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Sports stars sell memories, beat tax increase

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Sports stars sell memories, beat tax increase

NEW YORK (AP) Rather than leave a 56-year-old uniform hanging in a closet at his Idaho home, Don Larsen decided it should be used for education.

He's auctioning off the Yankee pinstripes he wore in 1956 when he pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, and will use the proceeds to pay college tuition for his grandchildren, one in college and the other a high school freshman.

``I'm not getting any younger and I want to see them get an education before I leave,'' the 83-year-old Larsen said. ``They'll be appreciative later, more so than now, I'm sure.''

Similarly, Bob Knight is selling his NCAA championship rings and other mementos to fund education in his family. ``I have two grandsons,'' the Hall of Fame basketball coach said, ``and my wife has a niece and nephew, who would get good use out of this.''

In fact, a slew of sports memorabilia is on the market, coincidentally or not, just ahead of possible tax increases that could eat up some of the proceeds.

Also up for auction in coming weeks are baseball star Ozzie Smith's Gold Gloves, Evander Holyfield's boxing championship belts and an original of the agreement Pete Rose signed when he was banned from baseball for life in 1989.

``Sounds like a bunch of guys with full expectations that the Bush tax cuts are going to expire by year's end and not be back for next year,'' said Steve Gill, associate professor of accounting at San Diego State's Lamden School of Accountancy.

And starting Jan. 1, there will be a new Medicare tax on income from investments for higher-earning people. The IRS hasn't issued rules yet, so money from the sale of collectibles may be subject to the new levy.

``The 3.8 percent Medicare tax would probably be the thing that immediately popped into my mind in terms of what folks may be thinking about,'' said David Boyle, Americas director of personal financial services for the accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Some athletes used to give away the shirts off their backs or leave them in the clubhouse at season's end. Not anymore.

``If I knew then what I know now, I would have saved all my uniforms,'' baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said.

These days, polyester double-knit has replaced wool flannel uniforms, and the 10,000-plus outfits sent to the 30 big-league clubs by Majestic Athletic are highly desired by fans. But it is gear from decades ago that is more prized.

``It's just a more honest period of time. Things were clearer. Things were simpler,'' said Brandon Steiner, whose Steiner Sports Memorabilia is auctioning the Larsen jersey and Knight collection in an online sale that will end Dec. 5.

Retired athletes and auction houses took notice in May when a circa-1920 Babe Ruth jersey was sold by SCP Auctions for $4.4 million to Lelands.com, which had a buyer lined up.

``Now not everybody is going to have a $4.4 million piece of memorabilia, but they might have something that is worth between $25,000 and $250,000,'' said Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions, which is selling the Rose agreement. ``So different deals are being cut with the auction houses to bring that particular memorabilia to market while the players perceive it to be a good time to do so.''

Larsen threw his last big-league pitch in 1967- when the average major league salary was $19,000. That would cover only a small slice of the price of top memorabilia these days.

In the same auction as the Ruth jersey, a 1934 Ruth Yankees cap that was owned by pitcher David Wells sold for $537,278, about $507,000 more than Wells paid for it.

The baseball that rolled through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series sold in May for $418,250. Two years ago, the bat Kirk Gibson used for his game-winning home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of the 1988 World Series sold for $575,912.

Those were bargains compared with a rare 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card that sold for $2.35 million in 2007, then resold six months later for $2.8 million to Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick, who allowed baseball's Hall of Fame to display it.

``Sports people are nuts,'' Knight said. ``Look at how much they would pay for Babe Ruth's cap or Honus Wagner's card. I guess these are people who want to own things, things that are the results of what someone else did in sports.''

Wealthy sports junkies view a 1952 Mickey Mantle card the same way others look at their 401(k).

``While the stock market is up and down, and while real estate is up and down, the memorabilia market has really gained a lot of steam over the last couple years,'' said Goldin, whose Rose auction runs through Nov. 17.

Instead of being auctioned online, Holyfield's collection will be sold Nov. 30 at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif., which also sells rock `n' roll and Hollywood memorabilia.

``People look at these items not just as fans. They look at them as an investment. It's a way to diversify their portfolio,'' owner Darren Julien said. ``We're very popular in Asia and Russia, and that's where a lot of the money is coming from. Items that used to sell for $8,000 to $10,000 can bring $200,000 to $300,000 now.''

Holyfield, like Larsen, said he didn't consider the tax implications of selling items now rather than after the first of the year.

``This is something new to me,'' the former heavyweight champion said.

But the auction houses say the tax issues come up in the planning.

``As players get older, they certainly don't know what's going to happen with an estate tax, and I guess they figure they'd rather have it sold now than after they're passed and lose an unknown percentage,'' Goldin said.

And it extends beyond the sports sales.

``We've had other people, not just athletes, but we've had other celebrity personalities talk to us about that because it is an issue,'' Julien said.

In Gill's calculation, tax changes next year could push the rate on proceeds from these sales from 28 percent to 33 percent. In addition to the Medicare tax and the possibility of higher tax brackets, there could be a limitation on itemized deductions for higher-income people.

``I might just hurry up and sell it right now,'' Gill said. ``Anything you would be selling in the near term, hurry up and sell in December.''

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AP Basketball Writer Jim O'Connell and AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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