IF IT LASTS UNTIL JULY, COVID-19 SUSPENSION COULD COST MLB UPWARDS OF $2.5B IN TICKET LOSSES

Just weeks before Opening Day, MLB suspended the start of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Still without a timetable for a return, with reports suggesting July is the best-case scenario, MLB reportedly stands to suffer massive financial losses depending on how long the season is postponed.

According to ticketIQ, the latest estimates project that even missing March and April would cost MLB more than $965 million in lost ticket sales. The data, which is based on secondary market value from average 2019 attendance numbers, projects substantial losses for the league based on MLB’s publicized timeline of potentially returning in May.

However, increasing reports inside the league have indicated MLB executives don’t believe baseball will return until July. If that’s the case, with half the scheduled season wiped out, estimates project that MLB could lose $2.5 billion in lost ticket sales.

The potential losses would be devastating for the entire sport, but a few teams would suffer the greatest losses. Unsurprisingly, MLB teams in the biggest markets could suffer the biggest financial hit, per ticketIQ.

New York Yankees: Current estimates project the Yankees would lose $15.1 million, the most in MLB, on Opening Day and $71 million if MLB doesn’t return until May.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Coming off an exciting offseason, the Dodgers would suffer an $85 million loss through the first two months and potentially up to $200 million if MLB is suspended through the All-Star Break.

Boston Red Sox: If, in a worst-case scenario, the entire MLB season is canceled, the Red Sox are estimated to lose $365 million in estimated ticket sales. They would join the Dodgers ($405 million), Yankees ($360 million and St. Louis Cardinals ($309 million) as the teams with the biggest financial loss.

While there are currently no expectations for the 2020 season to be canceled entirely, the financial consequences for the sport could be crushing. The league would lose an estimated $5 billion if it was forced to suspend the entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 epidemic, per ticketIQ.

The cost of an altered season is likely playing a huge part in MLB’s consideration to still hold a 162-game season when it returns. In that scenario, the league would look into fewer days off for players and make double-headers a staple of the 2020 season.

Coming off a year when MLB made a record $10.7 billion in revenue, surpassing the record it set in 2018, the financial fallout from the suspended season will continue to increase the longer baseball doesn’t return.

At a time when the tension between MLB and the MLB Players’ Association is intensifying, with the current CBA set to expire after the 2021 season, the sport is on the brink of suffering a financial hit that could alter it for years to come.

 

NFL REPORT: NFL TO BEGIN NEGOTIATING NEW MEDIA DEALS, COULD BE FINALIZED BY END OF YEAR

The NFL achieved labor peace for the next decade after it ratified a new collective-bargaining agreement with players. Now with a deal reached, the NFL is reportedly moving forward with its plans to negotiate new media contracts and a deal could be reached before the year ends.

According to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, NFL executives held informal discussions with media executives this past week regarding the upcoming rights to broadcast games. Both sides are reportedly now expecting negotiations to begin in the coming months and deals could be finalized before the conclusion of 2020.

The NFL felt increasing pressure during CBA negotiations with players to get a deal done, so the league could move forward into negotiating new media contracts. If a CBA wasn’t reached and football was now at risk of a lockout in 2021, league executives feared it could hurt ratings and reduce their leverage in negotiating with networks. The NFL believes the upcoming election will impact rating, which happened in 2016, and wanted to make a deal while it still had the most leverage.

As part of the new CBA, the NFL Playoffs will expand to 14 teams for the upcoming season. ESPN reportedly pays $100 million for the rights to its wild-card playoff game, an indicator of the type of revenue the NFL will further receive by expanding the playoffs and as part of upcoming media deals.

Of course, there is additional pressure to complete a deal during the COVID-19 epidemic. While both sides are interested in negotiating new media contracts by the end of the year, it comes at a time when the stock market has crashed and millions of people will be without work due to states shutting down across the country.

While major networks will likely reach the biggest deals, the rise of streaming services could also come into play. Apple TV+ is emerging as a contender for NFL Sunday Ticket, while YouTube TV could also factor into future broadcasting rights for NFL games.

The NFL will have some time to negotiate new deals with television networks. The current contract with Disney Co. doesn’t expire until the conclusion of the 2021 season. Meanwhile, the league’s deals with FOX, CBS and NBC expire following the 2022 season. Given the uncertainty of the market and the long-term risks due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the NFL will likely still push to complete deals before the year ends.

 

Colts continue building defensive line with addition of Day

The Indianapolis Colts added another piece to their defense Wednesday by signing Sheldon Day.

Terms of the deal were not immediately available.

He’s the second former San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle to join the Colts since free agency opened last week. The Colts acquired All-Pro DeForest Buckner in a trade last week.

The 6-foot-1, 285-pound Day has played in 56 games in four seasons with Jacksonville and San Francisco. He has 53 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and six sacks. The Indianapolis native was originally taken by the Jaguars in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He was the runner-up for Indiana’s Mr. Football Award in 2011.

 

Antonio Brown makes it clear he would love to sign with Bucs

Antonio Brown is still hoping an NFL team will give him another chance despite his seemingly endless stream of off-field issues, and the wide receiver is not trying to hide the fact that he would love to catch passes from Tom Brady again.

Brown answered some questions from his Instagram followers on Wednesday, and one person asked him if he is going to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brown’s one-word answer was “expeditiously.”

Brown would almost certainly sign with the Bucs if they wanted him, but all indications have been that Bruce Arians has no interest in adding him to the mix. Arians and Brown worked together when Arians was the offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Arians referred to A.B. as a “diva” last year and said Brown is no longer the same person the Steelers drafted, and Brown blasted Arians in response.

The NFL has yet to announce disciplinary action for Brown after investigating sexual misconduct claims against him by two different women. Since those allegations came to light, Brown was charged with burglary with battery after he and his trainer, Glenn Holt, allegedly attacked a moving truck driver. Brown also streamed a live video on Instagram that showed him berating police officers in front of his children.

After all that and with a suspension likely looming, Brown’s chances of signing with any NFL team are slim.

 

Report: Ravens holding up Michael Brockers deal due to medical concerns

One of the big issues NFL teams are facing as they carry out free agency during the coronavirus pandemic is the inability for team doctors to perform physicals on potential signings. That is becoming a problem for one potential Baltimore Ravens signing.

According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, the Ravens have not finalized their deal with defensive lineman Michael Brockers due to concerns over the player’s physical, which turned up an issue with his ankle. That has called into question whether they’ll sign Brockers to the originally agreed deal, and they actually looked at potential alternatives on the market as well.

Brockers had an agreed deal nine days ago. Normally this would be sorted more quickly, but the restrictions on travel are proving a major issue here. It’s honestly a surprise that this has not happened with more deals to this point.

 

Ndamukong Suh will re-sign with Buccaneers on one-year deal

Ndamukong Suh is staying in Tampa.

As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the veteran defensive tackle is staying with the Buccaneers on a one-year deal worth $8 million.

Suh may not be the force that he once was, but he remains a quality NFL defensive lineman. His 2.5 sacks last season were a career low, though he did score two defensive touchdowns.

There is obviously a lot of excitement about what may happen on the offensive side of the ball in Tampa next season. However, the defense was improving as the season went on, and it will be imperative to keep that momentum going into 2020. Retaining Suh should certainly help with that as the Bucs look to be playoff contenders with Tom Brady under center.

 

Dontari Poe agrees to sign with Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have placed an emphasis on improving their defensive front this offseason, and another big free agent acquisition should help them accomplish that goal.

The Cowboys have agreed to a deal with veteran defensive tackle Dontari Poe, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports.

Poe had his best seasons earlier in his career when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he has remained a productive player. The two-time Pro Bowler had four sacks last season with the Carolina Panthers and is a great space-filler on the interior defensive line.

Poe is the second former-first round pick the Cowboys have added to their defensive line in free agency. They also signed fellow former Panther Gerald McCoy, and both players should improve their front seven significantly.

 

Report: Dak Prescott making progress in contract talks with Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys appear to be making new progress in contract talks with quarterback Dak Prescott.

According to Mike Leslie of WFAA, the two sides have made recent visits, and there is a new offer on the table. Cowboys insider Mike Fisher said the two sides are trading proposals of four- and five-year deals.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports added that the Cowboys would prefer a five-year deal, but ultimately may compromise as they’re the side that wants a long-term contract done more.

The Cowboys have used the franchise tag on Prescott, so he’ll be with them in 2020 either way. They do not want the uncertainty beyond that, though. They’ve made aggressive offers in the past, but the $35 million sum that is rumored would be the highest yet — and perhaps sufficient to get something done with the quarterback.

 

Report: NFL coaches, execs do not see 2020 season starting on time

The coronavirus outbreak has unfortunately not yet shown signs of slowing down in the United States. The longer that trend continues, the less of a chance there is for major sports leagues to resume play in the coming weeks or even months. While the NFL has largely resisted making any significant changes to its calendar, there is apparently skepticism around the league that the regular season will begin on time.

Several NFL coaches and front office executives told Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman that they believe it will be “nearly impossible” for the 2020 season to begin in early September. Those coaches and execs say they have gotten real information from doctors, and they are bracing for training camp to be pushed back to the fall.

Freeman notes that the NFL season could be impacted by the fact that some areas of the U.S. — such as New York, Washington state and California — have been far more heavily impacted by the coronavirus outbreak than others. All teams need to be on an even playing field, so to speak, so it would be difficult for the NFL to resume normal operations if the aforementioned areas are still in significant danger.

NFL teams are concerned about being able to prepare for next month’s draft, but the league doesn’t seem to care at the moment. As of now, the NFL is taking a wait-and-see approach.

 

Goodell orders all NFL team facilities closed for 2 weeks

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has instructed the 32 teams to close their facilities to all but a select few employees by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

In a memo to the teams, Goodell said the restrictions meant as a safeguard against the new coronavirus will be in force until at least April 8, when the league will re-evaluate, using advice from medical experts and health authorities.

The NFL has gotten some pushback for not postponing the draft scheduled for April 23-25 while the rest of the sports world is largely shut down. Several teams have suggested there could be a competitive disadvantage in keeping those dates and have cited the inability to perform physical exams on draft prospects. But the draft remains on schedule and the league is developing a new format because it has scrapped the public events set for Las Vegas.

Goodell told the teams only the following employees can be at team facilities for the next two weeks:

-Trainers or doctors who are providing ongoing medical treatment to players.

-Directors of facilities, security personnel and independent contracts who maintain physical security of the facilities.

-Technology personnel necessary to maintain security and operational capabilities of a team’s IT network that enables remote work by team staff.

“During this time,” Goodell wrote, “clubs are free to conduct all normal business operations, including signing players, evaluating draft-eligible prospects, selling tickets and other activities to prepare for the 2020 season.”

 

5 NFL teams that have improved the most this offseason

It’s been a big offseason of moves across the NFL, and some teams have really stepped up and used their cap space smartly. Many teams that have struggled recently have aggressively tried to turn their fortunes by adding key free agents and making big trades.

Which teams have done the best with this? Here are five NFL teams that have improved the most during the offseason so far.

 

  1. New York Giants

The Giants are moving up from a fairly low floor, but they’ve done well this offseason. Their two big moves have come on defense, adding linebacker Blake Martinez and cornerback James Bradberry. Both are solid players who will improve what was a very bad unit last year. The Giants are banking on improvement from Daniel Jones and the health of Saquon Barkley for 2020, and if they get both, they’ll definitely be better. If the defense follows suit, their improvement could be surprisingly quick.

 

  1. Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders, too, are using their ample cap room to improve their defense with some sharp moves. Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski are really smart additions to the team’s linebacker corps, and should be good news for a defense that had its issues last season. Eli Apple is a worthwhile reclamation project at cornerback, and the addition of Jason Witten is an interesting one as well. They’ve also added Marcus Mariota, who should provide competition for Derek Carr. They’re good moves, and the Raiders haven’t really broken the bank, preferring to spread money around to address multiple needs.

 

  1. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals probably didn’t think they’d be able to clear David Johnson’s contract off the books without eating some money or dead cap. The fact that they did so while acquiring DeAndre Hopkins is nothing short of a miracle. Keeping Kenyan Drake was smart, and the addition of linebacker Devon Kennard is an underrated move that will certainly improve the defense. Don’t be surprised if the Cardinals take a significant step forward next year.

 

  1. Buffalo Bills

Perhaps the Bills sense opportunity with Tom Brady leaving the Patriots and the AFC East. It would certainly make sense. Their moves have been aggressive and aimed at improving key areas. The Stefon Diggs trade got the most headlines, and could help unlock Josh Allen’s huge arm. He’s understandably excited about the move. Mario Addison’s signing is another good move, and the many members of the organization who used to work for the Carolina Panthers clearly believe they can find something left in Josh Norman. If they do, this has the potential to be a fantastic offseason and a division-winning team.

 

  1. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins were regarded as a tanking team in 2019, but things certainly look different now. The team had plenty of cap space and is ready to use it. Byron Jones is the headline addition, pairing up with Xavien Howard to create a strong cornerback tandem. Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson will also help defensively, while Ereck Flowers should bolster the offensive line. The team has a big draft decision coming up, but this franchise finally looks to be on the right track after some very lean years.

 

The biggest remaining needs for all 32 teams as focus turns toward NFL Draft

Arizona Cardinals: Pass rusher

They have one of the best pass rushers in the league on Chandler Jones, but they have little help opposite him. They moved Haason Reddick to the edge late in the season and he flashed some, but they need an impact player in that position who can ease some of the protection help that offensive lines give to Jones.

 

Atlanta Falcons: Cornerback

They released corner Desmond Trufant, which leaves a major hole at the position. They need Isaiah Oliver to step up as one starter, but they need much more than that. This, along with edge rusher, should be a spot they address a few times in the draft.

 

Baltimore Ravens: Inside linebacker

They got by last season with guys they picked up from other teams after C.J. Mosley signed with the Jets. They have to get a young run-and-chase linebacker to play behind that powerful front they’ve built with the additions of Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers. Drafting late in the first round, they could have a shot at Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma or Patrick Queen of LSU.

 

Buffalo Bills: Edge rusher

They signed Mario Addison to go with Jerry Hughes, but they are 32 and 33, respectively. They need a young, explosive edge player to add to the group. Corner and backup running back are also needed.

 

Carolina Panthers: Cornerback

They have Donte Jackson at one corner, but with James Bradberry lost to the Giants in free agency they need much more than that. The Panthers could still sign a veteran corner, but they will most certainly address this spot in the draft — maybe a few times.

 

Chicago Bears: Offensive line

The Bears had all kinds of issues up front last season, including injuries to right guard Kyle Long (who has retired) and right tackle Bobby Massie. They also started the season by moving guard James Daniels to center and center Cody Whitehair to guard. Halfway through the season, they moved them back to their original spots. They need help inside at right guard immediately and they have age a concern at right tackle in Massie.

 

Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive line

They will get last year’s first-round pick, Jonah Williams, back at left tackle after he missed all of the 2020 season with an injury. Center Trey Hopkins is solid after that, and they do like some of their younger players like guard Michael Jordan, but they need improvements in a lot of ways up front for Joe Burrow, the projected top pick by the Bengals.

 

Cleveland Browns: Left tackle

This could change if they make a move to land veteran Trent Williams from the Redskins. But for now, it’s a glaring hole. They will have chance in the first round to land a quality left tackle, so they shouldn’t be crazy with trying to land Williams in terms of compensation. He is getting up in the years and wants a new deal.

 

Dallas Cowboys: Cornerback/defensive end

The Cowboys can get by with what they have at those spots, but they would be wise to upgrade both positions after losing end Robert Quinn to the Bears and corner Byron Jones to the Dolphins. Those are now below-average positions on the roster.

 

Denver Broncos: Speed receiver

They have a nice player at receiver in Courtland Sutton, but they need a guy who can take the top off to pair with him. Drew Lock has a big arm, so getting a big-play deep threat is a must. How about Alabama’s Henry Ruggs in the draft?

 

Detroit Lions: Defensive tackle/cornerback

By trading Darius Slay, they lost their best corner. But they replaced him with Desmond Trufant, so they can get by if they have to do so. Even so, another corner is needed. They also need help inside on the line. They did sign Danny Shelton and Nick Williams, but is that enough?

 

Green Bay Packers: Speed receiver

One of the things that showed up last season was a lack of big-play speed to go with Davante Adams. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was a major disappointment. They need to get more production opposite him. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best deep-ball throwers in the league, but he needs help.

 

Houston Texans: Edge rusher

The Texans have J.J. Watt, but he’s been fighting injuries for much of the last four years. They traded Jadeveon Clowney away and Whitney Mercilus hasn’t come close to the 12 sacks he had in 2015, although he did have 7.5 last season. If Watt isn’t the force he was a few years ago, they will have issues rushing the passer.

 

Indianapolis Colts: Wide receiver

T.Y. Hilton is a good receiver, but he had injury issues last season and wasn’t the same player. He is smallish, and maybe his body is breaking down. Even if he is healthy, they need more help for Philip Rivers. They traded away their first-round pick to get DeForest Buckner, but this is a deep receiver draft.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Left tackle

Most would say it’s other spots, but I think they need to move Cam Robinson inside to guard and use one of their first-round picks on a left tackle. It is a good class to do that, so it makes sense. Robinson has not played as well as expected.

 

Kansas City Chiefs: Cornerback

With Kendall Fuller signing with the Redskins and Bashaud Breeland a free agent, they need an upgrade at corner. Charvarius Ward played well last year, but they need more help. This should be a position they address in the draft a few times.

 

Las Vegas Raiders: Wide receiver

They were able to fill a lot of defensive holes in free agency, so they can use one of their two first-round picks on a receiver. It’s a great class and picking at No. 12 in the first round, they will have a good shot at either Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs, or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.

 

Los Angeles Chargers: Quarterback

With Philip Rivers gone, they are left with Tyrod Taylor and Easton Stick. They need more than that. Taylor can be a stopgap player if they draft a quarterback in the first round, but he isn’t the long-term answer. I would bet they use the sixth-overall pick on a quarterback.

 

Los Angeles Rams: Inside linebacker

The Rams have needs elsewhere — see: edge rusher — but this is the biggest hole after the team lost Cory Littleton to the Raiders. The players they have inside are a bunch of youngsters with just 14 starts. They have to do something in the draft, but they don’t have a first-round pick.

 

Miami Dolphins: Quarterback

Yes, they can play with Ryan Fitzpatrick for a bit. He played well at times last season. But this is a team looking for a long-term solution. They will almost certainly use a first-round pick to get one in the April draft. They also need a left tackle in the worst way.

 

Minnesota Vikings: Pass rusher

The Vikings defense is predicated on getting pressure with a four-man front, but they lost both Everson Griffen and Stephen Weatherly in free agency. They need an end opposite Danielle Hunter. They do like Ifeadi Odenigbo, but they need more help. They have two first-round picks after trading Stefon Diggs to the Bills, so they can use one of those on that position.

 

New England Patriots: Quarterback

With Tom Brady now in Tampa, they are left with veteran Brian Hoyer and second-year player Jarrett Stidham as their quarterbacks. They like Stidham, but will they really play the season with him as their starter? If so, it could be a tough season for Bill Belichick and gang.

 

New Orleans Saints: Middle linebacker

They have a star in Demario Davis at weak-side linebacker, but they need an upgrade in the middle. If they can land a good, young linebacker early in the draft — maybe Kenneth Murray from Oklahoma — the defense would really be upgraded.

 

New York Giants: Offensive tackle

They have a young quarterback in Daniel Jones and a star runner in Saquon Barkley. So improve the group in front of them. Nate Solder hasn’t lived up to expectations at left tackle and they need a right tackle to compete with Cameron Fleming. With the fourth overall pick, they have a chance to get a good one.

 

New York Jets: Cornerback

Their corner situation is a mess. They released both Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, and though neither is a big loss, they have a major need. Even after signing Pierre Desir, there isn’t enough. They have a bunch of young players on the roster at corner right now.

 

Philadelphia Eagles: Wide receiver

By acquiring corner Darius Slay in a trade, they filled their biggest need. Now they can focus on landing a receiver or two in the draft to go with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, both of whom are coming off injury-marred seasons. Carson Wentz needs help in a big way outside.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Interior offensive line

The Steelers line has been a strong point for a long time, but the interior is getting old fast. Left guard Ramon Foster retired and center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro are both 30. They did sign Stefen Wisniewski, but he’s just a stopgap player.

 

San Francisco 49ers: Wide receiver

They lost Emmanuel Sanders to the Saints in free agency. He was a big part of their offense after they acquired him from the Broncos in a trade last year. They do have Deebo Samuel, who emerged down the stretch and in the playoffs, but they need more help outside. With two first-round picks, they have a chance to get a nice receiver in this draft.

 

Seattle Seahawks: Edge rusher

They still might be able to bring back Jadeveon Clowney, but if not they have a big need at end. They did draft L.J. Collier in the first round last year, but he only played about 150 snaps. They need more from him, but they also need more in terms of talent. Finding pass rushers is something general manager John Schneider has done a nice job of during his time there.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Right tackle

They could play with Joe Haeg, who they signed as a free agent, but that would be risky. They should use a pick or two on the offensive line. Picking 14th in the first round, they have a chance to land that tackle early in a good tackle draft.

 

Tennessee Titans: Defensive front seven

They traded away Jurrell Casey and I don’t think Vic Beasley is the answer to their edge-rush questions. They need to get a down player and an edge player in the draft. The last time we saw their defense, it was getting lit up by Patrick Mahomes. So maybe change will be a good thing.

 

Washington Redskins: Cornerback

This is a team with a lot of needs, but corner is the biggest. They got rid of Josh Norman and then traded Quinton Dunbar to the Seahawks. They did add Kendall Fuller from the Chiefs, but he isn’t enough. They need help there in a big way.

 

2020 NFL DRAFT: RUNNING BACKS

RATINGS:

The following running backs are eligible for the 2020 NFL draft. We have rated them from #35 – #1.

#35 Brian Herrien, Georgia

#34 JaMycal Hasty, Baylor

#33 Rico Dowdle, South Carolina

#32 Sewo Olonilua, TCU

#31 Artavis Pierce, Oregon State

#30 Kennedy McKoy, West Virginia

#29 Raymond Calais, Louisiana

#28 Benny LeMay, Charlotte

#27 James Robinson, Illinois State

#26 Rodney Smith, Minnesota

#25 Darius Anderson, TCU

#24 Patrick Taylor, Memphis

#23 Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State

#22 Pete Guerriero, Monmouth

(Top 21)

#21 Joshua Kelley, UCLA….229-1,060-4.6-12TD

#20 Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss….125-542-4.3-5TD

#19 Tavien Feaster, South Carolina….124-672-5.4-5TD

#18 Michael Warren, Cincinnati….261-1,265-4.8-14TD

#17 Salvon Ahmed, Washington….188-1,020-5.4-11TD

#16 Reggie Corbin, Illinois…..143-675-4.7-7TD

#15 Trey Sermon, Oklahoma….54-385-7.1-4TD

#14 Lamical Perine, Florida….132-676-5.1-6TD

#13 Javon Leake, Maryland…102-736-7.2-8TD

#12 DeeJay Dallas, Miami Florida….115-693-6.0-8TD

#11 AJ Dillon, Boston College…..318-1,685-5.3-14TD

#10 Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt…..198-1,028-5.2-9TD

#9 Zack Moss, Utah…235-1,416-6.0-15TD

#8 Anthony McFarland, Maryland….114-614-5.4-8TD

#7 Antonio Gibson, Memphis….33-369-11.2-4TD

#6 Eno Benjamin, Arizona State….253-1,083-4.3-10TD

#5 Cam Akers, Florida State….231-1.144-5.0-14TD

#4 Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin….320-2,003-6.3-21TD

#3 JK Dobbins, Ohio State….301-2,003-6.7-21TD

#2 Clyde Edwards –Helaire, LSU….215-1,414-6.6-16TD

#1 D’Andre Swift, Georgia….196-1,218-6.2-7TD

 

TOP 10 PROFILES

PROFILE: D’ANDRE SWIFT

GEORGIA

5’9” 215

Most scouts believe Swift is the most complete back in this draft. He runs with outstanding vision and is extremely patient allowing his blockers to open up the necessary holes. He has excellent body control that helps them stay in a high gear when changing direction and has a good feel when setting up defenders. He has top notch initial burst and he runs with excellent balance through contact. He also has an excellent ability to catch the football out of the backfield. Any NFL team can line him up in various spots on the offense and he will be an immediate contributor. The one concern is he may not have the elite speed of some of the other top backs and he doesn’t have the ability to overpower defenders upon contact. The other concern is how much of a workload can he handle in the NFL. He didn’t have 200 carries in a single season at Georgia. Swift should be an excellent three – down back in the NFL and should be a starter from day one.

 

PROFILE: CLYDE EDWARDS –HELAIRE

LSU

5’8” 210

He doesn’t have great size, but make no mistake about it his lower center of gravity makes him very difficult to tackle. He has the ability to bounce off tacklers and has the quickness to pick up extra yardage after breaking the tackle. He has a burst of speed when approaching the line of scrimmage that allows him to find the whole much quicker. His excellent vision and patience allows him to wait an extra beat that allows blocks to develop. He is very good at setting up defenders in the second level to get them off balance but isn’t afraid to lower his pads and take on a defender. He is another running back that is strong in the receiving game especially when setting up the screen play. Endurance at the next level could be a concern since he had only one season with a full – time workload. He was also banged up in the college playoffs including a hamstring problem. If he can become a workhorse he has the potential to be a star in the NFL.

 

PROFILE: JK DOBBINS

OHIO STATE

5’10” 216

Dobbins was projected as a Heisman favorite at the beginning of the 2019 season. Though he fell short of winning the award NFL scouts believe he is a prototypical NFL running back. He’s very good in the passing game who can be a receiver as well as a running back. Dobbins is very strong between the tackles with excellent patience and good vision. He has the ability as well to find his way through traffic and absorbs contact with the ability to bounce off tackles. He is a tough player who will get his licks on the defenders. The one concern is he lacks that third gear when he gets into the second level. There was also a lack of big plays despite the many opportunities he had with this Ohio State offense. Despite some weaknesses, Dobbins has the skill set to be a lead back in the NFL.

 

PROFILE: JONATHAN TAYLOR

WISCONSIN

5’10” 220

Taylor produced at the collegiate level during his entire four year career. He is a big back with the ability to power his way in and through heavy traffic. He also has the patience and vision it takes to allow blockers to create lanes for him. Taylor can run with excellent tempo and has excellent balance to slip past the tacklers into the second level. Once he gets to that second level he has the ability to deliver punishment and finishes runs very strong. Nobody in college football was stronger in the fourth quarter than Taylor. His stamina was excellent and that allowed him to dominate late in games when defenses were tired. He is not known as a an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Many times ball security was an issue as well. Another concern is how much he has left in the tank after 968 career touches at Wisconsin in three seasons. Many NFL teams will be willing to take him early as a tone – setting running back. Any NFL team that takes Taylor will have to be built around a power running game.

 

PROFILE: CAM AKERS

FLORIDA STATE

5’11” 215

Akers was once the top running back recruit in the country. He has the natural athleticism that gives him the ability to change directions and stay at top speed. He has the homerun speed that it will outrun defenses and is very dangerous in the open field. Akers has the ability to finish his runs with a pop. He may have had better numbers if the offensive line were better. He is a solid receiver out of the backfield with the potential to become a key weapon in the passing game at the next level. NFL scouts are hoping Akers will overcome some bad habits he developed at Florida State. Many times he bounced everything outside instead of taking advantage of holes opening up between the tackles. He also had some fumbling issues last season. In the right system Akers could be a future star.

 

PROFILE: ENO BENJAMIN

ARIZONA STATE

5’9” 195

Benjamin is the type of running back who can make something out of nothing. He is a low – to – the – ground running back who has outstanding contact balance. He runs with a low center of gravity and has the ability to stay on his feet during the first contact. Benjamin has learned to keep his legs churning for extra yardage. He has the ability to accelerate quickly and has an extra burst of speed through the creases. He also has the speed to the homerun when the opportunity is there. He is also one of the most natural pass receivers in this class. Scouts say Benjamin does too much dancing behind the line of scrimmage. That will get him caught for a loss much more at the next level. His vision needs to improve after missing several cutback lanes last season. Most NFL teams believe at this point he is a part – timer on early downs but has the chance to become a quality lead back with further development.

 

PROFILE: ANTONIO GIBSON

MEMPHIS

6’2” 225

Memphis used Gibson as both a running back and a receiver because of his ability to be a serious weapon when the ball is in his hands. He has excellent speed with the ability to run away from defenders and a powerful lower half allows him to break tackles. He can change direction without changing gears. Gibson can also return kicks and punts. The one thing that hurt Gibson at Memphis was he didn’t have a true position. He doesn’t have the proper tempo when approaching the line of scrimmage. Scouts believe he also tends to run up right too often. One thing that will help Gibson at the next level is the increasing lack of positions in the NFL. Nonetheless, Gibson can be a true threat for any NFL team.

 

PROFILE: ANTHONY MCFARLAND

MARYLAND

5’8” 200

Another stocky and powerful running back who can explode when it’s time to make a move. NFL scouts say McFarland has the ability to cut on a dime without changing his speed. He runs with excellent leverage and has the ability to churn out yards between the tackles. His quick feet make him deadly in space where he has the ability to make defenders miss. Durability is a huge question after a broken leg forced him to sit out his freshman year at Maryland. McFarland did battle back from an ankle injury last year, but he has not been a proven work course during his college career. If he stays healthy, NFL teams can use his homerun threat.

 

PROFILE: ZACH MOSS

UTAH

5’9” 222

Moss combines excellent size with straight-line speed. If he stays healthy he is one of the most impressive players in this draft. He has the ability to break tackles and will lower his shoulder and finish the run. He has also shown the ability to be creative at the second level. His vision has allowed him to take advantage of cutback lanes and the lateral movement. He has good balance and can run low getting through tight spaces for extra yardage. The concern is his knee. A torn meniscus cost him the end of the 2018 season. Scouts are also concerned about the kind of impact he will have in the passing game. With the right coaching staff and his overall athleticism Moss could be a solid lead back.

 

PROFILE: KE’SHAWN VAUGHN

VANDERBILT

5’9” 205

he is a shifty runner with good vision and makes excellent decisions. His ability to run low with excellent balance enables him to create extra yardage after contact. His burst to the outside allows him to thrive on zone runs and he has the ability to break off the big play. In the passing attack, he shows an easy transition from running back to receiver. Scouts don’t believe he has the eye – popping trait you look for in a high-end NFL running back. He could be a committee running back in the NFL if he plays in the right system. His senior season production was considered disappointing after defenses keyed on him all season.

 

Sean Payton ‘cleared’ and ‘feeling a lot better’ after COVID-19 diagnosis

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is on the mend after testing positive for COVID-19 last week and is “feeling a lot better.”

Payton shared the good news of his recovery during an appearance with WWL Radio, as shared by Jeff Duncan of The Athletic. Duncan noted that Payton was tested a week ago Monday and received his results the next Thursday. As of today, he is 10 days removed from when his symptoms first began.

The NFL took steps on Tuesday to further protect its players, coaches, executives and other employees when it closed all team facilities, barring a few exceptions, until at least April 8, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At this time, the NFL draft is still scheduled to take place April 23-25, but there is some talk now that it will be next to impossible for the league to begin on time later this year.

 

7-inning doubleheaders? MLBers open to considering new ideas

If Major League Baseball needs to squeeze more games into a condensed season without exhausting pitching staffs, perhaps this idea could get tossed into play: seven-inning doubleheaders.

“Maybe that’s something we have to consider,” Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said on a conference call Wednesday.

Opening day has been postponed until at least mid-May because of the new coronavirus pandemic. The regular season had been scheduled to begin Thursday.

Minor league teams and college teams typically play seven innings in each game of a doubleheader. But twinbills are rarely planned in the majors – only a handful were originally scheduled over the last decade.

The final total of big league doubleheaders, most of them caused by makeup games, ranged from a low of 14 in 2014 to a high of 34 in both 2011 and 2018, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black said last week that frequent doubleheaders might be necessary to help fit more games into a shorter window.

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he would be open to considering seven-inning games in doubleheaders. He said averaging eight or nine games a week would require a couple more roster spots above the current 26, with at least 14 pitchers.

Extending play into November could lead to neutral-site games in warm weather cities and ballparks with roofs.

“It is an opportunity probably to be creative or to try some things that people think could stick a little bit or could be kind of a segue to something different down the line,” Boone said on a conference call Wednesday. “But it’s certainly probably an opportunity to try some things that you wouldn’t otherwise try in a normal 162-game setting where everything’s kind of going off according to plan.”

The math: By averaging nine games a week, a team could play 162 games in 18 weeks, eight fewer than usual. That means MLB could start as late as July and play a full schedule by extending the regular season through October.

Atkins pitched in Cleveland’s minor league system for five seasons before becoming that team’s assistant director of player development. He was hired as Toronto’s GM in December 2015.

Asked what he saw as potential solutions to scheduling issues, Atkins mentioned shorter games in doubleheaders. Still, he isn’t entirely sold on the idea of seven-inning games.

“You’re not playing the game that is written in the rulebooks,” he said. “It’s not the regulation game, it’s a different game. Bullpens and teams are built in a way to play nine innings. I’m sure there are people that would challenge that and I’m not so sure it’s something we should do.”

No matter how many innings get played, the likelihood of a condensed schedule will require greater roster flexibility once baseball resumes, Atkins said.

“If you’re playing multiple doubleheaders, and suppose they are nine innings each, the demands on a pitching staff would be extremely significant,” he said.

Atkins declined to say how many games he thinks would be necessary this season, acknowledging the complexity of the issue.

“Decreasing the number of games isn’t just about record books,” he said. “It’s more complicated than that because of compensation reasons, because of how rosters were built and the resources that were poured into the planning to get where we are today.

“It’s not just as simple as `OK, we have this number of days, let’s play this number of games and call it a year,'” he said.

Atkins said baseball must take a collaborative approach to finding solutions to scheduling problems.

“What we need to do is get ideas out where people feel safe mentioning them and then work through what’s practical, what makes sense, what are the downsides, because there’s going to be downsides, and try to weigh those appropriately,” Atkins said.

“Get all of those ideas on the table and then sort through the execution of them and think about the unintended consequences and come up with a game plan that we can put in play,” he said.

Isolated at home in Toronto after returning from spring training in Dunedin, Florida, Atkins and his staff remain focused on evaluating amateur players as best they can. The Blue Jays hold the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft.

Even with college and high school games shut down, Atkins said the Blue Jays will be ready for the draft as soon as it happens.

“We feel that we could get prepared in a short period of time based on the information that we have and be very competitive,” he said.

Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said it’s too soon to make determinations.

“There’s been lot of things thrown out there. I mean, goodness gracious, everybody comes up with what could happen, might happen, should happen,” he said. “I think the easiest way for me is just let it ride itself out, and eventually they’re going to come up with a plan and tell us.”

“I’m currently negotiating with Al on my contract, that I only do one game a day,” Gardenhire joked, referring to Detroit general manager Al Avila. “If you’re going to play a ton of doubleheaders, there’s got to be roster decisions.”

 

MLB has completed Boston Red Sox investigation

MLB has completed its investigation into the Boston Red Sox’s alleged cheating.

Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt for an interview on Wednesday night. During the interview, Manfred shared that the investigation has been completed. He said no written report has been produced yet because they have been focused on other more pressing matters.

“We are done with the investigation,” Manfred told Van Pelt. “There’s been a delay in terms of producing a written report, just because I, frankly, have not had time to turn to it with the other issues. But we will get a Boston report out before we resume play.”

An investigation into the Red Sox began after The Athletic reported in their article about the Houston Astros cheating that Boston used its replay room to illegally watch video in their 2018 World Series season. The allegations against the Red Sox were said to be far less egregious than the Astros.

A recent legal case suggested MLB found some wrongdoing by Boston, but the belief all along has been that the findings are not close to the level of what Houston was doing.

 

Yankees’ Judge still hasn’t resumed baseball activities

Injured New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge still has not resumed baseball activities.

Judge did not play in any spring training games because of discomfort in his right pectoral muscle and shoulder that he felt when swinging. The Yankees said March 6 that the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year had a stress fracture to his first right rib, an injury likely dating from a diving catch late last season.

“Aaron is still in the healing phase of that that rib bone, and I think he’ll be reevaluated again in a few weeks as far as re-imaging that to see if there’s the continued healing with that rib,” manager Aaron Boone said during a conference call Wednesday. “He’s been able to work out doing a lot of lower body stuff, is able to do some some upper body stuff, some overhead things.”

Judge revealed last week he also had a collapsed lung and said he has recovered from that. Boone said that injury likely occurred during the diving catch but “it’s probably something that it’s impossible to know for sure.”

Judge is among about 10 players who have remained at the Yankees spring training complex in Tampa, Florida.

Slugger Giancarlo Stanton has recovered from the strained right calf sustained during defensive drills on Feb. 26. New York’s opener had been scheduled for Thursday at Baltimore before the Major League Baseball schedule was pushed back due to the new coronavirus. The season won’t start until mid-May at the earliest.

“He’s pretty much over the hump,” Boone said. “He’s pretty much run aggressively and done the things necessary so that if and when, say, we’re to begin spring training games, he would he would likely be ready to roll for that.”

Boone believed Stanton also was in Tampa. Center fielder Aaron Hicks, recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Oct. 31, is working out near his home in Phoenix and has started a throwing program. He is expected to be ready to play in the summer.

Left-hander James Paxton is home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and he is continuing his throwing program. Paxton is expected back in late May or June following surgery Feb. 5 to repair a herniated disk in his back and to remove a cyst.

New York said nearly all its minor leaguers would be released from quarantine Thursday. Two Yankees minor leaguers tested positive for the coronavirus, and one will still be in his 14-day quarantine.

New York’s grounds crew returned to the minor league complex on Wednesday for the first time since March 13 and resumed mowing and other maintenance. They used a shared parking lot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium, where coronavirus testing started Wednesday.

 

The Latest: NHL postpones draft, awards ceremony

The National Hockey League has postponed its scouting combine, awards ceremony and draft that were scheduled for June. It did not provide new dates for the events.

With the NHL season on pause since March 12, the postponement of these events did not come as a surprise. The league is still working on scenarios of what hockey would look like if it is able to resume this season.

 

OTHER COVID-19 SPORTS NEWS

Organizers of the European Championships in track and field still hope to stage the event in Paris in August despite France being locked down during the coronavirus pandemic.

European Athletics says it asked officials in Paris for a feasibility study for the Aug. 25-30 championships.

French officials reported their work has been “severely compromised by France’s national shutdown of non-essential activities” during the health crisis.

However, European Athletics says “many athletes are keen” to see the championships go ahead as planned. It shapes up as the main medal target for European track and field athletes in 2020 after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until next year.

The European track body’s ruling council next meets May 7-8 by video conference.

The owners of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and NHL’s Buffalo Sabres are committing $1.2 million to supporting local charities and health officials dealing with the new coronavirus pandemic.

Kim Pegula says she and her husband Terry wanted to provide immediate assistance to “those in need and fighting on the front lines.”

Money from the teams’ charitable foundations will got to the newly formed Western New York COVID-19 community response fund supporting the region’s non-profit agencies.

Money also is going to several local food banks and assistance for health officials in purchasing protective gear and medical equipment.

Rio de Janeiro’s soccer body has extended its prohibition on professional matches in the state to the end of April. The initial suspension is valid until the end of March.

Rio is home to defending Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo.

Brazil has more than 2,400 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and 57 people have died.

The Boston Bruins say they are putting 68 full-time employees on temporary leave and cutting the pay of 82 others who work for the team or Delaware North, which owns the TD Garden.

The moves – which the Bruins called “temporary business stabilization measures” – are effective April 1.

The companies say they intend to restore jobs and compensation “once our business resumes to its normal state from this unprecedented stoppage.”

The Bruins were the last team in the NHL to offer help to gameday employees who lost work because of the coronavirus pandemic – and then only if postponed games aren’t made up. The team is owned by Jeremy Jacobs, who is the chairman of the NHL board of governors and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. According to Forbes Magazine, the Jacobs family is worth $3.3 billion.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is teaming up with Dr. Anthony Fauci for a question-and-answer discussion about the coronavirus.

Curry, a two-time NBA MVP, will host the chat on his Instagram account Thursday – (at)StephenCurry30. Fauci is Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Curry posted his plans on his Twitter account with an invite to all to submit questions.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is open to the NCAA allowing more football practices after spring ball was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tigers got in nine sessions after starting practice Feb. 26 before all spring activities, including their Orange and White scrimmage, were canceled.

Swinney is not in favor of extending fall camp, instead suggesting a sort of NFL-style mini-camp depending on how many spring workouts the team got before spring activities were canceled.

“Maybe if they said everybody could have 12 on-field sessions,” Swinney said. “So that means we would get only three just to make it equitable. But some of these schools who got none, they could get 12.”

Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward and his wife Erin, a trauma nurse, have recorded a message thanking first responders and health care workers.

The message was sent to the Texas Hospital Association and Medical City of Arlington and Dallas.

“We’re just trying to say thank you to all of these people on the front lines,” Woodward said Wednesday. “The first responders are first on the scene to a lot of these things. … The doctors, nurses, everybody, they’re putting themselves at risk for all of us.”

Woodward said his wife isn’t currently working in a hospital. She finished a nursing contract at the end of February in Arizona, where they live, and is going back to school for another license.

The Woodwards are also joining Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and his wife, Robyn, to provide meals to health care workers at Medical City of Arlington and Dallas.

The United Center is going to be turned into a logistics hub to help with Illinois’ response to the novel coronavirus.

The United Center and the surrounding area will be used for front-line food distribution, first responder staging and collecting medical supplies.

“On behalf of the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, our athletes, our front offices and our dedicated United Center personnel, our thoughts and support are with the people of this great city and state,” a spokesman for the United Center said in a release. “Together, we will get through this.”

Mary Roman, a world-class senior athlete who held numerous national age records in track and field, has died of complications from COVID-19, the mayor of Norwalk said. She was 83.

Roman, who also served for 20 years as Norwalk’s city clerk, died Monday night at Norwalk Hospital, Mayor Harry Rilling said.

A childhood polio survivor, Roman began competing in senior track events in 1989 and won hundreds of medals, mostly in the throwing disciplines.

At various times, she held the American record in the shot put in the women’s 65-69, 70-74 and 75-79 age groups. She also was once the nation’s top-ranked thrower and ranked eighth in the world in the weight throw in the 75-79 age group.

Argentine cyclist Max Richeze has been released from a hospital in the United Arab Emirates, where the UAE Team Emirates rider spent 18 days after testing positive for the coronavirus following the cancellation of the UAE Tour.

Richeze wrote on Instagram that two tests for COVID-19 had come back negative and he was discharged Wednesday.

That status of Richeze’s teammate, Fernando Gaviria, remains unknown after he also tested positive for the virus. Two staff members for UAE Team Emirates also tested positive, and the entire team remains in voluntary quarantine.

The second edition of the UAE Tour, a major early season stage race, was canceled with two stages left. Riders and support staff for all 22 teams were isolated, though nearly all of them now have been cleared to leave the country.

The All England Club says it is still evaluating whether to postpone or cancel Wimbledon because of the coronavirus pandemic and plans to make a decision next week.

That’s when the club’s main board is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting.

Main-draw play at Wimbledon is slated to start June 29 and preparations for the tournament are supposed to begin in late April.

The club’s statement Wednesday says that postponing the two-week grass-court tournament would not come “without significant risk and difficulty” because of the surface.

Playing without fans has been ruled out. Wimbledon hasn’t been canceled since World War II.

NASCAR says in a memo to teams that one of its employees at track at Atlanta Motor Speedway two weeks ago has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The employee was not identified and NASCAR said the individual has been receiving medical care and all potentially exposed have been told to self-quarantine.

NASCAR was at Atlanta scheduled to race March 15 without spectators. But two days prior to the race, NASCAR postponed Atlanta and last weekend’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which instead was converted into a virtual iRacing event broadcast on Fox Sports 1 with 35 drivers.

NASCAR has suspended its season through May 9 and will race at least five more iRaces, televised on Fox, during the stoppage.

Now that the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed for up to a year because of the coronavirus outbreak, world-class athletes have plenty of free time.

American swimming star Ryan Murphy, who won three gold medals at the 2016 Rio Games, is planning to fly home to Jacksonville, Florida,from his training base at Cal-Berkeley.

“I haven’t been home in a year and half,” the 24-year-old Murphy told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “It’s been forever. That’s the silver lining to all the madness. My parents are home and I suddenly get to spend a lot more time with them. I’m looking forward to it.”

Murphy’s coach Dave Durden, one of the head coaches for the U.S. team in Tokyo, essentially wrapped up the season after Tuesday’s announcement by the International Olympic Committee. He met with his each of his swimmers and told them to take a few weeks off.

“That’s closure for now,” Murphy said. “We’re taking a step back and trying to create a plan and refocusing toward 2021.”

Murphy says he’s got a mask, gloves and wipes for his cross-country flight, which comes at a time when much of the world is locked down.

The NHL’s chief medical officer expects the coronavirus pandemic to get worse before it gets better.

Dr. Winne Meeuwisse says the virus “really just entering the rapid acceleration phase” in North America. That makes it unclear when hockey might resume.

He says the league is thankful only two players have tested positive for COVID-19 so far and its hopeful weeks of isolation will prevent more from contracting the virus. Players and staff have been told to self-quarantine until at least April 4.

There is no timeline for when players might be able to start working out in small groups or report to team training facilities. Meeuwisse says the trajectory of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. and Canada will determine when that might be possible.

Varying recommendations and lockdown regulations across the league’s 31 markets could impact how the NHL proceeds. Meeuwisse and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are still unsure whether fans would be allowed in for potential games when they resume.

Mary Roman, a world-class senior athlete who held numerous national age records in track and field, has died of complications from COVID-19. She was 83.

Mayor Harry Rilling of Norwalk, Connecticut, made the announcement. Roman, who also served for 20 years as Norwalk’s city clerk, died Monday night at Norwalk Hospital.

A childhood polio survivor, Roman began competing in senior track events in 1989 and won hundreds of medals, mostly in the throwing disciplines.

At various times, she held the American record in the shotput in the women’s 65-69, 70-74 and 75-79 age groups.

She was once the nation’s top-ranked thrower and ranked eighth in the world in the weight throw in the 75-79 age group. In 2016, she was named Connecticut Masters Games Athlete of the Year.

Former Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia told Hearst Connecticut Media that he didn’t think he ever met a person who didn’t like Mary Roman.”

Aqueduct has extended the suspension of live horse racing through at least April 5 because of the impact of the new coronavirus in New York.

As a result, the $750,000 Wood Memorial has been postponed. No make-up date has been determined yet for the major Kentucky Derby prep that was to be run on April 4.

Last Thursday, the New York Racing Association suspended racing at Aqueduct after confirmation that a backstretch worker who lived and worked at Belmont Park tested positive for COVID-19. The Belmont backstretch is home to 585 workers who tend to the daily care of more than 1,300 horses stabled on the property.

The pandemic has affected other prep races for the Kentucky Derby, which itself was postponed from May 2 to Sept. 5. The Sunland Derby in New Mexico and Blue Grass and Lexington stakes in Kentucky have been canceled, along with the UAE Derby. The Arkansas Derby was pushed back from April 11 to May 2.

For now, the Florida Derby on March 28 and Santa Anita Derby on April 4 are still scheduled.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has instructed the 32 teams to close their facilities to all but a select few employees by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

In a memo to the teams, Goodell said the restrictions meant as a safeguard against the new coronavirus will be in force until at least April 8. Then the league will re-evaluate, using advice from medical experts and health authorities. The few exceptions include trainers and doctors treating players, security and technology personnel.

The NFL has gotten some pushback for not postponing the draft scheduled for April 23-25 while the rest of the sports world is largely shut down. The league is developing a new format because it has scrapped the public events set for Las Vegas.

The Belgian soccer league says clubs should not apply for temporary layoffs for their players despite matches remaining suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The league asked clubs not to burden the government’s temporary unemployment scheme for employees forced out of work because of the lockdown measures implemented in Belgium.

The league says exceptions can be made only “for urgent economic reasons.”

The league also says it’s too early to decide when matches can resume.

 

Dayton’s Obi Toppin — AP player of year — heading to NBA

Dayton’s Obi Toppin is headed to the NBA after leading the Flyers to a 29-2 record and No. 3 ranking as a redshirt sophomore.

Toppin tweeted his decision Wednesday, a day after he was honored as The Associated Press’ men’s college basketball player of the year. The Flyers’ Anthony Grant was voted coach of the year.

“Thank you Flyer Nation. Love you always,” Toppin tweeted.

Toppin, who was a late bloomer in high school and didn’t get much recruiting notice, led the way in one of Dayton’s greatest seasons. He averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds and punctuated each game with a variety of dunks.

The 6-foot-9 forward was a unanimous choice for the AP All-America first team. He beat Iowa’s Luke Garza for player of the year honors.

Toppin shot 63% from the field, with his signature dunk moves gaining national attention. He also shot 39% from beyond the arc, showing a complete game that will likely make him a potential first-round pick in the NBA draft.

He became the face of a program that rallied a city shaken by tornadoes and a mass shooting in the past year.

The Flyers’ only losses came in overtime to Kansas and Colorado. They swept through the Atlantic 10 season and were positioned for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dayton’s No. 3 finish matched its best in the final AP poll – the Flyers also were No. 3 in 1956.

Toppin and Grant became only the second duo to sweep the AP’s top postseason awards in the last 40 seasons. St. Joseph’s Jameer Nelson and Phil Martelli won player and coach honors in 2004.

Three Dayton players have been first-round NBA picks: John Horan in 1955, Jim Paxson Sr. in 1956, and his son Jim in 1979. The elder Paxson was the third overall pick.

 

USC’s Onyeka Okongwu declares for NBA draft after 1 season

Southern California forward Onyeka Okongwu has declared for the NBA draft after one season.

He averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks for the Trojans. Okongwu broke the school record for blocks by a freshman and was named to the Pac-12’s All-Conference first team and All-Freshman team.

Okongwu signed with an agent this week and announced his plans Wednesday on social media. The 6-foot-9 forward from Chino, California, is projected to be a lottery pick in the draft.

“What a ride it’s been my first year at USC. My freshman campaign at the school has been nothing short of spectacular,” Okongwu wrote in a message to Trojans fans. “However, all good things must come to an end. I want to take the next step when the opportunity presents itself.”

Okongwu thanked the Trojans coaching staff, his teammates and his family in a message he signed with his nickname: Big O.

 

INDIANA WBB: Grace Berger and Ali Patberg Named WBCA Region Finalist

Grace Berger and Ali Patberg Named WBCA Region Finalist 

ATLANTA – Indiana guards sophomore Grace Berger and redshirt junior Ali Patberg have been named region finalist for the 2020 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-America. The duo is part of 10 players selected from Region 4. The selection committee will select the 10-member WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-America team from these 52 candidates.

Patberg led Hoosiers with 15.6 points and 5.3 assists per game, earning All-Big Ten honors and finishing as one of 10 finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award for the nation’s top point guard. She started in all 32 games where she also added 4.6 rebounds per game, shot 49 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from the 3-point line. In addition, the redshirt junior guard dished out 168 assists this season, which ranks fourth in a single season in school history, as she also held a +2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. Patberg scored in double figures 26 times including the last 15 consecutive games, scored 20 or more points seven times and led the team in scoring in 18 games. The Columbus, Ind. native was also a variety of national award lists this season including the Wooden Award watch list, Naismith Trophy watch list and midseason team, Ann Meyers Drysdale Award watch list.

In a breakout sophomore campaign, Berger was the team’s second leading scorer with 13.1 points per game which led to All-Big Ten first team honors. The Louisville, Ky. native also averaged 5.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and a team-high 1.4 steals per game while she paced IU in scoring five times and had four 20-point or more scoring games. Berger shot 45.6 percent from the floor and 76.9 percent from the free throw line while scoring in double figures 21 times. She improved her scoring by 7.6 points from her freshman season while also tripling her made 3-pointers this season.

The 2020 WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-America team will be announced Thursday, April 2.

REGION 1 

Name School
Bella Alarie Princeton University
Bre Cavanaugh Fordham University
Elissa Cunane North Carolina State University
Nicki Ekhomu Florida State University
Dana Evans University of Louisville
Kiah Gillespie Florida State University
Haley Gorecki Duke University
Stella Johnson Rider University
Jazmine Jones University of Louisville
Beatrice Mompremier University of Miami
Jocelyn Willoughby University of Virginia

 

REGION 2 

Name School
Aliyah Boston University of South Carolina
Jessika Carter Mississippi State University
Chennedy Carter Texas A&M University
Rennia Davis University of Tennessee
Tyasha Harris University of South Carolina
Rhyne Howard University of Kentucky
Rickea Jackson Mississippi State University
Erica Ogwumike Rice University
Chelsey Perry University of Tennessee at Martin
Alexis Tolefree University of Arkansas

 

REGION 3 

Name School
Brittany Brewer Texas Tech University
Te’a Cooper Baylor University
Lauren Cox Baylor University
Crystal Dangerfield University of Connecticut
Vivian Gray Oklahoma State University
Keri Jewett-Giles Florida Gulf Coast University
Ashley Joens Iowa State University
Antoinette Miller University of Cincinnati
Olivia Nelson-Ododa University of Connecticut
NaLyssa Smith Baylor University
Ilmar’l Thomas University of Cincinnati
Megan Walker University of Connecticut
Christyn Williams University of Connecticut

 

REGION 4 

Name School
Grace Berger Indiana University
Kaila Charles University of Maryland
Kathleen Doyle University of Iowa
Arella Guirantes Rutgers University
Naz HIllmon University of Michigan
Becca Hittner Drake University
Dorka Juhasz Ohio State University
Ali Patberg Indiana University
Lindsey Pulliam Northwestern University
Chante Stonewall DePaul University

 

REGION 5

Name School
Ruthy Hebard University of Oregon
Sabrina Ionescu University of Oregon
Aari McDonald University of Arizona
Michaela Onyenwere University of California – Los Angeles
Mikayla Pivec Oregon State University
Satou Sabally University of Oregon
Destiny Slocum Oregon State University
Kiana Williams Stanford University

 

The selection committee uses an equation to determine an equitable number of finalists from each region. The number of NCAA Division I institutions in each region is divided by the number of NCAA Division I institutions overall to determine a percentage for each region. This percentage is then multiplied by 52 (the total number of desired finalists) to get the number of finalists for each region.

 

Police: Washington State safety Bryce Beekman found dead

A Washington State football player was found dead in his apartment by an officer who responded to a call for help involving “breathing problems,” Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said Wednesday.

Jenkins said there were no signs of foul play and that the Whitman County coroner will determine the cause of death for 22-year-old Bryce Beekman, the senior defensive back who was found Tuesday afternoon. The Associated Press made several attempts to contact the coroner’s office for comment early Wednesday but no one answered the phone.

“We are in shock with the news of Bryce’s passing,” Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said in a statement. “Bryce was a tremendous young man, great teammate and will be missed by all. We send our deepest condolences and prayers to the Beekman family and his many friends.”

Beekman started all 13 games last season for Washington State after transferring from Arizona Western College. He finished fifth on the team with 60 tackles and one interception. He was expected to be part of an experienced Washington State secondary going into this season.

First-year Washington State coach Nick Rolovich informed the team of Beekman’s passing on Tuesday night.

“My relationship with Bryce was still in its early stages, but I knew him to be a wonderful young man,” Rolovich said. “He was always positive and well respected amongst his teammates. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”

Teammates took to social media to express their sadness and condolences. Washington State’s program is barely two years removed from the suicide of quarterback Tyler Hilinski in January 2018.

“Cherish your loved ones. Every second matters,” wrote offensive lineman Liam Ryan.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday prior to learning of Beekman’s death, Rolovich said the majority of players had stayed in their hometowns following spring break. Washington State has moved to an online/remote learning platform in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spring football practice, originally scheduled to start this week, has been postponed.

But Rolovich said a few players had returned to Pullman.

 

SPORTS EXTRA:

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-1979

SALT LAKE CITY-Michigan State grounded The Bird with a touch of Magic and a magnificent zone defense tonight to win its first National Collegiate basketball championship and end Indiana State’s chance to achieve an unbeaten season. Despite a heavy load of personal fouls that created serious problems down the stretch, the Spartans held fast to an early lead and beat the Sycamores, 75‚64, in the final of the 41st National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament before 15,410 persons in the Special Events Center of the University of Utah. The loss was the only one for Indiana State in 34 games this season. Michigan State finished with a 26‚6 record.

Earvin (Magic) Johnson, who played the entire second half with three personal fouls, was his usual spectacular self, scoring 24 points for the winners. Larry Bird, the big man for Indiana State with a three-year career average of more than 30 points a game, was kept to only 19 points, his lowest scoring game in five N.C.A.A. tournament contests. There was no beating the Michigan State defense during this tournament and there was little any team could do to stop the fast offense triggered by the magic of Johnson’s passing.

This defense stopped Bird after no other team could do so in this tourney. The 6‚9 senior had scored 22, 29, 31 and 35 points in his four previous tourney games. What’s more, Michigan State closed down the Indiana State passing lanes, and held Bird to only two assists. “We defended him with an adjustment and a prayer,” said Jud Heathcote, the Michigan State coach. But while Heathcote was praying on the bench, Johnson, Greg Kelser, Ron Charles, Jay Vincent and Terry Donnelly shared the work of defending inside at the baseline. They crowded Bird like a flock of vultures every time he approached the baseline on offense. Bird’s mates just could not get the ball to him very often and when they did, Bird would hesitate, something he rarely does.

Indiana State’s man-to-man defense didn’t appear to bother Johnson. He made one of the game’s most exciting moves when he drove the baseline around Alex Gilbert only to be facing Bird, standing his ground under the basket. Kelser was coming down the lane to Johnson’s left and the Michigan State sophomore faked a pass to Kelser. Bird took the fake and moved just a bit to defend Kelser coming into the basket. Johnson kept the ball and made an easy layup. Such spectacular play may have been Johnson’s last for Michigan State. It is expected the Lansing, Mich., athlete who stayed home to play college ball will declare hardship and be drafted into the pros for next season.

 

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1936       Two future Hall of Famers ink modest contracts with their respective teams. The Tigers sign Hank Greenberg for $20,000, and Red Ruffing comes to terms with the Yankees for $12,000.

1951       During a spring exhibition game against the University of Southern California at Bovard Field, Mickey Mantle, batting left-handed, hits a home run off Tom Lovrich, which is estimated to travel 650 feet. The 19 year-old rookie’s performance, which includes a single, triple, and another homer, is one of the highlights of the Yankees’ first-ever West Coast trip.

1957       Yankee manager Casey Stengel is arrested and is released on $50 bail after he allegedly curses at and kicks a newspaper photographer during an exhibition game in St. Petersburg.

1960       Miami becomes the new venue for the Orioles-Reds series, initially scheduled for Havana, due to political unrest in Cuba. Cincinnati, which has a farm team on the island, wanted to play the exhibition games as planned, but Baltimore’s team president Lee MacPhail feared for his players’ safety.

1974       “I said that there’d come a time when somebody would take my job away and the time came. That’s the way the ball bounces. I was the same way when I broke in with the White Sox. If I came, someone had to go. Baseball is like life; it goes on no matter what.” – LUIS APARICIO, commenting on his unconditional release by the Red Sox. The Red Sox release future Hall of Famers designated hitter Orlando Cepeda (1999) and infielder Luis Aparicio (1984). Both had contributed to the team last season with Cepeda being the best DH in the American League with his 86 RBIs, 20 home runs and a .289 average, and Aparicio batting a respectable .271 in 132 games, the best mark among shortstops in the league.

1976       The American League votes to expand to Toronto, awarding a franchise to a group consisting of Labatt’s Breweries (45%), the Imperial Trust, Ltd (45%), and CIBC (10%), who will eventually purchase the rights for the team for $7 million. At first, the decision will appear in peril when President Gerald Ford attempts to put pressure on MLB to give the expansion franchise to Washington, D.C., which has been without a major league team since the Senators moved to Arlington, Texas to become the Rangers following the 1972 season.

1977       Boston releases fan-favorite Rico Petrocelli, a future inductee to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997. The two-time All-Star infielder will call it quits, ending his 13-year career, all with Boston, having played a vital role in the team’s 1967 and 1975 American League pennants.

1984       In a spring training deal, the Phillies trade outfielders Gary Matthews and Bob Dernier along with right-handed reliever Porfi Altamirano to the Cubs for right-hander Bill Campbell and Mike Diaz, a utility player. The former Philadelphia fly chasers, who will each receive consideration for the MVP award, both play a pivotal role in Chicago’s first-place finish this season in the National League Eastern Division.

1984       Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color line, playing for the Dodgers in 1947, is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by President Reagan. Rachel Robinson, on behalf of her late husband, accepts the award, the highest civilian honor given in the United States.

2000       The demolition Kingdome happens in less than 20 seconds, thanks to 5,800 holes filled with gelatin dynamite ignited by 21.6 miles of detonation cord. The former home of the Mariners is now a 65-foot mound of rubble.

 

WORLD SERIES HISTORY-1908

The fourth official World Series marked the third consecutive postseason championship appearance of the Chicago Cubs. After losing to their cross town rivals, the White Sox in 1906, the reigning National League champs made amends by sweeping Detroit in the 1907 Series. The Tigers had learned a hard lesson and were also determined to make a repeat appearance. They met their goal by winning the American League pennant on the last day of the regular season. The press played up the rematch on both sides as Chicago papers were filled with words like “repeat” while the Detroit papers used “revenge”.

Game 1 recalled memories of the previous year’s opener as the Tigers held a surprise lead going into the ninth inning. Once again, the Tigers watched their advantage fade away, although this year the game would not be called at a tie. Detroit pitcher, Ed Simmons continued to look strong going into the ninth as he retired Johnny Evers to open the inning. The twenty-four game winner was two outs away from Series leading victory, when suddenly everything folded. In what must have seemed like a recurring bad dream, Simmons yielded six consecutive hits resulting in five runs. Chicago snatched the lead and never looked back en route to a 10-6 triumph, using Orval Overall and Mordecai Brown in relief roles behind Ed Reulbach.

Chicago’s Orval Overall was given the start for Game 2, having only served in a relief role in the Series opener and was paired up against the Tiger’s ace Bill Donovan. Both pitchers went head-to-head for four innings straight with neither allowing a single hit in a 0-0 standoff. Three innings later, the Tigers had managed three hits and the Cubs had one. The game remained scoreless going into the eighth inning with both teams waiting for the other to blink. Donovan blinked first and ran into trouble in the bottom of the inning. Joe Tinker started the rally with a two run homer to right field and before the inning was over, the Cubs had four more hits and four more runs. Ty Cobb tried to generate some momentum with a run-scoring single in the ninth, but once again, Chicago prevailed, winning 6-1. The Cubs were on a roll and won their sixth consecutive Series game against the Tigers.

Detroit was finally able to break Chicago’s post-season winning streak in Game 3 with a stellar performance on the mound by George Mullin. The Tigers’ ace dominated the Cubs line-up allowing only seven hits in an 8-3 victory. The win appeared to breathe some life back into the perennial losers, but their renewed fervor didn’t last long. In Game 4, they recorded a miserable four-hit effort in a 3-0 loss against Brown and they would never recover. Overall, who had performed so magnificently Game 2, was even better in Game 5. The twenty-seven year-old right hander allowed only three hits and struck out ten batters in the 2-0 triumph and back-to-back Series winner. The Tigers’ embarrassment was dulled by the lack of witnesses in the stands as only 6,210 fans witnessed the finale in Detroit, the smallest crowd in Series history.

The Cubs became the first team to record three consecutive World Series appearances and two consecutive World Series victories with both championship wins coming off the heels of a record one-hundred sixteen victory season of 1906. In 1908, Chicago’s West Side franchise was more than just a winning baseball team, they had just become sports first official “dynasty”.

 

BASEBALL’S BEST PLAYERS: LUKE APPLING

Luke Appling had the misfortune of playing for the White Sox during some of their leanest years. A decade before his arrival, the franchise had been devastated by the Black Sox Scandal, when eight players conspired to fix the 1919 World Series and were banned from baseball, and the team did not compete again until the 1950s. Appling, a happy-go-lucky man and a notorious hypochondriac, was one of the Sox’ few bright lights. He never got to play in a World Series, as his career was ending just as the team embarked on a period of competitiveness highlighted by their 1959 pennant.
At a time when America, along with the rest of the world, was struggling to cope with the worst depression in its history and the ominous rise of fascism in Europe, baseball provided some diversion from dark times. Appling started his major league career in 1930, just about the beginning of the Depression. The best word to describe Luke Appling is durability, a quality he showed throughout his baseball career and his life. He was emblematic of an America struggling through the Depression and digging into their psyches (perhaps unknowingly) to prepare for another world war. Appling endured and so did America.
“Old Aches and Pains,” as Appling was called, was arguably the greatest hypochondriac to ever play the game. Backaches, headaches, bad knees, eye problems would torment him-and then he’d go out and get three hits.
Lucious Benjamin Appling, born in High Point, North Carolina, on April 2, 1907, was clearly no slouch when he took the field. All of his medical complaints disappeared when game time came. He was so infirm that he managed to collect only 2,749 hits in a career that spanned twenty years, all with the Chicago White Sox. Appling never let a backache or headache get in the way of playing shortstop and getting in his licks as a hitter. He even complained about field conditions at Comiskey Park. “I swear that park must have been built on a junkyard,” he exclaimed. It turned out later he was right.
Appling attended Fulton High School in Atlanta and spent two years at Oglethorpe College. In 1930, when he was a sophomore at Oglethorpe, he signed with the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association. He hit the ball solidly for the Crackers, but his fielding at shortstop left something to be desired, as he committed 42 errors.
Late in the 1930 season the Atlanta Crackers were sold to the Chicago Cubs. But due to the intervention of Milt Stock, Appling joined the White Sox in a cash transaction that also involved an outfielder named Doug Taitt. Despite his fielding woes the White Sox bought his contract for $20,000. Appling made his debut for the White Sox at the end of the 1930 season. Appearing in six games, he committed four errors but also collected eight hits. He had a strong arm, but many of his throws ended up in the stands, sending fans scurrying out of the way.
The 1931 season was less than stellar for Appling. His fielding troubles still plagued him, and his hitting fell off. The White Sox tried to trade him, but there were no takers. White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes took Appling in hand and with great patience helped Appling polish his fielding skills and had him stop swinging for the fences.
Appling married Faye Dodd in 1932. They had two daughters (Linda and Carol) and one son (Luke III).
In 1932 the Pale Hose finished in seventh place behind the lowly St. Louis Browns. Appling batted .274 with ten triples and 63 runs batted in. He still was swinging for the fences and got himself out innumerable times through his lack of patience at the plate.
It all came together for Luke Appling in 1933, when he stopped trying to hit home runs, learned to use the entire field, and batted .328 for the season. Eight more years of .300 or better followed, and he improved enough to become an adequate fielder. He showed great range in the field, leading the American League in assists seven times. On the minus side he led the league in errors five times.
The apex of his career came in 1936. He won the American League batting title with a .388 batting average, the highest in the twentieth century by a shortstop. Luke also had a 27-game hitting streak that year. After winning the batting title, Appling was promised a $5,000 bonus, but General Manager Harry Grabiner reneged. In disgust Appling tore up his 1937 contract. Lou Comiskey, the owner, withstood Appling’s protests, and when Appling cooled down and was ready to play gave him a new contract. Unfortunately, it was for $2,500 less than he had wanted. In 1940 Appling, Rip Radcliff of the St. Louis Browns and Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees battled each other for the batting title with DiMaggio winning out.
The White Sox contended only once during Appling’s tenure at short. They lacked power, so Appling, a natural leadoff hitter, batted third in the lineup. Never a slugger, he did manage to drive in 1,117 runs during his career. Appling remembered that his teammates were not great baserunners. Player-manager Jimmy Dykes instituted an automatic fine for any baserunning blunders The very next day Dykes was on second base when he became lost in thoughts about his managerial duties. He wandered off second base, wondering whether he should hit for the pitcher, and in a flash he was picked off. The players on the bench howled with delight and had some uncomplimentary words about the gaffe. When Dykes sheepishly returned to the bench he said, “All right say it, come on, I’ve got it coming,” but no one said a word. Later he asked Appling why they didn’t say anything. Appling replied, “They already said it before you got back to the dugout.”
Championships eluded the White Sox and the Cubs year after year. Ironically, the two greatest players in Chicago, Luke Appling and Ernie Banks, both shortstops, never played in a World Series.
Appling was a pitcher’s nightmare. He could and would foul off pitch after pitch until he got the one he wanted. Pitchers would get so frustrated they’d almost dare him to hit the blasted thing. Appling struck out only 528 times in his career and coaxed out 1,302 walks.
As one story goes, Appling once asked the tight-fisted business manager of the Sox for several balls to sign for friends. The business manager refused, citing the Depression and that each ball cost $2.75. Appling turned and walked out without a word. That afternoon in his first at bat he fouled off ten consecutive pitches into the stands. Turning to the club official in the owner’s box, he said, “That’s $27.50 and I’m just getting started.”
In 1938 the Sox had a chance to beat out the Yanks for the pennant. However, Appling suffered the only major injury of his career when he fractured his ankle, thereby hampering the chances of the club.
DiMaggio got a break during his 56-game hitting streak in 1941 when he hit a slow roller that bounced up on Luke. Joe was given a hit on the play to keep his streak going at 30 games.
Bill James in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract named Luke Appling the best player of the 1943 season as Appling won his second batting title with a .328 average. Of course, 1943 was a war year and most of the stars were in the service.
Teammate Ted Lyons recalled Appling’s ability to foul off pitches until he got the one he wanted. Red Ruffing was pitching for the Yankees against the Sox on a miserably hot, humid day in Comiskey Park. Appling came up with two men on base and worked the count to 3-2. He then proceeded to foul off 12 pitches in a row. The profusely sweating Ruffing finally walked Appling and gave up a grand-slam homer to the next batter. Ruffing was in a cool shower immediately after. Pitchers considered themselves lucky if Appling got a hit early in the count.
Despite all his alleged ailments Appling was a good-natured person and popular with his teammates. The only White Sox player to win a batting championship until Frank Thomas, he was also voted the greatest White Sox living player by Chicago writers in 1969.
Appling entered the service in 1944 and returned to baseball late in 1945. At the time Appling entered the service his wife said, “The war will be over soon. Luke has never held a job for more than two weeks outside of baseball.” His hitting did not suffer when he returned in 1945. He batted .368 in his shortened season.
Appling was still playing ball at age 41, having been moved to third base from his shortstop position. Before a doubleheader in 1948 he complained of not being able to get his throwing arm loose. In the first game he lashed out three hits and with a supposedly crippled arm set an American League record with 10 assists. Before the nightcap he complained of severe pains in his legs and went out and did a sterling job.
In 1949 he batted .301 at the age of 42, but “Trader” Frank Lane, general manager of the White Sox, was committed to a youth movement, and Chico Carrasquel took over at shortstop. Appling helped Carrasquel adapt to the big leagues and at playing shortstop. Appling was asked to play first base, but after a few lackluster attempts he gave it up and filled in as a utility infielder. He played in 50 more games for the White Sox in 1950 and then retired. At the time of his retirement he held the American League records for most games played, assists, putouts and chances accepted by a shortstop. Appling also eclipsed the major league record for most games played at shortstop previously held by Rabbit Maranville. Maranville had played 2,153 games at short, and Appling exceeded that with 2,198. Luis Aparicio later eclipsed most of these records. Appling is still the club leader in runs, games played, hits, doubles, total bases, runs batted in, walks, and at bats; he’s also third in triples. In 1951 Appling was asked to manage the Memphis Chicks and surprised everyone including himself when he accepted.
The quality that emerges from Appling’s career and character is his durability. Maybe his ailment complaints were his way of exorcising the demons that baseball players (probably the most superstitious athletes to play sports) exhibited. Whatever his secret, his major league career spanned twenty years. Long after his retirement he showed he could still hit when in an appearance in a Cracker-Jack All-Star Old-Timers game in Washington, D.C., at the age of 75 he hit a homer off Warren Spahn. He said, “It was a good pitch and I just swung away.” The ball traveled only 250 feet as the fences were moved in for the old-timers game, but it’s still a good distance for a 75-year-old.
Appling managed in the minors for quite a few years, winning pennants for Memphis in the Southern Association and Indianapolis of the American Association. Named Minor League Manager of the Year in 1952, he still had only one chance managing in the majors, at Kansas City replacing Alvin Dark. He was not very successful as his team went 10-30 during his tenure. He also managed at Richmond and coached in the majors at Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Kansas City. He served as batting instructor for the Braves until 1990.
Appling died suddenly from an abdominal aneurysm on January 3, 1991, in Cumming, Georgia. His wife Fay; a brother Clyde; sisters Dela Campbell, Inez Jones, and Marie Shelton; his three children; and six grandchildren survived him. Appling is buried in Sawnee View Memorial Gardens, Mausoleum Chapel West in Cumming.
Luke Appling was in the mold of most Depression ballplayers-tough, somewhat hard-bitten, often with lean faces that showed the rugged times all Americans were enduring. Happy to be playing ball when so many others were standing on street corners selling apples or standing in line for soup, they brought some relief to a nation back on its heels. Appling along with others helped take people’s minds off the Depression if only for a few hours and made life a bit more bearable. It was the endurance of players like Luke Appling who carried baseball through these troubled times and sparkled even in a time of misery and foreboding as the sound of cleats on the dugout steps would soon be muffled by the hobnailed boots of oppressors.