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Irving has 26, Nets beat Lakers 121-104 as James, Davis sit

NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving had 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 121-104 victory Monday night over the Los Angeles Lakers, who played without LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Irving had scored 30 or more in a career-best six straight games but didn’t have to carry as heavy a load with some good play from Brooklyn’s backup guards.

Patty Mills and Cam Thomas added 21 points apiece for the Nets, who won their second straight and are 4-6 since Kevin Durant sprained a ligament in his right knee. They won just five times in 21 games last season when he sprained the other knee.

Lakers coach Darvin Ham said James was experiencing “really significant soreness” in his left foot and would be evaluated Tuesday to see if he could play at the New York Knicks that night.

James, who is 117 points shy of passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s career scoring record, sat at the end of the Lakers bench. He hasn’t played at Madison Square Garden in three years.

It was a planned day off for Davis so he didn’t play both ends of a back-to-back after returning last week from a 20-game absence due to a right foot injury,

Thomas Bryant had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook finished with 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

The Lakers trailed by 12 at halftime but opened the third quarter with a 14-0 run for a 60-58 lead. Irving finally got the Nets going, but the Lakers built a seven-point lead later in the period after some strong work from Wenyen Gabriel, who scored nine straight Los Angeles points. Brooklyn recovered to close the period with a 10-0 spurt to grab an 85-82 lead.

Mills and Thomas made consecutive 3-pointers after the Lakers cut it to two in the fourth, and Brooklyn would go on to lead by 14 before putting this one away.

The Lakers missed 11 of their first 14 shots and the Nets soon led 19-6. Brooklyn extended it to 19 points a few times in the second quarter but didn’t close the half well, allowing the Lakers to pull within 58-46.

The Lakers were hoping to move on after an infuriating loss in Boston, when referees acknowledged they missed James being fouled on his drive to the basket at the end of regulation.

But it was clear early on they hadn’t fully left their frustrations behind. Patrick Beverley, who got a technical foul in overtime Saturday, got another one in the first quarter Monday when he was called for a foul on Irving’s 3-point attempt. Referee Ben Taylor then walked away from Beverley to the other side of the court to avoid having to call another one and issue an ejection.

TIP-INS

Lakers: Westbrook passed Hall of Famer Gary Payton to move into 10th place on the NBA’s career assists list. … With James and Davis out, Rui Hachimura made his first start for Los Angeles and scored 16 points. It was his third game with the Lakers since being acquired from Washington.

Nets: Brooklyn was also short-handed, as Ben Simmons missed his second straight game with left knee soreness. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said the hope is Simmons can return Wednesday. … Day’Ron Sharpe grabbed 14 rebounds and Nic Claxton had 12.

UP NEXT

Lakers: At the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

Nets: At Boston on Wednesday.

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Banchero, Magic rally from early hole, beat 76ers 119-109

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paolo Banchero had 29 points and 10 rebounds as the Orlando Magic stormed back from a 21-point first-quarter deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 119-109 on Monday night.

Mo Wagner scored 22 points and his younger brother Franz Wagner scored 19 for the Magic, who stopped a three-game skid and ended the Sixers’ seven-game winning streak.

Joel Embiid had 30 points and 11 rebounds for Philadelphia, his 27th game this season scoring 30 or more and his ninth in the past 10.

The Magic methodically worked their way back from the early hole, trimming the Sixers’ lead to 10 points at halftime. Orlando went ahead for the first time on a 3-pointer by Gary Harris in the third quarter.

The Magic took the lead for good with 7:03 to play when Mo Wagner made a reverse layup, was fouled and converted the free throw. Wagner converted another three-point play 19 seconds later when he was fouled by Embiid on a driving layup.

Sixers coach Doc Rivers unsuccessfully challenged the foul call on Embiid, insisting his big man had established defensive position.

Cole Anthony followed with a 3-pointer to complete a 9-0 Orlando run, and the Sixers got no closer than six points the rest of the way.

Tobias Harris and James Harden scored 17 points apiece for the Sixers.

TIP-INS

Magic: Almost four years after the Sixers traded him to Orlando, Markelle Fultz played his first game in Philadelphia as a visitor. The former No. 1 overall draft pick has been injured each time the Magic played in Philly since the trade, although he played a road game against the Sixers in 2020 during the pandemic bubble in Florida. Fultz finished with 12 points and 10 assists.

76ers: Philadelphia has been the hottest team in the NBA for nearly two months but has benefited from playing the league’s third-easiest schedule entering Monday night’s game. The Sixers have the second-toughest remaining schedule and will play 17 games in March, including 11 on the road.

UP NEXT

The teams play again at Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

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AP source: 49ers’ Purdy has torn ligament in right elbow

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy tore a ligament in his throwing elbow, putting his status for the start of next season in question.

A person familiar with the injury confirmed the diagnosis of the injury Purdy sustained in the NFC title game. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not released details on the injury.

NFL Network first reported that Purdy tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm and said he will seek a second opinion on whether he needs a repair or a reconstruction.

A repair of the elbow typically would lead to Purdy being sidelined for six months, which would mean he could return close to the start of training camp. A reconstruction would likely sidelined Purdy into the 2023 season.

The latest quarterback injury for San Francisco throws another wrench into their future plans at the position. Their Week 1 starter from this season, Trey Lance, went down with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 that required follow-up surgery last month.

Jimmy Garoppolo replaced Lance, but broke his foot in Week 13 and is eligible to be a free agent in March.

Purdy took over and won his first seven starts as a rookie before getting hurt on the first drive of the NFC championship game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

“My arm felt like it stretched out,” Purdy said after the game. “It felt like a lot of shocks all over from my elbow, down to my wrist. Front and back. Just pain all over.”

Purdy came back into the game in the second half after backup Josh Johnson left with a concussion and mostly was only able to hand the ball off. He attempted two passes with the injured elbow with neither going more than 1 yard beyond the line of scrimmage.

“I couldn’t throw anything over 5-10 yards,” he said. “That is why we just had some screens. That was our only option when I went back in.”

Purdy, who was selected with the last pick in the 2022 draft, was a revelation when he got forced into action. He threw for 1,374 yards, 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the regular season.

Purdy helped the Niners win their first two playoff games, throwing for 546 yards and three TDs with no turnovers in wins over Seattle and Dallas. Purdy was the third rookie ever to win two playoff starts.

Purdy’s 108 passer rating in the regular season and playoffs combined is the best ever for a rookie with at least 200 attempts.

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Australia’s Women’s World Cup opener moved to bigger venue

Australia’s Women’s World Cup opener against Ireland has been moved to a larger stadium amid high demand for tickets.

Australia’s opener was originally set to be played at Sydney’s new Allianz Stadium, which seats 42,500, but it has been shifted to Stadium Australia, which seats more than 82,000. Stadium Australia, the former Olympic stadium, will also host the World Cup final on Aug. 20.

The tournament, which is cohosted by Australia and New Zealand, opens on July 20 with a match between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park in Auckland. Australia’s match against Ireland is set for later in the day.

“It’s going to be an incredible start for the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year. … Two absolutely massive matches, and we’re expecting over 100,000 fans to fill those two stadiums and take on that momentous moment, which will be the opening day of the Women’s World Cup,” said Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s chief women’s football officer.

Football Australia advocated for the move.

“The move from Sydney Football Stadium to Stadium Australia is big for Australian football and highlights the confidence which we have in the CommBank Matildas to draw a huge crowd for the first match of the tournament in Australia,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson said. CommBank sponsors Australia’s women.

The Matildas look to break their attendance record of 36,109 fans, which was set in 2021 at an exhibition between Australia and the United States.

Additional tickets for the Matildas’ first game will go on sale Friday, FIFA said. Fans who already have tickets will be moved to seats in the new venue.

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Judge denies LIV plea to expand discovery to Augusta members

A federal judge denied a request by LIV Golf to expand discovery in its antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour to include communication with 10 Augusta National members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

LIV Golf had issued subpoenas to five PGA Tour board members and Tim Finchem, the retired PGA Tour commissioner. It wanted all communications between them and “any member of Augusta National” relating to a new tour, but not limited to LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded rival league that launched last year.

In a redacted filing last week, LIV alleged Rice and Arkansas banking executive Warren Stephens “apparently attempted to influence” the Justice Department not to investigate the PGA Tour.

LIV also alleged Stephens was “apparently asked by tour employees” to push Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, to lobby against LIV.

In her ruling Monday, U.S. Magistrate Susan van Keulen said LIV’s request for 10 additional Augusta National members and the Masters Committee “is overly burdensome on the Subpoenaed Parties and not in proportion to the needs of the litigation.”

Communication with the additional 10 members would have gone beyond what she described as “agreed-upon targets.” Those were four Augusta National employees, including Chairman Fred Ridley, and seven members. The members include Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, which owns Golf Channel.

LIV Golf attorneys argued in last week’s filing that part of the PGA Tour’s attempt to snuff out competition from the new tour was to threaten players, other tours, broadcasters, vendors and any other third party if they worked with LIV.

“Discovery has shown that the tour delivered these threats not only through its own executives and employees, but by dispatching other influential persons on its behalf,” LIV attorneys wrote in the filing.

The judge said any connection based on the documents LIV cited is “highly speculative.”

“The cited documents do not implicate in any way the Subpoenaed Parties,” she wrote in her order. “Nor do they reflect communications by or between the identified additional targets. Indeed, for the most part, the identified targets appear merely as names on lists or in other oblique references made by others.”

Tour attorneys previously had argued that LIV accusations of the tour leaning on Augusta National to block LIV Golf players from competing in the Masters was baseless because the Masters announced in December that everyone eligible would be able to play.

The 16 LIV Golf players eligible for the Masters include Bryson DeChambeau, who remains one of three players still listed as a plaintiff in the antitrust lawsuit.

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Sam Mewis unlikely to play for US at World Cup after surgery

Midfielder Sam Mewis has undergone a second knee surgery and is unlikely to be available to play for the United States at the Women’s World Cup this summer.

Mewis, who also plays for the Kansas City Current in the National Women’s Soccer League, first had surgery on her right knee in August 2021. But she required another surgery last week, she announced Monday on social media.

“This has been a really difficult time for me personally and I’ve been devastated to be away from soccer so long,” she said.

The loss is a blow to the United States because the 30-year-old Mewis is considered one of the best players in the world at her position. Mewis is also expected to miss the upcoming NWSL season with the Current.

“I don’t have a timeline for return to soccer, but I will give my best effort in my recovery as I always have,” Mewis said.

Mewis was originally expected to be sidelined for two months after her first procedure. She was traded to the Current before the 2022 season and made a pair of preseason appearances but she hasn’t played in a regular season game with the team.

The Current bought out Mewis’ previous contract and signed her to a new agreement for 2023.

Mewis was on the U.S. team that won the World Cup in 2019. A regular on the national team since 2016 with 83 appearances, Mewis was voted the 2020 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year.

U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski hinted Mewis’ injury might be more serious than originally thought while the team was in New Zealand for training camp and a pair of matches earlier this month.

“At this point I don’t want to guess what the time is or if she is going to be back at all,” Andonovski said. “With Sam, it’s a long-term injury and at this point we probably would not go into details for that.”

Mewis last played for the United States at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in the bronze-medal match against Australia.

The team’s midfield will also likely be without Julie Ertz, who took time out for the birth of her son Madden in August and has not returned to training.

The United States has won the past two World Cups and will vie to lift a third consecutive trophy this summer. Hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the month-long tournament gets underway on July 20.

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Eagles’ Super Bowl-bound Hurts still trying to quiet haters

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nick Sirianni and his kids made snow angels in the confetti on the Linc turf. Jalen Hurts puffed on a cigar alone at his locker and scrolled through the congratulatory texts on his phone.

Out in the Philly streets, delirious fans refused to let grease slow them down as they slithered toward the top of street poles.

Everyone celebrates a Super Bowl trip in their own way.

Historically, those don’t come around very often in Philly. This makes two Super Bowls in six years for the franchise, which represents half of its career total. Owner Jeffrey Lurie has hired three straight coaches who’ve made it to the championship — Andy Reid, Doug Pederson and now Sirianni.

Even better for the Eagles, they drafted the right quarterback.

Hurts seemingly has it all. He tied a team record for total touchdowns. Was named an MVP finalist. Went 16-1 as a starter, including the playoffs. Has been heavily touted as the type of quarterback that can carry a franchise for a decade.

Yet it’s not enough.

Hurts made sure to call out his perceived haters in the moments after he scored a rushing touchdown and led the Eagles to a 31-7 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC title game.

Who knew? Hurts was a 2023 version of Ben Simmons that no one in Philly wanted.

“My first year here (people) probably didn’t even want to draft me here,” Hurts said. “It was probably one of those things. But it always handles itself.”

Let’s look at the facts: Hurts was drafted in 2020 in the second round — after a stellar collegiate career in which he was a Heisman Trophy runner-up — in large part to challenge incumbent Carson Wentz. Hurts was named the starter under former coach Pederson in Week 14 of his rookie year and has never really looked back. He rebounded from a 2-5 start and led the Eagles to the playoffs in Sirianni’s first season. In his second season as a starter, the Eagles have gone wire-to-wire as the best team in the NFC.

So who didn’t want Hurts here? He wouldn’t elaborate.

“It was a big surprise to many,” Hurts said cryptically. “My favorite (Bible) verse, I went through a lot of stuff in college and it kind of stuck with me, John 13:7: ‘You may not know now but later you’ll understand.’ Hopefully people understand.”

There are clues in Hurts’ biography that might explain what he meant. At Alabama, he was benched in the national title game for Tua Tagovailoa and ultimately transferred to Oklahoma for his senior season. He wasn’t considered a can’t-miss NFL prospect and heading into this season, there were questions about whether he could thrive as a pocket passer.

Hurts appeared to answer those questions. But he likely hasn’t forgotten them.

Eagles fans are sure to excuse whatever Hurts is working through as long as he leads them to their second Super Bowl championship in six years.

The Eagles have made three of their four Super Bowl appearances since 2000 and there’s a familiar mustache on the opposing sideline in Reid. Reid is on the short list — if not No. 1 — of the greatest coaches in Eagles history. He turned the Eagles into winners in his second season and won more games than any coach in franchise history, but was 1-4 in NFC championship games. He was fired after 14 seasons and immediately landed in Kansas City, where he has won a Super Bowl and lost another.

Hurts vs. Patrick Mahomes is a QB matchup for the ages. And the first between two Black quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.

Should Hurts win this one, maybe people will understand.

WHAT’S WORKING

Hurts had a modest game by his standards. He was 15-of-25 passing for 121 yards and ran for 39. That opened the door for the running game to take control. Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell didn’t put up monster numbers, but they chewed up pivotal yards on scoring drives and helped the Eagles find the end zone. Sanders scored two touchdowns. Boston Scott scored one.

The Eagles love to use their backs at the goal line and the trio’s propensity to find the end zone could derail the Chiefs.

WHAT’S NOT

The Eagles did their job battering San Francisco QBs Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson, but it’s not like the offense dazzled outside of the running backs inside the 20. Gainwell led the team with 48 yards rushing and DeVonta Smith led with 36 yards receiving. Those players have put up similar numbers in a quarter this season. Without more explosive plays, the Eagles could be doomed in Glendale, Arizona.

STOCK UP

The hometown(-ish) kid makes good. Haason Reddick forced a fumble and injured Purdy on San Francisco’s first drive of the game. He also recovered a fumble and had two sacks. Reddick now has 3 1/2 sacks this postseason, which are the most by an Eagle during a single playoff run. Reddick has 19 1/2 sacks in 19 games this season (including playoffs). Who wants to wager that the New Jersey native and former Temple standout can get a few more against the gimpy Mahomes?

STOCK DOWN

The Eagles might want to punt on using Brett Kern in the Super Bowl. Kern was a disaster again against the 49ers, with a shanked punt and a line drive into the end zone. He tried to argue the shank hit a TV camera wire but that argument went nowhere. Punter Arryn Siposs has been sidelined since mid-December with an ankle injury and remains hopeful he could return for the Super Bowl.

KEY NUMBER

4 — The Eagles are the fourth team to reach three Super Bowls since 2004, joining New England (seven), Pittsburgh (three) and Seattle (three). The Eagles are also the fourth franchise to appear in multiple Super Bowls since 2017, joining Kansas City (three), the Los Angeles Rams (two) and New England (two) in that span. The Eagles are also in their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history.

NEXT STEPS

Prepare to face the Chiefs.

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Chiefs survive Bengals, get 2 weeks to heal for Super Bowl

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes certainly deserved a game ball from Sunday night’s AFC title game, when the All-Pro quarterback dashed off on his sprained right ankle in the waning seconds to help set up the winning field goal.

Travis Kelce probably did, too. With the Chiefs missing three wide receivers because of injuries, the All-Pro tight end played through remnants of back spasms that nearly kept him out of the game entirely and finished with seven catches for 78 yards and a score.

The real MVP of the 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, though, might well have been longtime Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder and his staff. It was Burkholder and fellow trainer Julie Frymyer who put together a plan to get Mahomes ready for the Bengals, then had to find a way to get Kelce ready when his back acted up 48 hours before kickoff.

“I didn’t expect to be able to run very much,” Mahomes acknowledged. “The training staff, Julie, they did a great job of getting me enough range and mobility that I was able to protect myself, and then at the end of the game there, I had to run to get the first down and got us in field-goal range. So credit to them.”

Credit to them for Kelce, too.

“I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it,” he said, “but we have the best training staff in the entire NFL. … I’m just very thankful and appreciative. I don’t know where I would have been, mentally, if I wasn’t able to play this game.”

One thing is certain: The Chiefs probably wouldn’t be preparing to face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.

The job is only beginning for Burkholder and his team, though.

Mahomes was limping badly by the end and will no doubt use the next two weeks to ready his ankle for one more game. Kelce will likewise use the time to rest his ailing back. Then there’s cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who is in the concussion protocol; linebacker Willie Gay Jr. with an injured shoulder; and wide receivers Kadarius Toney (ankle), JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Mecole Hardman (pelvis), all of whom watched the dramatic conclusion Sunday night from the sideline.

The training room might be the busiest place at Arrowhead Stadium before the Chiefs head to Phoenix next week.

WHAT’S WORKING

The Chiefs sacked the Bengals’ Joe Burrow five times, including one by Chris Jones that forced a final punt and gave Kansas City a chance to drive for the eventual winning field goal. That pressure helped a defensive backfield playing a trio of rookie cornerbacks and a rookie safety hang with one of the best groups of wide receivers in the league.

“My whole offseason was dedicated to this game,” said Jones, who had never has a postseason sack in 11 games before getting two Sunday night. “Making sure that when that moment calls, for me specifically, that I’ll answer the call.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Without three injured receivers and with their quarterback hobbled, the Chiefs continually tried to establish the run Sunday night. But they only managed 42 yards on 20 carries, a paltry 2.1 yards per attempt.

STOCK UP

Frank Clark had five sacks in 15 regular-season games, but the three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher has been on a postseason tear. He has 2 1/2 between the divisional round and AFC title game, giving him 13 1/2 in the playoffs for his career. He trails only Willie McGinest (16) and Bruce Smith (14 1/2) for the most postseason sacks since 1982.

STOCK DOWN

Right tackle Andrew Wylie had some brutal moments against the Bengals. His holding penalty brought back a touchdown run by Isiah Pacheco and forced Kansas City to kick a field goal. Later, Wylie was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting, and Mahomes fumbled three plays later to set up a tying touchdown by Cincinnati early in the fourth quarter.

INJURIES

Mahomes, Kelce, Sneed, Gay, Hardman, Smith-Schuster and Toney would be plenty. But the Chiefs also had WR Justin Watson (illness) inactive Sunday and RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (sprained ankle) is still not fully back from injured reserve.

KEY NUMBER

3 — The Chiefs will be making their third Super Bowl appearance in four years and the fifth in franchise history. They also will be seeking their third Lombardi Trophy after winning their first two 50 years apart.

NEXT STEPS

The Chiefs are 5-4 against the Eagles with coach Andy Reid winning the past six games. How did he manage that? Reid won his last three before getting fired by Philadelphia and has since won all three against his former team with Kansas City.

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Chip Caray follows grandpa’s footsteps as voice of Cardinals

Longtime broadcaster Chip Caray is taking over as the television play-by-play voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, more than five decades after his grandfather and Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray became a baseball staple with the same club.

Bally Sports Midwest announced Caray’s hiring in a statement Monday. The voice of the Atlanta Braves is replacing Dan McLaughlin, who left the Cardinals booth in December after 24 years following his third arrest for drunken driving.

“I’m grateful and excited to come home and call games for the team that made me fall in love with baseball as a kid in St. Louis County,” Caray said. “I have always admired the passion, knowledge and loyalty of Cardinals fans, both here in St. Louis and across the country. The honor of continuing the legacy of my grandfather Harry, my dad Skip and so many other great Cardinal broadcasters, past and present, is the stuff dreams are made of.”

The third generation of Carays to broadcast in the major leagues spent the past 20 seasons as the voice of the Braves on Bally Sports South, Bally Sports Southeast, TBS and Peachtree TV. He also called games regionally for the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs, where his grandfather spent the final 16 years of his career.

Harry Caray got his break in broadcasting with the Cardinals, though, beginning alongside former catcher Gabby Street in 1945. He held down the job alongside such luminaries as Joe Garagiola and Jack Buck through the 1969 season, then went on to spend a season with the A’s before a decade with the White Sox and the rest of his career with the Cubs.

Chip Caray’s father, Skip, was part of the Braves broadcast team from 1976 until his death in 2008. And his brother, Josh Caray, is the play-by-play voice of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.

“The Cardinals are pleased to share in today’s announcement,” Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said. “Chip brings a wealth of experience to the booth and has a great feel for the history and tradition of the franchise.”

McLaughlin, who is scheduled to appear in court next week, was charged on Dec. 5 as a persistent offender of driving while intoxicated following his arrest in the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur. He pleaded guilty to DWI charges in 2010, when he was sentenced to two years of probation, and in 2011, when he was given a suspended 90-day sentence.

McLaughlin and Bally Sports Midwest issued joint statements in December saying that he was stepping away. McLaughlin also said that he was planning to focus on his family and his recovery, which he said had already started.

His departure after more than two decades gave Caray a chance to return to his roots. The 57-year-old, who also spent six years as the TV voice of the Cubs, attended high school in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield before heading to Georgia for college. He also worked for the NBA’s Orlando Magic and the Mariners earlier in his career.

“There is an illustrious history of Cardinals broadcasters and we are excited to add to that incredible roster by bringing in one of the best play-by-play announcers in baseball today,” Bally Sports Midwest general manager Jack Donovan said. “Chip brings enthusiasm to the game and cherishes the opportunity to be part of Cardinals baseball.”

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Plan outlined for new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, redevelopment

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A new ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays will be built near the current one under plans unveiled Monday as part of a massive redevelopment project that also includes affordable housing, office space and retail in what was once a thriving Black neighborhood.

Mayor Ken Welch, of St. Petersburg, Florida, chose a partnership between the Rays and the Houston-based Hines development company from among four proposals to transform an 86-acre (34-hectare) downtown site where Tropicana Field now sits. Welch said the plan should keep the Rays in St. Petersburg for the long term.

“This team is the best partner for this generational endeavor, and now the next phase of work begins to bring this dream to reality for everyone in St. Petersburg,” Welch said in a speech on the steps of City Hall.

The Rays have played at the domed Tropicana Field since their inaugural 1998 season but have considered moving elsewhere, such as neighboring Tampa, amid consistently low attendance. There was also a proposal to split their home games between St. Petersburg and Montreal that was rejected by Major League Baseball.

Rays President Brian Auld, who attended the mayor’s event, said in a brief interview it is “a thrill” to see the project take a major step forward. The plan calls for a new domed stadium to be ready for the 2028 season opener; the Rays’ current stadium lease is up in 2027. Renderings indicate the old stadium would be demolished.

“This selection validates all the hard work,” Auld said.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said last year that there is a “sense of urgency” for the Rays to resolve their stadium issue and that MLB wants the team to remain in the Tampa Bay area.

“We think Tampa is a major league market and we want to find a solution that makes the club economically viable in that market,” Manfred said then.

Details remain to be worked out over the next several years, including how to finance the project among the Rays, the city, Pinellas County and other entities. Welch, who is St. Petersburg’s first Black mayor, emphasized that a key goal is to restore a majority Black neighborhood known as the Gas Plant District that was ousted by the stadium and a highway.

The broader plan includes about 5,700 housing units — a large chunk of them to be deemed affordable — office and retail space, 700 hotel rooms, a 2,500-seat entertainment venue and a new Woodson African American Museum of Florida.

Overall, Welch said, the idea is to create a destination for people who come to Rays games, as well as build a new community.

“Folks want to be here. They want to be next to a vibrant downtown,” Welch said. “It’s not just for a ballgame but an entire experience.”

Two proposals shepherded by the previous mayor were scrapped last year by Welch, who sought to focus more on affordable housing and job opportunities at the Gas Plant District. The mayor’s grandfather ran a wood yard business there before the neighborhood was essentially obliterated by Tropicana Field.

“I am a child of the Gas Plant,” Welch said. “It will no longer be a dream denied.”


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