Sunday, August 15, 2004

Minus Americans, baseball loses luster


The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece - The defending champions are missing from the Olympic baseball tournament. So is the luster.

Without the United States around, it just isn't the same.

"It's sad, isn't it?" said former major-league manager Davey Johnson, who is helping coach the Netherlands. "But that's baseball."

The United States pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the 2000 Games in Sydney, knocking off powerhouse Cuba to win its first baseball gold.

But because of a quirky qualifying format that limits the number of teams that can come from each part of the globe, reserving a spot only for the host country, the United States didn't make the eight-team field. The team lost to Mexico 2-1 in the qualifying tournament, knocking out the defending champs.

Cuba and Japan are favorites to play for the gold medal.

HOT START: Athens sizzled Saturday, with heat at some venues topping 100 degrees. Cycling officials eased their rules so support crews in cars could hand their riders extra water during a grueling road race.

EDWARDS APPEAL: U.S. sprinter Torri Edwards' appeal against her two-year drug ban will be heard Monday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The result will determine whether the reigning world champion in the 100 meters competes at the Athens Games.

N(IGERIAN)BA STAR: Sam Vincent, who played for four NBA teams - including the 1986 champion Boston Celtics - is the head coach for Nigeria, which is making its Olympic debut. Vincent coached in the NBDL, the NBA's development league. Before that, he began working with African teams in 1997.

NO FINCH FLESH: Despite exorbitant financial offers, U.S. softball pitcher Jennie Finch insists she has no plans to pose nude in any magazine. Finch, a statuesque California blonde who has received huge pre-Olympic publicity, said she has no interest in doing magazine spreads like American high jumper Amy Acuff, who appeared in Playboy.

"I'd rather not pass judgment on any other athletes," Finch said. "Muscles on women are beautiful, but my personal decision is not to do those things - to stay away from that. I'd rather be a role model for young girls."

GREEK DRAMA: Star sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou were suspended Saturday from the Greek team for missing drug tests, but their fate was left in the hands of the International Olympic Committee.

The Greek committee removed the athletes pending a final decision by the IOC at a hearing Monday. The sprinters' coach, Christos Tsekos, also was suspended.

Making the situation worse, police are investigating a suspicious motorcycle accident, which happened just after testers failed to locate them at the Olympic Village.

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Minus Americans, baseball loses luster
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