Strange Days

Rounder balls? Hit birdsmen? It was a week of odd sports moments
June 18, 2006

IN PHOENIXnothing could distract Mets rookie righthander Alay Soler in his fourth majorleague start last Saturday--not even the injured pigeon that fell from the skyand landed in the infield as he warmed up for the seventh inning against theDiamondbacks. "I just saw a bird land behind the mound," said plateumpire Jim Reynolds, who scooped up the suffering squab and carried it off thefield in his mask. "It looked like it had a broken wing." Soler wentback to making the D-Backs look bird-brained: He pitched a complete-gametwo-hitter for his first big league shutout.

Soler was lucky.Six days earlier an errant seagull had cost Durham Bulls pitcher Jason Childersa strikeout. In a Triple A game against the Buffalo Bisons, a Childers offeringhit a bird (right). For a while it seemed that the pitch was nevertheless astrike: The Bisons' Ramon Vazquez swung at it (the ball, not the bird) andmissed for strike three. But after a conference the umpires ruled the playshould have been ruled dead when the gull was hit and gave Vazquez anotherchance to hit. (He grounded out.) The bird? It wasn't ruled dead either; it wascarried off the field and later flew away.

IN GERMANY theworld's best soccer players got their first kicks at the +Teamgeist, theofficial World Cup ball (left). Engineered by Adidas, which has made World Cupballs since 1970, the +Teamgeist looks like your average soccer orb. But Adidasinsists it's rounder than any of its predecessors--because its panels are gluedtogether rather than stitched--and thus more aerodynamic and easier to sneakinto the net. That's good news for FIFA, which wouldn't mind seeing more of thehigh-scoring games that fans love during the World Cup. International goaliesagreed with Adidas that something was different. According to England's PaulRobinson, the +Teamgeist behaves "more like a water polo ball orvolleyball" and "moves about all over the place."

IN CINCINNATIanyone brave enough to leave the house and head to River Downs racetrack onJune 6--6/6/06, to paranoid numerologists--witnessed a Twilight Zone moment.Cinnamon Bay, the number 6 horse in the sixth race of the day, finished ...sixth. Fortunately the eerie result had few bettors deep-sixing their tickets.Cinnamon Bay (right) went off as a 30--1 long shot.

PHOTOBUFFALO BISONS/AP (SEAGULL) PHOTOCOURTESY OF ADIDAS (BALL) PHOTOJASON STEWART (HORSE)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)