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St. Louis, nation mourn death of Stan Musial

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St. Louis, nation mourn death of Stan Musial

ST. LOUIS (AP) St. Louis Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs was at a party back home in Georgia for his sister's wedding when the gathering suddenly turned somber.

The news had spread that Hall of Famer Stan Musial died on Saturday. He was 92.

``Everybody knew who Stan Musial was,'' Boggs said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ``Everyone knew what a great person he was.''

A moment of silence was observed before the start of the Rhode Island-Saint Louis men's basketball game across town, and prior to the third period of the St. Louis Blues' NHL opener against the Detroit Red Wings when public address announcer Tom Calhoun described Musial as ``St. Louis' favorite son.''

Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa interrupted his annual Animal Rescue Foundation event onstage to pass on the sad news. The Cardinals set up a memorial around the larger of the two Musial statues, a longtime meeting place for fans, outside Busch Stadium.

``Obviously, everybody is heartbroken,'' current Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said at the Blues game. ``There's a lot of people who will quote his stats to you, but what makes it so touching is how it affects people's lives.''

Former Cardinals star Albert Pujols weighed in with a tweet: ``My prayers are with the Musial family tonight. I will cherish my friendship with Stan for as long as I live. Rest in Peace.''

Current Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, too: ``Sad to hear about Stan the Man, it's an honor to wear the same uniform. Prayers to the Musial family.''

Many recalled Musial as the most selfless of sports heroes. Boggs was touched by Musial's enthusiasm when the pitcher cracked the major leagues in 2008.

``He was one of the best players to ever play the game, and he was very happy for me when I made my first team,'' Boggs said. ``He was extremely kind to me. He was one of a kind.''

Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog said Musial was a player he'd have loved to have written onto his lineup card. He said Musial's influence provided a helpful push in his election to the Hall.

``He was always great to me when I was a nobody,'' Herzog said. ``He will always be Mr. Baseball. You can go around the world and you'll never find a better human being than Stan Musial.''

Musial had been in poor health for several years and Herzog remembered a conversation at the funeral of Musial's wife, Lillian, last May in which Musial indicated he was ready for the end of his life.

``I always wanted to live to be 100,'' Herzog recalled Musial saying, ``but I didn't want to live to be 100 like this.''

All of Musial's admirers preferred to recall the long-lasting glory days.

``I never got to see him play but I saw what type of person he was and what type of impact he had in this city,'' Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. ``That made me realize how lucky we were to have him.''

Commissioner Bud Selig said baseball lost ``one of its true legends,'' adding that Musial had been a ``Hall of Famer in every sense and a man who led a great American life.''

``All of Major League Baseball mourns his passing, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, admirers and all the fans of the Cardinals,'' Selig said.

Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said: ``The mold broke with Stan. There will never be another like him.''

``Stan will be remembered in baseball annals as one of the pillars of our game, with his many successes on the diamond, the passion with which he played, and his engaging personality,'' he said.

Blues Hall of Famer Bernie Federko commented on Musial after broadcasting the hockey team's 6-0 victory over Detroit.

``He never acted like a famous ballplayer, he just acted like a normal guy. He always had time for everyone, and he looked you in the eye,'' Federko said. ``It's a sad day but to go at 92, it's a great life. I lost my dad last year at 92 the same way. If we all signed up for 92 years, we'd be pretty happy about it.''

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Justin Tucker kept the game ball from his first missed extra point

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Justin Tucker kept the game ball from his first missed extra point

It's Draft Day, baby!

Before the 2019 NFL Draft gets underway Thursday night in Nashville, Tn, here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes:

1. The Ravens made a VERY smart move Wednesday by signing kicker Justin Tucker to a four-year extension that will keep him in Baltimore through the 2023 season. In seven seasons, Tucker has experienced the highest of highs, and just last year, the low of his first missed extra point Week 7 against the Saints. Memorable as it is something we rarely see from Tucker, the 29-year-old has that game ball on display as a reminder of the ups and downs of his career.

“That’s a part of my story, and I want to be able to look at that and realize that was a learning moment,” Tucker said. “It was, perhaps, a pivotal moment for me as a professional.”

“I think it’s incredibly important for any football player, any athlete, anybody, to learn form both your successes and your failures,” Tucker said.

2. The Ravens are making one very special fans' dream come true this weekend during the NFL Draft. Mo Gaba, a 13-year-old superfan who's been blind since he was nine months old and is battling cancer for the fourth time, will announce the team's fourth-round pick from the Ravens' Draft Fest at the Inner Harbor Saturday. Gaba will be the first person ever to announce an NFL draft pick in Braille. 

3. General manager Eric DeCosta will lead his first-ever war room Thursday night, but he won't be kicking former GM Ozzie Newsome out of his usual seat at the head of the table. 

“I’ve been in that seat for a long time,” DeCosta said via the Ravens' website.

“The other reason is Ozzie doesn’t like change a lot,” DeCosta said. “He still gets his hair cut on Friday, he’s on a treadmill three times a day. He only started using an iPhone about six months ago. No, that’s not actually true

“But he definitely doesn’t like change, and I just feel like if we moved his seat, he’d be really flustered.”

4. The Ravens are showing increased interest in Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley. John Harbaugh did mention earlier in the offseason that the team could add another playmaker in the Ravens' backfield.

5. Free agent pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah reportedly visited the Ravens Wednesday. Drafted fifth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Lions, the Ravens could use Ansah after losing Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in free agency.


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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The Capitals’ reign as Stanley Cup champions is now officially over

The Capitals’ reign as Stanley Cup champions is now officially over

WASHINGTON – This was not the way it was supposed to end.

The feeling after the Capitals’ Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday was one of shock. There is always an element of that when a team gets eliminated from the playoffs in overtime, but it wasn’t how they lost that made it so stunning. It was when.

“Everything can happen in a seven-game series,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “We all seen that. But right now it's just disappointing. We would've liked a better outcome. ... It's tough to swallow"

“We fight through 82 games and in Game 7, they score one goal and it’s a kind of situation where you’re disappointed, you’re frustrated, especially after last year,” Alex Ovechkin said.

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 and returning with largely the same core intact, returning as the defending champs to win the Metropolitan Division for a fourth consecutive year, no one envisioned Washington’s defense of the Cup and its quest to repeat to end in the first round. That was especially true when the Caps drew Carolina as their first-round opponent, a plucky team with a first-year head coach that made it to the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

It looked like a favorable matchup for Washington. It wasn’t.

“All series long it was a game of mistakes,” Brooks Orpik said.

The Caps took a 2-0 lead in the series, Carolina battled back to tie it 2-2. Washington won the all-important Game 5 to push the Hurricanes to the brink, Carolina responded by winning Game 6 to force the all-or-nothing Game 7. The Caps even jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 7 and yet the Hurricanes just kept coming.

In the end, the overtime loss was shocking, but not surprising. Carolina had taken control in the second period and never looked back. They fired the first nine shots on goal in overtime and were controlling the play over a Washington team that just looked gassed. The Caps needed to get a favorable bounce, otherwise it was only a matter of time before Carolina would finish them off and that was exactly what happened as Brock McGinn deflected in a shot for the overtime winner.

There are many reasons Washington ultimately lost this series, but it was for none of the typical reasons we see in most upsets.

This was not a case of a goalie standing on his head to completely shut down Washington’s offense. Petr Mrazek made some key saves at times, but ultimately finished the series with a .899 save percentage. Take away the six-goal blowout of Game 5 and Mrazek’s save percentage rises to .919. That’s better, but still would rank only sixth among goalie with at least four starts this postseason.

This was not a case of a superstar forward putting the team on his back and carrying them to the improbable upset. Sebastian Aho tallied five points in seven games, Teuvo Taravainen had four. Both had fewer points that Jaccob Slavin who had nine assists and Warren Foegele who scored an improbable four goals and two assists.

This was not a case of Washington’s best players not showing up. Alex Ovechkin scored four goals and five assists to lead the team with nine points. Right behind him was Nicklas Backstrom with five goals and three assists. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored only one goal in seven games, but his one goal came in Game 7 to restore Washington’s two-goal lead in the second period.

Washington finished with a 25-percent power play and an 88-percent penalty kill, bot respectable numbers.

The Caps lost Michal Kempny and T.J. Oshie – both significant injuries – but Carolina had a number of significant injuries as well.

Really, the biggest reason the Caps felt they lost is because they were out-played, out-hustled and out-worked.

“I think we were all guilty of some mistakes at different times that were maybe a little uncharacteristic of us,” Orpik said. “Two two-goal leads at home within the same game is kind of a tough one to swallow. I don’t know if unacceptable is the right word but you have to be able to maintain those leads, especially on home ice and this time of the year. We made mistakes but they played great all series so it wasn’t just us. Eventually you have to give them credit at some point.”

Now instead of preparing for the quick turnaround of playing and starting a second-round series against the New York Islanders on Friday, the season is over and the Caps are left to wonder what could have been.

Already eliminated in the first round were the Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators, all thought to be Cup contenders. Heck, even archrival Pittsburgh was out. Alex Ovechkin was playing at the top of his game as he claimed his eight Rocket Richard Trophy after leading the league in goals yet again. That performance carried over to the postseason and he was brilliant in Wednesday’s game.

But despite how favorable the road in front of them looked for another Cup run, despite the unreal performance the team’s top stars were delivering, none of it ultimately mattered.

The only thing harder than winning a Stanley Cup is winning it twice. Perhaps to expect a second championship was unrealistic. But a first round exit felt too soon. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end for a team that had finally learned how to win.

The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs were already turning into the year of the upset. The Caps became the latest victim of that on Wednesday. And finally, a party that had begun in June 2018, came to an end officially meaning a new champion will be crowned.

“Every opportunity missed is devastating, really,” John Carlson said. “You only get to do this for so long and I've been fortunate to be on great teams. When you don't do well, it's more than we were up in a series or a game. It's everything. It hurts.”

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