Other Sports

Sports briefs: Jan. 8

Major League baseball

Larkin said to have best shot at getting call for Hall

Barry Larkin plans to play golf in Florida on Monday morning. Then he'll return to his home in the Orlando, Fla., area and await the most prized telephone call in baseball. He is the leading candidate to gain election to the Hall of Fame when voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America is announced.

"It's a shot of immortality. The best of the game in the history — in the history of the game," he said Thursday. "To be emblazoned into that history of the game is a tremendous honor."

A player needs at least 75 percent to gain election. A 12-time All-Star and the 1995 NL MVP, Larkin received 51.6 percent of the votes when he appeared on the ballot for the first time in 2010. His percentage increased to 62.1 percent last year, when he fell 75 votes short as Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were elected, and his chances figure to be helped by the lack of top newcomers.

"I certainly have some anxiety about it, but not really nervous. I have a great perspective on it," Larkin said. "I had a chance to speak to Jim Rice, who got inducted on his 15th time, and he really put me at comfort and ease and said, 'You know, it's really out of our hands, and there's nothing we can really do about it. We don't campaign for it, and it is what it is.'"

Spending his entire major league career with the Cincinnati Reds from 1986-04, Larkin hit .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBI, 2,340 hits and 379 stolen bases. He won three Gold Gloves and the 1990 World Series. He had hoped to return for a 20th season in 2005 at age 40, but retired after the Reds told him they didn't want him back.

"In 2005, I wasn't really sure if I was completely done playing. I still had that question," he said. "I don't have that anymore. I know it's the right move. It was the right decision. It was time to move on."

And because he retired then, he can join one of baseball's most select groups. Of the 206 former big leaguers selected for the Hall, just 47 spent their entire careers with a single major league team and only two with the Reds: Johnny Bench and Bid McPhee.

Larkin said he misses the camaraderie of spending 7½ months a year with teammates but remains around ballparks. He broadcast for the MLB Network from 2009-10, then moved to ESPN last year. He's a spring training instructor for the Reds, and has gone to South Korea and Brazil as an envoy for Major League Baseball and the State Department.

"So I'm always on the field or talking about it," he said. "I still get an opportunity to go out there and take a ground ball off my chin every once in a while."

If he is elected, he would be inducted on July 22 at Cooperstown, N.Y., along with the late Ron Santo, elected last month by the Veterans Committee. Also among the holdovers are Jack Morris, Lee Smith and Jeff Bagwell. A relatively weak group of newcomers includes former AL batting champions Bernie Williams and Bill Mueller.

Report: Yankees' Posada will retire

A source told The Associated Press that former New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada will announce his retirement this month. The 40-year-old Posada won five World Series titles in 17 years with the team that drafted him. He became a free agent after last season.

Earlier this off-season, Posada acknowledged that his career with the Yankees was over. He had a trying year in which he lost his catching job and took himself out of the lineup in May when he was dropped to ninth in the order.

He finished last season batting a career-low .235 with 14 homers and 44 RBI in 115 games, playing sporadically in September after top prospect Jesus Montero was called up. Posada did have the winning hit — a pinch-hit, two-run single — against Tampa Bay on Sept. 21, clinching the AL East for New York. Posada then hit .429 in the five-game division series loss against Detroit.

For his career Posada hit .273 with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI, winning the Silver Slugger Award five times as best hitting catcher in the American League.


Stricker builds big lead in Hawaii

Steve Stricker took a big step toward booking another trip to Maui next year with a 10-under 63 to build a five-shot lead Saturday through two rounds at the Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii.

Stricker played his final five holes in 5 under, including a 3-wood to 12 feet for eagle on the 15th hole that gave him some separation from Webb Simpson and the eagle-eagle finish by Kevin Na.

Stricker was at 15-under 131 and will be paired Sunday with Simpson, who shot 68.

Na was not even part of the picture until holing a 5-iron from 221 yards for eagle on the 17th, and then hitting 3-wood to 10 feet for eagle on the final hole.

This is Stricker's fourth straight trip to Kapalua, the longest streak of anyone in the field.

■ Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen birdied three of his last four holes for a 6-under 67 Saturday to share the third-round lead at the Africa Open in East London, South Africa. Oosthuizen and Tjaart van der Walt (65) were tied at 21-under overall, one shot ahead of 2009 winner and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (66).


Tsonga defeats Monfils in Qatar finals

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga shrugged off a slow start and beat Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-3 in an all-French finals at the Qatar Open on Saturday. The sixth-ranked Tsonga, who reached the finals when Roger Federer withdrew with an injury, fell behind 3-1 before finding a rhythm, coming to the net more often and reeling off the final four games to win the first set. The momentum carried over into the second set, when Tsonga kept Monfils off balance with his powerful forehand and occasional drop volleys.

High school football

Barry Sanders' son commits to Stanford

Barry J. Sanders' performance Saturday in the All-American Bowl was a bit like father Barry Sanders' NFL career. He could have done more before he left. The younger Sanders will get his chance to show more next season at Stanford. He announced he would sign with the Cardinal — and not his father's alma mater of Oklahoma State — following the game Saturday. He had only three carries in the game, including a 10-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, and his West teammates beat the East 24-12 in San Antonio.

Sanders, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, rushed for 1,324 yards and 27 touchdowns this season at Oklahoma City Heritage Hall. The team won two state championships while he was there.

The other touchdowns from the West came from quarterback Cyler Miles, who starred this year at Mullen High School in Denver and has committed to Washington. Miles was 7-for-8 (the incompletion was a drop), including a game-record 79-yard TD pass to Dorial Green-Beckham and had the game's first score with a 4-yard run.

Trinity's Beatty named coach of year

Trinity coach Bob Beatty, who won his ninth state championship when his Shamrocks won the Class 6A title, was named the the 2012 Russell Athletic National Coach of the Year and was honored at halftime of the All-American Bowl in San Antonio. Beatty was previously named national coach of the year by USA Today.

The last word

The start of a golf new season doesn't feel much different from the old one. Nine players — that's one-third of the 27-man field at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii — were together only a month ago at the Chevron World Challenge. A week later, eight of them were in Florida for the Shark Shootout. David Toms said:

"I've taken off three months and lost 20 spots in the ranking. And you've got big tournaments early in the season when you need it. So you're kind of forced to play."