I hope everyone had a great, fun and SAFE Fourth of July. Lots of baseball to talk about, the final days for Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium are approaching quickly and it will be All Star Break before you know it. There’s still time to vote in the last two players for the Midsummer Classic, so do your duty and vote!

Tampa Bay remains the hot item in baseball. If the Rays were female, they would be the IT girl. The page 2 girl in the British papers. It’s going to be interesting to see if they can maintain their foothold in the AL East. So without any further delay, here’s a look at some of the last week in baseball.

Marathon in the Big Peach - They loved it so much, they had two (count ‘em! Two!) seventh inning stretches in Atlanta last Sunday when the Braves took on the Houston Astros at Turner Field. A game that was to start at 1:35 ET was delayed for almost 2 hours and got started at 3:25. 5 hours and 35 minutes later, we had a winner. This was the longest game in the history of Turner Field since it opened in 1997. Both teams threw a combined 562 pitches, 181 each, of which 344 were strikes for a 66 percent ratio.

Atlanta’s Mark Texieria gave the crowd that stayed through the marathon something to go home happy about with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 17 th inning. Let’s play two? They almost did.

A-Rod and the Material Girl? - It seems that the tabloids are following New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez again. This time, he’s linked to Madonna. Yes, that Madonna. He’s linked so much to the singer that rumors are floating around that Mrs. A-Rod is filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Things are only going to get stranger in the Big Apple. Stay tuned.

Letter by Aaron’s mom sold to Charlotte collector - Another piece of baseball history went on the auction block this past weekend. A letter written by the real home run king Hank Aaron’s mother was purchased by Jeffery Gitomer, according to the Charlotte Observer. The letter, written in 1951 and mailed from Aaron’s hometown of Mobile, Alabama, sold for $21,000 and will be put in a personal collection. No word on the Baseball Hall of Fame will want to purchase it.

Francoeur sent to Mississippi - The Atlanta Braves sent slumping outfielder Jeff Francoeur down to Class AA Mississippi (Southern League) after he was struggling at the plate. The move was made last Friday morning and Francoeur was sent to the Mississippi club. While his defensive play has been up to par, his hitting has not. Slipping down to .234 with 40 strikeouts, including some in key offensive situations, the team, after general manager Frank Renz and field manager Bobby Cox consulted, sent him down to hopefully get his ducks in a row. It must have worked, because the team recalled him to the big club and Francoeur joined the team on the West Coast in Los Angeles. Let’s hope that this will get him back to something a bit more respectable.

Wrigley to host second outdoor NHL game - Granted, this is not a baseball story per se but it involves a venue. The National Hockey League liked the idea of outdoor hockey so much they decided to do it again. New Years Day, the Chicago Black Hawks and New York Rangers will face off on the corner of Waveland and Sheffield, on that little piece of land known as Wrigley Field. This will be the first non-baseball event at Wrigley since Gale Sayers played for Da Bears. This could be interesting. Stay tuned!

Sandberg returns to Wrigley - Chicago Cubs great Ryne Sandberg will make a return to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field later this month when his Peoria Chiefs (Midwest League) takes on the Kane County Cougars in a game that will give fans a chance to see the future Cubs. The game will take place July 29 with a 7:05 CT first pitch slated.

Tickets are now on sale for the “Road to Wrigley” series presented by presented by National City Bank and will include family-friendly priced tickets, an array of activities for children of all ages and a fun atmosphere filled with traditional minor league attractions. They’ll also be able to participate in such minor league staples as “Dizzy Bat Race,” t-shirt tosses and the opportunity for all kids 14-years-and-younger to run the Wrigley Field bases at the end of the game.




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