World Series Heats Up; NBA's Commish Retires

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Weekend Edition host Scott Simon talks sports with NPR's Tom Goldman, including the latest in baseball, the NBA and the Lance Armstrong story.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.


SIMON: Baseball comes to Motown for game three of the World Series. But, will Detroit's heavy hitters show up? The International Cycling Union says none of the above, or below, won the Tour de France in the years that Lance Armstrong copped the title and it plans for some organizational soul-searching. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us.

Morning, Tom.


SIMON: And the San Francisco Giants - as I don't have to tell you, because you were there. Because I sent you an e-mail and it says, sorry, I'm at the World Series. Stake through my heart. The Giants lead the Detroit Tigers by two games. The Giants look great. Pablo Sandoval, hitting home runs in bunches, Barry Zito is back. Tim Lincecum, good as he ever was. How does Detroit slay the Giants?

GOLDMAN: I'm going to use some wonky baseball terminology and I hope I don't lose you, Scott, because here's what the Tigers...


GOLDMAN: Why are you laughing? No, really. Here's what the Tigers have to do - hit the ball.


GOLDMAN: Actually, to be more precise, hit them where they ain't. After game two, several Tigers talked about how they hit the ball well and hard, but it was right at Giants defenders. In the series, the Tigers have only three hits that were more than singles. They still rely heavily on their two big boppers - Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. They have to wake up.

Now, couple of things in the Tigers favor. They're at home for the next three games if it goes that far. They're a good home team. Also, they hit opposing right handed pitchers better. And after facing lefties in the first two games, they get San Francisco right hander Ryan Vogelsong tonight.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland says he doesn't believe in momentum, but really, Scott, if ever a team was on a roll, it's San Francisco. Since being down to St. Louis three games to one in the last round, the Giants have won five straight. They've done it with power hitting, small ball, great pitching, great defense. Right fielder Hunter Pence talked about it after the game two victory.

HUNTER PENCE: I feel like we gained a lot of strength from what we had to overcome to get to this point. We're riding a little bit of a confidence, and a momentum and an understanding. You know, there's going to be more adversity to come. It's the World Series. There's going to be more moments. And, you know, we just want to go out there and meet them together.

GOLDMAN: Now, Hunter Pence is absolutely right. This series...

SIMON: Strength through adversity. That's an old slogan. Yes.

GOLDMAN: There you go. And he's right. The series has been filled with moments, some weird. Ball caroming off bases, off pitchers heads. And the Tigers are really looking to have those moments start to go their way.

SIMON: The International Cycling Union yesterday announced that nobody will be declared winner of the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005 - Lance Armstrong's years. The UCI president said at a press conference, quote, "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. He deserves to be forgotten in cycling." But what about the UCI?

GOLDMAN: Good question. There's been a lot of talk about the UCI and how it may be culpable in the whole story. Allegations that the UCI ignored the doping, actively helped cover it up. Yesterday, the UCI announced there will be an independent commission investigating whether the UCI was involved in all this in bad ways. And we should have some answers by next June.

SIMON: It's hard to see photos of Lance Armstrong crossing the finish line, wearing the livery of the U.S. Postal Service, and not wonder: Did they close local post offices at the time they were sinking money, for promotional purposes, into Lance Armstrong racing?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, you know, they sunk a lot into the team. It's said to be nearly $32 million during the years Armstrong won six Tours de France for the U.S. Postal Service team. I talked to a well-placed source in this matter who said the government is very active in exploring whether that money can be reclaimed.

A U.S.P.S. spokesperson was quoted, yesterday in the New York Times, saying, we're aware of the allegations concerning Lance Armstrong and the other riders and have no further comment. They would apparently be able to go after the money under the federal False Claims Act, claiming the cycling team defrauding the government by using money provided in ways that wasn't intended. And I'm told the government could seek triple damages. If that's the case, we're talking close to $100 million.

SIMON: Gosh. The NBA season's about to begin, weather permitting, but earlier this week the Indiana Fever won the WNBA championship over the Minnesota Lynx. Not a lot of attention, but help us mark the moment.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. You know, tough for the WNBA to pry away hardcore sports fans from the baseball playoffs and the NFL. But those who did pay attention were rewarded with a surprising win for the Fever.

Another title for basketball country in Indiana. And there was a lot of excitement about the Fever's Tamika Catchings finally winning her first championship, completing her resume that includes an NCAA title with Pat Summit at Tennessee, Olympic gold medals. One WNBA official, who speaks for many, calls Catchings everyone's favorite player and person. It was a nice end to the season.

SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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