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Jackie Robinson broke MLB color barrier 70 years ago today

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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The Dodgers had opened the 1947 season at home against the Boston Braves, and 26,623 fans attended the game at Ebbets Field. Robinson went 0-for-3 in his debut, won 5-3 by the Dodgers. He made the game’s first putout, receiving a throw from third base rookie Spider Jorgensen to retire Boston leadoff hitter Dick Culler. 

Despite the inauspicious debut, Robinson would play in 151 games. He hit .297 and won the first Rookie of the Year Award. He led the National League in stolen bases with 29 and collected 175 hits as the Dodgers reached the World Series.

Robinson was the first black player in the major leagues since Moses Fleet Walker played 42 games for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association in 1884. It was Walker’s only year in the majors, and no black had been on a major-league roster until Robinson debuted in 1947. 

Robinson would play 10 seasons, mostly at second base. He finished with a career average of .311. He played in six World Series for the Dodgers and retired after the 1956 season. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

Twenty years ago today, baseball retired Robinson’s No. 42, in a dramatic announcement madeat Shea Stadium in New York by Commissioner Bud Selig, who was flanked by Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson; and President Bill Clinton.

Ex-NFL tight end drove truck that accidentally hit, killed daughter 

Former Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap was behind the wheel of a truck that accidentally struck and killed his 3-year-old daughter Friday, police confirmed.

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The incident occurred about 3:45 p.m. at Heap’s home in Mesa, Arizona, the Arizona Republic reported.

The child was in the driveway of the home when Heap moved a truck forward, striking her, police said. She was taken to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Heap, 37, was born in Mesa and starred in football at Arizona State University, where he was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, the Arizona Republic reported. After being selected as a first-round pick in 2001, he played professionally for the Baltimore Ravens until 2010, finishing his career with the Arizona Cardinals in 2011 and 2012. He was an All-Pro selection at tight end in 2003 and was inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor in 2014.

Mesa police said impairment was not a factor, the Arizona Republic reported.

Report: Marshawn Lynch agrees to contract terms with Raiders

Retired Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has agreed to contract terms with the Raiders, according to a tweet from sports journalist Michael Silver.

The trade with the Seahawks has not yet been completed. 

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Seahawks writer Brady Henderson said on Twitter that the Seahawks still hold Lynch's rights.

"Re-worked deal is presumably a precursor to a trade as his contract includes a $9M base salary for 2017," Henderson wrote.

Earlier this month, Lynch reportedly told the Raiders that he intends to un-retire and play again, according to an NFL insider.

League sources told ESPN in mid-March that the Raiders were trying to acquire Lynch.

Seattle, which has Lynch under contract for another two years, could decide to release Lynch and allow him to sign with Oakland, according to ESPN. The sports network reported that Lynch has considered coming out of retirement, and playing for his hometown team could influence his decision.

Though Lynch himself has yet to publicly announce or deny his intention to return to the NFL, he fueled the rumors that he wants to come out of retirement.

Amid the March ESPN speculation of his return, Lynch retweeted:

Lynch is from Oakland and has said in the past he’d like to play for his home team. Lynch famously announced his retirement with a tweet showing a picture of cleats over a phone wire with a peace out emoji.

Woman receives football scholarship at Division II Colorado college

An Arizona high school student will start her college career in the fall as the first woman to receive a football scholarship at a Division II university.

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On Wednesday, Becca Longo, 18, of Basha High School in Chandler, Arizona, signed a letter of intent to play for Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado.  Longo will join the university’s football team as a kicker. She’ll also join the women’s basketball team at the school. 

According to ESPN, about a dozen women have played on college football teams, but none have received a scholarship for such a high division NCAA-affiliated program. 

Longo caught the attention of Adams State coaches when she sent highlight videos to the football department at the school. Adams State offensive coordinator Josh Blankenship visited Basha High School to see Longo on the field. He was impressed, and soon after, Longo was offered a scholarship.

Adams State head football coach Timm Rosenbach said he didn’t know that Longo was the first woman to receive an NCAA football scholarship out of high school.

“I don’t look at it that way,” he told the Arizona Republic. “My wife is a former pro athlete. I see (Longo) as a football player who earned it.

“It was like recruiting any other athlete... To me, there is no doubt she can be competitive. She has a strong leg, and she can be very accurate.” 

Longo, who started playing football during her sophomore year of high school, said she was inspired by a female player who played on her older brother’s high school football team.   

“I’m ready to compete,” Longo said. “I don’t really have any expectations beyond that.”

Pro football player finishes chemo treatments, accidentally breaks victory bell

Houston Texans offensive tackle David Quessenberry finished his last round of chemotherapy Tuesday after a 3-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

A video shared online shows the NFL star celebrating by ringing a victory bell and accidentally breaking it.

Quessenberry, who was drafted by the Texans in 2013, has been receiving treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The hospital has a small bell hanging on a wall for patients to ring after they finish their last round of chemo.

Quessenberry, 26, rang the bell enthusiastically and ended up yanking the whole thing off the wall.

“It has been more than 1,000 days since my fight began. Yesterday, I received my last infusion of chemo therapy. The things I have seen and the things I felt through my fight I could never forget,” Quessenberry wrote on Instagram. “This bell, just like cancer, never stood a chance.”

Quessenberry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin T lymphoblastic lymphoma in 2014. Doctors discovered a mass in his lungs when the 300-pound player sought treatment for a persistent cough and shortness of breath, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Giants deny Eli Manning involved in fake memorabilia scheme

Quarterback Eli Manning surrendered an email earlier this month in connection with a lawsuit that claims he, along with the New York Giants and a team equipment manager, knowingly provided false game-worn memorabilia to collectors, ESPN reported.

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The email was included in a court filing in Bergen County (N.J.) Superior Court by collectors Eric Inselberg, Michael Jakab and Sean Godown, who filed suit three years ago.

According to the New York Post, which obtained court records, Manning, who has a contract with memorabilia dealer Steiner Sports, instructed equipment manager Joe Skiba to retrieve the equipment so it could be sold off as authentic.

“2 helmets that can pass as game used. That is it. Eli,” Manning wrote to Skiba from a BlackBerry on April 27, 2010, according to court documents.

The email was initiated after Manning was sent a note by Alan Zucker, his marketing agent throughout his career, to come up with some equipment to satisfy his obligation to provide such materials to Steiner Sports, ESPN reported.

The plaintiffs' lawyer, Brian Brook of Clinton, Brook & Peed, told ESPN that the email, included among roughly 200 pages of documents Manning produced as part of legal discovery, was key to specifically linking the quarterback to the lawsuit, which alleges an elaborate scheme to produce, pass off and sell memorabilia as game-used that was not.

The suit also alleges that the Giants were complicit by deleting the email from their accounts.

"The email, taken out of context, was shared with the media by an unscrupulous memorabilia dealer and his counsel who for years has been seeking to leverage a big payday," McCarter & English, the law firm representing the Giants in the case, said in a statement. "The email predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server. Eli Manning is well known for his integrity and this is just the latest misguided attempt to defame his character."

It is not likely that Manning, the Giants or their employees would be subject to criminal prosecution as the alleged actions in question have passed the federal five-year statute of limitations, ESPN reported.

The trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 25.


Pitt will hire Keith Gavin as next wrestling coach, per reports

Pitt's long and winding road in search of a new wrestling head coach finally seems to have come to an end on Thursday. At least we think so. Reports state that former Pitt grappler Keith Gavin has gotten the job.

Pitt hasn't given any official word yet but Oklahoma's official site posted the news earlier. When you click the link, however, the page is no longer there. Perhaps it's just a glitch but my guess is that they pulled the page until Pitt makes the announcement official.

That announcement, by the way, it seems, is being delayed in lieu of the news that Dan Rooney passed away earlier today.

That last link was courtesy of Knops Knotes on Twitter, who has probably had the best/most accurate news out there on this fiasco. And I believe it was him who had the first news of the hiring:

#BreakingNews @keithgavin84 to be named @Pitt_WRES coach — Knops Knotes (@KnopsKnotes) April 13, 2017

FloWrestling also reports that Gavin is the pick. And also, here's his bio if you want to know more.

Assuming Gavin is indeed the next coach, what do I think?

If you've been following my thoughts on the situation, you know that I always thought it was a good enough job to land a quality, proven coach. I still believe that. There are a lot of rumors as to what Pitt could have had with Pat Santoro or Tim Flynn. And if they could have had either of those guys, I'm guessing that even the most ardent Gavin supporters would say it was a missed opportunity. And, for what it's worth, they also reportedly offered and were subsequently rebuffed by San Diego State (yes, San Diego State) head coach Chris Bono, who was the Big 12 Coach of the Year. Any of those three guys would have probably made a good 80% of the wrestling fanbase happy as they had proven, head coaching success. This one's going to be more divided.

The Pitt job, I still insist, can be a great one. The school sits in the state with the best recruiting territory in the country. They compete in the ACC, which is a winnable conference as Pitt proved a few years ago winning it in their first season. While the team has not been great itself lately, they are routinely a Top 25 program so a new coach wouldn't be starting from scratch. And, while you might not know it, as the search proved there are actually a decent amount of people that follow the sport in the area. It has to be a very attractive job for almost any assistant and, if you throw money at it, would be very attractive for any number of great head coaches. Three of them, apparently, felt it was worth the time to interview, after all.

Given that it is a pretty good job, landing a quality coach with experience shouldn't have been the tooth-pulling exercise it appears to have been.

Now, to Gavin specifically, it could turn out to be a very good hire and there are some things to like here.

First, he was a Pitt grad and while not the be all end all, it's nice to know that he's not going to be leaving to head to an Alma Mater anywhere else. That always has some value as far as hoping to keep successful coaches and he is familiar with the school and its selling points. He was not only a wrestler here, but one of the best in school history. He won a national championship at Pitt in 2008 and was a runner-up the year before. That type of stuff has to resonate, at least a little, with recruits. He's a young, up-and-comer, who could be here for a while. He comes to Pitt after being an assistant at Oklahoma and previously, Virginia and Pitt so he's been around several programs.

But given all of that, the one glaring hole is that he's still got very little actual experience. He was only an assistant at Virginia for two years and at Oklahoma only one. Before that he had one year of experience as an assistant at Pitt. Add it up and you have zero head coaching experience and four years of being an assistant. I mean, it's not nothing. It's just kind of ... there.

The argument, of course, is that everyone has to start somewhere. That plenty of assistants have gone on to incredible careers as head coaches. That, perhaps, all he needs is a chance. And all of that is or may be true. But as I said earlier, this isn't a lower-level job. It's not a job at a smaller school where you almost have to settle for an assistant and take chances on guys in most cases. This is a pretty decent gig that should (and did attract) proven head coaches. And when you consider that, it's just a tepid hire at best given his lack of experience. Sure, you might really like him. And sure, you might think he's a great pick. But it really gets difficult to argue that it's a better hire than getting a proven guy like Santoro or Flynn.

Now, if this was the guy they wanted from the start, perhaps I feel a little differently. After all, if you've been targeting an assistant that you feel is under the radar and your top candidate, that's different. But given that Pitt reportedly interviewed several guys before landing on Gavin, that doesn't appear to be the case.

Hopefully he turns out to be a good one and, as someone who has come to love the sport, I wish him the best, obviously since I want to see Pitt win more. I'm in the corner of any Pitt coach and really hope he turns out to be a good one. But given his lack of experience, it's just sort of a shot in the dark.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
Poll How do you feel about the Keith Gavin hire? Slam Dunk - great choice Good choice Decent Below average Ugh What is this wrasslin' nonsense?   0 votes | Results

Pittsburgh Steelers' owner Dan Rooney dies

When Dan Rooney was born in 1932, there was no professional football team in Pittsburgh. But one year later, the Pirates Football Club, which is what the Steelers were called then, took the field for the first time. 

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It didn’t take long for Dan Rooney to get involved in his father Art’s business.

“I started to go to the training camp with my father when I was 5,” Rooney said. “I started to work out as a ball boy, a water boy, Jock Sutherland was the coach, and I learned a lot from him."

Rooney got married and graduated from Duquesne University with an accounting degree, but neither accounting nor football were his first choice.

“I really wanted to be an architect when I was in high school,” he said.

Rooney got involved with the Steelers, working first with player personnel. He soon joined his dad managing the team.

In the 1960s, he fought against horseshoe-shaped designs for Three Rivers Stadium. The designs would have favored baseball.

Rooney and his father didn’t always see eye to eye. Dan Rooney didn’t want to move to the new American Football Conference during the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

“I was terribly against it,” Rooney said. “I thought this was a terrible thing. I was part of the wars where we were trying to keep our players, trying to get players out of college.”

In 1975, Rooney became team president. His NFL accomplishments since taking the reins are legendary. He has chaired several committees, taken the lead on ending a players’ strike and helped in the creation of the salary cap in 1993. He also created the “Rooney Rule,” which resulted in minorities getting more chance to coach in the NFL.

On the field, Rooney was the head of a team that has won six Super Bowls, more than any other. He remembered his father when he became part of just the second father-son combination to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

“My father is one of the early men who did everything to make the NFL succeed,” Rooney said. “It is special to join him here.”

Rooney could be tough when he had to be, as when he bargained for a new stadium and the possibility the Steelers could leave Pittsburgh.

"What we've done is to say that if this doesn't get done, we are exercising our option and all of those options will be available in two years,” he said.

Of course, the Steelers stayed, and years later Rooney would fight to keep them in the family when his brothers sold their shares.

“Everybody was very congenial,” Rooney said. “Our thoughts now are to move everything forward and get things worked out.”

Off the field, one of Rooney’s greatest loves was flying. He had one scare in which he was forced to make an emergency landing.

“All the electrical system entirely went out and I had to come in and I couldn't talk to the tower,” he said. “So I pulled out my cellphone and called 911, and actually I got 911 in Greensburg. I told the fellow that I was having problems, ‘I'm Dan Rooney,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, right.’"

Rooney’s Irish roots were always important to him. He helped create The Ireland Fund in the 1970s and led a trip to Dublin in 1997. After making waves when he supported Barack Obama for president, Rooney was named U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

“He and his family are as gracious and thoughtful a group of people as I know and so I know that he is just going to do an outstanding job,” Obama said about the appointment.

As Dan Rooney moved into a new role, he was able to reflect on what he saw as his greatest accomplishment.

"I think it would be keeping the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a viable way, playing good football. You know, realizing the fans are why we're here,” he said.

Rooney’s legacy is undeniable. As part of major improvements to the team headquarters, it was renamed the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. For Dan though, it was never about him.

“The players are the reasons we're making these changes,” he said. “We want these facilities to be the tops in the NFL.”

He also recognized the importance of handing down the Rooney name from his father, through him, to his son.

"He treated everybody as people and I've tried to carry that on,” Rooney said of his father. “I'm sure Art will carry that on after me. It's the right way to be."

With family, with football, with life, Dan Rooney was a shining example of the right way to be.

Atlanta Super Bowl date announced

Super Bowl LIII will be held on Feb. 3, 2019, at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the NFL announced Thursday.

Atlanta was named as the site of Super Bowl LIII in May 2016 after the NFL owners meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Super Bowl LIII will be Atlanta’s third Super Bowl after the Georgia Dome hosted Super Bowl XXVIII on Jan. 30, 1994 (Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills) and Super Bowl XXXIV on Jan. 30, 2000 (St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans).

Super Bowl LII will take place at Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium Feb. 4, 2018.

Atlanta Super Bowl date announced

Super Bowl LIII will be held on Feb. 3, 2019, at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the NFL announced on Thursday.

Atlanta was named the recipient of Super Bowl LIII in May after the NFL Owners Meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

Super Bowl LIII will be Atlanta’s third Super Bowl after the Georgia Dome hosted Super Bowl XXVIII on Jan. 30, 1994 (Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills) and Super Bowl XXXIV on Jan. 30, 2000 (St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans.)

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