Sports Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, May 08, 2001

Oliver out after being hit on hand

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas pitcher Darren Oliver will be sidelined for at least two weeks after being hit on the left thumb by a line drive Monday.

Oliver was struck by a ball off the bat of Chicago's Tony Graffanino, who was leading off the game, a 7-4 White Sox victory.

While X-rays were negative, Oliver's thumb was badly bruised and had a cut that required stitches. The Rangers said they will place him on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.

Oliver was replaced by R.A. Dickey, the Rangers' No. 1 pick in the 1996 amateur draft. He was making his fourth major league appearance.

Lima suspended five games, files appeal

HOUSTON -- Astros starter Jose Lima was suspended for five games and fined by the commissioner's office on Monday for hitting the New York Mets' Jay Payton with a pitch in a game last week.

The players' association immediately appealed, delaying the start of any penalty until after a hearing before Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer.

Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker claimed Frank Robinson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, played politics with his decision to suspend the pitcher.

''You think I'm going to hit a guy on purpose when we're behind 4-0?'' Lima said. ''I've got to appeal. I don't want to look like the bad guy.''

Payton, hit on the left elbow in the sixth inning of Wednesday's game at Shea Stadium, was fined for trying to charge the mound. The amounts of the fines were not immediately available.

Ravens re-sign Woodson to five-year deal

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens re-signed safety Rod Woodson, who had been released in a salary cap move, to a five-year contract Monday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The signing of Woodson, 36, means the Super Bowl champions will return all but one defensive starter from last year, when they set the record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season.

''My main priority was to stay in Baltimore,'' Woodson said. ''Being a mentor has been my role for the past three years, and I'm more than willing to do my part to help the team.''

The Ravens declined an option on Woodson's contract on March 1, allowing him to become a free agent. At the time, he was scheduled to make $3 million this season, and had a cap number of $5 million.

Raptors forward fined for tossing ice at fans

NEW YORK -- Toronto Raptors forward Keon Clark has been fined $7,500 for throwing ice at spectators, the NBA announced Monday.

The incident occurred during the Raptors' 96-93 Game 1 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday at the First Union Center.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals is Wednesday night, also in Philadelphia.

Court documents opened in Camby family standoff

MANCHESTER, Conn. -- The man charged with sexually assaulting one of Knicks center Marcus Camby's sisters had threatened her hours before the attack, she told police.

In court documents opened to the public Monday, Camby's sister said Troy Crooms threatened her after she ended their relationship over the telephone.

Crooms is charged with first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, unlawful restraint and possession of a weapon for an eight-hour standoff at the home of Camby's mother in South Windsor on April 23.

Camby's mother and two of his sisters were in the house when the standoff began; Crooms allegedly held one sister at knifepoint throughout the ordeal.

The sister told police she had known Crooms for about a year and started dating him in February. They had argued on the telephone the night before the standoff, she said.

Crooms was in court on Monday for a hearing in which his case was transferred to Hartford Superior Court. He did not speak to the judge during the brief hearing.

Johnson can't do Worlds if he doesn't do USA meet

INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Johnson can't run at the World Track and Field Championships in August if he doesn't compete first at the USA Championships.

Johnson, running only relays in his final year of competition, had hoped to run on the U.S. 1,600-meter team in Edmonton this summer, but the USA Track and Field board of directors decided not to waive a rule requiring participation in the national meet.

The USATF board of directors met over the weekend and affirmed existing rules for selecting relay teams, spokeswoman Jill Geer said Monday.

In the past, a defending world champion would be granted an automatic spot on the team. Johnson would have been granted that spot as the defending champion in the 400.

However, according to a recent resolution by the Board of Directors of USA Track & Field, an athlete with a wild card exemption has to participate in the national championships to be eligible for the team, or present a doctor's certificate indicating illness or injury, or request a special waiver.

U.S. draws big crowds at worlds

HANOVER, Germany -- While most people in the United States may not even know the Ice Hockey World Championships exist, European crowds are swarming to watch the Stars and Stripes team in action.

In a country that is home to half of the six NFL Europe League teams, anything American is bound to be a big draw.

Still, for a nation that has produced only modest results at the event over the years -- just one medal since 1962 -- the United States has managed to draw some of the biggest crowds of the tournament. The team has an unassuming record of 2-1-2 so far and only one NHL star in Phil Housley.

''There are a couple reasons for this phenomenon,'' said International Ice Hockey Federation spokesman Szymon Szemberg. ''The main reason is that there is no European country that is more USA-influenced than Germany. In fact, many European countries won't admit it, but deep inside they are, too.

''The United States is considered hip and trendy.''

Understandably, the Germans have pulled in the biggest hordes, with 65,886 spectators attending their five matches so far or an average of 13,177 per game.

The United States is a respectable second with an average of 10,113, even more than Sweden, with its big-name NHLers like Edmonton Oilers goalkeeper Tommy Salo, Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson and Vancouver Canucks Mattias Ohlund, whose fans can easily make the short trip across the narrow Baltic sea.

Even the neighboring Czechs, two-time defending champions and reigning Olympic gold medalists, haven't had the same lure.

And Canada, the birthplace of hockey and a legendary power with an NHL-stacked roster that includes emerging Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Vincent Lecavalier, has on average drawn 2,500 fewer spectators per game.

''I love to watch the United States,'' said Barbara Woetzl, a native of Cologne. ''They are my favorite team except for Germany, maybe. American sportsmen are the best in the world, and that's a fact. I have three NHL jerseys and I bought a Colorado Avalanche cap at the beginning of the championships. I also love American basketball.

''I love everything about Americans. They are more cool than Germans, laid back.''

Americanisms pepper the German language, but particularly in the world of sport.

''One just has to listen to German sports broadcasts or read the German papers,'' Szemberg said. ''They constantly use American expressions that you would never see in any other European country.

''For example, Canada and the Czech Republic have 'ein grosser showdown' on Tuesday -- a big showdown.''

But aside from USA-madness, Szemberg said attendance figures may also be slightly skewed because the team was playing in the hockey-mad city of Cologne along with host Germany.

''Not to take anything away from the team itself, but they were also at the right place at the right time,'' he said. ''They've been riding the wave after Germany's success early on, when German fans wanted to see any hockey game there was.''

During that time, the United States' clash against Sweden drew a whopping 18,515, the second-highest attendance ever in the history of the indoor world championships. The record was set three days earlier when 18,539 people crammed into the Cologne Arena to watch Germany's stunning 2-2 draw with the Czechs.

The Americans are currently second in their group standings, despite a couple of embarrassing losses to underdog teams. They handily beat Ukraine and Finland and tied Sweden 2-2, but suffered a humiliating -- though inconsequential -- 3-0 shutout loss to Austria as well as a rankling 2-0 defeat to Latvia.

Already qualified for the quarterfinals, the team faces Slovakia in its last qualifying round match Tuesday. Their opponent in the round of eight has yet to be determined.

On Monday, Switzerland eliminated Italy with an 8-1 rout in Hanover. The Swiss were ousted Sunday. Austria played Ukraine in a later game in Cologne.

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