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.