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World Series hero Larsen dies at 90 – TSN

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NEW YORK — Don Larsen, the journeyman pitcher who reached the heights of baseball glory when he threw a perfect game in 1956 with the New York Yankees for the only no-hitter in World Series history, died Wednesday night. He was 90.

Larsen’s agent, Andrew Levy, said the former pitcher died of esophageal cancer in hospice care in Hayden, Idaho. Levy said Larsen’s son, Scott, confirmed the death.

Larsen was the unlikeliest of characters to attain what so many Hall of Famers couldn’t pull off in the Fall Classic. He was 81-91 lifetime, never won more than 11 games in a season and finished an unsightly 3-21 with Baltimore in 1954, the year before he was dealt to the Yankees as part of an 18-player trade.

In the 1956 World Series, won in seven games by the Yankees, he was knocked out in the second inning of Game 2 by the Brooklyn Dodgers and didn’t think he would have another opportunity to pitch. But when he reached Yankee Stadium on the morning of Oct. 8, he found a baseball in his shoe, the signal from manager Casey Stengel that he would start Game 5.

“I must admit I was shocked,” Larsen wrote in his autobiography. “I knew I had to do better than the last time, keep the game close and somehow give our team a chance to win. Casey was betting on me, and I was determined not to let him down this time.”

The Dodgers and Yankees split the first four games and Stengel liked the deception of Larsen’s no-windup delivery. The manager’s instincts proved historically correct. The lanky right-hander struck out seven, needed just 97 pitches to tame the Dodgers and only once went to three balls on a batter — against Pee Wee Reese in the first inning.

In winning 2-0, the Yankees themselves only managed five hits against the Dodgers’ Sal Maglie, but scored on Mickey Mantle’s home run and an RBI single by Hank Bauer.

Larsen, selected MVP of the 1956 Series, had two close calls. In the second inning, Jackie Robinson hit a hard grounder that was deflected by third baseman Andy Carey to shortstop Gil McDougald, who threw out Robinson. In the fifth, Mantle ran down a long drive to left-centre field by Gil Hodges. With two outs in the ninth, pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell took a third strike, completing the perfect game and sending catcher Yogi Berra dashing out from behind the plate to leap into Larsen’s arms.

“When Yogi Berra jumped on me and grabbed with the bear hug, my mind went completely blank,” Larsen wrote in his autobiography. “I was under friendly attack … I was swept into the dugout.”

Their celebration remains one of baseball’s most joyous images.

“Don’s perfect game is a defining moment for our franchise, encapsulating a storied era of Yankees success and ranking among the greatest single-game performances in Major League Baseball history,” the Yankees said in a statement. “The unmitigated joy reflected in his embrace with Yogi Berra after the game’s final out will forever hold a secure place in Yankees lore. It was the pinnacle of baseball success and a reminder of the incredible, unforgettable things that can take place on a baseball field.”

Born Aug. 7, 1929, in Michigan City, Indiana, Larsen moved with his family to San Diego, where he went to Point Loma High School, the alma mater of another Yankees perfect game pitcher, David Wells. Larsen played basketball and baseball and was signed by the St. Louis Browns for a $500 bonus and $150 a month.

After two minor league seasons, Larsen hurt his arm and then spent two years in the Army. He was promoted to the Browns in 1953 and moved with the team to Baltimore the following year. He struggled through his 3-21 season but two of the wins were against the Yankees, who insisted he be included in the trade that also brought pitching star Bob Turley to New York.

Larsen started 1955 with the Yankees’ farm team in Denver, where he went 9-1 and developed the no-windup delivery. Promoted to the majors midway through the season, he finished 9-2 for New York. Larsen went 11-5 the next season and enjoyed the party atmosphere that came with playing for the Yankees, often running with Mantle, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford in their late-night rounds of the city. On the night before his perfect game, he had been out on the town, believing he was not in Stengel’s plans for the next day.

Larsen pitched in three other World Series. He won Game 2 of the 1957 series against Hank Aaron and the Milwaukee Braves, but lost the decisive Game 7. He shut out the Braves 4-0 on six hits in Game 3 of the 1958 Series, when New York beat Milwaukee in seven games, and was back in the Bronx with the San Francisco Giants for the 1962 Fall Classic.

Pitching against the Yankees on Oct. 8, the sixth anniversary of his perfect game, he won in relief at Yankee Stadium. After the 1959 season, he was traded to Kansas City in a deal that brought Roger Maris to New York. With the A’s, he went 1-10 in 1960, a reminder of his dreadful season with the Orioles. He was sent back to the minors where he became a relief pitcher and then moved on to the Giants, Chicago White Sox, Houston, Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs.

Larsen retired in 1967 with an 81-91 record over 14 major league seasons. He later worked as a liquor salesman and paper company executive. When David Cone tossed a perfect game for the Yankees during the 1999 season, Larsen was in attendance after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

No other pitcher has thrown a perfect game in the post-season, but in 2010 the Phillies’ Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds during the National League Division Series.

“They can never break my record,” Larsen would say of his game. “The best they can do is tie it. October 8, 1956, was a mystical trip through fantasyland. Sometimes I still wonder whether it really all happened.”

Late on Wednesday night, Cone tweeted “RIP my friend” with a photo of himself, Wells and Larsen together on the field at Yankee Stadium.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Don Larsen, who remained a welcome and familiar face at our annual Old-Timers’ Day celebrations in the decades following his playing career,” the Yankees said. “He will be missed.”

In a message posted Christmas Day on social media, Scott Larsen said his father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer soon after returning from his annual trip to St. Louis in August to attend the St. Louis Browns Historical Society gathering. The elder Larsen “immediately began a rigorous program of radiation therapy” that he had recently completed, Scott Larsen said.

In addition to his son, Larsen is survived by his wife of 62 years, Corrine, daughter-in-law Nancy, and grandsons Justin and Cody.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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NHL announces massive update to 2021-22 season schedule with games moved due to COVID-19 – CBS Sports

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IMAGN

The NHL has announced an update to the 2021-22 regular season schedule, which will allow all 32 teams to finish their 82-game seasons by the original closing date of April 29.

As a part of the update, there are new dates for all 98 games that had been previously postponed from Nov. 18, 2021 to Jan. 18, 2022 due to COVID-19. In addition, there are date changes regarding 23 other games in an effort to accommodate the new dates for games that were postponed.

The league will use the 16-day period from Feb. 7-22 that was previously slated for the NHL‘s participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics. There will be games scheduled on all 16 of those days.

“We are profoundly grateful to our fans for their support and understanding during a challenging time and to our Clubs, the NHL Players’ Association and the Players for their cooperation in a rescheduling of unprecedented logistical complexity,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a press release.

In addition to these changes, the NHL also revealed that there will be start time changes for the following games:

The NHL had a short pause over the holiday break due to several teams dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. The league returned to the ice on Dec. 28.

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Stu Cowan: New Canadiens GM Kent Hughes a breath of fresh air – Montreal Gazette

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Montreal native and former player agent calls new job job “the chance of a lifetime” on an emotional day filled with pride and excitement.

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Jeff Gorton wanted to make it clear that Kent Hughes is not his best friend.

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“Nobody would want any of my best friends to be running the Montreal Canadiens, so I would never do that to you,” Gorton, the Canadiens’ executive vice-president of hockey operations, said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Bell Centre to introduce Hughes as the team’s new general manager.

“No offence, but Kent is not my best friend.”

Gorton explained that his relationship with Hughes dates back to when he was an assistant GM with Boston and was negotiating an NHL entry-level deal for Patrice Bergeron after the Bruins selected their future captain in the second round of the 2003 draft. Hughes was Bergeron’s agent and he impressed Gorton.

Over the years, Gorton and Hughes — both living in the Boston area — kept in regular contact, talking on the phone a couple of times a week because Gorton trusted the agent’s opinion on hockey matters and respected him as a person. Gorton called it a professional relationship and added they never socialized together, although Gorton did meet Hughes’s wife, Deena, a couple of times.

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As GM of the New York Rangers, Gorton also selected Hughes’s son Riley in the seventh round of the 2018 NHL Draft.

While they might not be best friends, there’s no doubt Gorton wanted Hughes to join the Canadiens. During Wednesday’s press conference, we learned why.

For someone not used to being in the public spotlight, Hughes shone on the stage set up on the ice at the Bell Centre for him, Gorton and team owner/president Geoff Molson. Hughes answered a variety of hockey-related questions thoughtfully and intelligently for 50 minutes and looked like the GM of a billion-dollar NHL franchise in a sharp blue business suit with a red tie. The 51-year-old was also very, very comfortable speaking French.

Hughes’s life changed dramatically when he walked onto the stage just after 4 p.m. in front of the TV cameras, photographers and journalists. He will never walk the streets of Montreal unrecognized again.

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Hughes said it was an emotional day for him, one filled with pride and excitement, adding he grew up dreaming of playing for the Canadiens but that this was the second-best option. He called this the “chance of a lifetime.”

“Certainly, from an agent perspective I was more of a behind-the-scenes type of agent,” Hughes said. “Having said that, I’m more excited about not who I am publicly, rather the challenges that lie ahead.

“I would describe myself as a hockey junkie,” he added. “I always have been. I’ve worked in the sport, I’ve coached in the sport. I’ve coached without my own children as part of it and my wife will tell you that if I’m not coaching or working in hockey I’m talking about hockey. So for me the public part of it is what it is. The excitement is the hockey piece.”

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Eleven candidates were interviewed for the job, but Gorton was hoping Hughes would be willing to leave his lucrative player-agent business to become GM of the team he grew up cheering for. Gorton approached Hughes at the beginning of the search process and he needed time to think about it. Near the end of the process Gorton went back to Hughes and then it was a matter of “leaving him alone and letting him come back to me.”

As GM of the Rangers, Gorton had tried to get Hughes to join him in New York, but the timing wasn’t right for him from a business or a family standpoint. While pondering whether to take the Canadiens job, Hughes got a call from his friend Bill Guerin, who is GM of the Minnesota Wild.

“Kent, it’s the New York Yankees, it’s the Dallas Cowboys, it’s the Montreal Canadiens,” Hughes said Guerin told him. “Come on! You don’t have a decision.”

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Now Gorton and Hughes can start the very difficult job together of rebuilding a franchise with a record 24 Stanley Cups that sits in last place in the overall NHL standings. Hughes is going to take some time getting to know the players both on and off the ice ahead of the March 21 trade deadline.

Hughes said the choice of words — rebuild, retool, reset — isn’t important. He noted the team that wins the Stanley Cup every year isn’t necessarily the one with the most talented players. He wants to create an environment people want to be a part of and build a team culture where everyone is pulling in the same direction. He’s not looking to win for just one or two years, but to create an environment where the team can compete for many years to come.

“I think when we set out, ultimately I wanted somebody … our committee wanted somebody that was a really good hockey person that would complement my skills or my skill set as well as we could and I think that’s what we’ve done,” Gorton said. “I’m really confident in that.”

I can see why — even if Hughes isn’t his best friend.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

  1. Kent Hughes, centre, listens to Jeff Gorton, the Canadiens' executive vice-president of hockey operations, left, as owner Geoff Molson looks on.

    New Canadiens GM Kent Hughes passes first test with the team

  2. Kent Hughes walks across the Bell Centre ice after a news conference introducing him as the Montreal Canadiens' new general manager in Montreal on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

    What the Puck: Canadiens turn page with Kent Hughes

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Soccer-USMNT embrace the cold as World Cup qualifying heats up

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Bone chilling conditions are forecast for the next three U.S. men’s national team World Cup qualifying matches and the players on Wednesday said they were excited to battle the elements and their opponents.

Snow, frigid wind and sub-zero temperatures will likely greet the USMNT when they host El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio on Jan. 27, take on Canada in Ontario three days later, and close out the window against Honduras in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Feb. 2.

Defender Walker Zimmerman said the prospect of cold weather brought back memories of the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica in March 2013’s Snow Clasico in Colorado.

“I’m really excited,” Zimmerman told reporters on a call.

“I was talking to my wife over the break and I was saying, I want it to be freezing, I want it to be cold, I want it to snow. I want to be part of something so iconic, something like that game that I really remember seeing when I was growing up.

“And I think the guys are ready to embrace it.”

Forward Paul Arriola said he and his team mates have played in cold weather before and trust in their support staff to help them get ready.

“The staff on the national team do a tremendous job, and we have full confidence in them to prepare us,” he said.

“And we have our own duties as professional players and players on the national team to be ready for every possible condition.

“We’ll embrace the cold, and it will be a really good environment for the fans as well.”

The U.S. are second in the standings for the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers with 15 points, a point behind Canada and one ahead of rivals Mexico.

The top three in the eight-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-placed finisher going into an intercontinental playoff for another spot.

The team are eager to put behind them the humiliating loss they suffered at the hands of Trinidad and Tobago in 2017, which prevented them reaching the World Cup in Russia and led to a complete rebuild.

 

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Davis)

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