All about sports

The Big Hurt and Joe Torre headline HOF class (Yahoo Sports)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Frank Thomas choked back tears, Joe Torre apologized for leaving people out of his speech and Tony La Russa said he felt uneasy.

Being enshrined in the Hall of Fame can have those effects, even on the greats.

Thomas, pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and managers Bobby Cox, Torre and La Russa were inducted into the baseball shrine Sunday, and all paid special tribute to their families before an adoring crowd of nearly 50,000.

”I’m speechless. Thanks for having me in your club,” Thomas said, getting emotional as he remembered his late father. ”Frank Sr., I know you’re watching. Without you, I know 100 percent I wouldn’t be here in Cooperstown today. You always preached to me, ‘You can be someone special if you really work at it.’ I took that to heart, Pop.”

”Mom, I thank you for all the motherly love and support. I know it wasn’t easy.”

The 46-year old Thomas, the first player elected to the Hall who spent more than half of his time as a designated hitter, batted .301 with 521 home runs and 1,704 RBIs in a 19-year career mostly with the Chicago White Sox. He’s the only player in major league history to log seven straight seasons with a .300 average, 20 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 walks.

Ever the diplomat as a manager, Torre somehow managed to assuage the most demanding of owners in George Steinbrenner, maintaining his coolness amid all the Bronx craziness while keeping all those egos in check after taking over in 1996. The result: 10 division titles, six AL pennants and four World Series triumphs in 12 years as he helped restore the luster to baseball’s most successful franchise and resurrected his own career after three firings.

Torre, the only man to amass more than 2,000 hits (2,342) and win more than 2,000 games as a manager, was last to speak, and in closing delivered a familiar message.

”Baseball is a game of life. It’s not perfect, but it feels like it is,” said the 74-year-old Torre, who apologized afterward for forgetting to include the Steinbrenner family in his speech. ”That’s the magic of it. We are responsible for giving it the respect it deserves. Our sport is part of the American soul, and it’s ours to borrow – just for a while.”

”If all of us who love baseball and are doing our jobs, then those who get the game from us will be as proud to be a part of it as we were. And we are. This game is a gift, and I am humbled, very humbled, to accept its greatest honor.”

The day was a reunion of sorts for the city of Atlanta. Glavine, Maddux and Cox were part of a remarkable run of success by the Braves. They won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles and made 15 playoff appearances, winning the city’s lone major professional sports title.

”I’m truly humbled to stand here before you,” Cox said. ”To Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and I have to mention the third member of the big three – John Smoltz – I can honestly say I would not be standing here if it weren’t for you guys.”

Smoltz, part of the MLB Network telecast of the event and eligible for induction next year, flashed a smile in return for the compliment.

Glavine was on the mound when the Braves won Game 6 to clinch the 1995 World Series, pitching one-hit ball over eight innings in a 1-0 victory over Cleveland. And the slender lefty was one of those rare athletes, drafted by the Braves and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League.

”I had a difficult choice to make, and as a left-handed pitcher I thought that was the thing that would set me apart and make baseball the smartest decision,” Glavine said. ”Of course, I always wondered what would have happened had I taken up hockey.”

”In my mind, since I was drafted ahead of two Hall of Famers in Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull, that obviously means I would have been a Hall of Famer in hockey, too,” Glavine chuckled as the crowd cheered. ”But I’m positive I made the right choice.”

The 48-year-old Maddux went 355-227 with a career ERA of 3.16 in 23 seasons with the Braves, Cubs, Padres and Dodgers and ranks eighth on the career wins list. He won four straight Cy Young Awards in the 1990s and won 15 or more games for 17 straight seasons with his pinpoint control.

”I spent 12 years in Chicago, 11 in Atlanta, and both places are very special,” Maddux said. ”Without the experiences in both cities, I would not be standing here today.”

La Russa, who ranks third in career victories as a manager with 2,728, behind only Connie Mack and John McGraw, was chosen manager of the year four times and won 12 division titles, six pennants and three World Series titles in stints with the White Sox, Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals.

La Russa spoke from the heart. There was no written speech.

”It’s uncomfortable because I didn’t make it as a player. Not even close,” said La Russa, who made his big league debut as a teenage infielder with the 1963 Kansas City Athletics and appeared in just 132 games over six seasons, hitting .199 with no home runs. ”Since December, I have not been comfortable with it. There’s no way to mention everybody, and that bothers me.”

”From managing parts of two years in the minor leagues, after thinking about all the other young managers who paid a lot of dues in the minor leagues and I get a chance and then I go into the big leagues with three organizations,” he said. ”All that equates to me is I’m very, very fortunate. I’ve never put my arms around the fact that being really lucky is a Hall of Fame credential.”

Follow Kekis on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Greek1947

Byron Scott says he will be LA Lakers’ new coach (Yahoo Sports)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers have waited nearly three months to hire a new coach, and they’re apparently making Byron Scott wait a few more days.

Scott said this weekend that he has been hired by the Lakers, but the club insisted Sunday that no deal has been reached.

Scott, who won three NBA titles as a shooting guard for the Lakers, told KCBS-TV he will take over the club, which hasn’t had a coach since Mike D’Antoni resigned April 30.

”It feels fantastic,” he told KCBS. ”This is a dream come true. I always wanted to coach the Lakers, especially when I got to coaching. It’s so unreal. I have to thank (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak), (owners) Jeanie and Jim Buss to give me this opportunity.”

Yet Kupchak and the Buss siblings remained mum Sunday, extending their strange coach-less summer to the final days of July.

ESPN.com first reported Scott would take over the Lakers with a four-year, $17 million contract.

Scott is undoubtedly qualified for the job after stints as a head coach with New Jersey, New Orleans and Cleveland. He was Kobe Bryant‘s teammate during Bryant’s rookie year with the Lakers in 1996-97, and the superstar endorsed Scott for the job earlier this month.

”He was my rookie mentor when I first came in the league, so I had to do things like get him doughnuts and run errands for him, things like that,” said Bryant, who played just six games last season. ”We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years.”

Scott also spent last season as a television commentator on the Lakers’ own network, watching the franchise’s implosion up close.

Los Angeles finished 27-55 last season, compiling the most losses in the 16-time NBA champions’ history. The Lakers had their worst winning percentage since the Minneapolis Lakers’ 1957-58 season, missing the playoffs for just the third time in 38 seasons as the NBA’s most glamorous franchise was reduced to ineptitude.

Scott will be the Lakers’ fifth head coach in just over three years, starting with Phil Jackson’s departure after the 2010-11 season. D’Antoni, who replaced Mike Brown and interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, resigned after going 67-87 in less than two seasons in charge.

Several candidates for the coaching job interviewed with the Lakers over the past three months, including Lionel Hollins and George Karl. Scott has been widely considered the front-runner for the job for several weeks, but Kupchak and Jim Buss appeared to be more focused on the NBA draft and free agency.

Los Angeles landed Kentucky power forward Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick in the draft, but struck out on every big-name free agent despite aggressively courting Carmelo Anthony and entertaining dreams of landing LeBron James.

The Lakers couldn’t even retain Pau Gasol, who spent the past seven seasons with the club. The 7-foot Spaniard, who was regularly booed by Staples Center fans last season despite his two championship rings, spurned the Lakers’ overtures for a deal with the Chicago Bulls, who are much closer to NBA title contention.

Scott could be inheriting a caretaker job with the Lakers, who are likely to struggle just for playoff contention for the next two seasons while Bryant’s two-year, $48.5 million contract eats up a huge chunk of their salary-cap space.

The Lakers emerged from the last few weeks with a reconfigured roster that now includes point guard Jeremy Lin, power forward Carlos Boozer and center Ed Davis alongside returnees Nick Young, Jordan Hill and Xavier Henry. Los Angeles also still has 40-year-old Steve Nash, who is likely to get the chance to play another season after injuries limited him to 15 games last year.

It’s ‘Jeff Gordon Day’ at Indy for record 5th time (Yahoo Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With a tinge of gray hair at his temples, his hat on backward and his two young children by his side, Jeff Gordon celebrated as if he was 23 years old again.

Gordon won a NASCAR-record fifth Brickyard 400 on Sunday, eight days before his 43rd birthday and on the weekend Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first Brickyard victory.

Gordon’s first win came before the celebratory kissing of the Yard of Bricks was en vogue, before he became a household name, while Sprint Cup Series rookies Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon were still in diapers. Now a family man with an aching back, Gordon used Sunday to show he’s still at the top of his game.

”If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere,” said Gordon, who has led the Sprint Cup Series standings for 13 of the last 14 weeks. ”It’s certainly going to be a huge confidence boost for this team. We recognize the significance of this.

”We saw we were points leaders, we won at Kansas, but I don’t know if we believed we were capable of winning this championship this year. We do now.”

To prove it to himself, to his Hendrick Motorsports team and to his ardent fan base, Gordon needed a vintage close to Sunday’s race.

Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne led a race-high 70 laps and seemed only to be racing against his gas tank when a late caution put the race back into Gordon’s hands. He’d have one shot at passing Kahne, on a dreaded restart, and nobody was sure if ol’ ”Four-Time” had it in him.

Restarts are his Achilles heel, and he’s struggled with them for several years. And Kahne, who is winless on the season, desperately needed the victory to grab a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.

”The restart is going to be the race, really,” Gordon’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, conceded in a television interview moments before the field went green with 17 laps remaining.

Kahne picked the lower, inside lane for the restart, and Gordon found himself on the outside and exactly where he wanted to be. Gordon tried to set a quick pace as they headed to the flag, and Kahne tried to slow it down in the restart zone.

Gordon shifted into fourth gear and surged past Kahne on the outside, and Gordon kicked it into cruise control as he sailed away for the win.

”I think we both knew that was for the win,” Gordon said of Kahne. ”Out of nowhere, I have the restart of my life at the most important moment that you could ask for in a race, in a season, at a race like this. That was just awesome.”

The win came on the 20th anniversary celebration of Gordon’s win in the inaugural Brickyard 400, and on ”Jeff Gordon Day” as declared by the Mayor of Indianapolis. The win moved Gordon into a tie with Michael Schumacher, whose five Formula One victories at Indy had been the gold standard.

”I told him this morning that this was his day,” said team owner Rick Hendrick.

Kahne plummeted to fifth after the restart, then ran out of gas on the final lap and had to nurse his car home to a sixth-place finish. He said he erred in picking the inside line for the restart.

”I should have chosen the top (lane), obviously,” he said. ”I pretty much let Jeff control that last restart. I thought I made the right decision.”

Hendrick said he had no favorite in that situation, and hoped only that Gordon and Kahne did not wreck each other.

”I know Kasey, he needed a win, and he ran awful good today,” Hendrick said. ”But Jeff had the dominant car, so it all worked out.”

Kyle Busch finished second, 2.325 seconds behind Gordon, and was followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. After the race, NASCAR said Hamlin’s car had failed post-race inspection and the parts in question would be taken to North Carolina for another look.

Joey Logano was fifth in the highest-finishing car from Team Penske, which brought Juan Pablo Montoya to the race in an effort to get the win. Roger Penske has won a record 15 Indianapolis 500s, but is winless in the Brickyard. Montoya was never a factor and finished 23rd.

Larson, who grew up a Gordon fan, finished seventh and likened Gordon’s win on Sunday to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s season-opening win in the Daytona 500.

”To see Jeff Gordon win is pretty special – it’s kind of like Junior winning the 500 this year,” Larson said.

Kevin Harvick, the polesitter and the driver with the car most everyone thought would be tough to beat, was eighth and followed by Earnhardt and rookie Austin Dillon.

Carl Edwards finished 15th hours after Roush-Fenway Racing finally confirmed he was leaving the team at the end of the season.

In addition to his 1994 victory, Gordon also won at the track in 1998, 2001 and 2004.

He has 90 Cup wins, third on the career list.

He said it took extreme focus over the final 10 laps not to prematurely celebrate and cough away the win. It meant tuning out the crowd, which was on its feet and cheering him to the finish.

”I was trying not to let it get to me and not think about it too much,” he said. ”And yet you can’t help it. It’s such a big place and such an important victory and a crucial moment in the season and the championship, and those emotions take over.

”This one is for all those fans throughout the years and all weekend long – they’re saying ‘We believe you can get (championship) number five.’ We got (Brickyard) No. 5!”

LeBron deep-sixes number; will be No. 23 with Cavs (Yahoo Sports)

LeBron James will go back to wearing jersey No. 23 in his return to Cleveland.

James tweeted ”23 it is! It’s only right I go back. 23(equals)6 We still family 6.” The tweet included an Instagram post with photos of James holding his No. 23 Cavaliers jersey on draft night, him later in a new version of the Cavs’ jersey and a one of him in his high school jersey.

James wore No. 6 in four seasons with Miami and with the U.S. Olympic team. He used No. 23 in high school and during seven seasons in Cleveland.

About 10 days ago, James turned to social media to help him choose which number he’ll wear next season with the Cavaliers. James wrote ”6 or 23….” on his Twitter account.

Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali wins Tour de France (Yahoo Sports)

PARIS (AP) — Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France on Sunday, becoming the first Italian in 16 years to triumph in cycling’s greatest race by chiseling a lead over his main rivals a few seconds at a time and dominating them in the mountains.

The 29-year-old Sicilian, who called himself ”a flag-bearer of anti-doping” during the race, finished in a bunch behind Marcel Kittel, who won the 21st stage in a sprint finish.

Nibali’s victory comes after the pre-race favorites – 2013 champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador – crashed out with injuries in the first half of this year’s Tour.

Astana team leader Nibali is only the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours – France, Italy and Spain. The last Italian to win the Tour de France was Marco Pantani in 1998.

After cruising in 24 seconds after Kittel – a German who got his fourth stage win – Nibali received pats on the back, kissed his wife and infant daughter, and was mobbed by cameras as race organizers hustled him away to prepare for the awards ceremony.

”Unbelievable,” said Kittel, whose victories bookended this Tour. He won Stage 1 when British rival Mark Cavendish crashed out in the final sprint.

Nibali won four stages – a feat not equaled by a Tour winner since Lance Armstrong won five a decade ago. The Italian wore the yellow jersey for all but two stages since Stage 1. His 7 minute, 37 second margin over runner-up Jean-Christophe Peraud equals that of Armstrong over Swiss rider Alex Zulle in 1999 – a result nullified for doping. Before that, the biggest margin was that of Germany‘s Jan Ullrich: He beat second-placed Richard Virenque by just over 9 minutes in 1997.

In one of the subplots of this race, Peraud and third-placed Thibaut Pinot became the first Frenchmen to reach the Tour podium since Virenque in that year – a fact not lost on many homegrown fans. Pinot was 8:15 behind.

But such comparisons, many cycling insiders have noted, miss the mark. Armstrong, Ullrich and Virenque were three of the big-name riders caught in nearly a generation of doping scandals in cycling. Armstrong, in the biggest scandal ever in the sport, admitted to doping and was stripped of his record seven Tour titles.

Nibali and many others in the peloton say that era is past. But his own victories in the 2010 Vuelta and the Italian Giro last year were tarnished by high-profile doping cases involving other riders. While cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has made great efforts to halt use of drugs and other performance-enhancers, such as through the biological passport program, few cycling observers believe the pack is fully clean.

Many naysayers may argue that Nibali was the best of the riders still in this Tour. Colombia‘s Nairo Quintana, who won the Giro d’Italia in May, did not ride. Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour champ, was passed over so his Sky Team could focus on Froome. Then Froome and Contador pulled out due to injuries.

But even before they left, Nibali had gained a 2-second advantage on them by winning Stage 2, surprising even himself. Then, in Stage 5 after Froome crashed out, the Italian excelled on cobblestone patches that slowed down Contador, who lost more than 2 1/2 minutes to Nibali. The Spaniard was forced into a need to attack.

On a downhill in Stage 10, Contador crashed and fractured his tibia. But Nibali, who is known as ”The Shark of the Strait” – a nod to the waterway near his hometown of Messina, Sicily – didn’t stop there. He went on to win that stage into La Planche des Belles Filles. It was the first of three stages with uphill finishes that he won, adding one in the Alps (Chamrousse) and another in the Pyrenees (Hautacam).

Nibali said this Tour layout, announced last fall, ”was almost made to measure for me.”

Tejay van Garderen, the highest-placed rider from the United States, said on Twitter this was the hardest of the four Tours that he’s competed in. He finished fifth overall, 11:24 back of Nibali, after climbing a spot in Saturday’s time trial.

The 101st edition began in Yorkshire, England, and guided riders over 3,664 kilometers (2,277 miles) including cobblestones, wind-swept flats and climbs in the Vosges, Alps and Pyrenees.

With the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as the backdrop, other riders getting TV time on the winner’s podium included Peter Sagan of Slovakia, winner of the green jersey given to the race’s best sprinter; Rafal Majka of Poland, the best climber; and Pinot, the best young rider born since the start of 1989.