Monday, July 10, 2006

Italy Wins, and Legends Roam Pittsburgh

On a penalty kick shoot-out, no less. Having witnessed first-hand the focus and attention of the French fans on the Champions League final in Paris in May, when there was no French honor at stake, I can only imagine what the scene must have looked like oustide those bistros on Rue St. Andre des Arts during the match. Afterwards, however, instead of triumphant football crowds marching down the Champs-Elysees, I'm sure there were more than a few mourners clutching their half-empty wine bottles and banging their heads against lamposts, moaning the name "Zinedine Zidane." Say it ain't so, Zinedine.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh kicked off its All-Star Baseball celebration yesterday with a high-scoring minor league "Futures" All-Star game, pitting American-born minor league stars vs. "foreigners"; the U.S. won, 8-5. Excellent performances were turned in by game MVP-winner Billy Butler, a leftfielder from the Wichita Wranglers in the Royals' system, who hit a two-run homer; and Curacao's Wladimir Balentien (currently playing for San Antonio in the Mariners' system), the DH for the "World" team who hit a homer and two doubles. Having been there to see it, I must confess that another player, Cameron Maybin of West Michigan (a Tigers' farm club) looks like he might be the real deal, going 2-for-3 and grabbing five shots to centerfield. Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins managed the World club in the Futures game, while Hall of Famer Gary Carter managed the U.S. club.

It was a lot of fun seeing all the old-timers milling around PNC Park on Sunday evening, even if it was a little surreal watching them play softball in the "Legends and Celebrity" game with the likes of Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, Dean Cain, Franco Harris (who can't hit a softball for beans, although he proved he could lay down a decent bunt), Rob Reiner and Danny Masterson from That 70s Show.

Ozzie Smith and Ernie Banks were as gracious as always -- it's second nature to those guys to be able to convey how grateful they are to the fans and how wonderful it was to come to such a beautiful ballpark. Other fellows we've missed seeing on the diamond for some time and who participated in Sunday night's charade included Goose Gossage, playing a surprisingly limber first base; chatty Fred Lynn; Tommy John, whose history with his namesake surgery did not prohibit him from pitching for the Americans at age 63; John Kruk; Rollie Fingers; Daves Winfield and Parker; Bill Madlock; Bill Mazeroski (pictured), who received a heart-felt standing ovation from the hometown crowd; and Andre Dawson, who looks like he could still play if he really wanted to.

If anyone is counting, the Nationals beat the Americans 7-5 on the strength of Winfield's pitching and his 300-foot homer to left; Gary Carter was named the game's MVP.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the Portuguese team gave a lesson of fair play while a raging public manipulated by the French coach insulted Cristiano Ronaldo as soon as he touched the ball. Serves them well to lose for Italy...

9:12 PM  

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