Sakkari takes down #1 seed, highlights Day 5 of Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic

Photo credit: @Tennis

By Marko Ukalovic

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Déjà vu doesn’t happen often, but for Maria Sakkari she tends to make a habit of it when she performs in San Jose.  Down one set and one game away from being bounced in straight sets, the Greek freak made a remarkable comeback to defeat the number one seeded Elina Sviotlina 1-6 7-6 6-3 in quarterfinal action on Day 5 at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on Thursday afternoon.

Last year at this same tournament Sakkari was in similar situation against Danielle Collins and fought her way back to win in the semi-finals. This time around she was down three games twice in the second (4-1 and 5-2) when she won four games in a row forcing Sviotlina to win the 12th game and the ensuing tiebreaker that Sakkari won 7-3 to prolong the match into the third set.

Sakkari cruised in the third winning it in 46 minutes to punch her ticket to the semi-finals where she will face Saisai Zheng.

“Maybe it’s something about this place,” said the 23-year-old Athens native about her comebacks in this tournament. “I really feel comfortable playing on the center court here. Really feels like home.”

Sakkari finished with seven aces on the day and 7/10 on first serve points won. She credits her serve as one of her main improvements from a year ago.

“My served has improved a lot,” said Sakkari. “I know today wasn’t one of my best hitting the ball, but my serve, my forehand is my weapon now when I was struggling (with them) I would say two years ago.”

In the first match of the day, number two seed Aryna Sabalenka rebounded from losing her first set of the match against number six seed Carla Suarez-Navarro to power her way into the semi-finals in a three-set victory 3-6 6-2 6-4. Despite serving up nine double faults, Sabalenka took control of the match in the second set and never looked back as she found her game to take down Suarez-Navarro.

The Croatian sensation that is Donna Vekic continued her winning ways in a straight sets victory over American Kristie Ahn in her quarterfinal matchup 7-5 6-0 that needed less than 90 minutes to complete. Vekic was down early in the first set 3-5 to Ahn who looked to be in control of the match. However, the native of Osijek, wouldn’t lose another game, going on a 10-game win streak to close out the match and into the semi-finals where she will take on Sabalenka.

“It’s easy to get carried away,” said Vekic when asked about being in a zone during the win streak. “I had to stay really focused and not take anything for granted. And really take one point at a time and not really think about the score.

Vekic finished with six aces, all in the second set, as her powerful serve was too much for Ahn to handle for most of the match. Vekic was also a perfect 9/9 in first service points won in the second set.

“I think I had quite a few aces today. It (my serve) was working really well for me. I had quite a lot of easy points as well and that’s always nice.”

In the night cap Zheng outlasted fourth seeded Amanda Anisimova in a three-set battle of the wills. Zheng won the opening set 7-5 when she would land some nice drop shots that Anisimova had little to no answers for.

Anisimova answered the call in the second set using a combination of forehand power shots with pin-point two-handed backhand shots to take the set 7-5 to even the match. However, she would pay a price for her effort as she had been suffering from an illness throughout the week. She was treated from her chair and then on the ground for 15 minutes before getting back up to start the final set.

“I have had a virus for the past couple of days and wasn’t feeling well today ,” said the 17-year old Anisimova. “I thought I needed a little help (to feel better)”. We both played very well. I think my opponent played super well. She got to almost every single ball, all the credit to her.”

With the score all evened at 4-4, Zheng was able to take control of the final two games as she took advantage of Anisimova’s ailment and won the set 6-4 and stamped her way to her first premiere level semi-final in her career. She will take on Sakkari in the first semi-final on Saturday.

“The whole match was very intense,” said Zheng. “I felt like I had to give a little bit more (than normal) until the end. It was really a tough match tonight.”

Vekic dominates former #1 Azarenka on Day 4 of Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic

Photo credit: @JJlovesTennis

By Marko Ukalovic

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Donna Vekic has been enjoying her first time in the Silicon Valley. After taking a trip to up to the Facebook headquarters earlier in the day, she finished out her day in style with an upset second round victory over former number one women’s player Victoria Azarenka in straight sets 6-4 6-3 highlighting Day 4 of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on Thursday evening at San Jose State University.

The fifth-seeded Vekic fought her way out of a 0-2 hole twice to win in commanding fashion with her dominant serve and powerful two-hand backhanded swing that put Azarenka on the ropes late in the match. Down 4-1 in the first set, Vekic went on a five-game win streak to take the first set.

Azarenka, ranked 38th in the world, was frustrated throughout the match thanks to seven double faults. She threw down and broke her racket at the end of the first set after an unforced error.

“I’ve never played her (before). Actually, this was our first match,” said the 23-year old from Croatia. “I knew she was a great player, great competitor. I knew I had to bring my best game if I wanted to have a chance to win.”

In the second set, Vekic finished off Azarenka by winning the last three games and finished the match with six aces and winning five of the eight break points to head into the quarterfinals.

Vekic credits her ability to move around the court quicker as her game has evolved since she turned professional seven years ago at the age of 16.

“I don’t think I moved at all when I was 16”, Vekic said with a laugh. “I have a lot more patience now. I’m not afraid to stay in the rallies. In fact I like to be in the rallies and to build up the point.”

In earlier action Amanda Amisinova defeated Madison Brengle in straight sets 6-2 6-2 in a battle of Americans. China’s Saisai Zheng took down American Danielle Collins also in staight sets 6-2 6-0 and American Kristie Ahn was a winner against Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-3 6-3 rounding out single’s play.

En-Shuo Liang and Zheng teamed up to beat Ellen Perez and Heather Watson in three sets 7-6 6-0 10-8 in the only doubles action of the day.

2019 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic features San Jose State Spartan night

Photo credit: @MubadalaSVC

By: Ana Kieu

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Wednesday wasn’t only day three of the 2019 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, but also San Jose State Spartan night. As a San Jose State alum, I couldn’t be more proud of my alma mater for hosting such an event for the former graduates since it has been a while since we’ve seen each other.

Wednesday’s order of play featured Japan’s Mayo Hibi and Greece’s Maria Sakkari at 11 am. It wasn’t that much of a surprise, but Sakkari defeated Hibi 4-6, 6-4 and 6-2. Sakkari is now the number seven seed. Hibi and Sakkari were followed by Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina and Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, who was a wild card. But it was Svitolina who downed Kasatkina 6-3 and 6-1. Svitolina is now the number one seed.

Somewhere in between, Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka celebrated her 30th birthday in the South Bay. Azarenka received a whopping four chocolate cakes, which were probably not finished by her, but also her son, family and friends who were in the area to watch the Belarusian tennis star.

The 2 pm match featured Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova and Australia’s Priscilla Hon versus Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Kichenok and Nadiia Kichekock. Yes, Lyudmyla and Nadiia are twin sisters who were born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine on July 20, 1992. It was a nice sight to see twin sisters take on a multicultural duo.

The 3 pm match featured USA’s CoCo Vandeweghe and Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka. Despite the practice Vandeweghe put in prior to the match versus Sabalenka, but it was Sabalenka who picked up her opening win 6-3 and 6-3 over Vandeweghe. Sabalenka is now a number two seed.

The 4 pm match featured USA’s Kirstie Ahn and Madison Brengle versus Australia’s Monique Adamczak and Storm Sanders. The monocultural duos battled it out on the court, but they displayed sportsmanship in the end, despite the final result.

Fast forward to the 7 pm match when Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro faced off against USA’s Bethanie Mattek-Sanders. During the match, play was suspended for unknown reasons, but it resumed after about five minutes. Suarez Navarro won the match 3-6, 6-1 and 6-2 over Mattek-Sanders. Suarez Navarro is now the number six seed.

The final match of the evening featured New Zealand’s Erin Routliffe and USA’s Sabrina Santamaria versus Australia’s Ellen Perez and Great Britain’s Heather Watson.

Fans in attendance, including San Jose State alumni, went home happy knowing they watched the morning and/or evening matches and enjoyed fine dining as well as the company of their loved ones.

Thursday’s order of play can be seen below.

Start 11 am
S. Zheng (CHN) vs. [8] D. Collins (USA) [Q]
K. Ahn (USA) vs. [3] E. Mertens (BEL)

Not before 3 pm
#4 A. Anisimova (USA) vs. M. Brengle (USA)

Not before 7 pm
#5 D. Vekic (CRO) vs V. Azarenka (BLR)
Doubles TBC

Court 1 start
Doubles TBC

2019 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic can be described as a Super Tuesday

Photo credit: @MubadalaSVC

By: Ana Kieu

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The 2019 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State University opened up with a bang, and things steadily improved Tuesday, which could’ve been described as a Super Tuesday. Yes, a Super Tuesday!

The Round of 32 began with a morning tennis match at 10 am. Croatia’s Donna Vekic took the first match with a 6-4, 3-6 and 6-4 victory over Japan’s Misaki Doi. Vekic is now ranked number five.

The afternoon match at 12 pm featured China’s Zheng Saisai, who downed UK’s Heather Watson by a final of 6-3 and 6-1. After that, another Chinese tennis player Shuai Zhang took the court, but lost to USA’s Danielle Rose Collins 4-6, 7-5 and 6-2. Collins is now ranked number eight.

More afternoon matches followed as Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara faced off against Greece’s Maria Sakkari and Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic. As usual, Sakkari was a very fast Spartan (a member of one of the most feared military forces in the Greek world) and was technically unable to slow down unless if the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic’s social media team used video editing, which they did.

The Japan versus Greece and Australia match was followed by a match between France’s Harmony Tan and Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka, which ended in an Azarenka win 6-2 and 6-4.

The 3 pm match featured Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu and China’s Shuai Zhang, who took the court for a second time, against Taiwan’s En-Shuo Liang and China’s Saisai Zhang, who also took the court for a second time. The match was pretty darn awesome as all four players were talented in their own special ways.

Then, the sun slowly went down. Fans in attendance enjoyed al fresco dining as they waited to watch more tennis.

The night matches began at 7 pm. First, an all-American match between Venus Williams and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Mattek-Sands stunned Williams 6-7(4), 6-3 and 6-1. Second, a multicultural match between USA’s Madison Brengle and Germany’s Andrea Petkovic. Brengle downed Petkovic 6-0 and 6-3 to wrap up the evening.

2019 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic opens with a bang

Photo credit: zimbio.com

By: Ana Kieu

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The 2019 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic opened with a bang on Monday at San Jose State University. Two lucky winners who were iPhone owners turned their AirDrop to “EVERYONE” and won a pair of tickets to tonight’s session, which was a win-win given the fact that general admission was free today and folks came on down to check out practice, Court 1 action and enjoyed the new and improved site offerings.

The Round of 32 began at 10 am at the stadium.

Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro defeated Poland’s Magda Linette 6-3 and 6-3. Japan’s Mayo Hibi defeated Hungary’s Timea Babos 6-2, 3-6 and 7(7)-6(3). USA’s Kristie Ahn defeated Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 4-6 and 6-4.

The women’s tennis action continued at 1 pm on Court 1.

USA’s Bethanie Mattek-Sands and China’s Shuai Peng faced off against Japan’s Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomiya. It was a very exciting match that delighted the fans in attendance.

After that, Greece’s Maria Sakkai defeated Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-1 and 6-4.

The first day of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic ended with two matches at 7 pm on the stadium.

Last but not least, USA’s CoCo Vandeweghe defeated Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova 6-2 and 6-2 to close out the night on a high note.

Last but not least, Russia’s Daria Kasatkina defeated the reigning Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic single’s champion Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-2 and 6-2.

Tuesday’s order of play can be viewed below.

Photo credit: @MubadalaSVC

Muguruza forced to withdraw from Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic 2019

Photo credit: sportspromedia.com

By: Ana Kieu

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza has been forced to withdraw from the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic due to a right leg injury.

“I am so disappointed to have to pull out of San Jose,” said Muguruza. “Unfortunately my leg is not ready to compete and I am doing everything I can to be back on court and healthy. I am sorry to have to miss San Jose and wish the tournament a great week.”

“It is certainly disappointing that Garbiñe has had to withdraw from the event, but unfortunately injuries are a part of sports and a player’s health is always the top priority,” said tournament director Vickie Gunnarsson. “Hopefully she will be able to recover quickly and get back on the court soon.”

The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic is entering its second year at San José State University. The tournament is a weeklong WTA Premier event and highlights the best the region has to offer.

The tournament will showcase a complete entertainment experience including robust culinary options, an expanded food truck program, interactive fan exhibitions, premier hospitality options, daily autograph signings, and of course, incredible tennis action.

Fans visiting this year’s tournament will also see many improvements from last year, including shading on the west side of the stadium, shaded seating in the food court, and more seating overall around the site shaded with umbrellas. The tournament will also add artificial turf on the site to cover much of the exposed asphalt.

On the court, the 2019 player field is impressive including seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova.

Other featured players coming to San José include defending champion Mihaela Buzarnescu, 2018 finalist Maria Sakkari, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, World No. 7 and Wimbledon semifinalist Elina Svitolina, World No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka, Belgian star Elise Mertens, Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins, two-time finalist CoCo Vandeweghe and American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

In addition to the impressive list of WTA players set to compete in San José, the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic will be hosting four former ATP stars as part of the Invesco Series on Saturday, August 3 following the evening women’s semifinal match.

The Invesco Series is a legends tour event that features three one-set matches consisting of two semifinals and one final. The line-up for the San José event is one of the best of the legend’s season and includes 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick, 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang, 10-time ATP tour winner James Blake and 11-time tour singles champion Mark Philippoussis.

Now entering its 49th year, the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic is a weeklong WTA Premier event bringing the worlds of tennis and technology together in a festival of sports and entertainment. Highlighting the best the region has to offer, the tournament showcases locally sourced cuisine, fine wine and cheese selections, interactive fan exhibitions, premier hospitality options, and of course, incredible tennis action.

Featuring a 28-player singles draw as well as a 16-team doubles draw the tournament boasts $876,183 in prize money and serves as the opening women’s event of the US Open Series.

With several different ticket options available, the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic has something for everyone. To purchase tickets go to www.MubadalaSVC.com or call 1-866-982-8497.

ABOUT THE MUBADALA SILICON VALLEY CLASSIC
The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic is the longest-running women-only professional tennis tournament in the world and is the first women’s stop of the US Open Series. Owned and operated by IMG, the WTA Premier event features a 28-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles draw with total prize money of $876,183.

ABOUT MUBADALA
Mubadala Investment Company actively manages a worldwide portfolio supporting the vision of a globally integrated and diversified economy, through sustainable returns to its shareholder, the Government of Abu Dhabi. In March 2018, Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC) joined the Group. Mubadala’s US $225 billion portfolio spans five continents with interests in aerospace, ICT, semiconductors, metals and mining, renewable energy, oil and gas, petrochemicals, utilities, healthcare, real estate, defense services, pharmaceuticals and medical technology, agribusiness and a global portfolio of financial holdings. Mubadala is a trusted partner, an engaged shareholder and a responsible global company that is committed to ethics and world-class standards. For more information about Mubadala, please visit: www.mubadala.com.

ABOUT THE US OPEN SERIES
Now in its 16th season, the world’s best players on the WTA and ATP Tour are coming together for the US Open Series. Linking seven summer WTA and ATP Tour tournaments to the US Open, the US Open Series serves as a true “regular season” of hard court tennis. Featuring a cohesive schedule, the Series centralizes the way tennis is viewed in North America, across multiple television and digital platforms. Fans will see today’s top champions go head-to-head with tomorrow’s emerging stars, as storylines develop throughout the summer season. Each tournament also engages its local community with a variety of outreach initiatives, including grass-roots youth tennis clinics and activities.

ABOUT IMG
IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media, operating in more than 30 countries. The company manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is a leading independent producer and distributor of sports and entertainment media. IMG also specializes in sports training and league development, as well as marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions. IMG is part of the Endeavor (formerly WME | IMG) network.

ABOUT SAN JOSÉ STATE UNIVERSITY
The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study — offered through its eight colleges. With more than 33,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce. The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 260,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary: ESPN President says political commentary killed the network

Photo credit: @CornellNews

By: Amaury Pi-Gonzalez

James Pitaro, new President of ESPN, said: “My job is to provide clarity. I really believe that some of our talent was confused on what was expected of them.”

Pitaro admitted political commentary killed the network and vowed for change.

Pitaro added: “Our fans do not want politics mixed with sports.”

Alexandra J. Robert, a law professor specializing in trademark law, entertainment law and pop culture recently wrote in The Boston Globe how one business in particular feels. In this case, Dunkin Donuts said: “We are not Starbucks, we aren’t political, we aren’t gonna put stuff on our cups to start conversations. we don’t want to engage you in political conversation, we want to get you in and out of our store in seconds. It’s donuts and ice cream– just be happy.”

The majority of businesses have one agenda — to make money. I do not know of anybody that goes into business to lose money. Having said that we live in a free capitalistic free enterprise society, and people (even businesses) are allowed to promote certain causes. There is nothing wrong with that.

When it comes to sports, Pitaro has seen what has happened to his network and he is trying to change that. ESPN has always been a sports network. They do not tell you how to cook an omelet or how to elect somebody to Congress, while those watching the Food Channel could care less (well, at least when they are watching their favorite show) what was the score of the game. To each their own. I am old enough to remember when we had ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and vice versa way before cable. Now, we have 200-plus channels to chose from.

For years, I have maintained that sports is one of the biggest escapes to the boring everyday life. Let’s face it, most people’s lives consist of going to work in the morning and coming home in the afternoon. The overwhelming majority see sports that should always be neutral, something to enjoy, escape and relax from a hard day of work.

Pitaro gets it. He knew he has been hired to heal a network that during the past few years have been going downhill, not only from the competition, but also because some who get paid to cover sports dived into politics.

Pitaro knows very well he has not been hired to save the world, but to save a sports network.

After an objection review, Country House declared winner of the Kentucky Derby

Photo credit: @KentuckyDerby

By: Ana Kieu

For horse racing fans, the Kentucky Derby is the greatest two minutes in sports. This year’s was Country House. Last year’s winner was Justify.

Rain poured in Louisville, Ky. for about an hour before the post time. As a result, officials were forced to downgrade the track condition to sloppy for the third year in a row.

Despite a muddy track at Churchill Downs, the 65-1 Country House won the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Country House, however, was technically not supposed to be the winner. The favorite, Omaha Beach, was pulled out of the race days ago.

There was a controversial objection on the field and the officials reviewed a light touch between Maximum Security and Country House. Jockeys briefed while the judges watched replays of the race. The official results and payouts were determined after the completed objection review.

The initial winner was Maximum Security, who was immediately disqualified after the objective review. Maximum Security was 4-1.

During the objection review process, Maximum Security jockey Luis Saez told NBC that he did all he could to help his horse stay straight after he became scared of the muddy surface.

Maximum Security trainer Jason Servis said, “He straightened up right away and I don’t think it affected the outcome of the race.” Servis reportedly prayed to the racing gods.

This was the first time in Kentucky Derby history where the horse who finished first was disqualified.

That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary: 46 Years Later, Roberto Clemente’s Legacy Lives On

Photo credit: sportingnews.com

By: Amaury Pi-Gonzalez

El Cometa de Carolina (translation: The Carolina Comet).

Roberto Clemente was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico August 18,1934. His father, Don Melchor Clemente, was a sugar cane worker; his mother, Luisa, was a laundress. On December 31, 1972, an airplane he chartered to bring food and other relief supplies to survivors of a recent earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua crashes shortly after takeoff from San Juan, P.R. It was 46 years ago that five people were killed in the crash, including Clemente, whose body was never recovered. Many of you reading this, were not born 46 years ago; but Roberto Clemente was more than a superstar trailblazer baseball player.

There are 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and Clemente is one of those athletes adored and recognized in all of them. His name represents the best of Latin America and is a unifying force for all of us who were born in Latin America.

A great life of a humanitarian and world recognized figure. MLB’s The Roberto Clemente Award (previously known as the Commissioner’s Award) is given annually to the MLB player who best exemplifies the game of baseball sportsmanship, and community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team. This award has been given each year since after the untimely death of the superstar. The statistics of this legendary baseball player are well documented as listed at National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.

Al Campanis was managing winter ball in Cuba when he went to Puerto Rico and saw Clemente play as an 18 year old and graded Clemente an A or A+ in most categories. There were a lot of moves by management, and at the end Clemente signed with Montreal (Dodgers’ minor league club), but the Dodgers didn’t even wanted to contemplate the possibility of the young future superstar playing with N.Y. Giants in the same outfield with another great young player, by the name of Willie Mays. At the end, Clemente started his glorious career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

How much is Roberto Clemente revered? During an exhibit of the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum and Hall Of fame at the main library in San Francisco,California, many people of Puerto Rican descent and prayed, right in front of the famous #21 history and memorabilia display.

United States postage stamps honor those whose memories and accomplishments mark an enduring legacy. Postal service policy states that individuals (excepting U.S. Presidents) may only be considered for this honor a decade after their death. This is a tremendous feat and Roberto Clemente Walker has been honored twice. The first stamp honoring Roberto appeared August 17,1984, and then he was selected again in 2000 for the U.S. Postal Service Legends of Baseball series. Clemente enlisted in the US Marines Corps Reserves after the 1958 season and spent six months in active duty at Parris Island, South Carolina and Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. He served until 1964 and was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame on 2003.

Clemente was the first Hispanic player to win a World Series as a starter, be named league MVP, be named World Series MVP and be elected to the Hall of Fame. He was the first to win a World Series as a starter, be named league MVP, be named World Series MVP and be elected to the Hall of Fame. Some in the media called him Bob or Bobby. He did not like that and said he wanted to be called by his name Roberto (Bob is Spanish for Roberto).

He suffered discrimination, according to NBC News, he once said “I don’t believe in color.”

During one game I was covering at Candlestick Park for El Mundo News of Oakland, Calif., the Pirates were visiting the Giants. Towards the end of his career, I remember he struck out and a writer in the press box shouted “send him back on a banana boat” and some other reporters laughed at it, like it was a joke. He began his career in the major leagues in 1955, just eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Players of color including Latinos of dark skin at that time were “tolerated,” but still not really accepted. I know Roberto would be very proud today to see that almost 30% of all players in the majors are Hispanic/Latino.

There might be more statues of Clemente (around 12) in P.R., U.S. and Nicaragua than any other athlete in history, including Diego Armando Maradona, Pelé and Muhammad Ali. Before he wore #21, Clemente wore #13 during his first season in the majors in 1955. His full name Roberto Clemente Walker has a total of 21 letters.

Clemente collected his 3,000 career hit in his final at-bat, during the last week of the 1972 MLB season on September 30,1972 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. A double against the left field wall from Mets lefty Jon Matlack. The recordings of this historic moment is at the archives of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown, N.Y. in the voices of Bob Prince, longtime Pirates announcer and my colleague, mentor and friend, the great Cuban-born announcer Rafael “Felo” Ramírez in Spanish. Little did we know that would be the last hit of Clemente’s life. Clemente gave everything he had on the field playing baseball and ultimately he gave his life to help others unknown to him, in another country. In my opinion,this is the best quote that actually did justice to this great man.

“I want to be remembered as a ballplayer who gave all he had to give.”
— Roberto Clemente.

Happy Holidays!

MLB Mexicali Baseball: Long Weekends and Extended Seasons Across the Border (Part 3)

Photo credit: @AguilasDeMxli

By: Lewis Rubman
SRS Contributor
November 11, 2018

Charros de Jalisco: 0 | 5 | 2
Aguilas de Mexicali: 7 | 11 | 0

MEXICALI, Baja California — The Caribbean Series is the culmination of the Winter Leagues’ season and, very likely, the most important event in the world of Spanish-speaking baseball. It began in 1949 and continued through 1960, as a result of Cuba’s ban on professional sports. Cuba, the Dominican Republic (then known as Santo Domingo), Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela competed during the dozen years of this stage in Caribbean Series history. Each of these except Venezuela won at least one championship, with Cuba leading the pack with seven, followed by Puerto Rico with four, and Panama with one.

The Series was revived in 1970, without Cuban participation. The Liga Mexicana del Pacífico was added in 1971. The tournament has been celebrated every February since then with the exception of a one-year hiatus in 1981. Cuba returned to competition as a guest, but not a member, of the sponsoring Caribbean Baseball Federation, in 2015 and promptly won the tournament. Puerto Rico’s Caguas Criollos has brought the crown home to that island for the last two years. The totals for championships since 1949 is nineteen for the Dominican, sixteen for Puerto Rico, nine for Mexico, eight for the Cubans, seven for Venezuela, and one for Panama.

In its current format, the five participating teams play 13 games in seven days. In the first round, which lasts five days, each team plays two games against each of the others and enjoys one day of rest. At the end of this round, the team with the lowest won-lost percentage is eliminated.

Today, we won’t go into the complex tie breaking procedures. The surviving squads play a one-and-done four team double header, with the first and fourth place finishers facing each other, as do the second and third place teams. The winners of those games duke it out in the final game. In both the semi-finals and the final contest, the team with the higher winning percentage in the opening round gets to bat last. Jalisco has never competed as Mexico’s representative to the Series, while the closest Mexicali has come to winning since its 1968 championship was in 2017 when it lost the final game–played in Culiacán–to Puerto Rico’s Caguas Criollos by the score of 1-0.

I suffer from gout, so I can’t enjoy eating the tempting food for sale in the Estadio B’Air, aka the El Nido de los Aguilas, The Eagles’ Nest.But, just as General Sternwood indulged his vices by proxy while watching Phillip Marlowe down brandy and smoke a cigar at the beginning of The Big Sleep, I get great pleasure from watching people at the Nido enjoy the culinary delights that are denied to me. I mentioned one of them, Bubba Smith’s hotdogs, in yesterday’s report. They’re similar to the ones you can buy fresh off the griddle on the bridge between BART and the Oakland Coliseum and, judging by their smell, delicious. Another delicacy are the pig tails, fried and sold by Chel Vásquez and his family at the stadium. You might want something to wash down all your Bubbas and pig tails. Try a clamato, a juice invented in Mexicali. You can get it straight or mixed with olives. Cerveza Sol offers its beer mixed with clamato and sold in cans but served in plastic bottles at the ballpark. They were giving away shot glass sized samples at todays game. My wife says it was delicious. Tecate is another beer prominent on the premises. Or maybe you’d prefer a few tequilas with lime and salt. Indeed, lime and hot sauce are available with practically every bit of food or drink you want at the ball park.

Mexicali swept its three-game series with Jalisco by whipping them 7-0 in this afternoon’s contest, repeating many elements of last night and the night before’s story. Once again, neither team’s batter provided a home run. And the Aguilas starter again went deep into the game with an extremely strong performance. Javier Solano held the Charros scoreless over seven innings, in which he yielded five hits, struck out seven, and walked two. Michael Devine and Randel Lazo each pitched a perfect frame to preserve the win for Solano and Mexicali.

Agustin Murillo, the Charros’ usually sure handed third baseman contributed twice to Mexicali’s scoring. Jason Bourgeois opened the bottom of the third with a hard hit bouncer than skipped between his legs, leading to starting and losing pitcher Elián Leyva being yanked after two and two-thirds innings, even though none of the three runs he had alllowed was earning and he had given up only one hit. Still, it was clear that Leyva had no command over the situation. Felipe González, Jared Lakind, and Linder Castro held Mexicali at bay until things fell apart for the Charros in Mexicali’s bottom of the seventh, when they pushed four runs across the plate, aided by Murillo’s inability to handle Ramón Ríos’ hard shot to third. It was a tough play, and Ríos deserved the hit with which he was credited, but it opened the door for the four runs that put the game out of reach for the Jalisco nine.

Mexicali finished the weekend in third place, at 13-12. Jalisco, with a 12-14 record, slipped to seventh place in the eight-team league.

We were sorry to leave Mexicali, especially because after an hour and a half’s waiting in line to cross the border (it could be worse; a fellow press box denizen told us of a relative who had spent seven hours in line one day), we were randomly selected to wait another half an hour while our rental car received a secondary inspection. I’ve had a lot of good things to say about Mexicali, and I hope they will encourage some of you to enjoy the pleasures the city, its people, and its peloteros can provide. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you about the unpleasant nature of a northbound border crossing.