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For the Record
Richard Deitsch
May 14, 2007
Gracious Goodbye
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May 14, 2007

For The Record

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Gracious Goodbye

KIM CLIJSTERS was the WTA tour's Miss Congeniality, a perpetually cheery Belgian who will be remembered as much for her affability off the court as her tenacity on it. In recent years Clijsters, who turns 24 next month, suffered several nagging injuries (an ankle sprain, wrist tendinitis, knee strain), and she has long been frustrated by the tour's constant travel and the toll it took on her body. Still, in announcing her retirement last week, Clijsters focused on the bright side. "It has been more than fun, but the rackets are being hung up," she wrote on her website. "To retire before the age of 24, it is very young—but it was so beautiful."

Hemingway famously called retirement "the ugliest word in the language," but Clijsters was determined to leave the game before she turned 25. (She said last year that this season would be her last, but after a straight-set loss to Ukrainian qualifier Julia Vakulenko at a tournament in Warsaw last week she decided she had had enough.) Clijsters was one of the tour's most athletic players—her father was a World Cup soccer player for Belgium, her mother was a top gymnast—and in her prime she was a master of defensive tennis, forcing opponents to hit extra shots and pounding them with deep ground strokes. In 2003 she became the first player to be ranked No. 1 without winning a Grand Slam singles championship, and for years she carried the ignominious title of Best Player to Never Win a Major. After losing her first four Grand Slam finals, Clijsters finally got over the major hump when she dismantled Mary Pierce in the final of the 2005 U.S. Open.

Naturally, Clijsters also won the WTA tour's sportsmanship award a record six times. She has often talked about wanting to soon become a mother, and in July she will marry Brian Lynch, a former Villanova basketball player now playing in Belgium. "I'll remember her as Pocahontas's best friend; she was always level-headed, sensible, friendly and stayed clear of pettiness," says broadcaster Mary Carillo. "She was simply nice to have around."

Dismissed
By several NBA players, an academic study that concluded that white referees call fouls on black players at a higher rate than they do white players. The report, written by Justin Wolfers, a public policy professor at Penn, and Joseph Price, a Cornell economics graduate student, was based on a study of box scores from 1991 to 2004. (The NBA conducted its own study using data from 2004 to '07 and said it found no evidence of bias.) The authors said the study shows evidence of "implicit, unconscious biases" rather than outright racism. "In my entire career, I never thought about whether or not a black ref or a white ref was out there," says Spurs guard Bruce Bowen (above). "And I never heard anyone else talk about it, either." Added LeBron James, "It's stupid."

Recommended
By the California Highway Patrol, that drug charges be brought against Orlando Cepeda. The 69-year-old Hall of Fame first baseman was stopped for speeding near San Francisco on May 1. A CHP officer found marijuana and a white powder in Cepeda's 2001 Lexus. (Authorities said the powder appeared to be cocaine or methamphetamine, but it was still being tested.) The CHP recommended that Cepeda be charged with one felony count of possessing a controlled substance as well as two misdemeanors. As of Monday prosecutors were reviewing the case. Cepeda's lawyer told the AP that Cepeda, who in 1976 served 10 months in a Puerto Rican jail for smuggling marijuana, is innocent.

Undergone
By Frank Torre, 75, a kidney transplant. The older brother of Yankees manager Joe Torre had the operation on May 1. During the 1996 World Series, Frank had a heart transplant and watched from the hospital as his brother led the Yankees to the title. Last weekend Frank, who spent seven seasons with the Milwaukee Braves and the Phillies, was moved into intensive care after developing pneumonia. "He's very uncomfortable, but I guess that's not unusual," Joe said after the surgery. "Everything seems to be going well."

Died
At age 85, College Football Hall of Famer Alex Agase. An offensive guard and linebacker, Agase (below) was named All-America at two schools; he transferred from Illinois to Purdue after the 1942 season so he could take part in a Marine training program. After World War II—Agase was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for duty in Okinawa—he was named All-America for a third time, in 1946. Following a six-year pro career he took up coaching and led Northwestern to a 6--1 Big Ten record in 1970, when he was named national coach of the year. " Coach Agase impressed me most with his integrity, bluntness, wisdom and courage," said former SI writer Rick Telander, who played under Agase.

Died
In his sleep at age 36, former linebacker Kevin Mitchell. A second-round pick out of Syracuse by the 49ers in 1994, Mitchell played 10 seasons for San Francisco, New Orleans and Washington. A preliminary autopsy showed that he died of a heart attack. "Anyone who knew him was touched by his smile, joy for life and love of his family," said Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Proposed
By the NCAA men's basketball rules committee, that the three-point line be moved back one foot, to 20' 9". When the three-pointer was instituted in 1987, teams attempted an average of 9.2 per game. By last year the number had grown to 18.9. The NCAA wants to spread the game and create more space for today's bigger players, but several coaches spoke out against the change, arguing that it will hurt parity. (The change must be ratified by a rules oversight panel later this month.) "One foot will make a huge difference, so you have to find great shooters, not just good shooters," said Duquesne coach Ron Everhart.

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