Sports Now

Sports news from Los Angeles and beyond

Category: Chris Dufresne

Gary Carter: He was a pretty good paper boy, too


“February made me shiver, with every paper I’d deliver. Bad news on the doorstep …”

Don McLean sang those words in his classic song, “American Pie,” as he reflected on the plane-crash death of rock star Buddy Holly.

Bad news hit the step again Thursday with sad news of Gary Carter’s death, from cancer, at age 57.

February, again, made us quiver.

Long ago, interestingly, Carter used to deliver the news, good and bad, on his own bike.

PHOTOS: Gary Carter, 1954-2012

You may remember Carter as a Hall of Fame catcher for the Expos and Mets and a signature player in the classic 1986 World Series.

I also remember him as Gary Carter, “former Fullerton News Tribune paper boy.”

I was born in Fullerton, attended college in the city and started my career, in 1980, at the old Fullerton News Tribune (later modernized to Daily News Tribune).

Local heroes were big deals to newspapers back then, and my sports editor, Bob Lenard, had a standing order with Carter, who had skyrocketed out of Sunny Hills High to major league success with the Montreal Expos.

Jackson Browne, the singer-songwriter, also attended Sunny Hills, but we let the entertainment section brag about him.

Every AP story I remember coming over the wires mentioning Carter’s exploits was amended for our readers with the addendum, “former News Tribune paper boy.”

Carter wasn’t just a catcher, he was a thrower.

He was our paper boy!

He took the over route over from his older brother Gordy and approached his job the same way he did as a big-league catcher.

Carter explained his thought process in a 2007 book, “Behind the Glory,” which traced the upbringing of 20 famous baseball players.

“I was going to be the best paper boy ever,” Carter explained in the book. “I used my Sting-Ray bike and got the papers there after school. People know I porched everything. No roofs, no lawns. I stopped the bike and nailed it. And if I ever missed, I would go pick it up and do it right.”

Continue reading »

National signing day 2012: A great day for Texas, bad day for Cal

Foot3 national analyst Brandon Huffman said in a phone interview he thinks Texas will hold off Alabama and emerge as the big winner from national signing day 2012.

"Texas ekes it out," Huffman said.

ESPN has Alabama No. 1, with Florida State edging out Texas for No. 2. Rivals has it Alabama and Texas, followed by Florida.

The shocker of the day was receiver Deontay Greenberry ditching Notre Dame for ... Houston?

"When has Notre Dame ever lost a recruit to Houston?" Huffman said.

Flip-flopper award goes to Oaks Christian receiver Jordan Payton, who chose UCLA after previously giving verbal commitments to USC, Cal and Washington.

"If there is a theme to the 2012 class, it's that a commitment doesn't mean anything anymore," Huffman said.

USC and UCLA both had strong classes despite being in various states of distress. The Trojans lose 10 scholarships a year for the next three years as a result of NCAA probation, yet Coach Lane Kiffin made the most of his scholarships in landing an abbreviated, but elite, class.

Continue reading »

National signing day news flash: Alabama seems to be winning again

National signing day 2012

Here's the early morning line on college recruiting: Players are signing everywhere, with all different kinds of schools. ESPN with the sound down looks like a cross between the apocalypse, a stock market crash and a swap meet. Minnie Pearl never wore so many hats with the price tag on.

What does it all mean? Everything, and maybe nothing. It's still early, especially in Hawaii. Be warned: ESPN has a paywall up on some exclusive information that's only available on a million other free outlets.

You don't need a paywall to know Alabama is having a really strong day and Penn State is struggling. Alabama appears to be the consensus No.1 at this point. The Crimson Tide is riding momentum from its second national title in three years, signing guys like top defensive back Landon Collins and running back  T.J. Yeldon. Who are these guys? Don't worry, you'll know in two years, or maybe one.

Ohio State just got hit with a one-year bowl ban but that hasn't slowed down first-year Coach Urban Meyer, who has taken advantage of Penn State's woes to secure a solid, top-10 class. Meyer, on ESPN's on-air paywall (basic cable subscription), called this class, "very, very solid. I don't like to use the word great."

Meyer was able to flip previously Penn State-bound stars such as defensive tackle Tommy Schutt and linebacker Camren Williams. Penn State, coming off the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Joe Paterno's death, is understandably struggling, projecting a class ranked from the 40s to forget-about-it.

It doesn't help that new Penn State Coach Bill O'Brien is still coaching with the New England Patriots.

USC doesn't seem to be bothered by NCAA sanctions that will cost the school 30 scholarships over the next three years. The Trojans are capitalizing on a 10-2 season and quarterback Matt Barkley's return to ease the pain and have already scored big in Florida with receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive end Leonard Williams.

UCLA is also doing well under first-year Coach Jim Mora and scored a huge morning get with Oaks Christian receiver Jordan Payton, who had previously pledged verbal allegiance to USC, California and Washington.

As of this writing, Payton has not recalled his fax and made commitments to the eight other Pac-12 schools he missed the first time.

But could you imagine getting stuck in line at Burger King behind this guy?


Jordan Payton's odd journey ends at UCLA

National signing day: The battle for No. 1 begins

Signing day means no longer having to speak in code

-- Chris Dufresne 

Photo: Alabama signee T.J. Yeldon. Credit: Lloyd Gallman / Associated Press

'Woof!' Signing day means no longer having to speak in code

Steve Sarkisian

The best/worst news about national signing day is that schools can now reveal the names of players they have been chasing for months.

NCAA rules prohibit coaches from talking about recruits until they sign their letters of intent, but that didn't stop some on Twitter from making sure their message was getting out.

It seemed curious at first when Washington Huskies' Coach Steve Sarkisian started sending "Woof!" on his Twitter handle. Was he catching a cold? Did he get a new dog? Was he turning into a werewolf?

It soon became clear Sarkisian tweeted "Woof!" each time he had landed a top prospect. Two "Woofs!" meant two players, and last week Sark hit the mother lode with "Woof! Woof! Woof!"

UCLA top recruiter Adrian Klemm thinly veiled a signing with his tweets of "8-Clap!!!!" When Klemm was at Southern Methodist, his code was "Pony Up."

As a public service, we've come up with twitter codes schools might want to consider next season:

--Wisconsin: "Moooooo!"

--Boston College: "An Eagle has landed!!"

--Arizona State Sun Devils: "Put a Pitch Fork in it!"

--Oregon: "The Shoe Fit!

--Any SEC school: "$$$$$$$$$$!!" (just kidding)

It's a good thing UC Santa Cruz doesn't play major college football: What could you use as code for its nickname: Banana Slugs..."Slime Me!!!?"


Tuerk, Simmons sign with USC

Washington State Coach Mike Leach loves L.A.

National signing day: The battle for No. 1 begins

-- Chris Dufresne

Photo: Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Alabama surprises LSU with game plan


Wait a minute. Louisiana State Coach Les Miles is supposed to be the riverboat gambler. His nickname is "The Hat," as in Mad Hatter.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban's nickname is "The Nick-tator." He is calculating and conservative. Yet, Saban caught LSU off guard when he decided to put the offensive game plan in the hands of first-year starting quarterback A.J. McCarron. Trent Richardson, the team's All-America tailback, was used almost as a decoy.

McCarron passed 19 times on first down. He ended up completing 23 of 34 attempts for 234 yards in Alabama's 21-0 win over LSU in Monday's BCS title game.

McCarron earned the game's most outstanding offensive player award.

"I was very thankful, first of all, about it," McCarron said of the game plan. "We've been leaning on No. 3 [Richardson] all year. He's our workhorse. I mean, he's our main guy."

Richardson ended up with 96 rushing yards but 34 of those came on a late touchdown run after the game had been decided.

Saban said he figured LSU would load the defensive front to stop Richardson so he asked offensive coordinator Jim McElwain to pass more on first down to keep the Tigers off balance.

"It was about what we needed to do to win the game," Saban said. "And I believe in trusting and believing in players. And I've always trusted A.J., and I believe in him. And I don't mind putting the ball in his hand so he has the opportunity to make those plays."


Tide sweeps final polls

Alabama 21, LSU 0 (final)

Breckterfield out as Bruins' defensive line coach

-- Chris Dufresne in New Orleans

Photo: Nick Saban. Credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Chris Dufrense on the Heisman Trophy, Jim L. Mora and more [Video]


Times College Football writer Chris Dufresne talks to CineSport's Tara Petrolino about the Heisman Trophy, Jim L. Mora and the possibility of a college football playoff.

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III won the trophy on Saturday, leaving early season favorite Andrew Luck of Stanford as runner-up for the second year in a row. But, as Dufresne pointed out in Sunday's paper, the future still looks quite bright for Luck, who is expected to be the first player picked in the NFL draft:

The Heisman results should have no bearing on his pro potential. NFL passing greats who didn't win the coveted award include Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young, Bart Starr and Dan Marino.

Many Heisman-winning quarterbacks, however, have not fared well in the NFL: Matt Leinart, Eric Crouch, Jason White, Chris Weinke, Ty Detmer, John Huarte, Pat Sullivan, Steve Spurrier, Doug Flutie, Gino Torretta and Gary Beban.

Dufresne compares UCLA's hiring of Mora as football coach to a similar move by USC nearly 11 years ago, when the Trojans brought in another former NFL coach, Pete Carroll.

Another topic of conversation is the rumbling that there may actually be some sort of playoff system, possibly involving four teams, in college football in the near future.


Heisman Trophy is poor predictor of future football success

T.J. Simers: Jim Mora -- good guy, good coach, bad choice for UCLA?

New UCLA Coach Jim L. Mora has some catching up to do, and so do Bruins

-- Chuck Schilken

T.J. Simers: Angels take the limelight from Dodgers


SimersI knew as soon as the Dodgers signed Jerry Hairston Jr. and Aaron Harang, Arte Moreno would have to respond immediately.

You can just imagine the run on Hairston team jerseys at the Dodgers’ store.

I can’t wait until Harang and Albert Pujols go head-to-head. Do you think it’s possible for someone to hit a ball so far out of Angel Stadium it actually lands on the 57?

Tell me again why the Dodgers can’t sign Prince Fielder.

Oh, that’s right, Frank McCourt is trying to sell the team and he makes more money if the team appears to be financially more appealing. Good for Frank, and now tell me again why anyone -- anyone -- would buy Dodgers’ tickets this season.

Did you know the Grocery Store Bagger and Harang sat together on the bench on the same travel team when they were 13 years old? If the Dodgers wanted to sign someone cheaply and who couldn't play, why not the son-in-law instead of Harang?

More important, how come Commissioner Bud Selig hasn’t stepped in and ruled what Moreno is doing unfair?

If he allows this deal, the Dodgers become the Los Angeles Generals; there’s only one Los Angeles baseball team that anyone cares about and it isn’t located in Los Angeles.

As a point of order, James Loney being arrested on suspicion of DUI happened before he learned folks might start comparing the Dodgers' and Angels' first basemen.

On a bright note for the Dodgers, though, just wait seven or eight or nine years until Pujols is too old to be effective and the Angels are still paying him and the Dodgers come on strong with another Hairston.

Isn’t there always another Hairston?

Continue reading »

Chris Dufresne on UCLA coaching candidates and the SEC [Video]

The Times' Chris Dufresne discusses letters from college football fans with Cinesport's Noah Coslov.

Some fans have their own suggestions for the UCLA vacancy, such as Mike Sherman and Steve Sarkisian. Dufresne tackled the subject in his column for Saturday's paper:

If UCLA tried to hire Mike Sherman, recently fired by Texas A&M, Bruins' Athletic Director Dan Guerrero would have to make the announcement in a Sherman tank. ...

Sarkisian ... [is] in a solid position at Washington. You can win big there, the alumni base is fanatical and the school is remodeling Husky Stadium.

Another reader tells Dufresne to "go into your room and cry" over the likely rematch between LSU and Alabama in the BCS championship game. Dufresne writes in his column:

OK. I'll cry in my fancy hotel room when the company sends me down to New Orleans to cover the game. But first, I'm going to get a cup of coffee and beignet at Cafe du Monde and then walk along the Mississippi River at sunset. ...

The difference between 'Bama fans and me is I'm going to the game no matter who is in it.


The Times' college football rankings

BCS motto falls way short this weekend

Not quite business as usual for Rick Neuheisel

-- Chuck Schilken

Chris Dufresne discusses the overrated SEC


Times college football columnist Chris Dufresne discusses the Southeastern Conference.



Chris Dufresne discusses the Heisman Trophy race


Times college football columnist Chris Dufresne discusses the key to the SEC's success, and how his Heisman race is developing.



Chris Dufresne on Penn State, BCS scenarios and more [Video]

Penn State got back to football on Saturday, but the cloud of the Jerry Sandusky scandal still looms large. The Times' Chris Dufresne tells CineSport's Noah Coslov that even though the Nittany Lions are bowl-eligible, we may not see them playing beyond the regular season.

Dufresne also discusses BCS championship scenarios, which may be a lot simpler than it appeared a couple weeks ago. As he wrote on Monday:

Louisiana State and Oklahoma State are, indisputably, the two top teams and headed for a quarrel-free collision in the BCS title game.

LSU and Oklahoma State are the only remaining undefeated schools from the six major conferences.

The Tigers and Cowboys were a rock-solid 1-2 in Sunday's release of the weekly BCS standings.

LSU needs only to beat Mississippi on the road and Arkansas at home and then win the Southeastern Conference title game to play for its third BCS title since 2002. The Tigers won the two previous title games played in New Orleans (2003 and 2007).

Oklahoma State needs a win at Iowa State this week and then to beat Oklahoma in Stillwater on Dec. 3.

Dufresne also discusses Andrew Luck's Heisman Trophy prospects after Stanford's loss to Oregon on Saturday.


USC turns its focus to preparing for Oregon

Big Ten removes Joe Paterno's name from trophy

A good week for Oregon, Houston in BCS standings


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About the Reporters
Sports Now is written by the entire Sports department of the L.A. Times.

Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.



Bleacher Report | Los Angeles

Reader contributions from Times partner Bleacher Report

More on Bleacher Report »

Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: