Thursday, July 15, 2004

Charger Training Camp set to openThe San Diego Chargers open training camp with their first practice from 3:30-5:30 pm on Friday, July 30 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

Fans are invited to all practices at The Home Depot Center to watch the team prepare for the 2004 season. Admission is free. There is a $2.50 charge for parking on the campus of Cal State Dominquez Hills. There will be food and novelty stands as well as opportunities to purchase game tickets.

On Saturday, Aug. 7, the Chargers and Anheuser-Busch will host FanFest 2004 at The Home Depot Center. The afternoon event will include autograph opportunities, interactive games, face painters, balloon artists, live music and the Charger Girls.

The 2004 Chargers are led by All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Last season, Tomlinson led the entire NFL with 2,370 total yards from scrimmage and became the first player in league history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in the same season. He did so behind the blocking of fullback Lorenzo Neal, a free-agent signed by General Manager A.J. Smith in 2003 who has been a lead-blocker for seven straight 1,000-yard rushers.

While the running back and fullback positions are undoubtedly set, one of the most highly-anticipated battles of training camp will take place at quarterback. It figures to be a three-way battle between returning starter Drew Brees, 41-year-old Doug Flutie and rookie Philip Rivers, who was acquired from the New York Giants in a blockbuster draft-day trade. Brees began and ended the season at the helm of the offense, starting 11 games in the process. He was replaced for five starts by Flutie.

Perhaps the most significant addition to the Chargers in 2004 was the hiring of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos, Phillips was hired in January to repair a defense which had sunk to 27th in the league, and last season, surrendered a club-record 36 touchdown passes. For the first time in team history, the Chargers will play a 3-4 defense.

The Chargers’ new defense will be centered around inside linebacker Donnie Edwards, the team’s defensive player of the year who set a career high with 162 tackles in 2003. The team is counting on other key performers like cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Sammy Davis, the team’s top draft choices in 2002 and ’03, respectively. Up front, veteran nose tackle Jamal Williams will anchor the defensive line.

Skillful maneuverings by Smith have added a host of new players in 2004 through free agency, trades and the draft. This year alone, Smith signed several projected starters via free agency and trade. The team acquired tackle Roman Oben in a trade with Tampa Bay. The free agents include linebackers Randall Godfrey (Seattle) and Steve Foley (Houston), guard Mike Goff (Cincinnati), tackle Leander Jordan (Jacksonville) and wide receiver Kevin Dyson (Carolina). These six players have a combined 38 years of NFL experience.

Smith landed a total of 11 players in the 2004 NFL Draft, including Rivers. Other notable selections included massive defensive end Igor Olshansky from Oregon in the second-round and All-America and Lou Groza Award winning kicker Nate Kaeding from Iowa in the third-round. The team also selected 2003 NCAA sack leader Dave Ball from UCLA and offensive tackles Shane Olivea from Ohio State and Miami’s Carlos Joseph, who both played on national championship teams.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Autograph hunters stake out celebritiesSTATELINE -- Being a fan of Michael Jordan means being able to wait … and wait … and sometimes wait some more.

Jordan, the Mount Everest of celebrity, at least when it comes to the annual American Century Championship golf tournament, was scheduled to tee off at 11:50 a.m. Tuesday for his practice round at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

Nearly 100 fans gathered near the golf cart barn not long after 11 a.m., waiting for their hero to show. Many wore Jordan’s name across their back; many more were prepared to offer up something for him to sign.

Like an urban legend, the belief of his presence grew into fact as more and more people joined the masses.

But he wasn’t even at the course yet.

Jordan arrived a little after 1 p.m., and teed off with his friend, NBC commentator Ahmad Rashad, at 1:30 with what was far and away the day’s largest gallery – about 150 – following him off the first tee, his ever-present cigar in his mouth.

Tuesday marked the first official day of tournament week for the 15th annual celebrity golf tournament, a 54-hole event that starts Friday. It also was the day of the first of three celeb-ams (another is today and the third Thursday), which tournament organizers tout as the best days to get autographs.

That’s what Carlos Carmonay was hoping to do. Carmonay was dressed shoulders to toes in Jordan wear -- a Chicago Bulls home jersey, home shorts and Jordan’s Nike shoes.

“I’ve been a big fan ever since I was a little kid,” said Carmonay, 26, of Hayward, Calif. “I always asked my dad for Jordan shoes. No matter how much they cost, I had to have my Jordans.”

Like everyone else, though, Carmonay would have to wait until after Jordan’s practice round. He didn’t mind. Jordan’s autograph is something special.

“He’s a legend,” Carmonay said. “Once he’s gone, his name will last forever as one of the best to ever play the game.”

The crowds on a sunny but breezy Tuesday were fairly small, but consistent with Tuesdays of ACCs past. That made autograph-hunting fairly easy, and most celebrities – including Gary Carter, Billy Joe Tolliver, Vinny Del Negro and Steve Bartkowski – were more than willing to cooperate.

Donald Trump, making his first appearance at the ACC, arrived late in the afternoon with his fianceé, model Melania Knauss, and got in five or six holes of practice with NBC Sports executive Jon Miller and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Keenan McCardell.

“It’s a very nice course,” he said as he posed for photos and signed autographs for fans.

“I played OK for the first time on the course.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Yahoo! News - Suitcase Yields Possible Beatles TroveSuitcase Yields Possible Beatles Trove

A vacationer who purchased a suitcase at an Australian flea market found a trove of Beatles memorabilia inside, including photos, concert programs and unreleased recordings, The Times newspaper reported Tuesday.

While the materials have yet to be authenticated, some experts believe the collection is the lost "Mal Evans archive," originally belonging to the Beatles' roadie and sound recordist.

Evans was killed by police in Los Angeles in 1976 after he had brandished a fake gun. The contents of the suitcase were lost during the police investigation, The Times said.

Fraser Claughton, 41, from Tinkerton, England, found the suitcase in a small town outside of Melbourne, The Times said. Realizing the suitcase was not empty, he bought it for about $36.

"It's like finding the end of the rainbow in Australia," The Times quoted Claughton as saying. "I spotted one tatty old suitcase, which frankly I wouldn't have given house room, but when I picked it up there was something in it."

The 4 1/2 hour reel-to-reel tape recording includes John Lennon and Paul McCartney (news) experimenting with alternative versions of some previously unrecorded tracks. The collection also includes previously unknown versions of new recordings of "We Can Work It Out" and "Cry Baby Cry."

The tapes, labeled "Abbey Road... not for release," will be evaluated by the Beatles' record label, Apple, and examined by experts to determine their origin and authenticity.

"With the exception of (two tracks) it sounds very exciting indeed," memorabilia consultant and Beatles specialist Peter Doggett told The Times.

A spokeswoman for Christie's said while the auction house has had no contact with the collection as of yet, there is "Beatles memorabilia in every pop memorabilia sale — it's very popular."

In 1998, a notebook compiled by Evans, containing draft lyrics for "Hey Jude" and "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," sold for $185,000 at a London auction.

A year earlier, McCartney obtained an injunction to prevent Evans' widow from selling a scrap of paper with the original lyrics to "With a Little Help From My Friends."

Monday, July 12, 2004

SBNThe business of baseball autographs
Jeff Kent sat at a small table with a dozen pens and markers in front of him. Some were blue. Others were black, gold or silver. That and this report from The Houston Chronicle's Megan Manfull
A few hundred feet away, more than 500 people stood in a line that twisted and turned in Minute Maid Park. Sprinkled throughout the masses were little kids who loved baseball, who loved the Astros and who couldn't believe that if they stood there just a little bit longer they would actually meet their favorite second baseman.

Those were the ones Kent sat waiting to meet. They are why the potential Hall of Famer hasn't given up signing autographs altogether, even though he doesn't like how the century-old baseball tradition has turned into a big-money business.

"It's hard to differentiate between who really wants an autograph for personal reasons and who wants an autograph for monetary reasons," Kent said at a free, two-hour autograph session he organized recently to thank fans for electing him a starter in next week's All-Star Game. "Sometimes for me, I can't tell who's who, so what I do — which is kind of a bad thing — I just shut everybody off. And then I try to come up with opportunities like this to give back to the good folks — the kids."

Starting today, thousands of autograph seekers will descend on Houston, hoping to get All-Stars and big-league legends to scribble their names on memorabilia. It's the "game" outside the All-Star Game. Some will search for their favorite All-Star. Others will look to make money. But they will all congregate together.

They will stake out Minute Maid Park, plus the airports, local hotels and restaurants.

Houstonian Chris Turett plans to stick close to Minute Maid Park, where he has practically lived since it opened. He has missed only 10 Astros games since 1999, and he knows a slew of good areas for finding the players and getting autographs. Don't expect Turett to offer any advice to novices, though. He doesn't want to be followed.

"Man, those are trade secrets," said Turett, who estimates he has 300 to 400 autographed baseballs in his apartment. "There are certain places to wait around the stadium — inside and outside. I can't give it away, or everybody will be there."

Turett started collecting more than a decade ago when he was growing up in Baltimore and got his first autograph from Cal Ripken Jr. Like many children, Turett got hooked and was never able to shake the hobby.

He is hardly alone. The art of the autograph started more than a century ago when baseball cards became the first trading cards printed. Back then, kids staked out the ballparks trying to get players to sign their cards.

That trend continues. The only difference is that alongside the children are grown men who never really outgrew the rush they got when they met a major leaguer.

"It's really been an interesting phenomenon and evolution to watch," said Jeffrey Rosenberg, president and CEO of TriStar Productions, the Houston-based company that is a leader in sports memorabilia. "The autograph collectors are not the kids, so to speak, anymore. All people love meeting players and getting autographs."

Rosenberg is one of those older "kids." He loved getting autographs as a child and realized 20 years ago a business opportunity might be present. After looking into the possibilities and starting to sell some autographs, Rosenberg formed TriStar in 1987. The company's first show was held in Houston with a young up-and-comer named Mark McGwire. That and this report from The Houston Chronicle's Megan Manfull

A number of players around the majors, including Astros pitcher Roger Clemens and Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis, are part of TriStar's exclusive autograph team. Like many companies, TriStar charges for autographs, and the players receive compensation for participating.

For years, Kent took part in autograph sessions where fans paid as much as $30 to watch him sign their memorabilia. Now, the growing business bothers him, and he has tried to avoid it the past three or four years.

"It's the American way, isn't it?" he said. "Get something for nothing."

Kent was approached a number of times about signing autographs during the All-Star break. But he turned down all the offers and a lot of money, choosing instead to organize his own session last Saturday. During the planning, Kent was insistent that the session be free.

He knew he wouldn't be able to avoid the business side, however. Local stores had "runners" standing in line for hours to get their merchandise signed, and they were easily recognizable.

They donned Astros T-shirts, but it was obvious they weren't Kent fans. When they reached the table where he sat, he could have been any other star. They were only concerned that he use a blue Sharpie to sign the glossy photos and that he sign their baseballs directly under the All-Star Game insignia.

They are the reason he usually turns down all autograph requests and drives by the people who wait outside the players' parking garage on game nights.

Approached on the street

"My kids are always harassing me when I'm driving them out of the parking lot, because there are always fans outside in the streets begging for autographs, and they are always yelling at me to stop, and I never stop," Kent said.

Rene and Hilda Cardoza have seen Kent's truck pass them on the Congress Street exit plenty of times, which is why they attended his recent autograph session. They are the types of fans Kent wishes he could oblige more often without worrying about the others who try to make money.

The Cardozas have filled their 4-year-old son Roland's room with autographed memorabilia, including photographs of Roland with pros like Astros pitcher Wade Miller. The couple has collected autographs for 15 years, and there's little ques-

tion that the next generation of Cardozas will do the same.

HoustonChronicle.com - Focus on Fans: Baseball loversflock to FanFestBy KEVIN MORAN
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

The John Hancock All-Star FanFest is one way for Houstonians to experience Major League Baseball's All-Star events. Here's a look at what the fans are saying and doing:

Houstonian Chuck Hanovitch was one of many adult fans who gazed wistfully at the thousands of old baseball cards for sale at the FanFest. Like many others who collected Topps baseball cards and chewed wads of gum that came with them in the 1950s and 1960s, Hanovitch's boyhood card collection is long gone.

"Mother threw them all away," said Hanovitch, a passionate baseball fan who was 12 years old when he attended the 1968 All-Star Game at the Astrodome.

"Willie Mays scored the only run in a 1-0 game on a ground-ball, double play," Hanovitch said, describing the action as if it happened this week.

FanFest revived a lot of great memories, Hanovitch said.

"To me, baseball is fun," he said. "It's fun to watch a game with your kids. You played as a child and you can relive it through your kids."

Karl Wullf's "kid," Kathy Beauchamp, is an adult Houstonian with her own kids now.

The All-Star Game gave Beauchamp and the rest of her family a chance to play a great trick on Wulff, an Orange, Calif., resident.

A friend of Beauchamp's who has Astros season tickets gave her the chance to purchase All-Star tickets.

"Dad was the first person I thought of," Beauchamp said as she and her dad strolled around FanFest Monday. "Mom and I set up this elaborate plot to get them here and he thought they were flying out to care for my kids while I went on a business trip to Dallas."

Beauchamp arrived in Houston on Friday and it wasn't until Sunday that his daughter revealed the surprise.

"Isn't that great?" said Beauchamp, beaming ear-to-ear at the prospect of attending Tuesday's game. "She got me the ticket for Father's Day."

John Killen, 9, of Winona, Minn., was just as excited as Beauchamp Monday.

"We're here for the Major League All-Star baseball game," Killen proclaimed proudly as he and his father, also named John Killen, strolled around FanFest Monday. "My dad got tickets from his company."

Young John said he's in Houston to "get autographs from Mets players," particularly his hero, Mike Piazza.

"He's going to play first base this year," John said of Piazza.

Getting to see FanFest and then go to the game Tuesday offered about as good a week as the young Minnesotan could imagine.

"It's real cool," he said.

San Francisco lawyer Marty Glick was in town with his 21-year-old son for the game but was strolling FanFest on his own Monday.

A veteran of a half-dozen or so All-Star games, Glick said he has some old baseball cards but he wasn't buying any at FanFest.

"I just like to look at them," he said.

Glick said he's glad there's something at stake when the two leagues put their best players into action every July now.

The league that wins the All-Star game gives its World Series contender the right to play the first games of the series at home.

"I like that they're playing for something that matters," said Glick. "The (All-Star) managers are a little more careful with the lineups."


Among the thousands attending today's FanFest was Houstonian Steven Newman, 35, who stood in line to test his baseball pitching speed and get a free package of Upper Deck baseball cards.
"I saw a 12-year-old pitch faster than I did," Newman said. "I gotta get in the gym."

Like many who entered the sprawling event in the George R. Brown Convention Center, Newman said he was astonished at the scope of FanFest.

"I said 'Holy Cow! Look at this place,' when I walked in here," Newman said. "It's amazing."

Newman and a friend were strolling the exhibit hall, viewing a huge variety of baseball memorabilia and related products.

Some of the longest lines were at the "Baseball Legends" booth, where fans could get free autographs of true legends of the sport.

"I'm in line to get Harmon Killebrew's signature right now," said Harry Cooper, of Coffee Lake, Tx., near Tyler. "He's a great one to get."

Cooper had already spent half the day in the autograph line, going through each time the former players on hand changed. Besides Killebrew's, Cooper had gathered signatures of former Astro Orlando Palmeiro(cq) and Astros catcher Raul Chavez.

"I'm waiting to get Goose Gossage and Fergie Jenkins," Cooper said.

While Cooper qualified as a die-hard adult fan, 14-year-old Andy Firestone of Los Angeles certainly equaled most adults in the hall in baseball fervor.

"This is my seventh (FanFest) in a row," Firestone said as he took a break from a baseball video game. "My first one was in Cleveland."

Firestone said he, a brother and other relatives planned to see Tuesday's game.

"We come to FanFest mainly to collect the cards," Firestone said. "My most valuable card is a 1960s Andy Koufax card. It's probably worth about $400."

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