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According to Carp

Rick Carpiniello's world of sports

Archive for July, 2007

On ice

July
28

Spent the day at the Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon. Well, I book-ended the day there, starting with the 7 a.m. — that’s right, a.m. — Hudson Valley-Central game (Central won 4-3.)

On this long, hot, humid day the ice held up pretty well. Oh, there were some ice issues, and it was soft and puddly, but some NHL rinks — we won’t mention any names — can’t do good ice in the dead of winter.

Speaking of that, I want to clear up something I wrote Friday in The Journal News and on LoHud.com, when I said the Ice Hutch was an embarrassing venue.

“Embarrassing� was a poor choice of words. The point was, with all the newer and in some cases state-of-the-art rinks in the area, and with all the first-rate facilities being used in other sports in these Games, it’s a shame another arena wasn’t available, or that the state or the county couldn’t give the old, dark Ice Hutch a facelift.

The Ice Hutch is no worse than most of the older rinks in the area, and the staff has done everything to make it a decent venue, freshly painted and clean.

The rink itself is fine, and so has been the hockey.

I wrote a column for tomorrow about Hudson Valley’s long day, a double-header of games at the crack of dawn and another at dusk — a 5-3 win over New York City that began at 6 p.m.

Today Hudson Valley has it easy. Yeah, right. A noon game against Western, which has won seven straight ESG gold medals and 19 in 25 years. There are still some variables to be finalized, but Hudson Valley will have a medal by the end of tomorrow, and could possibly have gold.

Western beat Long Island 6-4 in the last game tonight, to go to 4-0. Hudson Valley and Central are both 3-1. Any two-way tie will be decided simply by the head-to-head result, which means Hudson Valley loses a two-way tie with Central. But if it ends in a two-way tie with Western, via a win tomorrow, HV gets the gold.

More likely, if HV beats Western, there will be a three-way tie including Central. If that happens, then it comes down to the fewest number of goals allowed in the two games against the other teams in the tie. Western beat Central 6-3, and Central beat Hudson Valley 4-3, so Central’s tiebreaker number is nine goals allowed, Hudson Valley’s four and Western’s three going into the HV-Western game. Of course, if Western beats Hudson Valley, everything is moot. Western gets gold, Central gets silver and Hudson Valley gets bronze.

Posted by Carp on Saturday, July 28th, 2007 at 10:42 pm |
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Day 2, on the diamond

July
27

Watched Hudson Valley baseball today, as did about 30 or 35 scouts, mostly college coaches.

Saw a bizarre moment when, in the bottom of the first, 6-5 junior lefty Sean Hagen of Mamaroneck got ready to fire his first pitch of the game and 15 or 20 men stood up as if they were doing “the wave” and aimed radar guns at him.

“That’s the first thing you notice,” Hagen said. “I step up, and my head turns, and you just see a sea of guns rise up. It’s a little intimidating at first.â€?

His teammate, Alex Maruri of Yonkers and Stepinac, admitted that he was distracted by all the scouts’ attention on Thursday — when he swing at the first pitch in each of his first three at-bats, and when he appeared to be trying to pull the ball. But today he adjusted and ignored it.

“I usually find that when I start to think about that is when I don’t play up to my level. That’s what happened (Thursday). I came out and saw all the radar guns and saw all the notebooks and I didn’t do what I have to do. Today I just stayed focused between me and the ball and I was more successful that way.

“It did bother me. Every time I would ground out I would look back (at the scouts) and I would take that into my next at-bat. Today, first at-bat, I just focused on me and the ball and I got ahold of one and just went from there.â€?

He hit a monstrous three-run homer in the first inning and had four solid hits in a 13-1 win over Central today.

A funny moment between games for Hudson Valley, which won both for the second day in a row. The players and coaches were rounded up for a team photo. Coach Steve Greller begrudgingly got into the back of the group and muttered, “This is bad luck. This is really bad luck.”

HV won after the photo and has one round-robin game left today, and then goes for the medal. Long Island, which came in as the favorite and has lost twice, was still being feared and respected, though, because it had held out its best pitcher for the medal round.

Don’t forget to check out our Empire State Games blog at: esgames.lohudblogs.com, and the special ESG Web site on LoHud.com.

Posted by Carp on Friday, July 27th, 2007 at 8:53 pm |
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First day, not bad … except …

July
26

How can you tell if a columnist is complaining? His lips are moving.

I know, this is minor in the scheme of all the potential disasters and pitfalls that could happen on the first day of an event as big and widespread as the Empire State Games.

But to me, this was big. At all the team sports events I attended today, and I saw plenty of them, only the ice hockey at the Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon had rosters with players and their uniform numbers for the hundreds of fans in attendance.

And there were good crowds at all the venues I visited. The ESG puts out a program, and inside the program are the rosters for every team in every event, every sport. But there are no uniform numbers.

At girls basketball, there was a roster with numbers taped to a table in the lobby. You could take your program and write the numbers in if you were so inclined. But there were several hundred people there, and they did not have rosters.

How hard could it be to photocopy rosters. Baseball, I was told, was working in them this afternoon. In some cases, it was just an oversight. Hopefully it gets fixed.

Some things I saw at the Games today:

I saw a basketball player from, I think, Central — sorry, I saw so many games that I got confused — save a ball while leaping out of bounds in the defensive end of the court, then run completely around the press table near the stands and back inbounds in the offensive end to join a fast break. He didn’t get the ball, and the officials didn’t seem to notice his short cut.

I saw the Hudson Valley open men’s basketball team win at Iona, matching the number of wins at Iona by Iona this past season.

I saw two girls soccer goals while looking for a parking space, and then leaving the lot, an hour apart at Manhattanville. The first one made it 1-1, the second 2-2. What are the odds?

I saw one of my favorite hockey players in the area, Tommy Natoli of Suffern, who was backing up today for HV (and who calls me Mr. Carpiniello, which I hate). It made me realize that two of the best goalies in the area, in two different sports in these Games, have the same last names but jumbled: Natoli and John Jay lacrosse goalie Chris Latino.

I saw plenty of stuff. Some of it is in our “Tick Tock” diary in The Journal News and on LoHud.com tomorrow. I also wrote about my trek around the area — and about the rosters — in my column. “Check out our ESG Web page”:http://lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=SPORTS10. I hate to brag, but it’s pretty good.

And “to view our Empire State Games blog, click here”:http://esgames.lohudblogs.com.

Posted by Carp on Thursday, July 26th, 2007 at 10:25 pm |
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Golf’s big day

July
22

I’m still trying to digest the events of the golf day on two continents. I just finished a column about how the LPGA, not just the HSBC Match Play, needs Michelle Wie … if Michelle Wie is ever going to get back to being what she was headed toward being.

Nobody else puts fannies in the gallery, not Annika, not Lorena, not Paula or even the underachieving Natalie. Sorenstam is the greatest female golfer ever, and she brought in some fans the last two years at Wykagyl, but she hasn’t packed them in the way Wie does whenever and wherever she plays.

That said, Wie could have played this week and not made it through match play and we could still have had the poor crowds in the hundreds, not thousands.

Over in Scotland, I just watched Sergio Garcia’s news conference on The Golf Channel, and I can’t believe how “woe is me” he acted, saying he has to play more than just the field, as if he always runs into bad luck.

Garcia played great this week. I thought he dropped the putt that would have put Padraig Harrington away, would have made Harrington the new Jean Van De Velde after twice knocking it into the burn on the 72nd hole. I thought he hit a couple of decent shots on the first playoff hole, when he made bogey and Harrington made birdie, a two-shot swing that cost him the crown. Garcia was talking about his shot off the flagstick on, I think, No. 17. Yeah, great luck would have had the ball get knocked down near the hole. But no luck would have had it miss the pin and go well beyond where it wound up. I just thought it was bizarre.

Harrington, meanwhile, hit a shot that almost was an all-timer, that one on the 72nd hole that skipped across the bridge and nearly made it to the other side before diving into the water.

I’m glad one of these two guys finally won a major. The other one will eventually. He didn’t choke. He didn’t give it away, say, the way Harrington would have given it away if Garcia made his last putt on 18. Garcia just lost. Narrowly. And Harrington just won. Narrowly.

What a finish!

Posted by Carp on Sunday, July 22nd, 2007 at 9:45 pm |
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Wykagyl disaster?

July
21

It would be easy to say that there are four nobodies in the HSBC Women’s World Match Play semifinals at Wykagyl tomorrow. It would be easy to wonder whether there will be more spectators or caddies, whether fans will be outnumbered by those everywhere HSBC pyramid and triangle advertisements.

But that wouldn’t be entirely four. Yes, the four are relatively anonymous, and the casual fan probably can’t spell some of their names, probably can’t pronounce some of their names — Maria Hjorth, who beat Port Chester’s Meaghan Francella in the quarterfinals today, says her name “Yort” — or pick them out of a lineup.

But Mi Hyun Kim is still alive, and she’s won eight LPGA tournaments.

I know, I know. I had to look that up before I believed it myself.

But the four remaining are all deserving, and the champion will certainly be worthy for having gone six rounds of match play undefeated after two more rounds tomorrow.

And there will be fans, even if the place isn’t packed. It hasn’t been packed all week. But as the number of matches dwindle, those who come are confined to smaller areas, and thus each match has a fair number of followers. Then there are the nationalistic fans — two of the finalists are from South Korea, one from Japan, one from Sweden.

But they will miss the stars, and they will surely miss Francella, who had a large, faithful, hardy gallery for her 33 holes today.

Last year the final four at the HSBC were Lorena Ochoa, Juli Inkster, Paula Creamer and eventual champ Brittany Lincicome.

How many of HSBC’s dollars do you think the title sponsor would pay to have any one of those players at Wykagyl for its final four today?

Posted by Carp on Saturday, July 21st, 2007 at 8:36 pm |
| | 3 Comments »

LPGA double-header

July
20

What Meaghan Francella has accomplished in her first season on the LPGA Tour is rather remarkable in that it is so extraordinarily rare.

Never mind that she won in her third start.

Francella has now twice taken down the No. 1 player in the world in a head-to-head battle. She beat Annika Sorenstam on the fourth hole of a sudden death playoff for her first win in Mexico in March, when Sorenstam was still the No. 1 player.

Today she beat world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa in an 18-hole match at the HSBC Women’s World Match Play at Wykagyl.

“That’s pretty good,� Ochoa said. “We talked about it before, when she beat Annika in the playoff. And it’s not easy to beat Annika in the last round or in a playoff.

“That tells you that she’s a really tough player and she’s very motivated to win and she’s not afraid. Good for her. I wish her the best for the tournament.�

Just think of the odds of even getting that type of opportunity twice. Rarely is it one player against another on Tour. So what are the chances of even playing the No. 1 player in a direct faceoff, never mind also getting that chance against the new No. 1 in match play a few months later?

And to beat both, well, that’s plain off the charts.

“Yeah, like I said when in the beginning, when I first came out here I didn’t think I would beat Annika in my third event,â€? Francella calmly said. “And standing up on the tee with Lorena today, still, it’s a little intimidating.”

Francella still has a long way to go at the HSBC, because there are four matches remaining for the ultimate champ and runnerup, two tomorrow — she begins at 8:03 a.m. against Pat Hurst — and two more Sunday.

Hurst, incidentally, stared down Sorenstam in the U.S. Open last summer, but was ultimately beaten in an 18-hole playoff.

Posted by Carp on Friday, July 20th, 2007 at 9:42 pm |
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Bandwagon pothole

July
19

If you were on the official Yankees Comeback Bandwagon and jumped off after today’s loss, shame on you.

What’s remarkable to me is how excited the masses got with this little five-game winning streak against awful opposition, and how people saw the seven-game gap between the Bombers and the Bosox as a mere puddle to jump.

I just want to warn everybody that, yes, the Yankees look terrific right now. They’re hitting. Their starters are pitching well. They look like they believe. But they still have a dreadful bullpen and a worse bench.

But the main thing to remember is this: The Yankees cannot afford any more slumps, any more losing streaks, and yet they are sure to have a few down the stretch. Unless Boston collapses, and that’s not going to happen — although David Ortiz’s injury is worrisome up there; Manny Ramirez will hit eventually — the Yankees are going to have to play near-flawless baseball.

Not bloody likely.

So let’s wait a while before we declare this a true Yankees Comeback, before we get too excited and worked up. OK?

Posted by Carp on Thursday, July 19th, 2007 at 7:33 pm |
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Marquee names at Carnoustie

July
18

After Zach Johnson, a very good player, won the Masters and Angel Cabrera, a very good player, won the U.S. Open, it’s time a brand name wins a major.

I think Carnoustie will play relatively easy this week in the Open Championship (you may know it as the British Open) and that will ensure that a great player will win. I think the leaderboard will be littered with some of the biggest names in golf.

Obviously, you never, ever bet against Tiger Woods in a major, especially one he’s won three previous times with double-digit under-par scores each time.

But I think Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh and, yes, even Sergio Garcia will be in the hunt this weekend, starting in a few hours, actually. I wouldn’t be shocked if any of those five won. Ernie hasn’t won in a long while and Garcia is the best player without a major, but they’ll be involved. Colin Montgomerie will also have something to say.

Phil Mickelson? No. This isn’t his type of major. The other young guns? I don’t see it. Maybe Aaron Baddeley, but probably not. And no no-names. Please, no no-names.

Posted by Carp on Wednesday, July 18th, 2007 at 9:57 pm |
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Back to work

July
18

You come off a vacation week of five rounds of golf in seven days and taking more swings than you’d care to take, and your first assignment back is five days of watching others play golf.

Could be worse, right?

So today I’m at the rained-out morning portion of the HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship pro-am.

My first order of business was to talk to Annika Sorenstam. Last year she was asked a pre-Sybase Classic question about Michelle Wie’s quest to qualify for the men’s U.S. Open. Her answer was a quick, “I wish her well.” I heard that and wrote that Sorenstam sounded cold when she said it. This hurt her, and she sent word to me about that.

I had always found Annika warm and charming, and at the very least accessible, especially for a true superstar of sports. And when I found out that my comment hurt her, that bothered me. Normally I take my shots and move on. But this bothered me. I spoke to some writers who cover her regularly, and to her caddie, and they told me that Sorenstam was simply tired of the Wie questions at that point, and that she answered the question honestly without getting too involved in a topic she’d wanted to avoid. And that she wasn’t being cold.

So today I finally has the opportunity to speak to her about it. She remembered it. Wow! And she was so nice about it that I apologized for misreading her answer. She simply said, “Let’s put it behind us.”

In this business, you don’t normally have favorites. I’ll admit, Sorenstam has always been one of my favorites. Now she is even more so.

Posted by Carp on Wednesday, July 18th, 2007 at 8:24 pm |
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Gone golfin’

July
8

I’m beginning my vacation by watching the 2002 Masters Highlights on The Golf Channel.

They shouldn’t tell you who wins in the blurb on the channel guide. That would make it a lot more fun to watch … although you’d probably know that Tiger won it.

I’ll probably check back in during the week, between weed whacking and lawn mowing and hopefully Titleist whacking.

Anyway, I wanted to make a few comments, a day later, on Old Timers’ Day and on the all-star game. ESPN is claiming that its’ miniseries “The Bronx is Burning” will follow the Home Run Derby tomorrow night at 10 p.m. I’ll believe that the Derby is over by 10 p.m. when I see it.

A couple of the older guys and I were talking at Old Timers’ Day how it used to be, back in the day. The Yankees’ Old Timers used to play their all-time, old-time opponents. So you’d never have a Homer Bush or a Gil Patterson, no disrepect meant to anybody.

You’d have one team of legendary Yankees, and another team that would draw guys like Brooks and Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Sudden Sam McDowell, Willie Mays, Frank Howard, Harmon Killebrew, Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal and so on. Sure beat the Clippers vs. the Bombers thing they had Saturday.

The best quote nobody used from Saturday was when Reggie Jackson was asked how George Steinbrenner, in his prime, would have reacted to this year’s Yankees team.

“You know the answer to that,” he said. “You know that. You know that. He’d have butchered this place.â€?

And I can never think of Reggie and the all-star break and not think of Tiger Stadium, July 13, 1971, when he hit one off the light tower on the roof in the game that featured probably the most Hall of Famers ever assembled in one spot.

Here are the rosters from that game. See how many Hall of Famers you can count (six of those hit home runs, denoted by asterisks):
-NL-
*Hank Aaron
Glenn Beckert
*Johnny Bench
Bobby Bonds
Lou Brock
Steve Carlton
Clay Carroll
*Roberto Clemente
Nate Colbert
Willie Davis
Larry Dierker
Dock Ellis
Bud Harrelson
Fergie Jenkins
Don Kessinger
Juan Marichal
Lee May
Willie Mays
Willie McCovey
Felix Millan
Pete Rose
Manny Sanguillen
Ron Santo
Tom Seaver
Willie Stargell
Rusty Staub
Joe Torre
Don Wilson
Rick Wise

-AL-
Luis Aparicio
Vida Blue
Don Buford
Leo Cardenas
Rod Carew
Norm Cash
Mike Cuellar
Dave Duncan
Ray Fosse
Bill Freehan
Frank Howard
*Reggie Jackson
Al Kaline
*Harmon Killebrew
Mickey Lolich
Sam McDowell
Bill Melton
Andy Messersmith
Thurman Munson
Bobby Murcer
Tony Oliva
Amos Otis
Jim Palmer
Marty Pattin
Jim Perry
Boog Powell
Brooks Robinson
*Frank Robinson
Cookie Rojas
Sonny Siebert
Wilbur Wood
Carl Yastrzemski

Posted by Carp on Sunday, July 8th, 2007 at 10:46 pm |
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About this blog
Rick Carpiniello is a sports columnist for The Journal News and LoHud.com. His blog will encompass the world of sports, from Pee Wees to the Super Bowl in a style that can be serious, sarcastic or even silly, and on which encourages feedback from its readers on any and all sports-related topics.
About the author
Rick CarpinielloRick Carpiniello For more than 20 years he covered the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League. Carpiniello has been writing columns on everything from local sports to the big leagues since 2002. READ MORE

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