St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols won his second National League Most Valuable Player award, powering past Philadelphia Phillies star Ryan Howard by a comfortable margin yesterday. Pujols hit .357 with 37 home runs and 116 RBIs while playing with a sore right elbow. He was rewarded despite the Cardinals' fourth-place finish in the NL Central. "I wasn't surprised at all," Pujols said. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher CC Sabathia also drew strong support after being traded by American League teams in July. Pujols got 18 of the 32 first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America and had 369 points. The first baseman added to the MVP award he won in 2005. Howard, who led the majors with 48 homers and 146 RBIs for the World Series champion Phillies, drew 12 first-place votes and 308 points.
Clemens: : Country singer Mindy McCready said she broke off her relationship with Roger Clemens when the former baseball star wouldn't marry her, according to an interview that was to be broadcast yesterday by the syndicated show Inside Edition. McCready, however, was quoted on the Web site of the New York Daily News yesterday as saying she didn't want to marry Clemens. McCready told Inside Edition she met Clemens when she was 16, not 15, as reported by the Daily News in April. Clemens in May denied having an affair with a 15-year-old but didn't specifically address whether he had a romance with McCready.
Giants: : Left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt became the first of 171 free agents to agree to a contract, striking a two-year deal that bolsters San Francisco's bullpen. Affeldt, 29, pitched for the Reds last season, going 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA in a team-leading 74 appearances.
Et cetera:: The Chicago Cubs will play the first exhibition games at the new Yankee Stadium, meeting New York on the night of April 3 and again the following afternoon. ... Baseball's legends and old-timers will play in a new Hall of Fame Classic game beginning in 2009. The inaugural Hall of Fame Classic will be held on Father's Day, June 21, in Cooperstown, N.Y. The game replaces the Hall of Fame Game, which was discontinued this year after 68 years.
Fox Sports announced yesterday that it will not match an offer by ESPN to televise Bowl Championship Series games from 2011 to 2014. ESPN reportedly has offered $125 million a year to televise the Orange, Fiesta and Sugar bowls and the BCS national championship game. The Rose Bowl and ABC have a separate contract that runs through the 2014 game. Now, beginning in 2011, all BCS bowl games will be under the Walt Disney Co. broadcasting umbrella.
Navy: : Coach Ken Niumatalolo said that sophomore Ricky Dobbs will replace senior Jarod Bryant at quarterback for the Midshipmen's next game, a week from tonight at Northern Illinois. "Right now we're going with Ricky," Niumatalolo said. Dobbs came off the bench Saturday in the third quarter against Notre Dame at M&T; Bank Stadium and nearly led Navy to victory from a 27-7 fourth-quarter deficit for the second straight game. Navy lost, 27-21. DON MARKUS
Et cetera: : Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, the younger brother of Ravens coach John Harbaugh, said that he is close to finalizing an agreement for a contract extension that he hopes would end speculation that he could leave for another job. The Cardinal (5-6) would become bowl-eligible with a victory Saturday at California. ... North Carolina coach Butch Davis said he will open the competition for starting quarterback against rival North Carolina State this weekend, a decision that comes after third-stringer Cameron Sexton went 10-for-24 for 166 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a 17-15 loss at Maryland on Saturday. Starter T.J. Yates has practiced for about two weeks as he recovers from a broken left ankle.
Newell, renowned coach, instructor of big men, dies
Pete Newell, the Hall of Fame basketball coach who became the first to guide teams to an NCAA championship, a National Invitation Tournament title and an Olympic gold medal, died yesterday in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. He was 93. His death was confirmed by California, the school Newell coached to the national title in 1959. Newell had a serious lung operation in 2005. He coached for 14 years at San Francisco, Michigan State and Cal. He led San Francisco to the then-glamorous NIT title in 1949. His final coaching job came in the 1960 Olympics, when he took a U.S. team led by Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Jerry Lucas to a gold medal in Rome. Dean Smith and Bob Knight are the only others to coach teams to NCAA, NIT and Olympic championships. Newell later returned to prominence with his famous "big men" camps. He instructed some of the game's greatest stars, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Shaquille O'Neal.
College soccer: : The Maryland and Loyola men's teams earned first-round byes as they were named to the 48-team NCAA tournament. Maryland (18-3), which won an automatic bid Sunday after capturing the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title, earned the No. 2 seed. The Terps will face the winner between George Mason (13-6-2) and Pennsylvania (11-2-4) next Tuesday in College Park. Loyola (18-1-1) earned the ninth seed and will play the winner between Duke (10-7-2) and North Carolina Greensboro (8-11-2) also next Tuesday at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field.
NBA: : The visiting Houston Rockets made a 14-3 second-half surge without injured seven-time All-Star Tracy McGrady to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 100-89. McGrady left in the opening minute of the second half after aggravating his surgically repaired left knee. ... Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Andrei Kirilenko added 19 points and two big blocks in the fourth quarter as the host Utah Jazz broke a three-game losing streak by beating the Phoenix Suns, 109-97. Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 30 points. ... The Golden State Warriors signed Stephen Jackson to a three-year contract extension, a deal that takes the guard-forward through the 2012-13 season. Jackson, 30, is averaging 22.1 points this season. ... Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett was suspended for one game and Suns center Shaquille O'Neal was been fined $25,000 by the NBA for separate incidents over the weekend. ... Thunder forward Desmond Mason will miss about 10 days with a sprained right elbow.
Elsewhere: : An appraiser has set a $20 million value on reigning Horse of the Year Curlin, the 2007 Preakness winner, and is recommending ownership be consolidated under primary owner Jess Jackson. But attorneys minority owners William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr. argued in court in Frankfort, Ky., that the value should be far higher. Jackson owns an 80 percent share of the horse and has bid $4 million to buy out the remaining 20 percent. ... The Iowa field hockey team will face Maryland in the NCAA semifinals on Friday in Louisville, Ky. The Hawkeyes (18-4) beat host Michigan State, 1-0, in a suspended game yesterday.