CLEM LABINE HAD, in the words of his former Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Ralph
Branca, "the right equipment to be a reliever." His sinker induced many
a double play, and he possessed a sharp overhand curve that he could throw to
righties and lefties. But that's not what made Labine, who died last week at
age 80, one of the game's first great closers. "He also had courage,"
says Branca of Labine, who enlisted in the Army in 1944 at 18 and served as a
paratrooper. "He really welcomed the challenge of being a reliever. He was
a tough bird who loved to be in a crucial spot."
meant starting. In the Dodgers' 1951 three-game playoff with the Giants,
Labine, a rookie who had only 13 games that season, threw a shutout in Game 2.
Five years later he made his only postseason start in another must-win game,
answering Don Larsen's World Series perfect game with a seven-hit shutout of
his own the next day to force a seventh game. But it was out of the bullpen
that Labine excelled. During Brooklyn's world championship season of 1955, he
led the NL in appearances. He led the NL in saves each of the next two seasons
and was an All-Star in both. Says Branca, "In today's game, with his slider
and his curveball, he'd be a superstar." Though Labine was recognized as
one by his peers—in 1957 Cubs manager Bob Scheffing said he'd take Labine if
given the option of having any one pitcher in the league—the subtlety of his
contributions was sometimes lost on observers. In '56, his best season, Labine
finished in a tie for 30th in the MVP voting. That prompted one Dodgers fan to
compose a song:
Oh, my darlin', oh, my darlin',
Oh, my darlin' Clem Labine.
We have won, but you're forgotten.
Dreadful sorry, Clem Labine.
By former Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls to ex-teammate Ron Springs, a
kidney. Springs, 50, has suffered from diabetes for 16 years and has been on a
transplant waiting list for three. The former running back, who is
wheelchair-bound, has had his right foot and two toes on his left foot
amputated, and he has little use of his hands. Late last year, Walls, 47, heard
about Springs's plight and underwent tests to see if he was a match as a donor
(SI, Dec. 25, 2006). The operation took place on Feb. 28, and so far there have
been no signs that Springs's body is rejecting the kidney. Both Springs and
Walls were in good condition after the operations, and Springs is expected to
regain the use of his hands. "It's like getting a new battery in a
car," Springs said before the operation.
By Rafael Marquez with a seventh round TKO over Israel Vazquez, the WBC super
bantamweight title. The brutal bout set the bar high for fight of the year
contenders. The 31-year old Marquez broke Vazquez's nose in the first round
before being knocked down in the third. Marquez picked himself up off the
canvas and landed jab after jab until Vazquez, who was having trouble
breathing, had to throw in the towel. After the fight Marquez was quick to
offer Vazquez a rematch. "He dropped me and was the only fighter to ever
hurt me," says Marquez.
By Bill Demong, a world championship silver medal in the Nordic combined. The
26-year-old from Vermontville, N.Y., is only the second American ever to win a
medal in the event. Demong (right), who suffered a fractured skull five years
ago when he dived face first into the shallow end of a hotel swimming pool, was
in eighth place after the ski jump portion of the competition, which meant he
had to start the 15-kilometer cross-country race 1:40 behind the leader. But he
was fast enough on skis to beat Anssi Koivuranta of Finland in a photo finish
for second, 8.5 seconds behind winner Ronny Ackermann of Germany. "It's
amazing to have worked so hard at something and [be] focused on results for so
long and have everything just click," Demong said.
By Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, $20,000 that he can kick his longtime
chewing tobacco habit. Francona made the wager with team president Larry
Lucchino, a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer survivor. (The money
will go to charity.) It's not the first time Francona, 47, has tried to quit
during camp. Said Francona (above), "I've got to keep it going into the
For a month after straining a ligament in his right knee, David Beckham. The
Real Madrid midfielder ran into an advertising board after delivering a cross
in Sunday's draw with Getafe. He left the field under his own power but was in
obvious pain. A scan on Monday revealed ligament damage. Beckham, 31, is
expected to miss at least four weeks, which means he should be fine by the time
his five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS goes
into effect this summer.
By the Lakers, forward Vladimir Radmanovic, who separated his shoulder
snowboarding on Feb. 17 and then lied to the team about it. Los Angeles docked
Radmanovic, 26, who is in the middle of a five-year, $30.2 million contract,
$500,000, or almost 10% of his 2006--07 salary. He is expected to miss two
months. After Radmanovic suffered the injury—snowboarding is banned in the
standard NBA player contract—he told the team he slipped on a patch of ice.
"Being young and sometimes immature, I initially panicked and made up a
false story about how I hurt myself," Radmanovic said in a statement.
"However, I am not a dishonest person and could no longer live with this
deception. I hope for everyone's understanding and forgiveness."
With a misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice for allegedly throwing a
punch at a police officer last year, troubled Titans cornerback Pacman Jones.
According to a report released by the Fayetteville, Ga., police last Thursday,
on Feb. 6, 2006, Jones tried to hit an officer who attempted to search his car.
Jones's lawyer, Manny Arora, said in response that Jones has "just made
some poor decisions with the people he's associated with. They're trying to
drag him down." Jones, who has drawn the interest of police at least 10
times since the Titans drafted him in '05, is scheduled to appear in court
later this month.
On a charge of domestic abuse, Kings forward Ron Artest. Police responded to a
call at Artest's home outside Sacramento on Monday morning and, after
interviewing a woman at the house, placed Artest (left) under arrest. He was
released on $50,000 bail and faces a March 22 arraignment.