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Sat., May 3, 2014, 7:25 a.m.

Now this is a tradition

A GRIP ON SPORTS

You know what day it is? Yep, it's Kentucky Derby day. Read on.

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• Believe it or not, there once was a time in this nation's history when baseball, boxing and horse racing were the Big Three sports. Heavyweight title bouts were treated like coronations. The World Series brought the country to a standstill. And the Kentucky Derby was the herald of summer. That lasted well into the 1950s, 60s and maybe into the 1970s. But the past 40 years or so, the Derby – and horse racing in general – has lost its prominence. But I still have my memories. My dad was a horse racing aficionado. No, that's not strong enough. He was a horse racing nut. Heck, one of his second jobs was working as a paramutual clerk at Santa Anita. It wasn't for the money as much as it was for the ambiance. He just loved being at the track. Sure, he bet a bit. But there was more to it than that. As a child of the Depression, he used to spend his teenage years stealing away from school and hightailing it to Santa Anita when it was in session. Just hanging around the horses, the jockeys, the trainers, it was important to him. They were the sports stars of the 30s. Those relationships continued throughout his adult life as I can remember him stopping in downtown Sierra Madre to talk with Charlie Whittingham – who lived a few blocks from our house – or someone like that about the races. So horse racing was in my blood as well. In high school, a few of us would get together each morning and pick the races, wagering nickels and dimes amongst ourselves. Occasionally, if there was time, some of us would stop at the track on the way home from school – they always opened the gates for free after the featured eighth race – and make a bet on the ninth. Hey, I looked old enough. My Italian features helped. Anyhow, I tried to pass along my love of racing to my sons and thought I had early on. When my boys were really young, Kim worked every other weekend at Sacred Heart. So I was alone with the boys. One November morning one of them was really cranky and I was my wits end. So I turned on the television, hoping to find something to amuse him. I did. As I flipped through the channels, I discovered the Breeders Cup was on. A whole bunch of races spread throughout the day. The big horses fascinated my son and, for three or four minutes every half-hour or so, he was mesmerized by the action on the screen. The quiet was pure bliss. Alas, the races didn't last. Neither did his affection for horse racing. Maybe it's because his mom won't watch. She terrified of a horse breaking down and thinks the entire sport is cruel. I understand her concerns. But I'll still carve out some alone time this afternoon to cheer for California Chrome. It's a tradition.

• By the way, I love hyperbole. The greatest this, the greatest that. Maybe. Maybe not.

•••

• WSU: The Cougars are tough on Friday nights. They showed that again last evening as they upset No. 25 USC, 5-2. ... It's Saturday morning so I can pass along the mailbag from ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog.

• Gonzaga: Lisa Fortier has hired a Spokane legend as an assistant, former Mead High star Stacy Clinesmith. Clinesmith (pictured) was at Santa Clara last season before Bronco head coach Jennifer Mountain lost her job. Tom Clouse has the story. Fortier has picked her third assistant and that person should be announced as soon as some details are worked out. ... Speaking of coaches, BYU has a pretty good one with a lot of experience on the women's side.

• Chiefs: Spokane made a trade for a 19-year-old goaltender yesterday. ... Former Chief star Tyler Johnson joined the U.S. Team for the world championships. Chris Derrick has more in this story. ... Portland and Edmonton will begin their WHL championship series tonight in Portland.

• Golf: It's Saturday so Jim Meehan has his weekly golf notebook.

• Preps: Jim also has a prep golf notebook today as well.

• Seahawks: When the Hawks made James Carpenter (pictured) a first-round pick a few years ago, it was hoped he would anchor the offensive line for years to come. It didn't work out. Yesterday, the team declined to exercise his fifth-year option. He will play the 2014 season as a Hawk and then become a free agent, though a new deal could still be worked out. It just shows the Hawks would rather let him go than pay him the money the option called for. ... Seattle made other moves as well yesterday, including some minor ones on the coaching staff. ... Here's a list of what's happened to the Hawks' free agents.

• Mariners: Felix wasn't Felix, the Astros didn't play like the Astros and the Mariners did. It all added up to a 5-4 11-inning defeat in Houston last night in a game the M's should have won. We've said that a few times this year and at least a couple times against woeful Houston. ... Michael Saunders has earned more playing time by swinging the bat well. ... Hisashi Iwakuma is looking forward to getting back on the mound.

• Sounders: With Philadelphia coming to CenturyLink tonight, the Sounders will have played nine consecutive weeks only on Saturday. But that changes next Wednesday, so the bench has to become more involved. ... Lamar Neagle has become another scoring option for Seattle. ... Sigi Schmid seems to like talking with the media. He did more of it yesterday, on a variety of subjects.

•••

• That's it for now. See you tomorrow. Until then ... 




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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