KIM CLIJSTERS was the WTA tour's Miss Congeniality, a perpetually cheery Belgian who will be remembered as much for her affability off the court as her tenacity on it. In recent years Clijsters, who turns 24 next month, suffered several nagging injuries (an ankle sprain, wrist tendinitis, knee strain), and she has long been frustrated by the tour's constant travel and the toll it took on her body. Still, in announcing her retirement last week, Clijsters focused on the bright side. "It has been more than fun, but the rackets are being hung up," she wrote on her website. "To retire before the age of 24, it is very young—but it was so beautiful."
Hemingway famously called retirement "the ugliest word in the language," but Clijsters was determined to leave the game before she turned 25. (She said last year that this season would be her last, but after a straight-set loss to Ukrainian qualifier Julia Vakulenko at a tournament in Warsaw last week she decided she had had enough.) Clijsters was one of the tour's most athletic players—her father was a World Cup soccer player for Belgium, her mother was a top gymnast—and in her prime she was a master of defensive tennis, forcing opponents to hit extra shots and pounding them with deep ground strokes. In 2003 she became the first player to be ranked No. 1 without winning a Grand Slam singles championship, and for years she carried the ignominious title of Best Player to Never Win a Major. After losing her first four Grand Slam finals, Clijsters finally got over the major hump when she dismantled Mary Pierce in the final of the 2005 U.S. Open.
Naturally, Clijsters also won the WTA tour's sportsmanship award a record six times. She has often talked about wanting to soon become a mother, and in July she will marry Brian Lynch, a former Villanova basketball player now playing in Belgium. "I'll remember her as Pocahontas's best friend; she was always level-headed, sensible, friendly and stayed clear of pettiness," says broadcaster Mary Carillo. "She was simply nice to have around."
May 13, 2007
By several NBA players, an academic study that concluded that white referees call fouls on black players at a higher rate than they do white players. The report, written by Justin Wolfers, a public policy professor at Penn, and Joseph Price, a Cornell economics graduate student, was based on a study of box scores from 1991 to 2004. (The NBA conducted its own study using data from 2004 to '07 and said it found no evidence of bias.) The authors said the study shows evidence of "implicit, unconscious biases" rather than outright racism. "In my entire career, I never thought about whether or not a black ref or a white ref was out there," says Spurs guard Bruce Bowen (above). "And I never heard anyone else talk about it, either." Added LeBron James, "It's stupid."
By the California Highway Patrol, that drug charges be brought against Orlando Cepeda. The 69-year-old Hall of Fame first baseman was stopped for speeding near San Francisco on May 1. A CHP officer found marijuana and a white powder in Cepeda's 2001 Lexus. (Authorities said the powder appeared to be cocaine or methamphetamine, but it was still being tested.) The CHP recommended that Cepeda be charged with one felony count of possessing a controlled substance as well as two misdemeanors. As of Monday prosecutors were reviewing the case. Cepeda's lawyer told the AP that Cepeda, who in 1976 served 10 months in a Puerto Rican jail for smuggling marijuana, is innocent.
By Frank Torre, 75, a kidney transplant. The older brother of Yankees manager Joe Torre had the operation on May 1. During the 1996 World Series, Frank had a heart transplant and watched from the hospital as his brother led the Yankees to the title. Last weekend Frank, who spent seven seasons with the Milwaukee Braves and the Phillies, was moved into intensive care after developing pneumonia. "He's very uncomfortable, but I guess that's not unusual," Joe said after the surgery. "Everything seems to be going well."
At age 85, College Football Hall of Famer Alex Agase. An offensive guard and linebacker, Agase (below) was named All-America at two schools; he transferred from Illinois to Purdue after the 1942 season so he could take part in a Marine training program. After World War II—Agase was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for duty in Okinawa—he was named All-America for a third time, in 1946. Following a six-year pro career he took up coaching and led Northwestern to a 6--1 Big Ten record in 1970, when he was named national coach of the year. "Coach Agase impressed me most with his integrity, bluntness, wisdom and courage," said former SI writer Rick Telander, who played under Agase.
In his sleep at age 36, former linebacker Kevin Mitchell. A second-round pick out of Syracuse by the 49ers in 1994, Mitchell played 10 seasons for San Francisco, New Orleans and Washington. A preliminary autopsy showed that he died of a heart attack. "Anyone who knew him was touched by his smile, joy for life and love of his family," said Redskins owner Dan Snyder.
By the NCAA men's basketball rules committee, that the three-point line be moved back one foot, to 20' 9". When the three-pointer was instituted in 1987, teams attempted an average of 9.2 per game. By last year the number had grown to 18.9. The NCAA wants to spread the game and create more space for today's bigger players, but several coaches spoke out against the change, arguing that it will hurt parity. (The change must be ratified by a rules oversight panel later this month.) "One foot will make a huge difference, so you have to find great shooters, not just good shooters," said Duquesne coach Ron Everhart.
By the St. Louis Cardinals, beer in their clubhouse. The move came after the death of pitcher Josh Hancock, who was killed when his car hit a stopped tow truck on a St. Louis interstate. Last week police said that Hancock's blood-alcohol level was 0.157, nearly twice the legal limit, and that he was talking on his cellphone at the time of the accident. (Marijuana and a glass pipe were found in his car, though it has not yet been determined if Hancock had drugs in his system.) "[Hancock's death] is probably a wake-up call to everybody," G.M. Walt Jocketty said. "The one thing [players] have to understand is they're not invincible."
By Italian cyclist Ivan Basso (left), that he is being investigated for doping and is cooperating with authorities. Basso, the reigning Giro d'Italia champion, was included on a list of cyclists who allegedly had contact with a Spanish doctor accused of running a Madrid blood-doping clinic. (The clinic was raided by Spanish police shortly before last year's Tour de France; more than 50 cyclists, including Basso, were banned from the Tour.) Basso was charged with doping by the Italian Olympic Committee last month. He quit the Discovery Channel team last week and said he won't defend his Giro title when the event begins this Saturday.
They Said It
JOE KENNEDY, A's pitcher and former Devil Ray, explaining to the St. Petersburg Times how it feels to return to Tropicana Field:
"I enjoy coming back here, especially when it's only for three days."
2,276 Career strikeouts for Tennessee's Monica Abbott, who passed Texas' Cat Osterman for the NCAA softball record on Sunday.
19--78 Record of visiting teams in Game 7 of an NBA playoff series after the Jazz beat the Rockets in Houston last Saturday.
49 Pounds shed by Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp since the end of last season; he reported to minicamp at 285 pounds.
38 million Viewers who watched the NFL draft on ESPN, ESPN2 or the NFL Network, the most ever for the event.
1 Major leaguers suspended this year for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs: Tampa Bay pitcher Juan Salas, who was banned on Monday.
.271 Batting average of Indians outfielder Trot Nixon entering play Sunday.
.338 Nixon's average after Monday's game; Nixon had eight hits—including his first career five-hit game—in two games against Baltimore.
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
Jimmy Johnson was excused from jury duty because he had made plans to go fishing with Bill Parcells.