CLEM LABINE HAD, in the words of his former Brooklyn Dodgers teammate RalphBranca, "the right equipment to be a reliever." His sinker induced manya double play, and he possessed a sharp overhand curve that he could throw torighties and lefties. But that's not what made Labine, who died last week atage 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 aparatrooper. "He really welcomed the challenge of being a reliever. He wasa tough bird who loved to be in a crucial spot."
Occasionally thatmeant 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 ofhis own the next day to force a seventh game. But it was out of the bullpenthat Labine excelled. During Brooklyn's world championship season of 1955, heled the NL in appearances. He led the NL in saves each of the next two seasonsand was an All-Star in both. Says Branca, "In today's game, with his sliderand his curveball, he'd be a superstar." Though Labine was recognized asone by his peers—in 1957 Cubs manager Bob Scheffing said he'd take Labine ifgiven the option of having any one pitcher in the league—the subtlety of hiscontributions was sometimes lost on observers. In '56, his best season, Labinefinished in a tie for 30th in the MVP voting. That prompted one Dodgers fan tocompose 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, akidney. Springs, 50, has suffered from diabetes for 16 years and has been on atransplant waiting list for three. The former running back, who iswheelchair-bound, has had his right foot and two toes on his left footamputated, and he has little use of his hands. Late last year, Walls, 47, heardabout 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 havebeen no signs that Springs's body is rejecting the kidney. Both Springs andWalls were in good condition after the operations, and Springs is expected toregain the use of his hands. "It's like getting a new battery in acar," Springs said before the operation.
By Rafael Marquez with a seventh round TKO over Israel Vazquez, the WBC superbantamweight title. The brutal bout set the bar high for fight of the yearcontenders. The 31-year old Marquez broke Vazquez's nose in the first roundbefore being knocked down in the third. Marquez picked himself up off thecanvas and landed jab after jab until Vazquez, who was having troublebreathing, had to throw in the towel. After the fight Marquez was quick tooffer Vazquez a rematch. "He dropped me and was the only fighter to everhurt me," says Marquez.
By Bill Demong, a world championship silver medal in the Nordic combined. The26-year-old from Vermontville, N.Y., is only the second American ever to win amedal in the event. Demong (right), who suffered a fractured skull five yearsago when he dived face first into the shallow end of a hotel swimming pool, wasin eighth place after the ski jump portion of the competition, which meant hehad to start the 15-kilometer cross-country race 1:40 behind the leader. But hewas fast enough on skis to beat Anssi Koivuranta of Finland in a photo finishfor second, 8.5 seconds behind winner Ronny Ackermann of Germany. "It'samazing to have worked so hard at something and [be] focused on results for solong and have everything just click," Demong said.
By Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, $20,000 that he can kick his longtimechewing tobacco habit. Francona made the wager with team president LarryLucchino, a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer survivor. (The moneywill go to charity.) It's not the first time Francona, 47, has tried to quitduring camp. Said Francona (above), "I've got to keep it going into theseason."
For a month after straining a ligament in his right knee, David Beckham. TheReal Madrid midfielder ran into an advertising board after delivering a crossin Sunday's draw with Getafe. He left the field under his own power but was inobvious pain. A scan on Monday revealed ligament damage. Beckham, 31, isexpected to miss at least four weeks, which means he should be fine by the timehis five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS goesinto effect this summer.
By the Lakers, forward Vladimir Radmanovic, who separated his shouldersnowboarding on Feb. 17 and then lied to the team about it. Los Angeles dockedRadmanovic, 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 twomonths. After Radmanovic suffered the injury—snowboarding is banned in thestandard 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 afalse story about how I hurt myself," Radmanovic said in a statement."However, I am not a dishonest person and could no longer live with thisdeception. I hope for everyone's understanding and forgiveness."
With a misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice for allegedly throwing apunch 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 madesome poor decisions with the people he's associated with. They're trying todrag him down." Jones, who has drawn the interest of police at least 10times since the Titans drafted him in '05, is scheduled to appear in courtlater this month.
On a charge of domestic abuse, Kings forward Ron Artest. Police responded to acall at Artest's home outside Sacramento on Monday morning and, afterinterviewing a woman at the house, placed Artest (left) under arrest. He wasreleased on $50,000 bail and faces a March 22 arraignment.
When their team bus crashed outside Atlanta last Friday morning, four BlufftonUniversity baseball players. The team had been traveling from the smallMennonite-affiliated school 55 miles south of Toledo to Sarasota, Fla., for itsseason opener. Authorities said the driver apparently mistook an exit ramp fora regular interstate lane and the bus toppled over a barrier, landing on thehighway 25 feet below and leaving blood and baseball equipment strewn acrossthe pavement. In addition to the four players who died, the driver and his wifewere also killed.
They Said It
SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, Heat center, on being voted into theAll-Star Game despite missing 39 games:
"I'm like President Bush. You may not like me, you may not respect me, butyou voted me in."
FEB. 27 Colin Montgomerie at the Johnnie WalkerClassic in Phuket, Thailand
19, 207 Age, in years and days, of the Penguins'Sidney Crosby, who became the youngest NHL player to reach 200 career pointslast Friday.
140 Days by which Crosby beat Wayne Gretzky, who hadbeen the youngest to 200.
40, 251 Age of the Rockets' Dikembe Mutombo, who had22 rebounds against Denver last Friday; he's the NBA's first 40-year-old with20 boards.
4 Triple doubles by Massachusetts forward StephaneLasme, tying the NCAA season record held by Cal's Jason Kidd (1994) andDrexel's Michael Anderson ('86).
51 Points scored by Arkansas RimRockers guard ClayTucker last Saturday, an NBA D-League record.
152 Career wins by Tennessee lefthander Monica Abbott,a new NCAA softball record.
20,180 Crowd at the Inside Lacrosse Face-Off inBaltimore, an NCAA regular-season laxrecord.
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
The NFL is attempting to trademark the phrase "TheBig Game" in order to control its use.
ANDY ALTENBURGER/ICON SMI (FRANCONA)
KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (DEMONG)
MATES Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges lifted Labine in '56.
JOHN G. ZIMMERMAN (SI COVER)
DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES (MONTGOMERIE)
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (ARTEST)
LISA BLUMENFELD/GETTY IMAGES (O'NEAL)