Sports


Smarty Jones Loses

The Triple CrownThat was one exciting race. Smarty Jones is an easy horse to like and an even easier horse to root for. We all gathered around the television for today's running of the Belmont Stakes in the hopes we'd see our first Triple Crown.

If you watched the race, you saw the heart breaking loss for Smarty Jones. In the lead for the home stretch and looking like he was ready to open up like he did in The Preakness, Smarty Jones was caught by Birdstone.

Smarty Jones is the third straight Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, and sixth in the past eight years, to fall short in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. That's 27 years and counting without a Triple Crown winner.

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The Triple Crown

The Triple CrownThe undefeated Smarty Jones can become racing's first Triple Crown winner in 26 years with a victory today in the Belmost Stakes. The Triple Crown is one of the most elusive prizes in all of sports, a feat reached by just 11 horses.

It's on NBC at 18:38 EST. You don't want to miss history being made, do you?

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Dr. K

KI've mentioned several times the joy baseball brought me as a young man. I followed my Blue Jays religiously and could ring off their stats on demand. I also followed the other Major League teams and, like many my age, became enamoured with a young pitcher they called Dr. K.

Dwight Gooden was Dr. K and he burst on the scene with the New York Mets finishing 17-6 in his rookie season as a 19 year old. His major league-leading 276 strikeouts set a rookie record. I remember watching Mets games on TV when Dr. K was pitching as the fans brought out the big "K" after each Gooden strike out.

I always wondered why we score the strike out as a "K" but at the time I was so curious about it there was no Internet to surf so I could quickly find an answer. Going to a library and trying to find information of that nature was such a pain in the ass I never bothered. Now, with the world wide web at my fingertips, learning why a strike out is scored as a "K" is simple.

So, twenty years after I first pondered this question, I learned that we owe the "K" to an early sportswriter named Henry Chadwick. Chadwick already had "S" slated for "sacrifice." So a strikeout became a "K", after the last letter of the word "struck." The reason a strikeout isn't a "T" is because "struck" was the preferred term of the day.

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Tiger Iginla

Tiger IginlaI've been privately wondering to myself how long it would be before the media anointed Calgary Flames superstar Jerome Iginla the Tiger Woods of hockey. Tiger Woods, a black man in a sport long dominated by white men, has been regarded as the best golfer on the planet for the past several years. Jerome Iginla, a black man in a sport long dominated by white men, won the Art Ross Trophy, Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award in 2001-02 and now has his team within two wins of the Stanley Cup.

Recently, Iginla's name has surfaced in numerous articles alongside that of Tiger Woods, including this article from yesterday's New York Times. It was inevitable really. Only 14 athletes of colour played in the NHL this season and none, other than perhaps Grant Fuhr, have ever reached the superstar level Iginla has these past few years. It's worth noting that Iginla is the first non-white team captain in NHL history. The articles I've been reading that compare Iginla to Woods make a big deal out of the marketing opportunity this presents to the NHL and the potential for more and more non-white children to pick up a hockey stick and embrace this wonderful game on ice.

I'm a huge Jerome Iginla fan. He plays a style I respect, helped Team Canada win the gold in Salt Lake City and plays for a team I have no ill feelings towards. He also scored a Gordie Howe hat trick last night (goal, assist, fight) and you've got to love any player who scores a Howe in the Stanley Cup finals. I see a great Canadian hockey player doing what great Canadian hockey players do. It never crosses my mind that his skin is darker than Wayne Gretzky's. Nothing could me more irrelevant.

If all goes well, the Calgary Flames will win the Stanley Cup and we'll all get to see #12 hoisting the most coveted trophy in sports. It's an image I can't wait to witness and one that will inspire thousands of children across this great country, be they black, white, purple, yellow or green.

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Richie Sexson

Richie SexsonSay it ain't so Richie. Say it ain't so.

A doctor for Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Richie Sexson has recommended surgery for the slugger. Why do I care about the premature ending of Richie Sexson's season you're wondering. Richie Sexson has become an important footnote in my life.

A few years back, my brother Steve and I were at Skydome to watch our Blue Jays take on the Cleveland Indians. We got there early so we could watch batting practice. I was standing in the 200 level beyond the left field fence. Cleveland's Richie Sexson was taking swings and launched a missle in my direction. That's when I secured my first baseball actually hit by a major league player.

I've added a ball hit by Shannon Stewart to my collection since, but I'll never forget my first. Richie Sexson, I wish you a speedy recovery my friend.

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The Perfect Game

The Perfect GameAs a child, I fell in love with the romanticism of baseball. I loved the never ending number of statistics and trivial components to the game. As a Blue Jays fan, every time a batter hit a base hit in his first at bat, I was watching a potential cycle. Every time a Blue Jays pitcher retired the side in order in the first inning, I was watching a potential perfect game.

To this day, no Blue Jays pitcher has ever pitched a perfect game. Dave Stieb, however, did pitch a no hitter back on September 2, 1990 while I was working a game booth at the CNE. Still, a perfect game might just be the most perfect performance in baseball. It's a work of art, retiring every player a pitcher faces. It's the rarest of feats.

Last night, 40 year old Randy Johnson pitched the first perfect game of his illustrious career becoming only the 15th player to do so since the modern era began. It's also worth noting Johnson became the oldest pitcher in major league history to throw a perfect game, retiring all 27 hitters to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Atlanta Braves 2-0. The last perfect game was thrown by former Jay David Cone back in 1999.

27 up, 27 down. There's nothing finer. Last night, Johnson was perfect.

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Barry Bonds

Barry BondsAs a kid, I was enamoured by baseball trivia. At one time in the mid-80s I had memorized every member of the 500 club. The 500 club was an elite club of home run hitters who had hit at least 500 in their major league career.

The 600 club was so exclusive, there were only three members. Hank Aaron was the king, Babe Ruth was the only other to hit 700 career dingers and Willie Mays was a comfy third with his 660. Such a nice round number for The Say Hey Kid who many considered to be the best all around ball player ever.

Last night, Barry Bonds hit his 661st career homer off right-hander Ben Ford over the right-field arcade and into McCovey Cove. Bonds now sits alone in third place on the career home runs list bumping his godfather to fourth.

Many dislike Barry Bonds. He's short with reporters and fans and not the easiest guy to root for. As for pure baseball talent, there may be none better. Pitchers fear Bonds' power so much, they rarely pitch to him. He was once intentionally walked with the bases loaded in an 8-6 game. In fact, he was walked a whopping 198 times in 2002. He's also the only man to hit 73 home runs in a single season and slug .863 in a season, as Bonds did in 2001. The man is certainly the best player of his generation and you've got to respect that.

Babe Ruth and his 714 career homers should be Bonds' next target, and the way he hits that number could be passed about one year from now.

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My Masters Pool

The MastersI mentioned I entered a Masters pool at work. I selected Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington and Davis Love III in an effort to have the threesome with the lowest combined score.

Out of twelve entries I finished fourth. Not bad I suppose. I asked my brother Steve to assist me with my selection and he lead me into the top third. I'm just thankful I didn't follow my heart and pick Mike Weir.

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The Masters

The MastersThis weekend is The Masters golf tournament from Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Bright's Grove, Ontario's Mike Weir is the defending champion.

I just entered a Masters pool at work. I had to select three golfers and the objective is to have the lowest combined score. Every member of the threesome chosen have to make the cut or you're disqualified.

As you'll read in my When I'll Watch Golf entry, I don't follow the sport very closely. In fact, I asked my brother Steve to guide me in the right direction as I selected my three golfers for the pool. Based on his advice, I selected Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington and Davis Love III.

Visit The Masters Leader Board to follow the action beginning Thursday.

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All I Got...

All I Got...Taryn went to Portugal and all I got was this lousy tee shirt. Actually, it's a very nice soccer shirt for the national team from Portugal, but wearing it violates one of my rules.

Thou shalt not wear paraphernalia for sports teams thou does not passionately root for. The only hockey teams logo I can wear belongs to the Maple Leafs, in Baseball it's the Blue Jays, in basketball it's the Raptors, in the CFL it's the Argos, in the NFL it's the Bills and in International soccer, when Canada hasn't made the cut, it's Ireland. I can't root for Portugal.

As I said, it's a fine shirt, and a great souvenir from her free trip to Portugal, but I can't wear it.

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