Saturday, March 05, 2005
There's only one better way to heat up a cold Milwaukee March day than by talking Brewers baseball: Making the trip to Phoenix to watch it in person.
Hope springs eternal once again in 2005, and the most die-hard Brewers fans are heading west to watch Cactus League action rev into gear. A busy 30 games in 28 days begin this Friday with split-squad games against Oakland and Seattle. And if you're lucky enough to make the trip to Arizona, there's plenty to keep you busy all month long.
In total, Arizona hosts 12 teams in the Cactus League. Nine, including the Brewers, play in the Phoenix area, and three play an hour to the south in Tucson. You'd be surprised how well you can get to know the area, and your favorite baseball team, in just a long weekend in the Valley of the Sun.
Cactus League basics
The Brewers call Maryvale Baseball Park, 3600 N. 51st Ave., their home, a short jaunt west of downtown Phoenix off of Interstate 10. One of the newer facilities in the league, Maryvale got a bad rap from some Midwesterners when it first opened, who claim the park is in a rough area of town. While it's not like its upscale Scottsdale counterpart where the Giants play, Maryvale is just fine. You probably wouldn't pick the neighborhood as your nighttime hangout, but it's spacious and friendly with a field shaped just like Miller Park.
The author, posing from the berm at Maryvale Baseball Park (aka heaven)
It should be noted that though the games don't count, you can actually see some fierce competition during March. Sure, the veterans treat Spring Training as a tuneup, and you'll regularly see starting pitchers toss about two innings. But for future stars and players "on the bubble," Spring Training is a chance for these kids to make the team. This spring promises a battle between Wes Helms, Russell Branyan and former Brewers star Jeff Cirillo, all competing to start at third (my money is on Cirillo, if only for sentimental reasons).
With the Brewers star minor leaguers finally coming of age, too, you'll get an extended look at the teams of the future. You'll be astounded at the power of Prince Fielder and the maturity of Rickie Weeks. Look for new flame-throwing pitcher Jose Capellan, too. It's finally a little encouraging to be a Brewers fan.
The Brewers minor league system trains here, too. Since all players in Spring Training wear the same uniform, at times it feel like an army of Brewers is converging on the park. Get to games as early as you can, because watching these kids practice is an experience you won't get in Milwaukee. They run from practice field to field, chatting and mingling with the fans. Most will sign autographs if you ask nicely.
All of the day games start at the same time, 1:05 p.m. The Crew also plays two night games, on the 15th and 27th. Tickets range in price at the various ballparks, but here's an insider's tip: buy the cheapest ticket you can find, usually less than $5. At most parks, including Maryvale, the outfield is called the berm, a sloped grassy area where you can spread out and watch the game at a relaxing incline. If you position yourself in the right place, catching home run balls isn't too tough -- different teams draw bigger crowds, but not surprisingly, the attendance is frequently sparse at Brewers games -- which means it's easy to take home a souvenir.
If you want a real seat, just play it cool and sit somewhere that isn't occupied. With the exception of Cubs games at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, these games rarely sell out, and the laid-back ushers really don't mind where you plop yourself down and catch some sun.
Wisconsin native Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen West outside Scottsdale
You'll notice a big difference from Miller Park if you find yourself sitting in a real seat, however: the proximity to the field. The Cactus League ballparks are more than just intimate; you'll almost feel like you are sitting on the field. Foul balls are a plenty, so keep your eye on the game and bring your glove.
If possible, plan your trip around days when the Brewers play a mix of home and away games. All of the stadiums have their own unique charm, but some of the nicest parks include the Angels' Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Cubs' HoHoKam Park, the Royals' and Rangers' Surprise Stadium and the Giants' Scottsdale Stadium.
A week of sun and baseball may tire you out, but the fun doesn't stop after sundown in Phoenix. Tempe, the campus of Arizona State University, sports a thriving collegiate nightlife, while Phoenix and Scottsdale offer a more upscale bar experience. If you must take a break from baseball -- the Crew plays every day but March 16 -- you can try a number of site trips. Some worth noting:
Daytrip to Nogales, Mexico. If you're in Tucson for a Brewers game (March 12 vs. the Rockies or March 25 vs. the White Sox), drive a little farther south to Nogales. You can walk across the border and shop or just take in the sights. Critics will tell you Nogales isn't "real Mexico," and they have a point, but it's a fun change from the ordinary. If you are really adventurous, plan a trip to Rocky Point in Mexico. Just make sure you go during ASU's Spring Break.
Climb Camelback Mountain. Considered a novice climbing experience, it's still plenty challenging. Clear away a couple hours of your schedule for the free and breathtaking experience just north of Phoenix.
Play some golf on one of Arizona's 300 courses. Considered one of the world's top spots, it's a fair bet you haven't been able to break out your clubs in Milwaukee for months.
Visit Taliesin West in Scottsdale, the architecture school by Wisconsin's own Frank Lloyd Wright. It's just as beautiful as the Spring Green original but completely different. Take the tour, it's well worth it. Wright also designed Phoenix's Biltmore Hotel, which offers tours, as well.
Drive north to Sedona, a beautiful artist community near Flagstaff.
Check out the cultural events Phoenix has to offer. March 4 is their First Friday event. More info is available at the Arizona Department of Tourism Web site, arizonaguide.com.
No matter how you plan your trip, keep this phrase in mind: "It's Spring Training for everyone." Keep your schedule flexible and take the opportunity to relax. It's a sure bet you'll come back tan, rested and ready for the start of the 2005 baseball season with renewed vim and vigor for your Milwaukee Brewers.
Friday, March 04, 2005
Wrapping up the Academy Awards for another year ...
Neither "The Sea Inside" nor "Born into Brothels" - which won, respectively, in the foreign language and documentary feature category - has played Hampton Roads yet. But the Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg will screen both films in April, with "Born into Brothels" opening on April 9 and "The Sea Inside" on April 23. The Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk plans to feature "Born into Brothels" in its next Non-Fiction in Film series, which starts in May. The Naro also could book "The Sea Inside" later in the spring.
When Cate Blanchett won for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator," why did no one point out this fascinating distinction: Blanchett is the first performer ever to win an Academy Award for portraying a person who had won an Oscar in real life? (Hepburn, of course, won a record four statuettes in acting categories.)
With that in mind, here's a trivia question to stump your friends: Before Blanchett, who was the only performer ever to win for portraying a real-life Oscar nominee? The answer: Jason Robards, who won the supporting actor category in 1977 for playing Dashiell Hammett in "Julia." Hammett was nominated in 1944 for his screenplay for "Watch on the Rhine."
The reviews were mixed for Chris Rock's performance as Oscar host. Overall, the ratings were down about 5 percent from last year, but the numbers were up among younger viewers and among viewers in the nation's bigger cities, and the drop in ratings was smaller than the drop seen earlier this year for the Grammys and the Golden Globes.
INDIE FILM SEMINAR
Don't forget that representatives of Cavalier Films will be at the Kimball Theatre at 7 tonight for a discussion of how independent films are made and financed. There is no admission charge.
The Charlottesville company, run by Barry Sisson and Marc Lieberman, specializes in films shot in the state of Virginia on budgets between $500,000 and $800,000. For more information, call (877) 974-7444 or go online at cavalierfilms .com.
"The Passion of the Christ" will return to about 750 theaters across the nation next weekend as part of a plan to re-release the film every Easter season. At least one local theater - AMC Hampton Towne Centre 24 - has confirmed its booking, and others may follow. The "Passion" that will arrive on March 11 is a new version of the film that created such a sensation last year. Director Mel Gibson has cut about seven minutes of the goriest violence, though presumably the film will still receive an R-rating.
The Williamsburg Film Festival is scheduled for Wednesday-March 12 at the Holiday Inn Patriot Center. This annual event, which focuses on the culture surrounding the old B-Westerns, has grown to become one of the best of its kind in the United States. The festival includes movies, TV shows, serials, music and memorabilia related to classic Westerns. Many performers and actors will be on hand to tell stories and sign autographs. For more information, go online to williamsburgfilmfestival.org.
The Naro in Norfolk has started its Psycho Cinema series on Tuesday nights, focusing on films that explore the nature of the pathological mind. The next two weeks will feature "Undertow" on Tuesday and "The Woodsman" on March 15. "The Woodsman" got a lot of advance notice but failed to get a wide release when Kevin Bacon did not get an Oscar nomination. This could be its only local screening.
The Naro is also sponsoring a new event - The Visual Vocabulary of Film, a six-week seminar meeting every Wednesday night (starting Wednesday) that will use clips of classic films to show how great directors and cinematographers use visual style and images to create a universal language. The screenings will be held at The Studio for Healing Arts, one block north of the Naro. Seminar fee is $75. For more information, call 625-6275.
'ROBOTS' ON IMAX
Don't forget that the new animated film "Robots" opens next week on the 3-D IMAX screen at the Virginia Air & Space Center, the same day it opens in theaters nationwide. Advance tickets for the IMAX feature are on sale at the museum's front desk or by phone at 727-0900, extension 703.
Writer-director Jeffrey Kramer will be at Regent University in Virginia Beach tonight for a private screening of his new film "Smile," based on a real-life story involving Operation Smile. The film -which stars Beau Bridges, Sean Astin, Linda Hamilton and Cheri Oteri - opens nationally on April 8. Tonight's screening is not open to the public; it is a private screening for staff members at Operation Smile staff members and Regent University.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Watching the boys of spring
Going to spring training games is more popular than ever.
March 3, 2005: 10:23 AM EST
By Les Christie, CNN/Money staff writer
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - It's March and thousands of baseball fans are getting a jump on the season -- and escaping the last gasp of winter -- by flying down to sunny Florida or Arizona to see their favorite teams play spring training games.
Many of these fans love the slower paced, more pastoral environment of spring training.
"It's a small town kind of feel," says Eric Pastore, a musician from Staten Island who, along with his wife Wendy, is on a quest to photograph every professional baseball field in the world. They've amassed about 300 photos in the past four years and Eric believes they have about 1,200 to go. (See the pictures at their Web site www.digitalballparks.com.)
Pastore points out that the stands at a field like the Dodgers use in Vero Beach are only seven or eight rows deep. "You're a lot closer to the field," he says. "The players are more amicable. They're glad to be back playing and they're very receptive to the fans."
Attending spring training games has become increasingly popular. In January, when the New York Yankees put tickets on sale for all 15 spring-training home games, they sold out in just three hours.
In 2004, 3.3 million fans attended games. That's an average of 7,169 a game, according to Major League Baseball, an increase of 12.7 percent over 2003. (For a peak at the economic impact of spring training, see The delusions of spring.)
Easier to go
Several organizations offer spring training package deals and tours.
One of these is Elderhostel, the non-profit organization that provides learning experiences for those over 55 years old. Elderhostel has offered baseball spring training experiences for about 10 years and fans can choose from 10 different trips, five each to Arizona and Florida.
Cheryl Gold is the director of the Elderhostel program at Eckerd College, a private liberal arts school in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Annie Miller runs the baseball program there. They schedule lectures, museum tours, stadium tours, conferences, as well as three baseball games a week for 80 to 100 elderhostlers each year.
Baseball and seniors have a natural affinity. Most seniors grew up in a time when baseball was the undisputed number one sport in America.
"Their love of baseball started when they were really young and they still associate it with good memories," says Gold.
The spring training experience is more like the baseball they grew up with. "Real grass, small fields," says Miller. "It's really exciting."
Meet and greet
A large part of the charm of spring training is the proximity to the players. Vets are more likely to interact with the fans, sign autographs and such. During pre-game practices you can hear the instructions the coaches call out as they teach the finer details of the game.
"I remember the workouts better than the games," says Doug Geller, an upstate New York resident, who used to go see the Yankees play spring training games in Fort Lauderdale.
Bill O'Connor, director of continuing education at Stetson University in DeLand Florida, says sometimes the closeness can be overdone.
"One year when the Indians were good we had about 50 elderhostelers sign up for a program that went to the Indians' training camp," he says. "They stayed at the same motel as the Indians and some would go around knocking on players' doors at night. I had to say, 'People, you can't do that.'"
The Dodgers have been especially accommodating. "They even let the elderhostelers sit on the bench during practice and players come over to talk," says O'Connor.
The Elderhostel programs include accommodation, game tickets, and ground transportation, and last for five days to a week. They cost between $565 and $699, double occupancy, meals, and transportation. They often include such extras as lectures by baseball experts, meetings with retired ballplayers, and looks at archival film footage.
"We even take them out on the college field and the Eckerd coach, Bill Mathews, pitches batting practice for them," says Miller. "It's really fun to see them out there hitting. One woman last year was nearly 90."
A few years ago they even played real games, but Miller rethought that policy. "There were 75-year-olds sliding into second base," she says.
Another organization, Spring Training Tours, which started as the Oakland A's official spring training booking company, now books trips for 12 other teams as well.
They have a variety of packages that can run from two to seven nights and can include a welcome reception with club personnel and a "chalk talk" or season preview with a manager or coach. They start at about $500 for a two-night program, including airfare.
Spring training games started on March 2 and run through the beginning of April.
Team Introduces Itself at State's High School Basketball Tourney
CHICAGO, March 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Following the recent announcement that Chicago now has its own WNBA team (tipping off its first game in May 2006), the team will extend its reach statewide at the Illinois High School Association's Class AA girls basketball tournament this week in Bloomington/Normal.
WNBA player and Illinois high school basketball star Tangela Smith, currently a forward/center for the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs, will join WNBA team president and CEO Margaret Stender at a banquet honoring the Class AA girls basketball's tournament teams and coaches tomorrow evening (Thurs., March 3). Tangela Smith will remain in Bloomington on Friday to sign autographs; meet the players, families and attending fans. She'll also be on hand to talk about her excitement that Chicago, one of the nation's largest cities, has joined the WNBA family.
"While our new WNBA team will play in Chicago, we're confident it will quickly become a point of pride for our entire state," said Margaret Stender. "The Class AA tournament is a great place to extend this exciting news to basketball players and fans statewide. We hope that having Tangela meet the players and talk about the league will serve as added inspiration for all the young women who have already accomplished so much and who will be putting it all out there on the courts this weekend during the state finals."
The Chicago WNBA team will begin season play in May of 2006. All home games will be played at the UIC-Pavilion on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago. Season tickets for the Chicago WNBA team's 17 home games and 2 pre-season games can be purchased by calling 1-877-329-WNBA (9622) or on-line at the team's website http://www.chicagownba.com . The Chicago WNBA has not yet announced its team nickname. That information will be released at a later date.
For information on the Illinois High School Association's Class AA girls basketball tournament, visit http://www.IHSA.org . For more information on the WNBA or additional player information, visit http://wnba.com .
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
by John Griffin
ESPN2 to provide in-car camera simulcast of season-opening IndyCar Series event:
ESPN2 will provide viewers with a unique look at IRL IndyCar Series racing with a live telecast utilizing only in-car cameras during the Toyota Indy 300 on March 6. The coverage will be a simulcast of ESPN’s coverage of the race from Homestead-Miami Speedway.
As part of the in-car camera only simulcast:
• ESPN2 will use in-car cameras in the cars of Patrick Carpentier, Scott Dixon, Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick, Tomas Scheckter and Scott Sharp.
• The ESPN2 simulcast will feature no national commercial breaks and only five local breaks. ESPN2’s local commercial breaks will be taken at a different time than ESPN commercials to ensure viewers will be able to see race action at all times.
• ESPN2 and ESPN will utilize separate announce teams. The ESPN2 simulcast will feature Gary Gerould calling play-by-play and 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack as the analyst. ESPN’s coverage will pair commentator Todd Harris with analysts Gil de Ferran and Scott Goodyear and pit reporters Dr. Jerry Punch, Jamie Little and Vince Welch.
ESPN and ESPN2 first combined to offer a standard coverage and in-car camera simulcast in 1994 with an Indy-style race from Nazareth, Pa. It marked the first time any network utilized the innovative concept.
ESPN and ABC Sports’ telecasts of the first two 2005 IndyCar Series races will feature continuous coverage of race action through all national commercial breaks with “Side-By-Side,” a split screen of the race and commercials. ESPN will debut the new way of viewing open wheel racing at the Toyota Indy 300. ABC Sports will utilize “Side-By-Side” on the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 presented by Argent Mortgage from Phoenix International Raceway Saturday, March 19 at 3 p.m.
In addition, ESPN360, formerly ESPN Broadband, will provide a live split-screen simultaneous display of ESPN and ESPN2's coverage, allowing users to see ESPN’s side-by-side concept and ESPN2’s unique in-car camera perspective at the same time. ESPN360 will showcase IndyCar content throughout the season, with live and on-demand coverage of select IndyCar Series and Menards Infiniti Pro
Series races, plus extensive analysis and live action from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway throughout the month of May.
Drake prepares for full season with Vision Racing:
Note – The following story is part of a series previewing each of the teams competing in the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series™
Jay Drake has been racing since he was 8. Now, at 35, he will take another step toward competing in the Indianapolis 500 when he races full time in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series™ in 2005. The series will race twice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including the weekend of the 89th Indianapolis 500.
“I’m just thrilled to death and excited to have an opportunity like this, to step ahead and further my career,” said Drake.
Drake’s career already includes top-five finishes in USAC midgets and silver crowns and a national championship last year in USAC sprint cars.
Last year also included a one-race effort in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series at Indianapolis, where he finished fourth.
“Last year, running the speedway in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, it was a dream come true for me just to get to race at that racetrack,” Drake said. “It was something I’d always dreamed of and never really expected a chance to get to do it. And to do it, actually run what I thought was a very successful performance to get in that car and get up to speed as quickly as we did, that’s just a testament for (team manager) Larry Curry. He was able to coach me along quickly and get me comfortable enough into that car. When he told me I could go out there and run it wide open, I believed it. I went out and did it. It worked.”
Drake, who has worked with Curry as part of Tony Stewart’s USAC team, will continue that relationship in 2005 as Curry manages Vision Racing, a team formed in February by Tony and Laura George.
“I’ve worked with Jay as Tony Stewart’s team won the sprint car championship last year,” said Curry, who also was the chief mechanic on Stewart’s 1997 IndyCar Series championship team. “I’m really, really pleased that he’s getting an opportunity at this also. I think that Jay is one of those guys that maybe has been overlooked a little bit. So we’re planning on getting a chance to showcase his talent.”
“I always have high expectations of myself, and if there’s any pressure, I put it on myself,” Drake said. “I expect to succeed in any type of racing that I do, and that’s no different here.”
Capsule look at Vision Racing
Owner: Tony and Laura George
Driver: Jay Drake
Team manager: Larry Curry
Chief mechanic: Richard Armour
Jay Drake: “It’s an awesome opportunity in any case, and then to do it with this caliber of a team, what this caliber of a team is going to become, is obviously very thrilling to me. Fortunately I have some guys involved with the team already that can help me out with that learning process, too, hopefully give me good cars. That’s a big part of it. Having good equipment is a big part of getting around any kind of racetrack, and I’m confident that we’re going to have that. It will be up to me to shorten my learning curve as much as possible and see what we can do with it.”
Target, XM Satellite Radio and Phoenix International Raceway bring Grammy winners to IndyCar Series:
Target, XM Satellite Radio and Phoenix International Raceway announced March 2 that Grammy Award-winning Velvet Revolver will perform at the Phoenix International Raceway Speed Jam on March 19, following the IRL IndyCar Series XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 race. The concert will begin immediately following the race with an opening set by Silvertide. The Speed Jam event also will feature the Indy Racing Fan Experience and an all-star lineup of motocross athletes.
Velvet Revolver, comprised of Scott Weiland (lead vocals), Slash (guitar), Duff McKagan (bass), Matt Sorum (drums) and Dave Kushner (guitar) is touring arenas in connection with their platinum-plus debut Contraband album, featuring the Grammy Award-winning and No. 1 rock single “Slither,” as well as the band’s other No. 1 rock hit “Fall to Pieces” and their new single “Dirty Little Thing.”
Contraband debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, selling more than 250,000 copies. Notably, this marks the best-ever debut for a new rock artist in the SoundScan era. Contraband sold more than three million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone calls the album a “powerhouse,” Newsweek describes the band as “truly explosive” and Maxim says “Slash and Scott Weiland bring unpredictability back to rock.”
“Target wants the younger fan to check out the exhilaration of IndyCar Series racing and this unique partnership will allow that to happen,” said John Remington, vice president of communications for Target. “Target is very excited to bring together such an exciting entertainment package for the Phoenix area and IndyCar racing. Fans will see a great race and be able to rock with Velvet Revolver.”
Motocross athlete and Glendale, Ariz.-native Nate Adams, who took first place in Freestyle Motocross in the 2004 X Games, will appear at Speed Jam along with Tommy Clowers, multiple X Games medalist in the X Games Step Up. Jeff Tilton, first place winner at Adrenaline X and Vans Triple Crown Biggest Whip, 19-year-old phenom Niki Danielson and 1999 IFMA Rookie of the Year John Distler will appear as well.
The riders will sign autographs and perform freestyle motocross demos at various times throughout the weekend just outside of Turn Two at Phoenix International Raceway.
Designed to bring fans of all ages closer to the excitement of the IndyCar Series, the IndyCar Series Fan Experience is divided into four properties –Pole Position, Tech, XM Live Stage and Pit Stop. Fans can experience what it is like to be an IndyCar Series driver or crew member and learn about the cars in an entertaining fashion.
“This will be the first concert held at Phoenix International Raceway, and we’re pleased to have such a talented group like Velvet Revolver performing for our fans,” said Phoenix International Raceway president Bryan R. Sperber. “With the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200, Indy Racing Fan Experience, Velvet Revolver and motocross exhibition, everyone here will be in for an adrenaline-charged weekend.”
Tickets for Speed Jam are available to the public for $20 and include admission into the IndyCar Series race on March 19, along with admission to the concert and motocross events.
Both events will take place outside the track near Turn Two following the race. Fans can order tickets to Speed Jam by calling 1-866-408-RACE (7223) and mention the promotional code: Target. Tickets also are available through the Phoenix International Raceway website at www.phoenixraceway.com. The IndyCar Series XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 race will be nationally televised on ABC at 3 p.m. (EST) and nationally broadcast by the IMS Radio Network.
The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on March 6, 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised live on ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network and indycar.com. The 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season also opens on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 17.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
OVER 250 city boxing fans recently enjoyed a dinner date with one of their heroes.
Smokin' Joe Frazier, the heavyweight legend from Philadelphia, was the main attraction at Kevin Sanders' latest sporting dinner at the East Of England Showground.
Frazier, a rare visitor to these shores, gave a short talk about his career and then took part in a question and answer session with his son Marvis, who was also a successful heavyweight fighter.
Then at the end of the evening he spent an hour posing for photographs and signing autographs.
Frazier, now 60, was the first man to defeat Muhammad Ali as a professional in 1971 and the guests watched a recording of that bout on the big screen along with many of his earlier contests.
Frazier made 10 successful defences of the title and ended up fighting Ali three times – the last occasion being the famous Thriller in Manila.
Frazier spoke at length about Ali.
"He was a great guy. He gave plenty to the fight game and it's a pity the fight game isn't giving him anything back," said Frazier.
"Ali was irresistible – that's why I fought him three times.
"And I tell you what, he was afraid of me. It was because I was such a little guy. He didn't like little guys. He wasn't afraid of George Foreman or Sonny Liston, but I scared him.
"He was okay was Ali. But one thing really disappointed me about him. It was after we first fought. If I whupped him he promised to crawl across the ring and say I was The Greatest.
"Well, I whupped him but he never went through with his promise. I think he was too busy making his way to the hospital after all those body punches I threw at him."
But Ali didn't figure on Frazier's list of all-time greats. That honour went to Joe Louis closely followed by Rocky Marciano, Primo Carnera and George Foreman.
And when asked who he thought was the best boxer to come out of Britain, Smokin' Joe paused for a while and said: ''I can't think of one."
Frazier also said he felt Lennox Lewis had retired far too early – ''at 38 he's just a baby,'' he said – and he believed there was still time for Mike Tyson to ''start all over again".
Frazier spoke a lot about his childhood and recalled how he used to help his father, who was a bootlegger.
"And it was my father who made me a champion fighter. One day he and his mates were drunk and told me when I was small that I was going to be a champion. So I grew up that way. I believed them. I knew where I was going.''
Marvis Frazier, who fought Larry Holmes and Tyson, explained why he quit boxing.
He said: ''My dad always said to me, it was time to quit when it felt like you were doing it as a job. It felt like that, so I quit and now I'm a preacher trying to keep kids off the street."
A minute's silence was held during the evening for Andy Smith, the St Ives-based trainer of Dave 'Boy' Green and Joe Bugner who died last week after a long illness.
Monday, February 28, 2005
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Million Dollar Baby" director Clint Eastwood was the big winner at the Oscars on Sunday, but spare a thought for Martin Scorsese and Annette Bening, forced once again to smile through their disappointment.
Following is a list of some of the night's movers and shakers, losers and heart-breakers.
AND THE WINNERS ARE...
- Eastwood was the undisputed champion of the night. He won best director, and his boxing drama also won best picture, best actress and best supporting actor. The only disappointment for the 74-year-old is that he did not make it a personal treble; Jamie Foxx won the best actor category for "Ray."
- Hilary Swank won her second Oscar for playing a woman who convinces a grizzled boxing trainer, played by Eastwood, to take her to the top in "Million Dollar Baby."
- Jamie Foxx was overwhelming favorite to take the best actor Oscar for "Ray," his widely acclaimed portrayal of soul music legend Ray Charles, and the pundits proved right.
- Many felt Morgan Freeman was long overdue a golden statuette, and he finally won with his fourth attempt. He played Eastwood's aging sidekick in "Million Dollar Baby."
AND THE LOSERS ARE...
- Martin Scorsese, the respected director of leading Oscar contender "The Aviator," has picked up seven nominations during a groundbreaking career, but has yet to win anything.
Not only did Eastwood pip him to the post for best director, but "Million Dollar Baby" also eclipsed "The Aviator" for best film. His consolation? Five Oscars for "The Aviator," but mostly in minor categories.
- Bening lost out to Swank for best actress for the second time. Some had expected Bening to take the award for her portrayal of fading stage diva Julia Lambert in "Being Julia," but Swank prevailed. In 2000, Bening was up for best actress in "American Beauty," but lost to Swank for "Boys Don't Cry." This year was Bening's third Oscar nomination.
- Brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, poised to leave the Miramax Films studio they founded, went out with more of a whimper than a bang. Miramax got 20 nominations for films it distributed last year, including "The Aviator" and "Finding Neverland," but missed out on the coveted best picture prize.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Welcome to the red carpet coverage of the 77th Annual Academy Awards, where ninemsn has all the fashion action.
12:10am - Halle Berry brushes her way past as a very late arrival to the red carpet, but not before stopping to shmooze with some of the bigger US entertainment media. She just won the worst actor award at the 'anti-Oscars', the Razzie awards last night - so who can blame her for being a little brusque?
11:59am - Pierce Brosnan wanders past but the former Bond makes an unconvincing excuse of having lost his voice. A weak attempt at sign-language completes the brush-off.
11:57am - The fleeting glimpse of Director Martin Scorsese is a memorable one as he comes across all Godfather like in a black suit and those eyebrows. He only has time to to refer to Cate Blanchett as "the best, the best" with Italian panache before shuffling off to speak to 'important' people.
11:55am - Hollywood's man of the hour Jamie Foxx, is overcome by a bout of humility, bringing his daughter to the Red Carpet in a stylish blue pin-striped suit. He's virtually a shoo-in for Best Actor in Ray and could also pick up the Best Supporting Actor gong for Collateral.
11:53am - Thomas Baden-Howell tries to laugh off strange questions about being Australia's favourite ratbag and ends up straring at his shoes and looking uncomfortable.
11:51am - Annette Bening and husband Warren Beatty are playing it smart, she in a classic strapless dress and he in a classic tux... thankfully no cleavage here.
11:49am - Samuel L Jackson has gone all biblical in a zen-like black suit adorned with a small simple cross. He's nominated The Incredibles as his favourite film, which seems to indicate he may be sick of shooting people on screen all the time.
11:45am - Johnny Depp is typically eccentric in a weird dark blue tux with a black adorned silk choker thing masquerading as a bow tie. He's accompanied by long-term partner Vanessa Paradis and looks uncomfortable on the red carpet, but would you expect anything less.
11:43am - Cate Blanchett looks stunning in a yellow off-the-shoulder Valentino dress with a beautiful brooch on her left shoulder. 'Our Cate' says she's happy and strangely calm, adding that there's nothing she can do now but wait and enjoy the show.
11:40am - A sunglass-clad Morgan Freeman looks like he's stepped off the set of Men in Black, and he's equally all class. "It's mushy to say but it was an honour," referring to working with Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby.
11:35am - A beaming Alan Alda struts down the carpet, saying he was stunned to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. "I was totally out of it, I didn't understand I had been nominated." He looks as happy as a kid in a candy shop, after all M*A*S*H* was years ago.
11:32am - Salma Hayek is all cleavage in her blue Prada number, that looks like flamenco-style crossed with a mermaid. She'll be presenting an award for the fourth time.
11:25am - Clive Owen looks dapper in a classic tux, where he'll vie for the Best Supporting Actor award for Closer. He says he's simply honoured to be in such great company, up against Alan Alda, Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman.
11:24am - A platinum blonde Scarlett Johannson arrives in a plain black dress, which has been given the official thumbs down by the fashion police.
11:23am - Drew Barrymore arrives in a strapless basic black gown. Despite being considered a veteran of the awards, she's still thrilled to be a part of the Oscars. "It's an amazing tradition," she says.
11:15am - Virgina Madsen is in a jovial and generous mood when asked about going head to head with 'our Cate', after being nominated for best Actress in Sideways. "If Cate takes it home right on", she says in the full knowledge she's speaking to the Australian media.
11:13am - Hillary Swank joins the red carpet throng, and could become the youngest ever actress to win two Academy Awards after being nominated for Best Actress for her role as a female boxer in Million Dollar Baby. She'll be up against 'our' Cate Blanchett, but she's already gone through the tough stuff, saying she's 'black and blue' from pinching herself over the nomination. She also seems to have put her dress on back-to-front in the excitement.
11:09am - Australians Sejong Park and Andrew Gregory are lapping up the big-time Oscars action, nominated for Best Short Animated film with Birthday Boy. They'll be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Harvie Krumpet, made by fellow Australian Adam Elliot. Read more about Birthday Boy here.
11:08am - Leonardo diCaprio heaps adulation on Aviator co-star Cate Blanchett, calling her "the new Meryl Streep".
10:59am - "Australians are happy people" purrs Antonio Banderas, accompanied by wife Melanie Griffiths, who is walking with a cane for some reason.
10:55am - P.Diddy continues to try to rewrite the style books and can't wait to tell the media he's wearing a Sean John suit. However a request to see the label doesn't go down too well and he soon shuffles off to find a more adoring media.
10:47am - Now we get our first glimpse of Closer star Natalie Portman, nominated in the best supporting actress category, and who looks like a wealthy peasant in a green dress. Amazingly she's attending her first-ever Oscar's ceremony, but maintains her poise despite the pleading for 'just one question' from the world's media.
10:46am - Breaking up all the black tie glamour is a garishly dressed Adam Duritz, lead singer from The Counting Crows, who will perform a song penned for the big awards ceremony later today.
10:38am - The young star of The Phantom of the Opera, Emmy Rossum, is gorgeous in a strapless blood red dress with a plunging neckline, belying her mere 19 years.
10:35am - Director Taylor Hackford seems unperturbed by the fact he could walk away with a Best Director Oscar for his work on Ray. He's accompanied by his wife, Helen Mirren who looks literally like a million dollars, adorned with antique jewellry.
10:30am - Film director Mike Leigh, nominated for Vera Drake is enjoying the "crazy and fabulous" atmosphere, despite being British.
10:20am - Beyonce has the crowd in raptures as she makes her way toward the Kodak theatre in a gorgeous slinky black number with her hair tied back and in control. Her boyfriend, US rapper Jay-Z, is by her side after finally being released into the Beyonce limelight.
10:10am - A fit and healthy looking Morgan Spurlock is one of the first name stars to wander down the red carpet, where he's hoping to snatch an Oscar for his documentary Super Size Me.
JUPITER — Carlos Delgado, the newly signed slugger for the Marlins, plans to ride his bike to and from the ballpark during spring training and is aware of the mob awaiting him.
Surviving the growing gantlet of autograph-seekers may require the combined skills of Lance Armstrong and John Hancock.
Carlos Delgado of the Florida Marlins is mobbed by autograph-seekers as he leaves Roger Dean Stadium.
A bat signed by Barry Bonds can bring $800. An authentic jersey with Alex Rodriguez's signature commands $350-$700. Prices vary depending on object signed, ability to verify authenticity and other factors. Prices for a signed ball from some top players training from Jupiter to Port St. Lucie:
• Miguel Cabrera, Marlins $30-$60
• Scott Rolen, Cardinals $50-100
• Carlos Beltran, Mets $50-$120
• Mike Piazza, Mets $100-200
• Albert Pujols, Cardinals $125-$300
SOURCE: Beckett Baseball magazine
Ground rules for autographs
Before exhibition games start:
• For Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter: To catch arriving players, some autograph-seekers line up at 7 a.m. or earlier at the gate near the entrance to the Marlins' locker room on the left-field side of the stadium. Another option is to get players going between practice fields for workouts that last from about 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• For Cardinals at Roger Dean: Stadium officials are urging fans to seek autographs from behind fences on practice fields behind the right-field side of the stadium before or between workouts from about 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• For Mets at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie: The best spot is adjacent to Field 2, which is the field closest to the fans' entrance. Some players will sign before workouts, around 9:30 a.m., but the best bet is after they are done, around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. The players' parking lot is off-limits, but players often will walk to the gate and sign before entering or leaving the clubhouse.
Once spring training games start:
• For Marlins and Cardinals: Gates open at 11 a.m. for 1 p.m. games. Cardinals fans may want to try for autographs at the grassy berm in the right-field corner. Marlins fans can line up along the edge of the stands near the bullpen in left field.
• For Mets: Gates open 90 minutes before games begin.
"As athletes we appreciate the enthusiasm of people coming out, but they also have to understand we're here to work," Delgado said. "I'm willing to spend the time with the fans as long as it doesn't interfere with my work and with my teammates' work."
Complicating the crush of casual fans seeking a souvenir is the seam-busting growth of the autographed sports-collectible industry, now estimated at $2 billion a year. The hard-core collectors and dealers sometimes line up before dawn at the ballpark or follow players to the golf course. Grown-ups arrive with backpacks full of merchandise, set up lawn chairs, and make it almost a full-time job at this time of the year.
Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis said he has seen children shoved out of the way for an autograph.
"You can't knock a little kid over to get an autograph," Willis said. "That's the strangest thing I've seen here. They get frantic."
Arthur Swers, who describes himself as a collector from Floyd, Va., said he goes out of his way to be polite. When he goes to different parks, he changes hats to increase the odds of a friendly reception. Tuesday he wore a Marlins cap.
"I can understand the players' hesitation at people making money off them," Swers said. "But let's get real. The players are not hurting for money. If one out of 100 fans is making $40 off a signature, so what?"
At Mets camp in Port St. Lucie, pitcher Pedro Martinez said he does not mind signing for kids and genuine fans, but he is not so happy about helping somebody make a quick buck on eBay. One of his autographs on a ball can fetch $150 to $300, according to Beckett Baseball magazine.
"Some of the professional autograph-seekers, they want you sign it in a certain place and sign it a certain way," Martinez said. "And they are using the kids and they give the kids the ball and tell them to get the autographs. Each year it seems to get worse."
Martinez said he tries to take the time to make a neat, legible signature. The problem is deciding when to stop signing, he said.
"We are in a no-win situation," Martinez said. "I'll sign for 30 minutes, 45 minutes sometimes an hour, but you eventually have to cut it off. When you do that you get the boos."
Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd, a former Marlin, agreed: "Some of them beg, but sometimes you really just have to go. We try to help them out as much as you can, but sometimes it's not enough."
Mets fan Dan Reale of Fairfield, Conn., likes the casual atmosphere of spring training and hopes it is not ruined by greed. He brought his children, Brigid, Danny and Gabe, on Tuesday.
"The kids really interact with the players," Reale said. "It's much better than at Shea. It's such a thrill for the kids."
He can see the atmosphere changing little by little.
"They shouldn't let anybody in here that is going to sell it," Reale said. "It just kind of turns me off on the whole process. I can understand when players won't sign."
The relentless push of the autograph industry has forced Roger Dean Stadium to make some changes in the past year, said General Manager Rob Rabenecker. Example: Last year the stadium sold $90 bleacher seats for a joint autograph session with the Cardinal and Marlins. Autograph-seekers bought up the tickers like scalpers and camped out as early as 7 a.m. for the 1 p.m. event. Then again, nabbing the right signatures from Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera or Mike Lowell can cover those costs in minutes.
"It got out of hand," Rabenecker said. "The professional autograph people were able to infiltrate it, if that's the right word."
This year the teams will hold separate autograph sessions, with tighter controls on ticket purchases. In addition, stadium officials say they plan to discourage people for seeking autographs from Cardinals players in their cars at the parking lot gate this year for safety concerns.
Pitcher Mark Mulder, who joined the Cardinals from Oakland, said he keeps track of faces.
"You can kind of tell who's selling them and who's not," Mulder said. "It's always funny when an 8-year-old kid comes up to with a brand new major-league baseball and goes, 'Sweet spot.' I just don't do it. It's not because I don't want to sign on the sweet spot, it's just that they just turn around and sell it. I've seen it before where a kid asks for an autograph, I sign, and they go running up to a 40-year-old guy, and that guys gives the kid $2. It's like, come on."
Four days ago, two men followed Mulder and two teammates to a private golf course 10 miles from the ballpark. Somehow, they got past the security gate and approached him for an autograph.
Mulder refused. The men drove off when a security guard caught up.
"I don't mind doing it, but there's times and places when you can do it and when you can't," Mulder said.