Sports briefs 9/15/05

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Baseball

* Roger Clemens dug his spikes into the dirt and stared momentarily at the ground before throwing his first pitch. He knew his mother would have wanted him on the mound.

The Houston Astros ace made his scheduled start Wednesday night and allowed one run in 6 1-3 innings against the Florida Marlins, pitching in honor of his mother after she died early that morning.

Bess Clemens died in Georgetown, Texas, because of complications from emphysema, the Astros said. She was 75.

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner often shared his affection for his mother, saying her health was an important factor as he weighed retirement the past two offseasons. His stepfather died when he was young, and his mother was an inspiration.

After giving up consecutive one-out singles in the seventh inning with the Astros ahead 3-1, Clemens and catcher Brad Ausmus met on the mound. Manager Phil Garner then came out, and after speaking briefly with Clemens, changed pitchers. The pitcher got a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout. He allowed five hits and struck out four, raising his career total to 4,492.

Basketball

* Yolanda Griffith made the most of her first appearance in the WNBA Finals, scoring 25 points Wednesday night as the Sacramento Monarchs beat the Connecticut Sun 69-65 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

The Monarchs lost both regular-season meetings but used a strong inside game, anchored by Griffith, to hand Connecticut a rare home loss. The Sun, making their second straight appearance in the finals, had lost only three games all year at the Mohegan Sun arena coming in. Game 2 is Thursday night in Connecticut.

Hockey

* Ron Francis, one of the NHL's career leaders in games played, goals, assists and points, announced his retirement Wednesday, ending his 23-year career.

Francis, 42, was a four-time all-star who played for Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto. He ranks among the league's all-time leaders with 1,731 games (third), 549 goals (19th), 1,249 assists (second) and 1,798 points (fourth).

Francis said he had decided to retire months ago, but made it official as other notable players like Mark Messier, Scott Stevens and Al MacInnis left the game this month.

Motorsports

* Robbie Loomis stepped down as Jeff Gordon's crew chief Wednesday, four days after the team failed to make NASCAR's Chase for the championship.

Loomis will finish the season as consultant for Hendrick Motorsports while Jimmie Johnson races for the Nextel Cup title. He will join Petty Enterprises next season as vice president of race operations, where he will run the day-to-day operations for Jeff Green and Kyle Petty's teams.

Steve Letarte, who has been with Gordon's team for three of his NASCAR titles, will take over for Loomis as crew chief.

Loomis joined Gordon's team in 2000, and the duo won Gordon's fourth Cup title the next season. Although Gordon has won three races this season, he hit a slump this summer and failed to qualify for NASCAR's 10-race title hunt.

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