back in April of 1996, Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly said of Mariano Rivera: “That guy, he should be in a higher league. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.” At the time, Rivera had zero Major League saves and the Mets and Yankees had never played each other in a game that counted. Last night, Mo earned his 500th career save in a 4-2 win over the Mets, and it will be just as memorable for what he did at the plate than what he did on the mound.
Rivera came in to pitch in the 8th inning last night with the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead and Met runner in scoring position. After striking out Omir Santos, the Yankee lineup ended up getting to Rivera’s spot in the order. And Mo did something he had never ever done in his Major League career — reach base. Not only that, he earned an RBI for his bases-loaded walk by Francisco Rodriguez.
Earlier in the inning, the Yankees had engaged in some shenangians, sending Francisco Cervelli to the on-deck circle for Rivera when Derek Jeter was up with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. This led to maybe the only time in history in which Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan have made tons of sense. There’s no way Rivera’s coming out of the game, with the Yankees leading 3-2, yet Jerry Manuel initially chose to have K-Rod pitch to Jeter with a base open. Knowing, mind you, that there was a 0% chance that Joe Girardi would lift Rivera for a pinch-hitter. Morgan and Phillips stopped just short of calling Manuel a moron for throwing Jeter a strike on the first pitch. After two balls out of the zone, the Mets finally gave Jeter the free pass. Rivera, of course, strolled to the plate, and was promptly walked (after he fought off a tough 2-2 pitch).
Rivera is still #2 all-time in saves to Trevor Hoffman, but will go down in history as the best closer ever because of his ridiculous 0.77 ERA (in 117+ innings) and 34 saves in the postseason. Plus, he’s now the only closer in MLB history with 500 saves who has been walked by another pitcher (Hoffman has no walks in 35 plate appearances).
It’s only fitting that the Mets were instrumental in all of this, as they keep finding new and interesting ways to fail against their cross-town rivals.
1) Shortstop Stephen Drew lobbed a perfect strike to first baseman Mark Reynolds on a routine grounder. And Reynolds dropped the ball. Just dropped it. It was so bad, it actively looked like he was either trying to drop the ball or had never played baseball in his life.
2) Maicer Izturis lined a shot directly to right fielder Justin Upton. This ball also had the gall to hit Upton right in the glove, and he too made a complete mess out of it, as it bounded away from him and rolled to the wall.
3) The next batter, Bobby Abreu hit a ground ball directly at second baseman Felipe Lopez, who fielded the ball and threw him out. Unfortunately, the ball Lopez fielded was imaginary and the actual ball was somewhere in right-center.
This disaster came just one day after Arizona played a bunt by Erick Aybar into a t-ball home run (courtesy of two throwing errors on the same play). Is it any wonder the D-Backs are 30-46? Weren’t they one of the rising teams in baseball a couple of years ago?
And everything was looking really great for the U.S., which came back from near-certain elimination in the group stage of the Confederations Cup to shock Spain in the semis and take a 2-0 halftime lead over Brazil in the final. And while the Americans deserved the early lead, the Brazilians were clearly the better team over the course of 90 minutes, outshooting the U.S. 31-9. It was only a matter of time before they found the back of the net, and they beat Tim Howard three times in the second half to take the title.
The NEW YORK TIMES says that U.S. soccer narrowly missed a “moment” it needed to gain the sport traction in this country again. While the run to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals was gripping, the games were played in the middle of the night and the Americans came up short in the one game everyone finally tuned into (the quarterfinal loss to Germany). Likewise, most casual fans missed the huge win over Spain on Wednesday, but were glued to the screen as Brazil stormed back to crush our dreams once again on Sunday.
Still, the U.S. soccer program is in better shape now than it has ever been, but if the sport is really going to take the next step in this country (if that can actually ever happen), they can’t afford to have a weak showing on the return trip to South Africa next summer.
• The single-A California League is known as the place where pitchers’ ERAs go to die. This is especially true in the wind-blown desert of Victorville, where the High Desert Mavericks scored 18 runs last night in a home game against the Lake Elsinore Storm. Oh, and they lost by 15 runs.
You read that right. The Storm scored 22 runs in the first five innings, then added 11 more in the last two, and beat High Desert 33-18. The game lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes and was played in 100-degree heat. There were 10 home runs hit, and Lake Elsinore’s starting pitcher gave up 11 runs and would’ve earned the win if his manager hadn’t lifted him with 2 outs in the fifth inning and his team leading by 11 runs. Lake Elsinore picked up 32 hits while the Mavericks had 26. Two of those hits were by outfielder James McOwen, a lightly-regarded prospect who extended his hitting streak to a league-record 36 games.
• TNT’s play-by-play man for NASCAR was suspended from yesterday’s broadcast for a “loud and public confrontation” that took place at his hotel the other night. Nobody in the booth mentioned their missing colleague, Bill Weber.
• BLACK VOICES says Serena Williams is writing a TV pilot inspired by both “Sex and the City” and “Family Guy.” Just to warn you, Serena, the Sarah Jessica Parker-looks-like-a-horse joke is kind of a tired bit now.
• Scottish star Andy Murray is drawing record crowds to see him play at Wimbledon this year, and he’s up against Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round today. And if you tune in, you might want to keep your eyes peeled for Murray’s girlfriend, Kim Sears:
If you’re born with a stutter, don’t go into public speaking. If you’re born without hands and feet, don’t go into MMA. And if you’re allergic to grass, maybe professional tennis player isn’t the job for you.
Viktor Troicki is allergic to grass, and not in the Rafael-Nadal-is-only-good-on-clay sense. As if having to play national hero Andy Murray in front of a partisan audience today isn’t enough, the court itself is actively trying to kill him. How will he cope? How will he survive? Finally, some drama in tennis.
Tropical Storm Hanna is playing havoc with the US Open schedule today. In an unprecedented move, they had both semifinals going at once, with the Andy Murray vs. Rafael Nadal match moved earlier and to Louis Armstrong Stadium in a bid to beat impending rain storms. It didn’t work, as play was halted for the day in the third set.
It’s a break that Nadal must love, as he is down two sets to none to the surging Brit, although he is up 3-2 in the third. And while Murray is a compelling young player, CBS and the tennis world is hopig for a Nadal rally, as Roger Federer set up his half of a Wimbledon rematch by taking out Novak Djokovic in four sets.