Sports briefs 12/31/04

Friday, December 31, 2004


* Ken Burkhart, a pitcher for St. Louis and Cincinnati in the 1940s and a retired major league umpire, died after a long illness. He was 89.

The Knoxville native, who spent five seasons as a player and 17 as an umpire before retiring in 1973.

Burkhart led the National League with an 18-8 record as a rookie for the Cardinals in 1945.

He was a member of St. Louis' 1946 World Series team and finished a career cut short by an elbow injury in 1949 after two seasons with the Reds. His career record was 27-20 with a 3.84 ERA.


* LeBron James has had happier birthdays. Healthier ones, for sure.

James spent his 20th at home, nursing a broken left cheekbone sustained when he ran into Houston center Dikembe Mutombo's elbow during the Cavaliers' 98-87 loss to the Rockets on Wednesday night.

Once the swelling in his face goes down, James will be fitted with a protective mask that he'll have to wear during games until the fracture is fully healed. The Cavaliers don't play again until Monday at Charlotte, giving James time to rest.


* Luther Head scored 18 points and shot 5-for-9 from 3-point range to lead No. 1 Illinois past Northwestern State 69-51 in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.

Deron Williams added 14 points and six assists for the Illini (13-0), who never trailed in the teams' second meeting in their history. They last played in the 2001 NCAA tournament, and the top-seeded Illini beat the Demons 93-54 in Dayton, Ohio.

This is the best start for Illinois since 1988-89, when it began 17-0. The Illini have only trailed for 21 minutes, 32 seconds of 520 total minutes played this season.

* DePaul announced that sophomore guard Sammy Mejia is taking a leave of absence from the basketball team for personal reasons.

The 6-foot-6 Mejia had started in all nine games this season, averaging 12.9 points per game.

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