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Background checks infuriate umpires

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Umpires are furious that Major League Baseball has sent investigators to their hometowns, asking neighbors a series of questions that include whether the umpires belong to the Ku Klux Klan.

“The questions that we found out are being asked are about beating wives, marijuana use and extravagant parties,” World Umpires Assn. President John Hirschbeck said by telephone Wednesday. “And then finally with this whole thing about the Ku Klux Klan.”

Hirschbeck and union spokesman Lamell McMorris said Tom Christopher, the Milwaukee-based supervisor of security and investigations in the commissioner’s office, had asked the questions about Klan membership.

Baseball stepped up background checks last August, after it became public that the FBI was investigating NBA referee Tim Donaghy for betting on games.

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MLB asked umpires to sign authorizations allowing the sport to conduct financial background checks, but the umpires balked.

“To try to link our umpires to the Ku Klux Klan is highly offensive. It is essentially defaming the umpires in their communities by conducting a very strange and poorly executed investigation,” McMorris said.

Contacted Wednesday, Christopher referred questions to Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations. Manfred was not available for comment.

An attorney for Brian McNamee, who has traded performance-enhancing drug accusations with Roger Clemens since the release of the Mitchell Report, says he believes New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte will provide support for his client Monday when he speaks to a House committee.

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Earl Ward says he believes Pettitte -- a former teammate and workout partner of Clemens -- will say he discussed human growth hormone with Clemens between the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

The contract of right-hander D.J. Houlton was sold by the Dodgers to Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Japan.

Former Times editor and reporter Janet Clayton was named president of ThinkCure, the charity launched by the Dodgers, the City of Hope and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to raise money for cancer research.

-- Dylan Hernandez

PRO FOOTBALL

Palmer’s brother Jordan joins him on the Bengals

Jordan Palmer signed a two-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals that will give him the chance to back up his brother, Carson, at quarterback. Jordan Palmer, 23, was waived before last season by the Washington Redskins.

The St. Louis Rams hired Al Saunders as offensive coordinator for his second stint with the team. Saunders was fired by the Redskins on Saturday.

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Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee earned his first Pro Bowl appearance after the San Diego Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson (knee) withdrew.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was expected to announce Friday that the Buffalo Bills will play an annual regular-season game in Toronto, starting this year.

SOCCER

Knee injury sidelines Lewis for at least a month

U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis will undergo knee surgery and be sidelined for at least a month after being injured Saturday during Derby’s FA Cup loss to Preston.

Martin Vasquez, assistant coach of Major League Soccer’s Chivas USA, was selected by Juergen Klinsmann to be an assistant coach at Bayern Munich.

Vasquez, 44, a former Mexico and U.S. international midfielder and MLS veteran, was previously an assistant with the Galaxy.

-- Grahame L. Jones

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MISCELLANY

Former athletic manager files discrimination suit

Lauren Summa, a 23-year-old graduate student and a former athletic manager for Hofstra’s football team, claims in a federal discrimination lawsuit in Hempstead, N.Y., that the team’s players sexually harassed her repeatedly during the 2006 season.

She said she was let go after speaking out.

The LA84 Foundation announced $2.2 million in grants to support sports programs serving more than 57,000 youngsters in Southern California.


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