Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Brandon J.'s signoff for December 30 and 2011

That is our news for this Friday night and for 2011. I just wish everyone a happy and healthy new year, and i hope to have everyone back here January 2nd, when we start again in a new year.

Until then, have a happy new year from New York's #1 News blog in Brandon J.'s News.

New Year's Eve and Weekend service Adviseries

1 Line

All Times Until June 2012
Downtown 1 trains skip Dyckman St.

7 PM Sat, Dec 31 to 12:15 AM Sun, Jan 1
242 St-bound 1 trains skip 50 St. Use 34 St-Penn Station or 59 St instead.

1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R and SLines
10 PM to Midnight Saturday, Dec 31
No EXIT to street at Times Sq-42 St. Exit via passageway to 8 Av.

D Line
All Times Until 11:59 PM, Saturday, Dec 31
D trains skip 25 Av and 79 St in both directions.

F Line
All Times Until Spring 2012
  • F Trains skip Smith-9 Sts in both directions.Use bus service to/from 4 Av-9 St or Carroll St instead.
  • Coney Island-bound F trains skip 15 St- Prospect Park and Fort Hamilton Pkwy.

G Line
All Times Until Spring 2012
  • G Trains skip Smith-9 Sts in both directions.Use bus service to/from 4 Av-9 St or Carroll St instead.
  • Church Av-bound G trains skip 15 St-Prospect Park and Fort Hamilton Pkwy.

N and R Lines
7 PM Sat, Dec 31 to 12:15 AM Sun, Jan 1
N trains skip 49 St in both directions.
  • Use 34 St-Hearld Square or 57 St-7 Av instead.

S Line
12:01 AM to 6 AM, Sunday, Jan 1
42 St Shuttle operates overnight.

Street Closures for New Year’s Eve Times Square Celebratio​n

Seventh Avenue and Broadway between 41st Street and 59th Street, including all cross streets, will begin to close at approximately 3 pm on Saturday, December 31st.
The Times Square area will remain closed until approximately 3 am on Sunday, January 1st.
Please use mass transit if you plan to attend this celebration. Subway station exits in the Times Square area may be closed due to crowding. Information on NYC Transit subway and bus service on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is available on the MTA web site at
Information on weekend street closures is available on the DOT web site at:

Police officer injured, another man killed in struggle for gun at Long Island Home Depot

A Nassau County police officer was shot and another man was killed Friday during a struggle for the officer's weapon, said police.

Two on-duty officers confronted a man in his 40s driving an Isuzu SUV when the struggle ensued, added Nassau County police.

It is not clear if the driver of the SUV shot the officer of if the gun went off during the struggle, said Det. Lt. Kevin Smith.

The second officer chased the suspect and apparently shot him twice in the chest, added Smith.

The shooting occurred in the parking lot of a Home Depot off Hempstead Turnpike shortly before 5:30 a.m. The officer was rushed to Nassau University Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries, according to sources. He was undergoing surgery Friday morning.


2011 in Review: Offense held back Angels in 2011 season

Angel Stadium, Anaheim- The Angels spent the 2011 season in search of an identity. At the end, they came to the disappointing realization they finished out of first place for the second year in a row, leaving a sour taste in their mouths as they digested a Texas runaway in the American League West.

Overall, the pitching and defense were capable and at times spectacular. But the offense once again was substandard, especially deficient in getting runners on base and capitalizing on scoring opportunities.

This was a team that was constantly adapting and adjusting on the fly, from replacing their best hitter (Kendrys Morales) for the second season in a row to finding a new closer (Fernando Rodney not meeting expectations) to replacing one injured starter (Joel Pineiro) and another (Scott Kazmir, one start and out).

There were veterans who didn't meet expectations offensively (Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter) in relation to past performances, and those who didn't measure up with the bat (catchers Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson). In each case, however, there were substantial contributions, from defense to leadership.

Through all the ups and downs, the Angels managed to stay in contention for the postseason through 160 games. It wasn't always easy to see how or why, but they refused to buckle and kept the heat on Texas in the AL West and then the Red Sox and Rays in the three-team AL Wild Card chase.

Clearly unhappy with an 86-win season, owner Arte Moreno would stun the baseball world by landing first baseman Albert Pujols, widely acclaimed as the game's best player, in free agency, along with C.J. Wilson, the Texas ace, and respected setup man LaTroy Hawkins. The new general manager, Jerry Dipoto, also acquired veteran catcher Chris Iannetta from Colorado.

Here are the five biggest story lines that played out in the 2011 season:

Dominant starting pitching
Here was the team's heartbeat. The Angels led the AL in team ERA largely on the strong, durable right arms of starters Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.

Weaver, the AL All-Star Game starter in Arizona, delivered a career-high 18 wins, ranking among the AL leaders in ERA (2.41), strikeouts (198) and innings (235 2/3). He showed his toughness in working on three days' rest for the first time in his career.

Haren was one of the few in the game on a level with Weaver, matching a career high with 16 wins. Haren, with his pinpoint control and mental toughness, had a career-best 238 1/3 innings, with a 3.17

Santana, with minimal run support, picked up 11 wins while fashioning a 3.38 ERA in 228 2/3 innings. Santana produced the season's single-game highlight with the ninth no-hitter in franchise history on July 27 in Cleveland.

The kids ride to the rescue
Only Peter Bourjos among the organization's fine collection of young talent was expected to play a prominent role. The center fielder delivered handsomely with brilliant defense and solid offense, batting .271 with 26 doubles, an AL-high 11 triples and 12 homers.

Mark Trumbo was penciled down as a role player off the bench, expected to spell Morales at first base and play some outfield. Trumbo emerged as the organization's choice for team MVP with his power (29 homers, 87 RBIs), clutch hitting and solid defense. He was runner-up to Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson in the AL Rookie of the Year Award balloting.

Jordan Walden, in just his second season as a reliever, thought he would be setting up for Rodney. Walden became an All-Star, setting a rookie club record for saves with 32. While he let 10 get away, he made strides toward becoming a shut-down closer.

Defense excels
With quality gloves at every position, the Angels backed their sturdy pitching with consistently superb defense, featuring Rawlings Gold Glove winner Erick Aybar at shortstop and the game's best outfield, according to "The Fielding Bible."

Bourjos, Hunter and Wells -- three natural center fielders -- combined to save more runs (42) than any trio in the Majors. The infield -- Trumbo at first, Howard Kendrick at second, Aybar at short and Alberto Callaspo at third -- was also as consistently good as any in the game according to most analytics. Maicer Izturis provided superb support.

Even though they struggled to hit consistently, Mathis, Wilson and young Hank Conger were praised by manager Mike Scioscia for their overall defensive abilities behind the plate.

Morales' absence stings
The Angels' most dangerous offensive weapon, Morales, missed the entire season when his left ankle needed a second surgery following his May 2010 fractured leg in a home-plate celebration.

While Trumbo filled the void remarkably well, Morales' power production from the left side was missed all season in the heart of the order.

Abreu managed to get on base, steal bases and produce clutch hits, but he didn't provide the consistent production of seasons past.

Making matters worse, Wells, acquired in a big offseason swap with Toronto, fell far short of his standard offensive numbers. Hunter struggled early before finishing strong, helping fuel the late-season charge.

Never-say-die attitude
Texas was on the verge of completing a four-game sweep at Angel Stadium and essentially burying the Angels when Trumbo delivered the biggest blow of the season. His two-run walk-off homer against newly acquired reliever Mike Adams on Aug. 18 lifted the team's sagging spirits and proved to be the most memorable moment of the season.

Trailing by six games in the AL West instead of eight after the victory, the club went on six-game winning streak to get back in the race -- and stayed there deep into September.

An All-Star for the first time with a career-high 18 homers, Kendrick played left field and first base as well as his natural second-base role, symbolic of the club's do-whatever-it-takes mindset.

Jerome Williams, at 29, was the surprise of the season. After early-career success with the Giants, he'd seemingly disappeared from the Major League scene. A Minor League free agent signed in June after starting the season in an independent league in Pennsylvania, Williams emerged to deliver vitally solid work down the stretch and serve notice that he plans to be a rotation plus in seasons ahead.

MTA 2011 Highlights: Countdown Clocks and Bus Time

In 2011, the MTA focused on delivering on some long-promised benefits for our 8.5 million customers. This is the eighth in a daily series that recaps the best of 2011.
The MTA has focused on embracing technology to modernize service. For our customers, that means a new vision for 21st century transit service that incorporates the real-time information that has become central to every other aspect of our lives.

Countdown clocks

The MTA has made remarkable progress with the long-overdue arrival and expansion of countdown clocks in the subway system. There are now almost 200 stations outfitted with this train arrival information.

167 stations (143 on the numbered lines, and 24 on the L) utilize the Public Address Customer Information Screen (PA/CIS) system that provides train arrival messages in audio and video. The messages indicate when the next two trains are due to arrive at the station and their destinations. Aside from train arrivals, the system also allows NYC Transit to provide both audio and visual messages to customers, keeping them fully informed about service delays or emergency situations.

Riders at an additional 19 stations on the A, C, and E lines in Manhattan, 13 Stations on the E, F, M, and R lines in Queens and one station in Brooklyn benefit from electronic signs that provide similar, but simpler information. They were modified by in-house maintenance personnel, and rely on the signal system's track circuits to prompt the display to show that a train is on the way.

Bus Time
Bus Time – the MTA's real-time bus information pilot arrived along the B63 bus route in Brooklyn in 2011. The program is the latest initiative to alert riders to the status of their commute in real time, with actual bus locations available on the web, by text message and on Smartphones.

The program has been a success and will soon make its borough-wide debut in Staten Island in early 2012. City-wide implementation is scheduled for spring 2013.

Bus Time takes the guesswork out of waiting for the next bus through enhanced global positioning system devices, installed on buses that triangulate bus locations in real time. Accessible through cell phones and other electronic devices, all bus customers have to do is text us a code that will be prominently displayed at their bus stop. They will immediately receive a return text with the real-time locations of the next several buses.

Electronically-savvy customers can also use their Smartphones to snap a picture of a two-dimensional barcode we've installed at stops. A barcode-reading app can then interpret this information, and take you directly to our mobile website.

Our MTA Bus Time website is accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. The site presents map-based moving images representing the real-time location of buses in service. The same information will be available through Smartphones, on a simplified website we've designed specifically for mobile phone browsers.

2011 in Review: Revamped lineup not enough for A's in 2011

Oakland- For the A's, 2011 marked a year defined not by an expected contending formula, but rather by an array of underachieving performances that ultimately scripted a fifth consecutive non-winning season.

Never mind the fact the A's welcomed in offensive upgrades via Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and famed Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui, nor that they entered the year boasting baseball's best young pitching staff. Both sets struggled with consistency and also faced injury, leading to a 74-88 record and third-place finish in the American League West.

Through it all, the A's also endured a change in leadership -- Bob Melvin became manager June 9 and the A's went 47-52 under him after posting a 27-36 mark with the dismissed Bob Geren at the helm -- and underwent plenty of transition on the field.

By June, shortstop Cliff Pennington represented the lone Opening Day starter in the infield. And by the start of the offseason, the A's were essentially left staring down three holes in the outfield. They're expected to be filled by a younger crowd in 2012, when a rebuilding A's team is likely to experience plenty more growing pains than wins.

Patience, again, will need to be had by the Oakland faithful, which endured a handful of highs and lows in 2011. What follows is a snapshot of those, highlighted by the top five story lines of the calendar year.

5. Injuries, and more injuries
Despite a makeover to the team's training staff following an injury-plagued 2010 season, the 2011 A's again endured their fair share of bumps and bruises -- and costly ones, too. Injuries to starters Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson early in the year ultimately resulted in season-ending surgeries and also forced key pieces like Andrew Bailey (53 games), Rich Harden (82 games), Brandon McCarthy (41) and Michael Wuertz (53) to miss considerable time. Their absence -- combined with inconsistency faced by front-line starters Trevor Cahill and 2011 All-Star Gio Gonzalez -- proved damaging, as a pitching staff that led the AL in ERA (3.13) before the All-Star break watched that number slide to 4.48 in the months that followed.

4. "Moneyball" brings A's national attention
Though in the midst of a forgettable season, the A's found themselves as the center of national attention in September, when the 2002 version of the club hit the big screen by way of the long-anticipated film "Moneyball." A's general manager Billy Beane -- played by Brad Pitt, who meticulously mastered Beane's mannerisms in the movie -- and his story of fielding a winning baseball team that won 20 straight games on a small budget, lent a good dose of positive vibes to the city of Oakland. Pitt, along with co-stars Jonah Hill and Chris Pratt and director Bennett Miller, were among several Hollywood names to grace the red carpet -- naturally, it was actually green -- for the premier in Oakland. Beane, Melvin and most of the A's roster joined in on the activities.

3. A change in guard at second base
Perhaps no other day proved more bittersweet for A's fans this year than June 30, when the club traded away longtime fan favorite and class act Mark Ellis to the Rockies -- a move that signaled rookie sensation Jemile Weeks' permanent takeover at second base. Ellis departed as Oakland's career leader in games played by a second baseman with 1,021, and his loyalty to the A's was reciprocated by Beane, who wasn't so much interested in a great return package -- he landed right-handed reliever Bruce Billings and also gave Colorado cash to help offset Ellis' remaining salary -- but in giving Ellis an opportunity to resume everyday duties elsewhere. Weeks, meanwhile, quickly helped ease the pain of the news, emerging as one of the league's rising young stars and providing A's fans a bright spot in what appears to be a foggy future.

2. Geren dismissed; Melvin hired
The A's underwent their first in-season managerial change in 25 years, when Geren -- under pointed criticism after public comments made by current and former players regarding his managing style -- was dismissed June 9 in the midst of a nine-game losing streak. The move spoke volumes, relaying a message that complacency wasn't to be had by a team built to contend, that change was necessary even if it came at the cost of Geren, a longtime friend of Beane. Melvin was named interim manager and quickly injected a newfound energy and confidence into a reeling club, which improved in the second half. Those efforts were rewarded on Sept. 21, when Melvin landed a three-year contract that will keep him at the helm through 2014.

1. A's enter rebuilding mode
Before the A's even closed the book on their disappointing 2011 campaign, whispers of a rebuild percolated around Oakland and have since been indirectly confirmed by several decisions made by the club this winter. Oakland chose not to chase any of its own free agents, including the Minnesota-bound Willingham, while citing an unclear financial situation -- the result of an unresolved stadium situation that has the A's on a spending hold. Beane, though, is expecting a stadium decision soon and, subsequently, has rebooted a youth movement reminiscent of the one created after the 2007 season. Shortly after the Winter Meetings, the A's GM pulled the trigger on a pair of big names, shipping Gonzalez and Cahill in separate deals. The former went to Washington for four prospects, while the latter was sent along with lefty Craig Breslow to Arizona for three players, bringing Oakland's total haul to seven well-regarded prospects.

Funeral for victims of Conn. fire to be held Thursday

The devestated mom and dad of the three little girls killed with their grandparents in the horrific Christmas Day fire in Connecticut will bid a final farewell to their loved ones on Thursday.

Services for the victims, Lily, 10 and twins Sarah and Grace, 7, and possibly Madonna Badger’s parents, Pauline and Lomar Johnson are slated for the E. Campbell funeral home on the Upper East Side, a source told The New York Post.

The girls’ hearbroken father, Matthew Badger — who is embroiled in a divorce with Madonna — declined to comment.

Initial plans for the funeral were made Wednesday by Madonna’s brother Wade Johnson, 45, of Chicago and her the brother of her estranged husband, S. Campell Badger.

Badger 47, and her boyfriend, contractor Michael Borcina, 52, were the only survivors of the devastating fire that engulfed the Stamford Victorian mansion and left five dead from smoke inhalation.

2011 in Review: Newcomers mark season of transition in 2011

Safeco Field, Seattle- Without question, 2011 was a year of change for the Mariners. And change doesn't always come easily.

The Mariners played 18 rookies in manager Eric Wedge's first season in Seattle, a remarkable transition of youth led by Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley, two cornerstones for the future.

But many of the other rookies were elevated because a core of veteran players underperformed -- position players like Milton Bradley, Jack Cust, Franklin Gutierrez, Chone Figgins and even Ichiro Suzuki failed to deliver the expected offensive production for a club whose pitching kept it in the hunt for 2 1/2 months.

Ultimately the arms couldn't overcome an offense that finished last in the American League in scoring for a third straight season, as a July swoon paved the way to an eventual 67-95 finish. That win total was a six-game improvement from 2010, but it wasn't nearly enough to satisfy Wedge as he vowed more progress would be on the way next season.

Here are the top five Mariners storylines from 2011:

5. Youth is served ... in large portionsFew teams have ever attempted as large an influx of newcomers as this year's Mariners, who used 18 rookies and finished the season with four newcomers in their six-man pitching rotation.

Not all the rookies were starry-eyed newbies. Mike Carp, 25, had played in the Majors the previous two seasons, but was still officially a rookie due to his limited at-bats and service time. Same with outfielder Casper Wells, a 26-year-old acquired from the Tigers, where he'd seen some action in 2010.
But 13 of the 18 rookies made their Major League debuts in '11 -- Dustin Ackley, Blake Beavan, Steve Delabar, Alex Liddi, Josh Lueke, Carlos Peguero, Michael Pineda, Trayvon Robinson, Chance Ruffin, Kyle Seager, Anthony Vasquez, Tom Wilhelmsen and Mike Wilson.

The other "official" rookies were Carp, Wells, Dan Cortes, Charlie Furbush and Greg Halman.

Carp and Ackley made huge impacts as midseason additions. Pineda was a strong addition to a rotation that eventually added Beavan, Furbush and Vasquez by season's end. Wilhelmsen emerged as a late-inning relief standout and Wells, Seager, Peguero, Liddi and Robinson all made cases as young position prospects with bright futures.

4. A record-setting streak in wrong directionFor two-and-a-half months, the Mariners stayed close in the American League West. They trailed Texas by just a half-game at 37-35 on June 19 after taking two-of-three from the Phillies at Safeco Field. But things started to unravel in the coming days and by July, the wheels completely came off with a franchise-record 17-game losing streak.

The Mariners were sitting at .500 on July 5 when they dropped a 2-0 decision in Oakland, followed by a four-game sweep in Anaheim. Even a three-day rest for the All-Star break didn't stop the free fall, as Seattle proceeded to get swept by the Rangers, Blue Jays and Red Sox. They ultimately lost two more in New York before finally ending the skid with a 9-2 victory behind Felix Hernandez at Yankee Stadium.

The Mariners were outscored 101-45 in a stretch that stood as the longest losing streak in the Majors since the Royals dropped 19 in a row in '05. The 17-game skid tied for 14th longest in MLB history, and only one previous team -- the '44 Brooklyn Dodgers -- had ever lost 15 or more straight after being at .500 or above at least 50 games into a season.

3. Big man makes All-Star impressionOf all the newcomers on the Mariners, none stood taller than Pineda. And not just because of his towering 6-foot-7, 260-pound presence.

The 22-year-old took the league by storm, winning AL Rookie of the Month honors in April (4-1 with a 2.01 ERA and 30 strikeouts in five starts). He wound up making the All-Star team with an 8-6 record and a 3.03 ERA, and pitched a perfect frame with two strikeouts in the Midsummer Classic in Phoenix.

Though Pineda wore down a bit in the second half and was used cautiously in the final two months to preserve his young arm, he finished 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA while leading all AL rookies in strikeouts (173), fewest walks per 9 innings (2.89) and WHIP (1.10). He also finished second in innings (171 1/3), quality starts (19) and opponent's batting average (.211).

While Seattle's entire rookie crop was impressive, Pineda established himself as the key piece going forward. If the young Dominican stays healthy, he should give the Mariners an imposing 1-2 tandem with Hernandez for many years to come.

2. Wedge sets new tone in first yearAfter their recent churn in managers, the Mariners hired Wedge this season, and the young skipper wasted no time setting the tone that he expects will turn things around for this rebuilding franchise.

Though just 43, Wedge brought seven years of experience as manager of the Indians, as well as the confidence that comes with knowing what needs to be done. He quickly showed a firm hand that seemed to work well with his young troops, who stayed together impressively even in the face of the 17-game losing streak and continued new arrivals.

One of Wedge's first promises was to bring stability to a coaching staff that had undergone considerable change in recent years, and he wound up bringing back his entire crew for this coming season.

The former catcher also sought to instill a toughness and attitude that will carry the club into the future. And while the first-year record didn't sit well with him, Wedge does feel that the foundation of his program has been laid, and the goal now is to translate that into better performance -- and more wins -- on the field.

1. Tragedy strikes with death of HalmanEverything that happened on the field in 2011 was overshadowed by the tragic death of young outfielder Greg Halman in the Netherlands on Nov. 21.

Halman, 24, was stabbed to death in an apartment in Rotterdam. Twenty-two-year-old Jason Halman, his younger brother, was arrested and remains in custody, with reports that he was hearing voices and was mentally confused in the days prior to the early-morning incident.

Halman played 35 games for the Mariners in midseason, batting .230 with two home runs, six RBIs and five stolen bases. He was regarded as an up-and-coming prospect, an outstanding athlete who was just establishing himself in baseball as one of the first Dutch players to make the Major Leagues.

"We're all broken-hearted," said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. "We're all grieving. You could sit here and say a lot of things and never say enough. None of us have words for this."

Halman was buried in Driehuis, Netherlands, on Nov. 29, with former teammates Carp, Liddi, Cortes, Matt Mangini and Adam Moore in attendance. He was laid to rest in his Mariners uniform with the No. 56 that he proudly wore in 44 big league ballgames.

Newt Gingrich cries while recalling late mother

Des Monies, Iowa- Newt Gingrich choked up and wiped away tears while recalling his late mother's struggle with depression and mental illness.

Speaking at an event with mothers in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday, the former House speaker said his focus on brain science issues stems directly from "dealing with the real problems of real people in my family."

After showing his emotions, Gingrich allowed that he does "policy much easier than I do personal."

The moment was reminiscent of Hillary Rodham Clinton's teary-eyed response to a question just before the 2008 Democratic primary in New Hampshire. The moment was credited with humanizing her in the eyes of voters.

Gingrich has fallen in recent Iowa polls, with the state's caucuses just several days away.

2011 in Review: Heartbreaking loss overshadows big season

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas- Game 6.

For better or for worse, the 10-9 loss in Game 6 of the World Series is what almost all Rangers fans will remember about the 2011 season. It will linger on long after most other things fade from view: five All-Stars, another division title and a second American League pennant.

The Rangers came within inches of achieving their ultimate goal of winning the World Series. They were one strike away twice, and any review of the 2011 season must begin with Game 6 of the World Series.

It was far more compelling than the 6-2 loss in Game 7.

The Rangers had a 3-2 lead in the Series. Game 6 had been delayed one day by rain, so on Oct. 27, Colby Lewis took the mound for the Rangers to face Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals.

The Game was tied at 4 entering the seventh and had been sloppy. The Cardinals had dropped a fly ball and a routine pop up, leading to two unearned runs. The Rangers reciprocated with two errors by first baseman Michael Young that led to two unearned runs for the Cardinals. One scored when Alexi Ogando walked a batter with the bases loaded.

Then the Rangers took the lead in the seventh. Third baseman Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs leading off the inning. Ian Kinsler added a two-out RBI single and the Rangers led 7-4 with nine outs to go.

Derek Holland, pitching in relief, retired the side in order in the seventh. But Allen Craig hit a one-out home run in the eighth to make it a two-run game. Closer Neftali Feliz came in to pitch the ninth.

Ryan Theriot struck out swinging, but Albert Pujols doubled and Lance Berkman walked on four pitches. Craig struck out looking, and Feliz needed just one more out. Instead, Cardinals third baseman David Freese fell behind 1-2 in the count and then hit a long drive to deep right. Cruz went back, but not far enough and the ball sailed beyond his reach for a triple that scored two runs and tied the game.

It did not stay tied for long. Elvis Andrus singled with one out in the 10th off Jason Motte, and Josh Hamilton followed with a home run to right-center to give the Rangers a 9-7 lead.

Darren Oliver took over for Feliz in the 10th to face the bottom of the Cardinals' order and two left-handed hitters. But Daniel Descalso grounded a single through the right side and Jon Jay blooped a hit into shallow left, putting runners on first and second. They were bunted over by pinch-hitter Kyle Lohse, and Scott Feldman replaced Oliver.

Theriot hit a weak grounder to Beltre at third, who threw to first for the second out while Descalso scored. Pujols received an intentional walk. Berkman worked the count to 2-2 and then lined a run-scoring single to center to tie the game.

The game went into the 11th. The Rangers did not score in the top of the 11th and Freese won it with a walk-off home run off Mark Lowe.

It was a game that will be long be remembered, but there were other highlights worth recalling.

5. Two big acquisitions
The Rangers were unable to re-sign pitcher Cliff Lee, but they were able to sign Beltre to a five-year contract on Jan. 5 and acquired catcher Mike Napoli from the Blue Jays for pitcher Frank Francisco on Jan. 25. They hit 62 home runs and drove in 180 runs between them. Beltre won a Gold Glove and Napoli took over as the No. 1 catcher because of the superb way he handled the pitching staff.

4. Five All-Stars
The Rangers ended up sending five players to the All-Star Game. Beltre and Hamilton were in the American League starting lineup, while C.J. Wilson and Ogando were on the pitching staff. Michael Young was selected for the seventh time in his career. Wilson ended up being the losing pitcher and the National League ended up with home-field advantage in the World Series. That didn't help the Rangers in October.

3. Rotation leads the way
The Rangers' rotation finished with a record of 74-40 with a 3.65 ERA, which was the lowest for their starters since 1983. They had five starters win at least 13 games, the first AL team to do that since the '77 Orioles. Wilson and Holland led the way with 16 wins each. Lewis and Matt Harrison won 14 and Ogando, making a successful transition from the bullpen, finished with 13 victories.

2. Club record for wins
The Rangers won 96 games in 2011, the most in club history. It allowed them to win the AL West for the second straight year and fifth time in club history. The Rangers set the record with six consecutive wins to end the season. They also started the year by winning nine of 10 and also had a 12-game winning streak in July, the second longest in franchise history.

1. Another pennant flies in Arlington
The Rangers became the first team to repeat as AL champions since the Yankees won four straight from 1998-2001. The Rangers did so by taking down the Rays in four games in the AL Division Series and the Tigers in six games in the AL Championship Series. Cruz, who won the ALCS MVP, hit six home runs with 13 RBIS, both new records for a single postseason series.

2012 in Preview: As calendar flips, Sox optimistic for better finish

Fenway Park, Boston- The calendar will soon officially flip to 2012, and you can almost hear the Red Sox applauding. Yes, they are eager for a fresh start led by a new regime.

Once they report to sunny Florida in mid-February, the Red Sox -- now led by general manager Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine -- will happily embark upon the process of trying to wash away the bitter memories from the end of last season.

Don't let the September collapse fool you: Boston still has a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball, and legitimate hopes of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are the big three, and they hope to put the pitching rotation on their shoulders. Beckett and Lester did that for a large chunk last season, but both were a large part of the team's epic September swoon. Buchholz didn't pitch after June 16 because of a stress fracture in his back, but he expects a fully healthy return.

The offense remains loaded, backed by American League MVP Award runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury, former MVP Dustin Pedroia and a potential 2012 MVP in Adrian Gonzalez. David Ortiz is also back for a 10th season of bashing in Boston. The bullpen has been replenished, with the additions of closer Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon in trades.

The reason Cherington doesn't seem primed to do any more of a major roster overhaul this winter is because he doesn't think his team needs that.

"I feel like we have a really good team that really just needs some good complements and needs to be put in a better position to win over a six-month stretch," Cherington said. "That's what we're focusing on."

Then there is Valentine, who is ecstatic to be managing again in the Majors, something he hasn't done since 2002.

"The talent level, the players that we have in this organization, I think is a gift to anyone. I'm a receiver of that gift," Valentine said the day he was hired.

While the Red Sox are optimistic they'll finish better than they did in 2011, they, like the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball, enter a new year with their share of questions. Here they are.

1. Will Carl Crawford bounce back?
If Crawford can have a revival, that would make a bigger impact than any move Cherington makes this winter. The Red Sox were thoroughly impressed the way Crawford handled himself during his struggles a year ago and would love nothing more than to see him revert back to the player he was with the Rays. Cherington and Valentine both might make trips to Houston at some point this winter to visit the talented left fielder and find out anything they can do to help him return to form.

2. Can Kevin Youkilis stay healthy?
When Youkilis is healthy, he is a force who wears down opposing pitchers. However, the last two years, the corner infielder has suffered injuries that robbed him of the stretch run. In both cases, the Red Sox didn't recover, failing to make the postseason without the relentless right-handed hitter.

Youkilis will be 33 by Opening Day, so he hopes to prove that he's not going to start breaking down as he enters his mid 30s. Without question, Boston is a different team without him.

3. Will Buchholz make a full recovery?
The only thing that hurt the Red Sox more than losing Youkilis last year was the near four-month absence of Buchholz. One of the best No. 3 starters in baseball, Buchholz's back was never right in 2011. He is going ahead with a normal offseason conditioning program and should be back at full strength for 2012. The way Boston's roster is set up, Buchholz is a necessity for the team to go as far as it hopes.

4. Can Daniel Bard start over?
Bard's impact on Boston's bullpen was obvious to anyone who has watched the Red Sox closely the last three years. Aside from his September swoon this past year, he has been a lights-out setup man. But now, he will spend Spring Training trying to prove he's ready for a far more significant role -- one of the team's starting pitchers. Starting isn't entirely new to Bard, as he did it in college and in his early Minor League days. But he will have to prove he can handle the rigors of starting at the Major League level from both an endurance and pitch repertoire standpoint.

5. Encore power surge for Ellsbury?
This is one of the more fun things to ponder. For even if Ellsbury doesn't belt 30 homers again, the Red Sox will still be plenty happy with him as long as he keeps getting on base and flagging down everything in center. Last year, Ellsbury was an elite player -- the rare player who combined speed with power and prolific defense. While most aspects of Ellsbury's game should carry over from one year to the next, you can't be sure if the power surge was a sign of things to come until he does it again. It sure beats the question everyone had about Ellsbury last year, which surrounded whether he could stay on the field.

6. How will Bobby V's style take?
For all of Valentine's smarts and charisma, it has been nearly a decade since he last managed a Major League team, making it fair to wonder how he will do in his return. It certainly seems as if he's in the perfect spot to excel. But that will require his players being all-in on what Valentine is trying to instill in them. One thing seems certain: Valentine isn't going to shortchange anyone with energy or work ethic. He is hungry to silence his detractors, particularly the ones who are quick to point out that he's never finished in first place.

7. Who will take over right field?
J.D. Drew won't be back with the Sox, that much we know. What is less clear is who his successor will be. Ryan Kalish could wind up as Boston's right fielder of the future, but he missed almost an entire year of development last year due to injuries and will miss the first several weeks of 2012. It is expected that Cherington will eventually get a right-handed bat, but will that bat be more of a platoon piece or someone that can play regularly?

8. Will the clubhouse culture improve?
Perhaps some of what occurred in Boston's clubhouse late last season was a bit overblown. But it seemed clear that the degree of professionalism went down a notch. Starting pitchers drinking alcohol in the clubhouse while their teammates are trying to win a game is not the type of example the Red Sox want to see. It will be interesting to see if Valentine sets some specific rules when it comes to alcohol in the clubhouse. Judging by the overhaul of the medical and training staff, the Red Sox also want to see their players held to a higher standard of physical conditioning.

9. Which prospects will emerge?
Among the other things that plagued the Sox in 2011, it was sort of a dry year for the farm system. In past years, the Major League team has been infused by the arrival of contributing prospects in mid- to late-season. It would be a big difference-maker for the Sox if that happens again in '12. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks and shortstop Jose Iglesias are two players to keep an eye on. To this point, Iglesias, a star on defense, has disappointed with his bat.

Breaking News: Verizon Wireless scraps plan for new $2 payment fee

Washington- Verizon Wireless scrapped its plan to impose a $2 fee on some bill payments Friday, after customers complained and the Federal Communications Commission expressed concerns about the charge, FOX News Channel reported.

"At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers. Based on their input, we believe the best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time," said Dan Mead, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless.

Earlier Friday, an FCC official said the agency was "concerned about Verizon's actions and are looking into the matter."

Verizon Wireless announced Thursday a plan to charge a $2 fee to customers paying their bills by phone and online starting Jan. 15.

The company had said its customers could avoid the fee on certain single-bill payments by paying electronically through their banks or by mailing paper checks, among other options.

The announcement sparked an immediate uproar among Verizon Wireless customers already frustrated by a series of network outages this month.

2011 in Review: Giants' title defense bitten by injury bug

AT&T Park, San Francisco- Negative issues and developments seemed to outnumber positive ones for the Giants in 2011. Yet their record suggested otherwise.

The Giants built an 86-76 mark, good for second in the National League West, and they remained in contention for a Wild Card spot until the season's final weekend. They didn't repeat as World Series champions, but they managed to lengthen their streak of winning seasons to three.

San Francisco accomplished this despite a historically bad offense that generated an NL-low 570 runs, the team's second-lowest total since the franchise moved west in 1958. Due to slumps and a frustrating sequence of injuries, only one Giant -- first baseman Aubrey Huff -- accumulated enough at-bats to qualify for the league's batting title.

Pitching sustained the Giants, who placed four starters among the NL's top 11 in ERA (Ryan Vogelsong, fourth; Tim Lincecum, fifth; Matt Cain, eighth; and Madison Bumgarner, 11th).

Vogelsong, Lincecum and Cain made the All-Star team, along with closer Brian Wilson and third baseman Pablo Sandoval. They formed the Giants' largest contingent at the Midsummer Classic since they had six in 1966. But status doesn't win ballgames.

Here's a quick look back at the ups and downs of the Giants' 2011 season:

5. Sellout streak reflects love hangover
The Giants got a ton of mileage from their World Series conquest in 2010. They sold out all 81 home dates at AT&T Park and finished with a franchise single-season attendance record of 3,387,303. It surpassed the club's previous record of 3,277,244 set in 2001. Even during the schedule's final month and a half, when it became increasingly obvious that the Giants wouldn't return to the postseason, fans continued to pack the house. It's anybody's guess how long into next year that enthusiasm will last.

4. Slimmer Sandoval returns to form
The switch-hitter lost approximately 40 pounds last offseason, helping him regain his range defensively and feel quicker with his swing. Sandoval sustained a 22-game hitting streak from June 19-July 14 that erased all doubts about the effectiveness of his conditioning. He also hit for the cycle on Sept. 15 at Colorado. Had Sandoval not missed 40 games with a fractured hamate bone in his right hand earlier in the season, his statistics (.315 batting average, 23 homers, 70 RBIs) almost certainly would have been much more impressive. Sandoval also received considerable support in the NL Gold Glove Award balloting by coaches and managers.

3. Vogelsong's homecoming a successful one
San Francisco's fifth-round choice in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft, Vogelsong migrated to Pittsburgh, Japan and the organizations of the Angels and Phillies before rejoining the Giants as a non-roster player this past spring. Vogelsong began the season in Triple-A but ascended to San Francisco when Barry Zito injured his right foot. Vogelsong's initial win, April 28 at Pittsburgh, was his first as a Major League starter in 2,412 days. Vogelsong proved he was more than just a curiosity when he won nine of his first 10 decisions. He capitalized on AT&T Park's pitcher-friendly tendencies by fashioning a 2.15 ERA at home.

2. Deadline deals don't do the trick
With the Giants clinging to first place in the division, general manager Brian Sabean brought aboard second baseman Jeff Keppinger, right fielder Carlos Beltran and shortstop Orlando Cabrera in an effort to deepen the lineup and stimulate offense. The moves were met with limited success. Keppinger won several games for the Giants with his bat but displayed little range defensively and hit only .255 with San Francisco. Beltran hit .323 with seven homers in 44 games as a Giant but lacked a consistent complement, other than Sandoval. Cabrera was a nonentity, batting .222 in 39 games.

1. Is there a doctor in the house?
The Giants found themselves asking this question far too often last season. They used the disabled list 25 times in 2011, more than any team in the Majors and more than they had used it in any year dating back to 1987. Catcher Buster Posey's home-plate collision with Florida's Scott Cousins on May 25, which resulted in a mangled left leg for the NL's reigning Rookie of the Year, profoundly affected the Giants. On June 10, the Giants absorbed more disappointment when second baseman Freddy Sanchez dislocated his right (throwing) shoulder. Those were the Giants' most telling injuries, though Nate Schierholtz, Cody Ross, Jonathan Sanchez, Pat Burrell, Mark DeRosa, Wilson Beltran and Sandoval endured significant absences.

2011 in Review: King of the hill: Mo notches No. 602 in '11

Yankee Stadium- The nasty cutter bores in on hitters like a buzzsaw, has littered shards of lumber across countless Major League infields and is responsible for more than 600 saves. It is also remarkable in its simplicity.

Two fingers splayed over the top, slightly inward, more pressure on the middle finger, a thumb tucked underneath. Mariano Rivera wasn't the first to throw a baseball this way, but a strong case can be made that he's the best to ever try.

Rivera's famous pitch has the 42-year-old closer on a collision course with Cooperstown, a Hall of Fame candidacy that was only strengthened in September, when he surpassed Trevor Hoffman to become baseball's all-time saves leader.

Zipping a called third strike past the Twins' Chris Parmelee, Rivera closed out a Monday-afternoon makeup game at Yankee Stadium and recorded the 602nd save of his storied career.

"That means you're old," Rivera said with a grin. "Definitely, it means you have to pitch. ... I have done it for 15 years. It's a blessing. I never thought that I'd be doing this for so many years and be able to accomplish the record."

Already widely regarded to be the best closer in history, Rivera confirmed his standing at the top of the heap. He entered the 2011 season needing 42 saves to tie Hoffman -- a coincidence that was lost on no one -- and finished a 44-save campaign with a total of 603.

"I think it just puts the final stamp on it: He's the greatest closer of all time," manager Joe Girardi said.

"I don't want to take anything away from Trevor Hoffman, but when you've been around Mo as long as I have, you've seen a lot of special things."

That means Rivera will head into the 2012 campaign with only his own record to topple, and the man who broke in as a fresh-faced starter in 1995 and began his march to the top with a save on May 17, 1996, says that he'll know by the end of Spring Training if more years are in the works.

"He deserves all the accolades he gets," Derek Jeter said. "He did something no one else has been able to do. The impressive thing is, he's got more in the postseason. That's what separates him from
everyone else."

Oh, right, those. En route to five World Series championships, Rivera has appeared in 96 career postseason games -- 41 more than any man in history -- and has notched an all-time low 0.70 ERA, saving an all-time record 42 contests.

It seems very unlikely that Rivera's mark will be challenged any time soon. Francisco Cordero, 36, is first among active pitchers, with 327 saves; 38-year-old Jason Isringhausen is second among active relievers, with 300 saves; and 29-year-old Francisco Rodriguez is third, at 291.

"It's a number that I really don't think we'll see someone surpass, not in our lifetimes," Girardi said. "I really don't."

On the afternoon Rivera passed Hoffman, his teammates ensured that the soft-spoken closer would truly stand alone. After exchanging hugs and handshakes on the mound, the players roster retreated, leaving Rivera at the center of the big ballpark in the Bronx.

"The reception was wonderful. It was outstanding," Rivera said. "I could not ask for something different. For the first time in my career, I'm on the mound alone -- there's nobody behind me, nobody in front of me. I can't describe that feeling. It was priceless."

Alternating between doffing his cap and stretching his arms as if to say, 'What now?' Rivera was left to witness the adulation of the fans, many of whom have cheered his journey from the beginning in the only uniform Rivera has worn -- and likely will ever wear.

"Mo is special," said Jorge Posada. "It's not about what he brings to this field. Overall, he is a special man. His heart is humongous. Nothing surprises me. We don't get to the playoffs, we don't win championships, we don't do a lot of things that we were able to do without this guy."

A devout Christian, Rivera often thanks God for helping him discover the cutter, which he says materialized one day while playing catch with teammate Ramiro Mendoza. But even in 1994, when they were teammates on the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, Posada could tell Rivera was special.

"There was something extra on that fastball that nobody else had, the life coming out of his hand, his makeup," Posada said. "Everything that he's been doing here, we saw it down there."

A key to Rivera's success has been his pinpoint control, which he honed tossing rocks as a youth in Panama. And he uses that control to keep his place among the Yankees' prime pranksters, often flicking sunflower seeds or wads of gum at unsuspecting teammates with deadly accuracy.

That translated to the mound, of course; Girardi said all that the catchers usually had to do was put down a location and wait for Rivera to hit that spot. The pitch was especially murder on left-handed hitters, boring inside at the last possible moment.

"I remember Rafael Palmeiro saying one day, 'I don't know why they send me up here. The only place I can hit it hard is foul,'" Girardi said. "And that's one of the greater hitters we saw in our lifetime. That's how good his stuff was."

And except for nature taking its course and deleting a few miles per hour from his offerings, the 12-time All-Star's poise and command remain outstanding. Rivera may be committing only to 2012, but the Yankees hope his timeless show will continue for years to come.

"Everything about Mariano is amazing," Alex Rodriguez said. "He's synonymous with greatness and the Yankees. A hundred years from now, they'll be saying, 'We all saw the greatest closer of all-time.' I'm like you guys; I'm just witnessing history."

Breaking News: Russell Brand and Katy Perry divorcing after one year

Los Angeles- Russell Brand filed for divorce from Katy Perry Friday after one year of marriage.

Brand, 36, cited "irreconcilable differences" as the cause of the break-up, in divorce papers filed in Los Angeles, according to

Rumors that their relationship was on the rocks emerged earlier this week after the pair celebrated the Christmas holiday separately.

Perry, 27, was photographed frolicking on the beach in Hawaii, without her wedding ring, while Brand spent the holiday in England. The comedian was also without his wedding ring.

"They had a massive fight," an insider told Us Weekly. "She was like, 'F--- you. I'm going to do my own thing.' Russell replied, 'Fine, f--- you too.'"

"Katy doesn't think Russell respects her parents' Christian beliefs or her friends," another source said.
Perry's parents are both Christian pastors.

The "Firework" singer married the British funnyman Oct. 23, 2010 in India.

2011 in Review: Padres endure year of challenge, change

PETCO Park, San Diego- It was a year of change for the Padres in 2011, as after winning 90 games in 2010 the club slipped to last place in the National League West, struggling to score runs without All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez while also failing to replicate any of the mojo they had the previous season.

The result was a 71-91 season. After the season, general manager Jed Hoyer was allowed to leave for the same post with the Cubs as Josh Byrnes -- after spending a year with the organization -- was named GM.

Could even more change be in store for the Padres in 2012? To escape the cellar of the NL West, there will have to be.

There is no disputing that the Padres struggled mightily to score runs. In the first month of the season alone, they were shut out seven times. The Padres were blanked 19 times for the season -- tops in the Major Leagues.

There were other palpable shortcomings that led to the Padres' tumble. Run prevention took a hit in 2010, from the pitching and defense side. The bench was thin. Chemistry in the clubhouse wasn't what the team had hoped.

Above all else, the team didn't win nearly enough.

"We need to play better and play consistently better as a group," Padres manager Bud Black said.

"That's what we need ... the even performances and not the deep valleys."

Of all the story lines that played out over the past 12 months, here were the five biggest:

5. Byrnes takes over for Hoyer as GMAfter spending the 2011 season as senior vice president of baseball operations, Byrnes was hired as GM in October, after Hoyer left for the same position with the Cubs. Several other moves later followed, as Byrnes assembled his front office. A.J. Hinch was then promoted to assistant general manager, Chad MacDonald was hired (assistant GM in charge of player personnel, he'll focus most on First-Year Player Draft) and then Omar Minaya -- the former Mets GM -- was hired as a senior vice president of baseball operations.

4. Byrnes makes first steps to shape rosterBrynes, after several smaller moves, pulled off a good old fashioned "baseball" trade when he dealt pitcher Mat Latos to the Reds for four players, including three prospects who could play prominent roles in the future of the team. Byrnes also signed free-agent outfielder Mark Kotsay to a one-year contract. The move was made to help with team chemistry and to help an offense that struggled badly a year ago against right-handed pitching. Byrnes also traded for catcher John Baker to give the team better depth at a critical position. Then, after three-time All-Star closer Heath Bell signed with the Marlins, Byrnes made a deal two days later to land closer Huston Street, doing so without having to part with any prized Minor League players.

3. New faces produce in 2011The 2011 season saw the emergence of several players who were new or fairly new to the Padres. Cameron Maybin, 24, looks like he's on the cusp of doing some big things. Not only did Maybin rank second on the team in home runs and first in steals (40), but he also played a strong defensive center field -- enough to merit Gold Glove buzz from his teammates and manager. Jesus Guzman, promoted from Triple-A Tucson in June, carried the offense in the second half. Cory Luebke shined in long relief and also did so once inserted into the starting rotation, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning of a Sept. 19 start against the Rockies.

2. Padres pay homage to Trevor HoffmanThe Padres honored Hoffman during an hour-long pregame ceremony at Petco Park on Aug. 21, a ceremony that included not only his family but former teammates and coaches. The ceremony, which was equal parts amusing and poignant, climaxed with sobs as Hoffman's late father's taped image and voice rendered the national anthem on the video screen. "No one person deserves all this. We don't do things for accolades. It's a dream come true to have this bestowed upon you," Hoffman said afterward. "This is amazing."

1. Padres invest in their future with Draft, tradesThe Padres increased focus on drafting and player development paid off big in June's First-Year Player Draft as the team spent more than $11 million to sign a talented Draft class. The team signed 22 of its first 23 picks and got three players, catcher Austin Hedges and pitchers Joe Ross and Michael Kelly, to forgo their college commitments. Also, the July 31 trade that sent relief pitcher Mike Adams to Texas yielded two highly regarded pitchers, Joe Wieland and Rob Erlin, two pitchers who could make their Major League debuts sometime in 2012. The Minor League system hasn't been this good in a long time.

MLB 2011-2012 Offseason: Baseball remembers those it lost in 2011

It was a year of many indelible memories, countless remarkable personal and club feats and far, far too many moments of silence.
The baseball universe had to bid farewell to men who had graced its fields, its front offices, its broadcast booths and its grandstands. Men who shall never be forgotten, and to whom we now raise our flutes for the most heartfelt of Auld Lang Synes.

Matty Alou, 72: The smallest (5-foot-9) of the Alou Brothers swung the biggest bat, both literally (a 36-ounce model that seemed to outweigh him) and statistically (he won the National League batting title in 1966 by hitting .342 and retired as a career .307 hitter). Nov. 3, Miami, diabetes.

Gino Cimoli, 81: The NL All-Star outfielder with the 1957 Brooklyn Dodgers batted .265 across a 10-year career with seven different clubs. Feb. 12, Roseville, Calif., kidney and heart failure.

Wes Covington, 79: With 54 home runs, he was a junior member -- the seniors being Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews -- of the Milwaukee Braves' back-to-back World Series teams of 1957-58. July 4, Edmonton, cancer.

Ryne Duren, 81: His thick glasses intimidated hitters and his blazing fastball put them away. The inspiration for cinema's Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn topped the Majors with an inconceivable 20 saves in 1958, when he fanned 87 in 75 2/3 innings for the Yankees -- the first of six consecutive seasons in which his strikeouts exceeded his innings. Jan. 6, Lake Wales, Fla.

Mike Flanagan, 59: He helped pitch the Orioles into two World Series (1979 and '83), winning the AL Cy Young Award on the way in '79, but wasn't able to achieve as much success as the team's general manager. Aug. 24, Monkton, Md., suicide.

Bob Forsch, 61: His ceremonial opening toss prior to World Series Game 7 was merely the last of thousands of clutch pitches by the only pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters (1978 and '83) for the storied Cardinals franchise. Ken Forsch's "little brother" also helped pitch St. Louis into the World Series in 1982, '85 and '87. Nov. 3, Weeki Wachee, Fla., thoracic aortic aneurysm.

Joe Frazier, 88: Baseball, too, lost a Smokin' Joe, the one-time infielder whose 207-game run as Mets manager ended two months into the 1977 season, with his replacement being Joe Torre. Feb. 15, Broken Arrow, Okla., heart attack.

Woodie Fryman, 70: The ole Tobacco Farmer from Kentucky didn't break into the Majors until he was 26, and the lefty won 141 games in an 18-year career through 1983. Feb. 4, Lexington, Ky., heart ailment.

Lou Gorman, 84: The 2002 inductee into the Red Sox Hall of Fame spent more than three decades in baseball operations, a career highlighted by stints as general manager in Seattle and Boston. April 1, Weston, Mass., natural causes.

Greg Halman, 24: He smiled, he joked, he excited with anticipation all of his native Netherlands. He was fresh off his most significant stretch of Major League action and was set to invite Seattle's love in 2012. He was abruptly, inexplicably taken from us. Nov. 21, Rotterdam, knife stabbing.

Roy Hartsfield, 85: He was the charter manager of Toronto, guiding the Blue Jays through their first three seasons (1977-79), a just reward for a long stint as a successful Minor League skipper. Jan. 15, Atlanta, liver cancer.

Hideki Irabu, 42: The right-hander helped blaze Japanese players' trail to the Majors, going 29-20 with the 1997-99 Yankees before his career wound down in disappointment. July 27, Los Angeles, suicide.

Eddie Joost, 94: The smooth-fielding infielder was one of the last remaining links to the fabled Philadelphia A's, with whom he became a two-time (1949, '52) All-Star, then the team's last manager before its move to Kansas City. April 12, Fair Oaks, Calif.

Harmon Killebrew, 74: The Hammer struck for 573 homers across a 22-season Hall of Fame career, playing all but 106 of his 2,435 games as the revered and beloved face of the Washington-Minnesota franchise. May 17, Scottsdale, Ariz., esophageal cancer.

Charlie Lea, 54: The France-born righty went 43-31 for the Expos from 1982-84, but he left his most permanent mark with his May 10, 1981 no-hitter against San Francisco. He was a long-time member of the broadcast crew for the Memphis Redbirds. Nov. 11, Collierville, Tenn., heart attack.

Marty Marion, 94: He fielded shortstop as no one with two arms had any business, thus was known as The Octopus as the centerpiece of the Cardinals' World Series championship teams of 1942, '44 and '46. March 16, Ladue, Mo., natural causes.

Charlie Metro, 92: He dabbled both in outfield play and managing before becoming one of the true scouting legends of the game, primarily for the Dodgers. March 18, Buckingham, Va., lung cancer.

Jim Northrup, 71: As the starting right fielder on the 1968 Tigers that united Detroit at a time of deep social divide, the lefty hitter belted 21 homers and drove in 90 runs, the high note of a 12-year career. June 8, Grand Blanc, Mich., seizure.

Jose Pagan, 76: Versatile and affable, the Puerto Rican crowned a 15-year career by playing a vital role on the 1971 World Series champion Pirates, for whom he started at four different positions. June 7, Sebring, Fla., Alzheimer's disease.

Mitchell Page, 59: A third-round Draft pick in 1973 by the Pirates dealt to Oakland as part of a nine-player blockbuster in March of '77, he broke in with the '77 A's as the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up -- to Hall of Famer Eddie Murray -- hitting .307 with 21 homers and 75 RBIs. March 12, Glendale, Ariz., in his sleep.

Duane Pillette, 88: The big right-hander earned two unique spots in baseball lore, starting the St. Louis Browns' final game and earning the Orioles' first victory after the franchise's 1954 shift to Baltimore. May 8, San Jose, Calif., heart failure.

Mel Queen, 69: As a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, he had a brief but unique career with the Reds as on outfielder/pitcher prior to a conversion to full-time pitching in 1967. Then as a pitching coach/advisor, he tutored three Toronto pitchers to Cy Young Awards -- Pat Hentgen, Roger Clemens (twice) and Roy Halladay. May 13, Morro Bay, Calif., cancer.

Bob Rush, 85: Mr. Cub of the mound during the outset of Ernie Banks' wider reign, the big right-hander was an eight-time double-figures winner for the perennial cellar-dwellers of the '50s, including a 17-13 mark with a 2.70 ERA in 1952. March 19, Mesa, Ariz.

Larry Shepard, 92: He never got to do it in the Majors, but he sure knew a lot about pitching, winning 179 games during a 13-season Minor League career then steering the Big Red Machine pitchers as Cincinnati's pitching coach. He also served as Pirates manager for two seasons between Danny Murtaugh stints. April 6, Lincoln, Neb., natural causes.

Dave Sisler, 79: The bespectacled pitching branch of the famed Sisler clan (Hall of Fame father George was a career .340 hitter and brother Dick a two-time All-Star) posted 38 wins from 1956-62 in his career as a reliever and spot-starter. Jan. 9, St. Louis, prostate cancer.

Roy Smalley, 85: A cornerstone of one of baseball's leading families -- brother-in-law of Gene Mauch and father of Roy Smalley III -- he was the Cubs shortstop replaced by Ernie Banks, making him Wally Pipp to Mr. Cub's Lou Gehrig. Oct. 12, Sahuarita, Ariz.

Duke Snider, 84: The Duke of Flatbush -- and of Chavez Revine -- hit nearly .300 and struck 407 homers, mostly for the Dodgers during a Hall of Fame career that spanned 18 seasons and both coasts. Feb. 27, Escondido, Calif., diabetes.

Paul Splittorff, 64: A 1987 inductee into the Royals Hall of Fame, the left-hander had 129 wins from 1974-80 for Kansas City's AL West dynasty, and he remained vital on the scene as the team's TV analyst. May 25, Blue Springs, Md., oral cancer.

Shannon Stone, 39: Many years ago, Al Stone caught a ball tossed into the Arlington Stadium stands by Buddy Bell and presented it to his joyful son, Shannon. Spurred by the warmth of that memory and his own fatherly love, the 18-year veteran of the Brownwood (Texas) Fire Department suffered a fatal fall at Rangers Ballpark while reaching for a souvenir ball tossed for his 6-year-old son, Cooper, by Josh Hamilton. July 7.

Chuck Tanner, 82: The onetime nondescript utility outfielder enjoyed an uninterrupted 19-season run as a manager with four teams, most gloriously the "We Are Family" Pirates, whom he guided to the 1979 World Series championship. Feb. 11, New Castle, Pa., following a long illness.

Dick Williams, 82: He was hard-nosed as a vagabond utility player during a 13-season playing career, even harder-nosed as a Hall of Fame manager who won pennants with three different teams (Boston, Oakland, San Diego) and two World Series with the A's. July 7, Las Vegas, brain aneurysm.

Gus Zernial, 87: Oh, how Ozark Ike could swing the big lumber, especially from 1950-53, a four-season span during which he totaled 133 homers and 430 RBIs for two teams (White Sox and Philadelphia A's). Jan. 20, Fresno, Calif., heart disease.

Police missed chance to pursue accused perv in '09: Kelly

The NYPD missed the chance to pursue accused child molester Steven Pappas two years ago because they didn't believe the story told by a 12-year-old victim who came forward back then, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly revealed today.

"What happened is when he spoke to the Special Victims Unit when this happened in 2009, they weren't certain of his credibility," said Kelly, following an interfaith breakfast in Midtown.

"His mother sees this individual who was arrested -- Pappas' picture -- on television, finds out the circumstances were very similar to what her son reported. She calls the (police) hotline and that's how we got involved to investigate."

Pappas, 50, was arrested Thursday after a 15-year-old told police Pappas approached him at the 53rd Street subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, pretended he was a cop and drove him to 92nd Street in Bay Ridge, where he was sexually assaulted.

Kelly said the 12-year-old told a nearly identical story of being approached at the same 53rd Street station by someone posing as a cop who drove him to a parking lot, where he was attacked.

It is the second bombshell in the heinous case.

Kelly had earlier disclosed that Pappas was carrying the badge of an active duty police officer. Today, he reported he was actually carrying a duplicate badge that someone he knows gave him this month.

Although it missed the opportunity to get Pappas off the streets two years ago, Kelly defended the Specail Victims Unit.

"You have to judge credibility. It's a very sensitive area. the special people are trained in this, do it extremely well and in this instance it proves the young man-- the boy-- was correct," he said.

"But that's what happens in this business. There's a fair amount of recantation that takes place as far as the claims of sexual abuse. It's a sensitive, complex area. I think they do it well. I think the important thing is that this individual is under arrest."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

MTA 2011 Highlights: Improvements for Our Bridges and Tunnels Customers

In 2011, the MTA focused on delivering on some long-promised benefits for our 8.5 million customers. This is the seventh in a daily series that recaps the best of 2011.
MTA Bridges and Tunnels is taking dramatic steps toward a simple goal; New York drivers never again getting stuck in traffic waiting to pay a toll on an MTA bridge or tunnel. Although this may sound like nothing more than pure fantasy, it's actually right in front of us. New improvements in 2011 included:

All-electronic tolling: This pilot project at the Henry Hudson Bridge began with Phase I removal of gates in January 2011. The second phase, which is cashless, is expected to occur sometime this spring. Data collected from the pilot will be used to evaluate its success and guide future policy decisions regarding all-electronic tolling at MTA's other crossings.

Expansion of E-ZPass On The Go: This program is aimed at increasing E-ZPass market share by allowing customers to purchase a pre-paid E-ZPass tag at participating retailers and, in a pilot program, at cash lanes at the Henry Hudson Bridge. The Henry Hudson pilot program proved immensely popular, with 7,500 On The Go tags sold in four months, and will be expanded to all crossings by mid-2012.

E-ZPass Tag Replacement program: This program, which began at the end of 2010, ensures that tags are replaced before the internal sealed battery reaches the end of its useful life, which would result in motorists being delayed at gated crossings. Through October, some 650,000 tags have been mailed to MTA E-ZPass customers. The E-ZPass swap program will continue in 2012.

Travel Time Information: New electronic message signs with real travel time information to major regional destinations and connecting highways were put in place at the Robert F. Kennedy, Verrazano-Narrows, Henry Hudson and Throgs Neck Bridges. More signs are slated to be put up at these facilities as well as the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnels and Bronx-Whitestone Bridge in 2012.

In addition to tag replacement, B&T, in partnership with the E-ZPass Inter- Agency Group, representing 24 tolling agencies in 14 states and one border crossing, signed a new contract which significantly lowers the cost of purchasing tags. This will produce a savings of $9.3 million in 2011 and $1.9 million in 2012.

B&T also reduced its vehicle fleet as part of an MTA-wide initiative in 2011, which will generate an additional $2.3 million in savings through 2012.

MLB 2011-2012 Offseason: Yanks, Okajima agree on Minor League deal

Yankee Stadium- The Yankees will offer Hideki Okajima a chance to help fill out their bullpen, agreeing to terms with the former Red Sox left-hander on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Okajima, 36, was an effective force for Boston in his first few seasons after coming to the Majors, but fell out of favor with the Red Sox and spent most of this season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Though he has also had success against right-handed batters, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that the club is considering Okajima as a left-handed specialist.

"He's somebody that definitely can get left-handers out," Cashman said. "We'll see what it looks like when we get to Spring Training."

Okajima was limited to just seven big league outings in 2011, all of them coming in April and May. Okajima was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in 8 1/3 innings.

The Red Sox did not recall Okajima when rosters expanded in September, despite a 2.29 ERA in 34 appearances at Triple-A, spanning 51 innings.

Okajima came to the Major Leagues in 2007 after pitching with the Yomiuri Giants and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. He compiled a big league record of 17-8 with six saves and a 3.11 ERA in 261 appearances with Boston, holding left-handed batters to a .218 batting average.

The Yankees have been looking for supplemental left-handed help after going most of 2011 with Boone Logan as their lone southpaw reliever.

"We're just kind of casting a wide net to see if we can nail something in the spring," Cashman said. "Some years you have better success at that than others."

New York also traded up to acquire another Red Sox left-hander in the Rule 5 Draft earlier this month, acquiring 22-year-old Cesar Cabral from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations.

In other updates, Cashman said that he remains in contact with the representatives for infielder Eric Chavez and outfielder Andruw Jones but that there is nothing new to report with their respective situations.

In Chavez's case, the Yankees are waiting to see what happens with 29-year-old Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima, whom they acquired the rights to negotiate with in early December from the Seibu Lions for $2.5 million.

New York has until Jan. 6 to reach an agreement with Nakajima, who can play shortstop as well as second and third bases. The Yankees also have Eduardo Nunez and Brandon Laird in line as potential backup infielders.

"Until the Nakajima thing declares itself either way, I'm really not in a position to pursue anything else, because he very well may be here," Cashman said. "If he is, that's an exclamation point to what I have. If he isn't, potential discussions with other players can continue."

Verizon Wireless to charge $2 on some bill payments

Verizon Wireless, the country's largest cellphone company, said Thursday that it will start charging $2 for every payment subscribers make over the phone or online with their credit cards.

The company said this "convenience fee" will be introduced Jan. 15.

The fee won't apply to electronic check payments or to automatic credit card payments set up through Verizon's AutoPay system. Paying by credit card in a Verizon store will also be free, as will mailing a check.

Other carriers have tried to get subscribers to move to automatic payments through other means.

AT&T Inc. offers a $10 gift card for those who set up AutoPay. Sprint Nextel Corp. charges subscribers who have caps on the fees they can rack up each month. Those people are charged $5 monthly unless they set up automatic payments.

It's not uncommon for utilities, universities and even state tax departments to charge convenience fees for online payments. Each credit-card payment comes with fees that the companies can avoid by getting electronic checks instead. Automatic payments mean less trouble for companies in going after late payments.

Verizon Communications Inc., the landline phone company that owns most of Verizon Wireless, tried last year to introduce a $3.50 fee for people who paid their bill for FiOS TV or Internet service month-to-month by credit card. It backed off after complaints.

Verizon Wireless serves 91 million phones and other devices on accounts that pay the company directly, and more who pay indirectly through other companies.

2011 in Review: Stars, rookies emerge in trying year for Dodgers

Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles- There's nothing good when baseball and bankruptcy are in the same sentence, and that's the bottom line looking back on the Dodgers' 2011 season.

They were already 9 1/2 games out of first place in late June when the papers were filed, but the distressing lead-up to the legal distraction played out in an obvious cash crunch that at times overshadowed the play of National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and MVP runner-up Matt Kemp.

The Dodgers knew coming in that things had to go just right. Instead, first-half injuries decimated the roster, held down a marginal offense and required a rebuilding of the bullpen on the fly.

New manager Don Mattingly knew there would be challenges, but through it all he never whined and his players never quit. In fact, with an injection of youthful energy and the veteran bat of Juan Rivera, the Dodgers turned into one of the winningest second-half teams in the league when they could have packed it in.

After spending only four days alone in first place in 2010, the Dodgers were in first only three days in 2011 and never after April 4. They fell below .500 on April 29 and didn't break through that benchmark again until Sept. 20, when Kershaw won his 20th, and weren't as high as second place after early May.

Injuries forced the promotions from the Minor Leagues of closer Javy Guerra, shortstop Dee Gordon, reliever Josh Lindblom, starter Nathan Eovaldi, infielder Justin Sellers, outfielder Jerry Sands and catcher A.J. Ellis.

Each used the opportunity to audition impressively for 2012 roles. Rivera, cast off by the Blue Jays, stepped into the middle of the batting order and became the run producer that was sorely missing.

Kenley Jansen turned into a record-breaking strikeout machine. James Loney jump-started his flagging career with a second-half offensive revival.

In Juan Uribe, Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal, three-quarters of the starting infield accounted for eight stints on the disabled list, two season-ending operations and a trade. Their injuries, and the resulting lack of production, mirrored what happened throughout the roster, resulting in more than 1,000 games missed by injury.

Closer Jonathan Broxton didn't pitch after May 4 because of a bruised elbow, but it wasn't until mid-September that surgery was performed to fix it.

By the All-Star break, the Dodgers had abandoned both halves of their left-field platoon of Marcus Thames and Jay Gibbons, and catcher Dioner Navarro wasn't far behind. Hong-Chih Kuo, an All-Star a year earlier, suffered anxiety disorder, while Jansen had an irregular heartbeat. Andre Ethier had a 30-game hitting streak and an All-Star berth, but knee surgery cut short his season.

Even Rubby De La Rosa, who stepped into the rotation after Jon Garland went down with season-ending shoulder surgery, blew out his elbow after showing flashes of brilliance. Vicente Padilla also was lost for most of the year with arm and neck surgeries.

Here are the Dodgers' top five story lines of 2011:

1. Owner Frank McCourt files for bankruptcy protection.Next year, the No. 1 story line will be the sale to a new owner, if not the complete turnaround on the field that followed. Unfortunately, the 2011 season was overshadowed by the bankruptcy filing of one of baseball's most storied franchises. With general manager Ned Colletti's payroll restricted, on the field the Dodgers finished third and had to rally just to have a winning record.

2. Kershaw wins the Cy Young Award.Living up to comparisons with Sandy Koufax, 23-year-old Clayton Kershaw won the Dodgers' 10th Cy Young Award by capturing the pitching Triple Crown in only his third full Major League season. Among other achievements, he was the club's first 20-game winner since 1990, he went 12-2 against the NL West, 5-0 against the Giants and 4-0 against Tim Lincecum.

3. Kemp bounces back into franchise-player status.At the end of a disappointing 2010 season, Kemp predicted he would go 40/40 in 2011 and he missed by only one home run. Kemp finished second for the MVP Award (Ryan Braun won) and nearly won the batting Triple Crown. After calling him out last year, Colletti didn't trade Kemp but motivated him and then rewarded one of the game's best young players with an eight-year, $160 million contract.

4. Mattingly survives rookie season as manager.Following Joe Torre, one of the most accomplished managers in the history of the game, Mattingly had never managed anywhere but the Arizona Fall League until taking the helm of the Dodgers.

Despite encountering all kinds of owner-caused distractions and playing with a limited hand, Mattingly kept his club afloat through a slow start, and the Dodgers rallied by going 40-24 over the final 64 games.

5. The pipeline delivers.The player development system, which has had uneven results in recent years, promoted a handful of prospects that Colletti wouldn't trade, and they made an impact. Gordon took over shortstop and triggered the trade of Rafael Furcal. Guerra, Jansen and Lindblom made expendable an injured Broxton and erratic Kuo. De La Rosa moved into the starting rotation, and when his elbow blew out, Eovaldi stepped in to replace him.

Brandon J.'s News' Top 10 stories of 2011: #1 (MLB 2011-2012 Offseason: Reyes' Mets career filled with highlights)

From hundreds of stories, we've counted down the stories that were top new-makers in 2011. But this one was the most news worthy. Here is #1.

Dallas- Jose Reyes plans to don a Miami jersey for the first time on Wednesday, when the Marlins officially introduce him as their new shortstop during a news conference at the Hilton Anatole. On the eve of that announcement, the following is a look back on Reyes' highlights during his nine years in New York:

June 10, 2003 (at Texas): A much-hyped prospect throughout his rapid Minor League ascent, Reyes made his debut in Texas in what was supposed to be a temporary taste of the big leagues. But with two hits in his first game and a grand slam five days later, Reyes retained the starting job even after regular starting shortstop Rey Sanchez returned from the disabled list.

Aug. 28, 2003 (at Braves): Several days before suffering a season-ending ankle injury, Reyes became the youngest player since 1900 to homer from both sides of the plate. Never a prolific home run hitter, Reyes did muster 81 of them during nine seasons with the Mets, including two on the penultimate day of the 2011 season.

April 13, 2005 (vs. Houston):
After an injury-plagued 2004 campaign that saw him temporarily shift to second base to accommodate Kazuo Matsui, Reyes began 2005 on a tear. In addition to stringing together multiple hits in four of his first six games, Reyes singled home Victor Diaz in the 11th inning of a game against the Astros in what remains the lone walk-off hit of his career.

June 21, 2006 (vs. Reds): No one was more integral to the Mets' 2006 playoff run than Reyes, whose career year included a cycle at Shea Stadium against the Reds. Reyes finished the season with a .300 average, a career-high 19 home runs and 81 RBIs and 64 stolen bases.

Oct. 18, 2006 (vs. Cardinals NLCS): Reyes made his playoff debut -- and as it would turn out, his only postseason appearance -- for the Mets in 2006. Though he struggled somewhat at the plate that October, Reyes did lead off Game 6 of the National League Championship Series with a home run, helping the Mets beat Chris Carpenter and force a decisive Game 7 against the Cardinals.

Sept. 15, 2007 (at Phillies): Fully established as a perennial All-Star (he made the cut four times as a Met), Reyes stole his 78th base of the season against the Phillies. That mark remains the highest single-season total of any Major League player since 1992.

Sept. 10, 2008 (vs. Washington): In just his fourth full season and sixth overall, Reyes swiped his 282nd career base, breaking Mookie Wilson's franchise record. Less than two months earlier, Reyes had also broken Wilson's record with his 63rd triple. He finished his Mets career with a franchise-best 370 steals, 99 triples, 735 runs scored and 385 multihit games.

June 28, 2011 (at Detroit): The apex of Reyes' 2011 season may have come in Detroit, when he finished 4-for-4 with his 15th triple of the season. At the time, before hamstring issues began sidetracking him, Reyes was on pace to finish with more triples than anyone since the Dead-ball era. Though that pace ultimately slowed, his hitting did not. Which leads us to ...

Sept. 28, 2011 (vs. Reds): Controversial? Perhaps. Memorable? Most definitely. Entering the final day of his Mets career with a slim lead in the batting race, Reyes bunted for a single in his first at-bat and immediately gave way to a pinch-runner, all but sealing the first batting title in franchise history.

And that is a Brandon J.'s News' Review for 2011.

Pinstripe Bowl has familiar feel for Rutgers

Yankee Stadium- Rutgers will have the home-field, if not the home-state, advantage at Yankee Stadium on Friday, when it takes on Iowa State in the second annual Pinstripe Bowl.

Rutgers, centered in nearby New Brunswick, N.J., can draw additional comfort from knowing the facility well.

The Scarlet Knights held a dress rehearsal of sorts earlier this season, when they earned a 27-12 victory over Army at Yankee Stadium. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said his team enjoyed that experience, and he said the school's fanbase is excited to be close to home.

"I think it means everything," he said earlier in December. "Often times, when you go away for a bowl game, there's an expense to travel. For our fans, to be able to get to the game -- to be able to spend the day in New York and at Yankee Stadium -- is tremendous. And for our players as well. A lot more family members are going to be able to be part of their great experience now because it is local."

Both teams have spent the past few days in Manhattan, and they'll meet on the field Friday seeking punctuation to their respective seasons. Iowa State (6-6) has played seven ranked opponents this season -- losing to five of them -- and qualified for a bowl despite going 3-6 in the Big 12.

The Cyclones' 2011 season highlight was a 37-31 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma State in double overtime, a game that changed the national-title picture.

Rutgers, meanwhile, had a chance for a share of its first-ever Big East title before committing six turnovers in a 40-22 loss in the regular-season finale against UConn. The Scarlet Knights (8-4) played just one ranked team this season -- West Virginia -- and lost, 41-31, in that game.

Rutgers, which went 4-8 last season, is glad to be back in a bowl game. The Pinstripe Bowl will be Rutgers' seventh bowl appearance, and it will be the sixth for a team coached by Schiano. The Scarlet Knights have won four straight bowls and haven't lost since the 2005 Insight Bowl.

Iowa State, coached by Paul Rhoads, should be familiar with Rutgers' approach. Rhoads worked as the defensive coordinator for Big East rival Pittsburgh from 2000-07, and he said he can recall some bruising battles that featured future NFL players like Ray Rice and Darelle Revis.

"They were hard-fought, well-played football games," Rhoads said. "Both of us believe in defense. Both of us believe in the running game. You're going to see two smart football teams on the field just like all those contests were, kids that are fundamental, kids that believe in techniques. It will be an exciting football game for everybody in the stadium and everybody watching on TV on Dec. 30."

Syracuse beat Kansas State in a 36-34 thriller in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl, and Yankee Stadium has played host to a few other games in its football renaissance. Notre Dame and Army played there in 2010, reprising an age-old rivalry, and Army will play a home game there in both 2014 and 2015.

Rutgers went 1-7-1 in the old Yankee Stadium, and it will seek to improve to 2-0 in the new one in the Pinstripe Bowl. Tim Pernetti, Rutgers' director of athletics, said the school has 200,000 alumni in the greater New York City area, and he hopes to see a healthy turnout for Friday's game.

"We've never charged a student for a bowl game ticket. We don't intend to start charging them now," he said. "Our goal is to make the game successful. In doing that, we want to bring as many people as we possibly can. We have so many in the area, but our students step up every single game. They're there. They pack our end zone. They're loud. As much as the bowl game is a reward for our football program, our coaches and our student-athletes, it's a reward for our students as well."

Both teams have seen two quarterbacks get a lot of playing time this season, and Rutgers will boast the game's lone offensive standout in wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.

Sanu set a school and Big East record with 109 receptions, and his 1,144 yards and seven touchdowns both ranked second among Big East receivers. Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene, who had 127 tackles, was named co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East.

Rutgers will be joined by former offensive lineman Eric LeGrand, who fractured his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae in a game during the 2010 season and was initially paralyzed. LeGrand has steadily regained sensation in his limbs and is working toward his goal of being able to walk again, and Schiano said that it's a blessing that he'll be able to share in the Pinstripe Bowl festivities.

"A very special guy in our program. Eric LeGrand," said Schiano. "Somehow, this is all tied together. Our game that we played here in November was against Army. Army is the team Eric was injured against, and to have Eric be able to be right here across the river and to be able to share in all the bowl events with our football team, I don't think for a second there's any coincidence. This is greater than a college bowl game for us, and we're thankful and grateful."

Arrest in UWS slay case could come by spring, source says

A source familiar with the investigation into the death of a beautiful Upper West Side money manager has told The New York Post that an arrest in the sensational case could come by this spring.

The development follows revelations earlier this week that the New York County public administrator has accused victim Shele Danishefsky Covlin's husband, Rod Covlin, of having caused her wrongful death.

Shele's death on Dec. 31, 2009 was initially classified an accident, but as The Post first reported, it was reclassified a homicide after the body of the UBS Wealth Management veep was exhumed three months later.

The suit brought by the public administrator -- which is handling Shele's multimillion-dollar estate -- says Rod Colvin, who's never been charged criminally, "did intentionally, deliberately, willfully, wantonly, maliciously, brutally and without provocation or just cause did strangle, choke, strike, injure, assault, abuse, beat and murder" the mother of his kids.

It also comes as The Post revealed how Covlin has surreptitiously taken control of a $1.6 million life-insurance-policy payout that his wife left behind for their two kids.

Rod Covlin, 39, filed papers in Westchester County Surrogate’s Court in April seeking to be named guardian of the cashed-in Aetna policy that Shele had left for Anna and Myles.

“I am Anna’s father,” an affidavit reads. “I have her best interests at heart, and I am in the best position to determine her current and future needs.”

He filed a similar petition to control Myles’ half of the windfall.

Covlin’s bid was successful. Surrogate Anthony Scarpino named him guardian in July, apparently unaware he’s the prime suspect in Shele's murder.

Both kids were asleep in her apartment at the time of her death. Anna found her body in the bathtub.

The children are supposed to get what remains of the cash at age 18. Covlin has power to invest the money, and he can withdraw the cash with the court’s permission.

A source said Covlin had originally been listed as the beneficiary of the Aetna policy but Shele switched it to her kids about a month before she died as their marriage disintegrated and she told friends she feared he was going to kill her.

Covlin filed the petition to be named guardian in Westchester even though Shele’s estate case is being heard in Manhattan and the kids already have a law guardian acting on their behalf there.

His petition doesn’t say that there’s an ongoing case or that the kids have a guardian. He also left blank the answer to a question about whether the kids’ custody had ever been the subject of a court order — and an order of protection had been filed against him before and after his wife’s murder, allowing him only supervised visits with the pair.

He also wrote “n/a” under a question asking for the name and address of the kids’ maternal grandfather and grandmother, who have been fighting to keep him from getting their daughter’s money in the Manhattan case.

He also touted his financial expertise, saying, “I have managed securities firms throughout my career, held many securities licenses, and traded [professionally],” although court papers show he’s been unemployed for years and spends his time gambling.

He and the kids now live with his parents in Scarsdale.

There’s no record of Covlin having notified the New York County public administrator, the Manhattan judge handling the estate or Danishefsky’s family about his action.

Covlin did not return a call for comment.

Marilyn Chinitz of the law firm Blank Rome, which is representing Shele’s family, declined comment.