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Arizona’s J.D. Martinez ties MLB mark with 4-homer game

J.D. Martinez tied a major-league record with four home runs in a game Monday as the Arizona Diamondbacks routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-0 for their 11th straight victory.

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Martinez became the 18th player in major-league history to hit four homers in a game, and the 16th in the modern era. He hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning, added a solo homers in the seventh and eighth, and finished with a two-run homer in the ninth.

The last player to hit four homers in a game was Cincinnati’s Scooter Gennett, who connected against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 6, 2017.

Astros return home, huddle with Harvey evacuees

Members of the Astros, returning to Houston after playing three “home games” in Florida, spent part of Friday afternoon at the George R. Brown Convention Center to mingle with Hurricane Harvey evacuees.

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Sixteen members of the major-league baseball team and manager A.J. Hinch gave comfort to victims of the storm in what city officials hope is a march toward recovery, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Jose Altuve danced with a volunteer, while Jake Marisnick posed for photos with SpongeBob SquarePants, Tickle Me Elmo and a Disney princess.

“This is just the first day,” Hinch told the Chronicle. “People are going to need our help a month from now, six months from now, maybe a year from now, to help rebuild this city. This is a non-game day. It's not an off-day. It is our human obligation to make another person smile today.”

The Astros were back in town after playing a three-game series against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Houston prevented a series sweep with a 5-1 victory against the Rangers on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the New York Mets with a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.

The convention center near Minute Maid Park was a natural rallying point for players.

"The only way to rebuild is to start, and part of the rebuilding process is Houston Astros baseball," Hinch told the Chronicle.

Members of the Astros and some of their families were joined at the convention center by team president for business operations Ryan Reid, broadcaster Geoff Blum, and team mascot Orbit.

“I thought we might have five or six guys,” Ryan told the Chronicle. “But it filled my heart with joy to see the kind of people we have on this team, to see the way they connected with the people here and to hear them sharing stories and having people cry in front of you. It's gut-wrenching. It's a roller coaster.”

Altuve is donating $30,000 plus $25,000 in shoes to victims of the hurricane, the Chronicle reported.

"I feel like I owe Houston something, all they have done for me," Altuve told reporters. "Now it's my time to show up and help people."

The Astros have donated 5,000 tickets to each game to the mayor's office for distribution to evacuees, volunteers, and first responders.

All rise: Sonia Sotomayor watches Yankee's game from 'The Judge's Chambers'

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited New York’s Yankee Stadium to watch her beloved team take on the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, and it only made sense that she found herself right at-home in “The Judge’s Chambers.”

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Sotomayor, a Bronx-native, took a seat in the rooting section named for rookie Aaron Judge as the Yankees beat the Red Sox 6-2, The Washington Post reported.

With a foam gavel stamped with “All Rise” in hand and wearing a black robe – both courtesy of the stadium, according to The Associated Press – Sotomayor could be seen smiling broadly as she cheered for the Yankees.

Sotomayor has rooted for the Yankees since she was a child. She threw out the first pitch to kick off the 2009 season at Yankee Stadium.

Teen who had foul ball stolen gets royal treatment from White Sox

Baseball fans dream of catching a foul ball. But imagine the agony of having that ball yanked out of your hand.

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That’s what happened to a 15-year-old Chicago White Sox fan during the second inning of Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins..

Ryan Baker was sitting along the left field foul line when a foul ball hit by Minnesota catcher Jason Castro landed in an open row in the stands. He scrambled to get the ball as it landed in the seats, but when he emerged with it, a woman in the row in front of him took it away.

"She pries my fingers, takes the ball and says it's her ball because it almost hit her. I was in disbelief," Baker told WGN.

Baker’s “what the heck” expression garnered plenty of sympathy and support on social media and on Chicago’s sports talk shows, WGN reported.

Later in the game, White Sox vice president and chief marketing officer Brooks Boyer brought Baker a baseball signed by White Sox broadcasters Jason Benetti and Steve Stone, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

"A young man had a ball taken from him,” Boyer said. “We just wanted to correct that wrong.”

“To take a foul ball from a kid is probably not the greatest thing to do,” Benetti told WGN. “But she's a fan, too, and it just shows you how much everybody wants to have a foul ball.”

The White Sox took their kindness a step further by inviting Baker to Thursday’s game as a special guest, the Chicago Tribune reported. Baker got to meet White Sox players on the field and spent time in the broadcast booth. 

Famous Norman Rockwell study drawing of umpires fetches $1.68M at auction

An original study drawing of a famous illustration by Norman Rockwell sold for $1.68 million Sunday night in Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night Sports auction.

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The 1948 study, or preliminary work, for “Tough Call,” which was used as the April 23, 1949, cover of The Saturday Evening Post, belonged to the family of John “Beans” Reardon, an umpire who was the primary subject of the drawing.

“I need to credit my colleagues in the art division for the assist on this one,” said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at the Dallas-based auction house. “This isn’t the first time that we’ve been able to draw from other segments of our million-strong bidding clientele to benefit a sports consignor.”

Reardon’s family had believed the original study they owned was merely a signed print, worth only several hundred dollars, Ivy said. It sold to a buyer who wished to remain anonymous, Ivy said.

Sandra Sprinkle, Reardon's granddaughter, inherited the drawing and put it above the mantle of her Dallas home, Reuters reported.

After her death in 2015, her husband, Gene Sprinkle, sold the couple's home and moved to a retirement community. His nephew looked at the drawing and noticed brushstrokes.

"We always thought it was a print, but we hung it over our fireplace because it was signed by Norman Rockwell to Beans Reardon," Gene Sprinkle told Reuters by telephone on Monday.

The drawing is also known as “Game Called Because of Rain,” “Bottom of the Sixth,” and “The Three Umpires.” Rockwell’s finished painting is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

The drawing depicts a game at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, with the Dodgers leading the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Reardon and his fellow umpires are looking skyward, debating whether to call the game due to rain.

Gene Sprinkle, 74, said he agreed to let his nephew contact Heritage Auctions, which determined it was an original oil.

"Sandra and her grandfather were very close," Sprinkle told Reuters. "Whenever people came to our house to visit, she was always proud to show it off and tell them about her grandfather."

Sports memorabilia fetched more than $10.7 million during the two-day auction, which ended Sunday, Ivy said.

Former Yankees star Derek Jeter, wife welcome first child 

Former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was called “The Captain” during his major-league career.

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Now he can be called a dad.

Jeter’s wife Hannah gave birth to a girl, Bella Raine Jeter, on Thursday, according to the verified Twitter account of The Players’ Tribune, which was founded by Jeter in 2014.

The Jeters were married in July 2016, and Hannah Jeter announced her pregnancy via a February essay in The Players’ Tribune, Newsday reported.

Jeter, 43, retired from the Yankees in 2014 after a 20-year career. He finished with a franchise-record 3,465 hits and a .310 batting average while leading the Yankees to seven World Series and five titles.

Mets’ Noah Syndergaard had cameo on ‘Game of Thrones’

New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard threw a different kind of strike Sunday night.

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The right-hander had a cameo role as a Lannister soldier on “Game of Thrones,” and Syndergaard showed off his arm strength with a deadly spear toss during a surprise attack against his army, USA Today reported.

Syndergaard has been sidelined with a torn latissimus in his right arm, NJ.com reported in June. 

The New York Post reported in March that Syndergaard flew to Spain and took part in the filming, but it was uncertain when the pitcher would appear on the show.

Former MLB star Don Baylor dies at 68

Former major-league baseball star Don Baylor died Monday morning after a long struggle with multiple myeloma. He was 68.

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Baylor died at 4:25 a.m. Monday at St. David’s South Hospital in his native Austin, Texas, his son confirmed to the Austin American-Statesman.

Baylor graduated from Austin High School as one of the first African-Americans to attend the school and the very first to play baseball and football for the school.

He played 19 seasons in the major leagues and was a feared power hitter who was known for crowding the plate and taking a pitch -- lots of them. He was hit a then-record 267 times, an example of his toughness and fearless style.

Baylor would have become the first black player in University of Texas history but for his decision to turn down a scholarship offer from legendary coach Darrell Royal to pursue a career in baseball.

Baylor played for six different American League teams -- most notably the California Angels -- but also the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. Following his playing career, he became manager for the expansion Colorado Rockies with a six-year stint and later managed the Chicago Cubs for three seasons.

He was drafted by Baltimore in the second round of the 1967 Major Leagues free agent draft and reached the majors in short fashion, making the club in 1970.

Little League softball team ejected from World Series over offensive Snapchat photo

The Little League International Tournament Committee disqualified the Atlee Little League softball team of Mechanicsville, Virginia, for unsportsmanlike conduct only a few hours before they were set to appear at the Junior League World Series. The decision resulted from a Snapchat picture featuring the players making an obscene gesture toward a rival team from Kirkland, Washington.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Atlee manager Scott Currie was made aware of the picture after it was posted. Though it was deleted soon after, he arranged for his players to apologize to the rival team, a move that was praised by the Kirkland team manager.

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Kevin Fountain, spokesman for the Little League, confirmed the disqualification in a statement:

"After discovering a recent inappropriate social media post involving members of Atlee Little League’s Junior League Softball tournament team, the Little League International Tournament Committee has removed the Southeast Region from the 2017 Junior League Softball World Series for violation of Little League’s policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media, and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its participants."

The decision to disqualify the girls has since been criticized as an overreaction in Forbes and the Times-Dispatch.

“It’s a travesty for these girls,” said Currie. “Yes, they screwed up, but I don’t think the punishment fit the crime.”

“We are deeply disappointed this social media post did not reflect the core values of Little League International or Atlee Little League,” wrote Jamie Batten, president of Atlee Little League.

Chris Mardigian, coach for the Atlee team, suggested that the move was retaliation, as the girls were responding to some hostilities in their game against Kirkland. During last week’s game, a Kirkland player and coach were ejected at various parts of the game for their conduct.

Batten’s statement, published in the Times-Dispatch, reflected Mardigian’s sentiments:

"We expect Little League International will take the time to fully investigate the matter, and we will comply with this investigation by providing all information about unpleasant interactions including the social media post and the time leading up to that event — not all of which were on the part of those on the Atlee softball team."

He said there was a desire “to protect youth who are recipients of inappropriate behavior both on and off the field,” adding, “We take very seriously our charge to impart the value of good sportsmanship.”

Read more here.

Diamondbacks, Cubs stage hilarious competition during rain delay

Rain delays during baseball games can become tedious, but not when the bullpens of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs get creative.

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While waiting out a 2½-hour rain delay in the top of the second inning Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field, both bullpens competed against one another with dance-offs and mime acts. 

The Cubs got it started with a variety of masks -- horses, chicken, an owl, a zebra and a unicorn. Then the Diamondbacks countered with T.J. McFarland putting on his uniform upside-down and dancing. But Arizona really gained an edge when four pitchers did their version of bobsledding, using chairs and leaning to the right and left, using their hands in sync to “steer” the vehicle properly.

The Cubs answered back with Carl Edwards casting a line from a chair and “fishing,” catching a teammate who futilely flopped as he tried to disengage the hook.

But the Diamondbacks won this battle with room to spare.

Rubby De La Rosa became a human bowling ball as Arizona tried to convert a 7-10 split. De La Rosa rolled into Archie Bradley (the 7-pin) with the proper spin, causing the right-handed reliever to topple to his left and into Andrew Chafin. After an agonizing wobble, Chafin tumbled to the ground and the Diamondbacks converted the split.

At that point, the Cubs’ bullpen conceded defeat.

At least the bullpen pitchers fared better than a member of the Wrigley Field grounds crew, who tripped and got stuck on the tarpaulin as it was hauled over the infield.

When the game resumed, the Diamondbacks also got the last laugh, winning 10-8 thanks to three home runs by Paul Goldschmidt.

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