The Sports Report: Albert Pujols is welcomed home

Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols (5) is greeted by a standing ovation before his first at-bat durin
Albert Pujols is greeted with a standing ovation before his first at-bat during his first game back in St. Louis.
(L.G. Patterson / Associated Press)

Howdy, my name is John Cherwa and I’m filling in for Houston Mitchell, who will Zamboni the driveway to anyone who has any idea who the Kings and Ducks first-round picks are. (Just kidding, Houston doesn’t know how to drive a Zamboni.)

Before we get to our featured story of the day, you need to get in the mood, So, here’s a little song from Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles to get you in the spirit for our top story. Just click here.

OK, now, let’s go and read Andy McCullough’s dispatch from St. Louis. One version can be found here, just click, and a shorter version below.

“The fans rose in unison, waves of reds rippling through the seats at Busch Stadium, as Angels first baseman Albert Pujols approached the batters’ box Friday night. It had been seven years, seven months and 24 days since he had stood in this spot, digging his cleats into the dirt. An outpouring of gratitude stood between him and his at-bat.


“For one minute and 20 seconds — a period of time that might have lasted longer had Pujols not squared up in the box with the fans still roaring — the Cardinals faithful saluted Pujols for his 11 years of stardom with the club. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina stood facing Pujols, clapping his mitt against his bare hand and finally embracing his former teammate. Pujols’ departure after the 2011 season was acrimonious. The passage of time allowed for affection to replace discontent as he played here for the first time as an Angel.

“The first at-bat was anticlimactic. Pujols flied out to center field on the first pitch. Cheers greeted his departure from the field too.

“The prospect of returning to this ballpark had weighed on Pujols the past couple of weeks. At 4:03 p.m., hours before the game, he rounded a corner on the ground floor of Busch Stadium and walked toward a meeting with the media. He donned a red Angels hoodie and shorts — a hue startlingly similar to the ‘Cardinal red’ he wore for 11 seasons — and a pair of black shower slides. He greeted a few familiar faces, stopping to embrace former Angels catcher Bengie Molina, who now broadcasts for the Cardinals.

Pujols wore a smile as he settled into his seat.


“ ‘I’m not really an emotional guy, but it’s probably going to get to me,’ Pujols said. ‘It’s getting to me now.’

“Pujols took time to praise others in the Cardinals’ lineage. He credited Hall of Famer Lou Brock for amplifying his aggressiveness on the bases. He thanked Jim Edmonds and Mark McGwire for stumping to the front office about Pujols making the team as a rookie in spring training in 2001. He laughed about Bob Gibson, the legendary intimidator, telling him about the importance of chin music. He teared up for a moment as he recalled the words of the late Darryl Kile: “Don’t be afraid to make the All-Star team.”

Pujols made the team nine times as a Cardinal. He won two National League MVPs. He finished in the top five in voting 10 times. Even in 2007, when he garnered the ninth-most votes, he led National League in wins above replacement. The decade belonged to him.

“I came here as a little boy,” Pujols said. “And I left as a really strong and big man — like a grown man, you know? And a lot of credit I give to players like Jim Edmonds, Placido Polanco, Fernando Vina, Edgar Renteria, Mike Matheny. And the list goes on and on: Larry Walker, Woody Williams.”

Women’s World Cup

There were no World Cup games Friday, but that didn’t keep our own Kevin Baxter from filing from France. The good thing is all the games to follow count. The bad thing is if you lose, you’re out.

Another good thing is Kevin’s thoughts of the length of group play agree with mine. Kevin?

“The seemingly interminable group stage of the Women’s World Cup lasted 14 days, featuring 36 games, 106 goals, 23 shutouts and very few surprises.


“New Zealand didn’t a win a group-stage game for the fifth time in as many World Cups and the U.S. didn’t lose one for the seventh time in eight tournaments. It didn’t give up a goal either, something the Americans accomplished for the first time.

“The host country — in this case, France — advanced as it has in every tournament. So did Germany, whose women have never exited a World Cup in the first round — a claim the German men can no longer make.

Marta scored twice, extending her World Cup total for goals to 17, most by a player of either gender. And her team, Brazil, moved on as it has in every tournament she’s played in.

Canada’s Christine Sinclair scored a goal — she only has 182 of those. In her first two games, American Carli Lloyd scored three, giving her goals in a record six consecutive World Cup games, dating to 2015.

“’I don’t care,’ she said when her streak ended in the group-stage final against Sweden. ‘I just want to win.’

“Mission accomplished: The U.S. has lost just twice in regulation in Lloyd’s four World Cups.

“So in a lot of ways, this tournament has been déjà vu — which I can use here because it’s a French term. (So, interestingly, is cliché.)”

Round of 16 games (PDT)



Germany vs. Nigeria, 8:30 a.m., FS1

Norway vs. Australia, 12:00 p.m., Fox


England vs. Cameroon, 11:30 a.m., FS1

France vs. Brazil, 12 p.m., Fox


Spain vs. United States, 9 a.m., FS1

Sweden vs. Canada, 12 p.m., FS1


Italy vs. China, 9 a.m., FS1

Netherlands vs. Japan, FS1

Rest of the schedule (PDT)

Quarterfinal games, June 27-29

Semifinal game, July 2, noon, Fox

Semifinal game, July 3, noon, FS1

Third-place game, July 6, 8 a.m., Fox

Final, July 7, 8 a.m., Fox

A story you won’t believe

What would you do if your favorite uncle, or your granddad was not the wonderful guy you thought he was? Our David Wharton found this story of a guy, whose name could be in the same sentence as Rosie Ruiz. But should it be? One version here, another is below.

“It wasn’t until Frank Meza checked the internet that he realized so many people were talking about him. Hundreds of strangers from across the country had posted on message boards, branding Meza a liar and a cheat.

“’All kinds of allegations were being thrown at me,’ he says.

‘It was pretty traumatic.’

“To that point, the retired physician had forged a different sort of reputation. Soft-spoken and gray-haired, he had mentored Latino students while working to provide healthcare for low-income patients throughout Southern California.

“Meza was also a devout runner who, late in life, began entering marathons. The problems began there.

“Though he ran mainly around California, eschewing bigger races across the country, his unusually fast times for a 70-year-old caught the attention of the long-distance community.

“Runners grew skeptical when he was twice disqualified for irregular splits, the times recorded at various points along the course. An impressive finish at the recent Los Angeles Marathon prompted officials to look closer as doubts erupted into online vitriol and a series of articles on a web site called

Derek Murphy, an amateur sleuth who operates the site from Ohio, looked back at numerous races, compiling an array of data, photographs and video that he considers incriminating.

“‘At this point,’ Murphy says, ‘I have no doubt.’

“Marathoners can cheat in various ways: Taking shortcuts, grabbing a ride along the way, or having someone else carry their numbered bib for a portion of the 26.2 miles.

“But none of this is easy to catch amid the hordes jostling down city streets, and none of the allegations against Meza point to a specific method, which leaves him in a tough spot.

“Accusers don’t believe him when he denies cheating, nor do they accept his explanations for incongruities in his race times. Meza suspects the only way to redeem himself is by having an official observer accompany him at his next marathon.”

NHL Draft

OK, here, the draft that only the hardcore hockey fans care about. Here’s who the Kings and Ducks picked in the first round.

Capsules courtesy of our Curtis Zupke.

ALEX TURCOTTE, Round 1 (fifth pick), center, shoots left.

Why Kings picked him: Their success is typically center-driven and Turcotte fits the mold as one of the best two-way forwards in the draft. He models his game after future teammate Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. The No. 2 center behind Jack Hughes with the U.S. national development team, Turcotte was injured for part of last season but had 27 goals and 35 assists in 37 games. Turcotte, 18, is headed to Wisconsin to play under former Kings forward Tony Granato.

TREVOR ZEGRAS, Round 1 (Pick 9), center, shoots left.

Why Ducks picked him: Zegras, 18, will be a play-making impact forward in their system. He is a great skater who can play center or wing, and he sees the ice well. Zegras is part of an excellent draft class for the U.S. national development team, having scored 12 goals with 35 assists in 33 games in the exhibition part of the season (60 penalty minutes). He is committed to Boston University.”

Odds and ends

Walker Buehler’s 16 strikeouts and Matt Beaty’s walk-off blast lift Dodgers over Rockies. … Griffin Canning keeps his cool, but Angels fall to Cardinals 5-1. … NBA draft 2019: Analysis of the winners and losers. … Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann fit Clippers’ desire for toughness. … Galaxy’s crowded schedule continues with FC Cincinnati. … Alex Morgan after injury scare at Women’s World Cup: ‘I’m OK’ … Andrew Cancio retains title with early knockout over Alberto Machado. …Sparks fall to Storm for third consecutive loss.

Other newsletters

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Our Dodgers newsletter, written by Houston Mitchell. Subscribe here.

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Boxing/MMA newsletter. Subscribe here.

Soccer newsletter, written by Kevin Baxter. Subscribe here.

Saturday’s local sports schedule

Colorado at Dodgers, 4:15 p.m., Fox, AM 570

Angels at St. Louis, 11:15 a.m., FSW, KLAA 830

Galaxy at Cincinnati, 4:30 p.m., Spectrum Sportsnet

Born on this date

1837: Chess master Paul Morphy

1903: Baseball player Carl Hubbell

1947: NBA player Pete Maravich

1962: NBA player Clyde Drexler

1971: NFL player Kurt Warner

1978: NFL player Champ Bailey

1978: Race car driver Dan Wheldon

1984: Golfer Dustin Johnson

Died on this date

2002: Baseball player Darryl Kile, 33

And finally

You have to be of a certain age (i.e: read old, like me) to appreciate “Pistol” Pete Maravich. So in honor of his birth, here’s a highlight reel (no commentary) of Maravich and the wizardry he had when he was playing. Today, he might be just another guy, but back then, he was something special.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email us here. If you want to subscribe, click here.

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