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Former players urge Miller be put in Hall of Fame

Former players urge Miller be put in Hall of Fame

NEW YORK (AP) Baseball players urged that Marvin Miller be put in the Hall of Fame as they spoke Monday night during a memorial for the union leader.

In an auditorium filled with Hall of Famers, dozens of retired and current players, baseball officials, agents and labor lawyers, 13 speakers praised the former baseball union head, who helped players gain free agency in the 1970s and created the path to multimillion-dollar salaries. Miller died in November at 95.

``It is a travesty he is not in the Hall of Fame,'' former major league player and manager Buck Martinez said during the two-hour program.

Miller has been turned down five times by various Hall of Fame committees that considered baseball executives.

Jim Bouton, who entered the majors in 1962, was critical that Bowie Kuhn, baseball's commissioner from 1969-84, is in the Hall but Miller has been kept out.

``All those policies were not Bowie Kuhn's policies. In fact they were all Marvin's policies because Marvin won every battle he had with Bowie Kuhn,'' Bouton said. ``I think Bowie Kuhn was 0 for 67.''

Miller is next eligible to appear on a Hall ballot this December.

Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Joe Morgan were among those who spoke before a crowd of about 450 at New York University School of Law's Tishman Auditorium. Reggie Jackson, Keith Hernandez, Steve Garvey, Ted Sizemore and David Cone were among the approximately three dozen former players in the audience.

Major League Baseball was represented by executive vice president Rob Manfred and senior vice presidents Katy Feeney and Phyllis Merhige. Also attending were George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service; Toru Matsubara, executive director of Japan's players' association; and Miller's children, Susan and Peter.

Winfield, who used free agency to sign a record-breaking contract after the 1980 season, said Miller taught him life lessons he still thinks of. Winfield addressed the five active players in the audience: Andrew Bailey, Bill Bray, Craig Breslow, Adam Ottavino and Micah Owings.

``Anything you do in life, know where you've come from, where you are and where you're going, and Marvin was able to share that with us,'' Winfield said. ``Know the history of the players' association. Know how you got to where you are today.''

A former economist for the United Steelworkers Union, Miller spent 16 1/2 years as executive director of the Major League Players Association, starting in 1966.

During Miller's tenure, the average major league salary increased from $19,000 to $241,000. It was $3.2 million last year. Players remembered his soft-spokeness, how when speaking on the field during spring training he kept lowering his voice to force players to crane their necks to hear.

``Every time somebody signs one of these wonderful contracts, and there are so many of them out there, I think before they get the first check they should have to write an essay on Marvin Miller,'' said Rusty Staub, a big leaguer from 1963-85.

Current union head Michael Weiner hosted the tribute, which included video clips taped in 2010 of Miller reminiscing. Players spoke in order of when they made their big league debuts.

``We could have searched 100 years and wouldn't have found a more perfect person for our situation,'' said Morgan, a Hall of Fame second baseman who played in the majors from 1963-84.

Donald Fehr, who served as Miller's general counsel from 1977-82 and then headed the union from 1983-09, said he could read Miller's mood by what drink he ordered at lunch: a Tom Collins signaled a happy mood, a martini meant he was perplexed and Old Grand-Dad Bourbon was a sign of problems.

``The reason I think he is remembered as he is, is that the baseball players' association became a symbol, it became a symbol of what a union could be if it was run right,'' said Fehr, current head of the NHL players' union.

Martinez talked about a telephone call he received from former Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley during the 1985 labor negotiations.

``You tell Marvin to stick by his guns,'' Martinez recalled Finley saying. ``You guys are doing the right thing.''

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The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

Alex Ovechkin had two goals, the puck on his stick and an empty-net yawning. The Caps held a 4-2 lead on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks late in the third period and the win looked all but secured. The only thing still up for grabs was the exclamation point empty-net goal.

Ovechkin took the puck in the defensive zone and weaved his way through the neutral zone. Once he hit center ice, there was only one player between him and the net. The hat trick looked all but certain…until he passed the puck away.

He easily could have taken the puck himself and fired it into the empty yet, but instead he chose to pass it off to T.J. Oshie on the wing.

Oshie delayed, but with the trailing Vancouver players skating into the passing lane, there was no way for Oshie to try to pass it back to Ovechkin and he very reluctantly shot the puck into the net.

When the players returned to the bench, the disappointment on Oshie’s face was clear to see. He wanted Ovechkin to get the hat trick, but Ovechkin wasn’t having it.

After the game, head coach Todd Reirden praised Ovechkin for his leadership.

“He could have easily got in the red and tried to score himself and it wasn’t even a thought,” Reirden said. “He passed right to Osh and Osh couldn’t go back to him and that’s the way it worked out. It doesn’t bother him one bit and I think that’s where you see a different player than maybe you saw three or four years ago that is not focused on individual stuff. He’s doing the right thing and he feels if you do the right thing for long enough, you’re going to get rewarded.

“We were benefactors of that last season with being able to win out at the end. He’s really got a lot of buy-in right now for doing the right thing. I think his leadership is really in the last probably year, year and a half has really gone to a new level.”
 
Reirden saw leadership on the play. Oshie saw disappointment.
 
Ovechkin offered his own explanation for giving up the shot as he said, “Save it for next time.”

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Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Most nights, with little variance, the Wizards know what they are going to get from John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. They are consistently what they are, both good and bad, and mostly good.

The same cannot always be said about Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. Both are capable of brilliance, it's just those moments come and go and sometimes with mysterious timing. Both players help the team more often than not, but can be unpredictable and enigmatic.

Monday night saw both Morris and Oubre at their best as the Wizards topped the Blazers 125-124 in overtime at the Moda Center. It was a worthy reminder of how much the two of them can change the outlook for the Wizards as a team on any given night.

Let's begin with Morris because this may have been the best game he's played with the Wizards since joining them in a Feb. 2016 trade. On both ends of the floor, he  was a force, but particularly on offense.

Morris erupted for 28 points in 25 minutes on 9-for-15 from the field and 6-for-10 from three. His six threes were a career-high. He also had 10 rebounds, a block and a steal.

It was the most efficient night in Morris' career and, by one measure, one of the most efficient in franchise history. His 28 points were the most by a Wizards or Bullets player in 25 minutes or less since A.J. English dropped 30 points in 23 minutes in 1990.

Morris' threes were well-timed. He hit two in the extra period, including one with 38.5 seconds remaining to put the Wizards up four. He also made one with 1:04 left in regulation and another right before that with 1:39 to go, both to give the Wizards a lead at the time. 

The clutch threes invoked memories of a game-winner Morris hit in the very same building two seasons ago. That also happened to be his best year with the Wizards.

Morris has improved his three-point shooting in recent years with a career-best 36.7 percent last season. When he's knocking them down, the Wizards can be uniquely good at spacing the floor, as Wall and especially Beal and Porter can be dangerous from three.

What Morris did against Portland was a major departure from a pair of uninspired games to begin the season. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds total in his first two games, both losses, as he failed to compensate for Dwight Howard's absence. On Monday, he stepped up and helped lead the Wizards to victory.

Like Morris, Oubre had been scuffling through two games. A different version of him showed up in Portland.

Oubre amassed only 17 points in his first two games and shot just 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 from three. Against the Blazers, Oubre scored 22 points and shot 9-for-13 overall and 3-for-3 from long range.

Oubre added six rebounds, a block and a steal and a host of winning plays that didn't show up in traditional stats. He drew a loose ball foul on Mo Harkless early in the fourth quarter and took a charge on C.J. McCollum with under two minutes in overtime.

Oubre played pretty much exactly how head coach Scott Brooks often says he should. He ran the floor in transition and attacked the rim when the ball swung his way. He was more selective with his three-point attempts than usual. He wreaked havoc on defense with deflections, didn't gamble for steals and he hustled for rebounds. 

Monday night showed the perfect version of both Morris and Oubre. The Wizards need that to be the model for how they aspire to play every single night. If they do, this team's ceiling is significantly higher.

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