May 16, 2004 in Sports

Lo Duca’s thinking batting title

Associated Press
Associated PressAssociated Press photo

Heading into this weekend, Los Angeles catcher Paul Lo Duca led the National League in batting average. Heading into this weekend, Los Angeles catcher Paul Lo Duca led the National League in batting average.
(Full-size photo)

So, Paul Lo Duca went into the weekend leading the National League in hitting at .386. All he has to do now is stay in that rarified neighborhood for four more months and he could become only the third catcher to win a major league batting title.

“Can I hit .350, .360?” the Dodger catcher said rhetorically. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but I definitely think I can. I can’t tell myself that I can’t when I think I can, and it’s important that I believe in myself.”

It’s mid-May, far too soon for any player to be thinking of a batting crown, especially a catcher, with all that heat yet to come and many more body blows to be absorbed.

“Every catcher gets tired, and every catcher gets hurt,” Lo Duca said. “No excuses. My goal this year is to finish strong. I know everything you read now is, ‘Oh, he’s off to his usual fast start, but he’ll fade in the second half.’ I’m really making it a point to finish strong. I feel good, I’m healthy and it’s contagious right now. Everybody is hitting in the lineup. We’re winning and having fun, and that whole atmosphere contributes to greater confidence.”

The only catchers to survive the summer pounding and win a batting title were Bubbles Hargrave, who hit .353 with the Cincinnati Reds in 1926, and Ernie Lombardi, who did it by batting .342 with the Reds in 1938 and .330 with the Boston Braves in 1942.

Negro Leagues players to get pension

More than two dozen players from the old Negro Leagues will receive pensions from a charitable fund to be established by Major League Baseball, a source told the Associated Press.

The 27 players all played part of at least four seasons after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. A management source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the agreement Saturday. Details are expected to be announced Monday.

Under the agreement, first reported by the Washington Post, players will have the option of getting $833.33 per month for four years — a rate of $10,000 per year — or $375 a month for life.

• The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum says it has no record of them. Its lawyers say the museum’s curator has searched “high and low” but can’t find them.

“They” are 60 “rare and priceless” tape recordings of some of the Negro Leagues’ biggest stars, among them Satchel Paige, that a leading researcher alleges in a lawsuit that he lent to the museum and the museum lost.

John B. Holway of Springfield, Va., says he gave the tapes to the Kansas City-based museum in 1993 to hold for the use of scholars. Now, he says, they’ve vanished, and he’s entitled to $750,000 in damages.

Holway sued the museum last summer in Virginia. But a judge ruled that the court had no jurisdiction over the museum and ordered the case transferred to federal court in Kansas City. That’s where the case landed Thursday.

Clemens off to best start in majors

Roger Clemens stroked his stubbled face and fixed his eyes on the reporter with the same glare that has unnerved thousands of batters over the past two decades.

After briefly walking away from baseball, the 41-year-old Clemens is as dominant and intimidating as ever, leading the majors with a 7-0 record for the Houston Astros.

“What’s the surprise?” Clemens asked, becoming increasingly irritated. “I would hope you’ve been paying attention for 20-something years.”

Clemens has emerged as the front-runner in the National League to start this season’s All-Star game, set for July 13 in Houston. On Sunday, Clemens could become the first pitcher since Boston’s Pedro Martinez in 1997 to win his first eight starts of the season.

Clearing the bases

San Francisco Giants closer Robb Nen is taking a month off from throwing and rehabilitation to rest his troublesome right shoulder. He will be re-evaluated after that. … The New York Yankees acquired right-hander Tanyon Sturtze from the Los Angeles Dodgers on for a player to be named.

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