From Comcast SportsNetSTATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- The man in the white dress shirt, Penn State tie and rolled-up khakis jogged through the Beaver Stadium tunnel and on to the field before slowing down at the finish line -- the 50-yard-line.It was alumnus Gus Curtin's tribute to the iconic look once sported in the same stadium on fall weekends by the late coach Joe Paterno.A weekend during which the annual Blue-White spring game gave fans a glimpse into the Nittany Lions' future under new coach Bill O'Brien also allowed people like Curtin to remember the past. From the bouquets of blue-and-white carnations left at the bronzed Paterno statue outside the stadium to the charity 5K race run in Paterno's honor Sunday, fans paid tribute to the Hall of Fame coach who died in January at age 85."It's nice to know that the support and the love is all there, because all the people who love and support ... he's been a part of them for so many years," Paterno's widow, Sue Paterno, said before the race Sunday. "They're feeling a loss like we're feeling a loss. Our (loss) is maybe more acute."The spring football game marked the first event at the stadium since her husband's death. Many alumni still question the circumstances behind Paterno's ouster last November by university trustees in the aftermath of child sexual abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky.The retired defensive coordinator has maintained his innocence and awaits trial. Paterno testified before a grand jury investigating Sandusky that he relayed a 2002 allegation brought to him by a graduate assistant to his campus superiors, including the administrator overseeing the police department.Authorities have said Paterno wasn't a target of the probe. The Board of Trustees ousted him, citing in part a moral obligation to do more to alert authorities outside the school, and a "failure of leadership."Last week, Penn State agreed to provide millions in payments and benefits to Paterno's estate and family members under the late football coach's employment contract, although a family lawyer says the Paternos did not sign away their right to sue.But unless the subject came up in conversation, there were no outward displays by fans of protest against school administrators or trustees over the weekend. Fans were eager to see what the team looked like under O'Brien."It seems like he's genuinely excited to do new things and to put a good team out there, but he's also respectful of tradition," said Curtin, 39, of Annapolis, Md. "So far I like him."Inside the stadium, there were no apparent mentions during the spring game of Paterno's name over the sound system. No images of Paterno were seen on video boards.Like Curtin, dozens of alumni, students and other spectators wore attire that offered some kind of reminder of Paterno.Some people donned "Joe Knows Football" T-shirts, a play off the old Nike ad campaign slogan featuring Bo Jackson.Others wore T-shirts or sweatshirts that read "Team Paterno" on the front and "Make an Impact" on the back -- the latter phrase referencing a command from Joe Paterno's father, Angelo, to his son.The "Team Paterno" shirts were a gift to some donors for the cause of Sunday's race, Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, a charity long championed by Sue Paterno."We were in it together," Sue Paterno said when asked about the "Team Paterno" phrase. "I said, I help you all the time. Now you help me.' He got hooked ... It turned out to be a real good tagline this year."The charity said Sunday it hoped to raise nearly 300,000 from the race, which would triple the amount it raised last year."I'm 55 years-old, and I've never known another coach here," Rich Ellers, a lifelong season-ticket holder from Centre Hall, said Saturday at the Paterno statue. "His spirit will live on. He'll never be gone in that sense."The statue served as a gathering point for mourners after Paterno died, and visitors returned to the site in droves again this weekend. One effort organized by alumni left 409 bouquets of the blue-and-white carnations at the site -- one for each of Paterno's Division I-record career victories."Obviously I miss Joe," 2011 Penn State graduate Erin Davis said at the statue. "He's like a grandfather to this university."The small cemetery in State College where Paterno is buried has seen increased visitors since his death. Many well-wishers have left flowers there, too, and Penn State hats. Police say some mourners have held candlelight vigils. A family spokesman and police say there have been no major problems, though the cemetery last week decided to start closing at dusk.The Paterno family is planning to start a "Paterno Foundation" charity, from which sales of a DVD of the Jan. 26 memorial service for Paterno are being sold. The family has said proceeds will go to Special Olympics.Sue Paterno said she no plans to leave the modest ranch home in town where she and her husband raised their family. She plans to continue helping Special Olympics, including the state Summer Games held on the Penn State campus each year."Absolutely, they're my people," she said about working Special Olympians. "They become your buddies. This gives you a bigger family."Sue Paterno also offered backing to her husband's successor, the 42-year-old O'Brien. She called Penn State a "magic place.""The guy has got a job to do, and we've got to support him," Sue Paterno said. "Joe was in that position at one time, a little bit younger. But I hope (the O'Briens) love it here as much as we did."
It might be figuratively held together with chicken wire and duct tape at this point, and it hasn’t been entirely effective recently. But the White Sox bullpen can’t be criticized for a lack of effort.
Over the last four days, White Sox relievers have had to throw 19 1/3 innings. To recap: Starter Jacob Turner only lasted 3 1/3 innings Friday against the Detroit Tigers, then Chris Sale was scratched from his start Saturday after blowing up over the team’s uniforms and earning a five-game suspension. The White Sox bullpen shouldered Johnny Wholestaff duties and threw eight innings on Saturday — right-hander Matt Albers started and pitched two of those innings despite throwing an inning in the team’s last two games — in lieu of the team’s All-Star ace.
David Robertson, who pitched a third of an inning in relief Saturday, pitched twice on Sunday (he allowed three solo home runs to the Tigers to blow the save in his second game). Nate Jones appeared in the first three games of the Tigers series, too, totaling 2 1/3 innings.
On Monday, both Jones and Robertson were given a much-needed rest day. So Zach Duke, Albers and Dan Jennings were called upon by manager Robin Ventura to cover seven outs against the powerful Cubs lineup. Albers blew the save, but Jennings’ strikeout of Jason Heyward with the go-ahead run on second set up Tyler Saladino’s walk-off single to net the White Sox a 5-4 win.
“We’ve picked up a lot of innings lately,” Robertson said. “Everybody’s just giving it everything they got right now. It’s obviously, we would’ve loved to have nothing but zeros go up, but that’s not the way baseball works. We’re facing a lot of good lineups. And we’ve just hung tough and tried to at least give us a chance to win. Thankfully, we’ve been very fortunate to walk off these last three games.”
It’s not just the volume of innings that’s taxing the bullpen, though. With three consecutive walk-off wins — the first time the White Sox have done that since Aug. 4-6, 1962 — have come plenty of high-stress pitches. Over the last week, the White Sox bullpen has the highest average leverage index in baseball, and that’s with this group shouldering the generally low-leverage early innings of Saturday’s game in place of Sale.
“The more we work, the more proud we are of what we do,” Jennings said.
Still, this group could probably use a breather. Without an off day until Aug. 1, though, the only way to get one is to be ruled out for a game, as Robertson and Jones were on Monday.
“Hopefully we can rotate, I know there’s some other guys that I know might need a day so maybe hopefully Nate and Robertson are really fresh tomorrow and we can build off that,” Jennings said. “(Or) maybe we can get that eight, nine, 10-run win where we can kind of sit back and relax a little bit, hopefully.”
Manager Robin Ventura said he went with seniority in choosing who to cover Jones and Robertson’s innings Monday, which helps explain why he didn’t use 2015 first-round pick Carson Fulmer against the Cubs. Fulmer’s recent control issues — he only threw 12 of 30 pitches for strikes in blowing a lead against the Tigers on Friday — could’ve played a factor, too.
“You’re trusting the guys who have been here,” Ventura said. “You’ve got some new faces that are out there, it would’ve been asking a lot to bring them in and put them in that.”
White Sox relievers have squandered leads in each of the team’s last four games, though: Fulmer on Friday, Jones on Saturday, Robertson on Sunday and Albers/Jennings on Monday. In addition to a short outing from Turner and no outing from Sale, the White Sox are missing right-handers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam from a group that looked to be fairly deep earlier in the season.
The White Sox relief corps could certainly use a day off or at the least, as Jennings said, a blowout win where some of those young arms — Fulmer, Michael Ynoa and Tommy Kahnle — could polish off some low-pressure innings. But those easy wins have been few and far between this season: The White Sox only have three wins by more than three runs since May 14.
So if that trend continues, this group is going to have to continue to cover plenty of high-stress innings without a break, at least for the next week.
“Obviously the bullpen the last few days had to pick up the team, and we take pride in that,” Albers said. “Especially Nate and D-Rob were down today, shoot, they’ve been pitching every day too. Everybody else started to try to pick them up. That’s what we’re here for.”
Michigan tight end Jake Butt hit the nail right on the head when asked about his head coach, Jim Harbaugh.
“He’s one of a kind.”
Yes, Harbaugh is certainly unlike any other football coach. He spent the offseason firing off Twitter attacks at opposing head coaches, posting pictures taken with celebrities and starring in a rap video, shouting from behind the wheel of a bright yellow convertible parked on the 50-yard line at the Big House.
He’s demanded all the attention in the college football world since he took the job at his alma mater, and Day 1 of Big Ten Media Days was no different. It was the Jim Harbaugh Show, complete with the star wearing a block-M baseball cap to complement his suit and a sea of reporters engulfing him at a designated podium.
But with all the attention that comes from the off-the-field antics, Harbaugh has worked stunning magic in Ann Arbor. He’s been the program’s head man for a year and a half, already taking the Wolverines from a five-win group that missed out on a bowl game to a 10-win squad that was a win away from playing for a conference title.
“It’s definitely a culture shift, you can feel it through coach Harbaugh,” cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. “You feel what he’s bringing to the program. If you want to say that’s swagger, then yeah, that’s what he’s bringing back.”
And for Harbaugh’s next trick? He’s made Michigan one of the favorites to win this year’s conference championship and a team with legitimate national championship aspirations.
“We have big hopes. We've got big dreams. We've got lofty goals. And all those are achievable. And they have to be worked for,” Harbaugh said Monday. “You can accomplish anything if the work is realized. And those things have to be earned. So we are in the position right now to work to get the things we want. That's the fact. That's the mentality. That's the attitude.”
Harbaugh does plenty of stuff off the field that separates him from the run-of-the-mill college football coach — who else has a picture with Kenny G? — but it’s his uniqueness on the field that had players buying into what he was trying to accomplish.
Harbaugh, the man with “enthusiasm unknown to mankind,” runs four-hour practices. No joke. And they sound horrible.
“Being out there for four hours? That’s like a ‘Titanic’ movie, man, being out there for four hours,” Lewis said.
But the players saw what four-hour practices led to, and it had them coming back for more. Both Lewis and Butt could’ve turned pro this offseason. But they’re back. Why?
“To win,” Lewis said. “Those four-hour practices, I know he wasn’t doing it for no reason. I knew there was a method to his madness. I saw those 10 wins. We knew that we could be something special, and once we knew that, we bought in. These four-hour practices aren’t so bad when you tally up wins. Trying to be something special, and that’s what he’s bringing back. He’s bringing something magical to Ann Arbor.”
“He doesn’t take any days off,” Butt said. “He doesn’t ask any of us to do anything he’s not willing to do himself. He kind of just forces us to be tough. When you’re out there practicing for four hours, smashing into each other, you don’t really have a choice but to be tough.”
Laugh away at Harbaugh’s zaniness and his over-the-top actions: climbing trees, recruiting at sleepovers and donning a different NFL or NBA jersey at every stop on his cross-country satellite-camp tour. But know that it’s working. Aside from the winning and the impressive turnaround he pulled in just one year at the helm, his recruiting successes have been spectacular. This season, he signed the nation’s fourth-ranked recruiting class — including No. 1 overall recruit Rashan Gary — and he currently has the fifth-ranked class for 2017.
Stuff like “Signing of the Stars” and “Who’s Got It Better Than Us?” They’re extra efforts to make the program one percent better every day.
“I think a lot of that’s big on recruiting,” Butt said. “He thinks outside of the box, and I think that’s big. A lot of us probably don’t understand the reason behind a lot of the things that he does, but I can assure you there’s a reason behind everything he does. He has a plan for everything, but he’s doing most of those things for the betterment of our team and our program.”
Off the field, Harbaugh creates one social-media-friendly headline after another. On it he’s rapidly moved Michigan from cringe-worthy underachiever to conference-title favorite.
The man with the block-M sweatshirt and the khaki pants has the Wolverines heading in a direction that could end with a shower of confetti.
Then, truly nobody will have it better than Michigan.
The human GIF made quite an impact on the White Sox on Monday night.
A staple of The Melky Cabrera experience the past year and a half has been the outfielder’s personal celebrations that come with every big play. Monday night’s edition included three rounds of festivities critical to the White Sox pulling out a 5-4 victory over the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field.
Cabrera got the party started almost instantly, robbing Kris Bryant of a first-inning solo home run before he patted himself on the back in only the way he does.
“I think every celebration is a motivation to try to give us a boost to our confidence and for the fans, too,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “Every time you can make a good play, it’s good for your team and for your fans to try to invigorate the confidence.”
Cabrera not only leads the team with a .303 batting average -- he’s the biggest self-congratulator of the bunch. It’s as if the GIF function was created for the sole purpose of recording Cabrera’s awkward claps or fist pumps after every big play.
On Monday, he opted to clap for himself after he robbed Bryant of what would have been his 26th homer. Cabrera said he watched the ball the entire way off Bryant’s bat and drifted back to the warning track before leaping and snagging the ball just above the yellow line on the left-field fence.
On his way down, Cabrera landed hard on the warning track before righting himself against the wall, where he sat with each appendage sprawled in a different direction. At that point, Cabrera held up the ball to show the world he had it in his possession before he stood up and clapped for himself with both hands over his head.
“I thought after that play, things were going to be pretty good today,” said pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, the recipient of the play.
It was only the beginning.
Cabrera’s relay throw home in the third inning led to a rundown that netted an out at the plate when Javy Baez made an ill-advised decision to go home. Then in the ninth, Cabrera recorded the first out, which slowed a game-tying rally, when he fired a perfect strike to second base to throw out Bryant stretching a single into a double.
Each time, Cabrera cheered for himself without shame.
“He’s probably his own best (cheering section), but we try to keep up with him,” said reliever Zach Duke, who often views Cabrera’s celebrations from the bullpen. “It’s great. His celebrations, they’re just truly heartfelt, truly spontaneous and he has such a good time playing the game we can’t help but join in and enjoy the moment.”