Saturday, June 30, 2007

ABC movie critic Joel Siegel dead at 63

ABC movie critic Joel Siegel dead at 63

2 hours, 12 minutes ago

NEW YORK - Joel Siegel, a longtime movie critic for "Good Morning America" who was famous for his weekly, often humorous reviews, died Friday, ABC officials said. He was 63.

Siegel, who got his start at the network by working for New York affiliate WABC-TV, had battled colon cancer, the station said.

"Joel was an important part of ABC News and we will miss him," ABC News President David Westin said in a statement. "He was a brilliant reviewer and a great reporter. But much more, he was our dear friend and colleague. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joel's family."

Siegel was known for his sense of humor, movie acumen and sharp judgment. He never let an actor off the hook if the performance was lackluster.

"The appeal of Matthew McConaughey has long evaded me both as a pinup and as an actor," Siegel said in his review of 2006's "We Are Marshall." "His constant ticks, bad hair and strained syntax as a coach fumble what should have been the tragic and inspirational story of the rebuilding of Marshall University's football team after a devastating plane crash."

Dave Davis, president and general manager of WABC-TV, said Siegel loved to poke fun at uninspiring movies.

"No one had more fun writing about a bad movie than Joel," Davis said.

ABC anchor Charles Gibson said Siegel knew how to tell a story.

"He had an inexhaustible supply of stories — most funny, many poignant, all with a point or a punch line," Gibson said.

Born in Los Angeles on July 7, 1943, Siegel graduated cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles. After college, he started writing for The Los Angeles Times, where he reviewed books.

He landed in New York City in 1972 and worked as a reporter for WCBS-TV. He also hosted "Joel Siegel's New York" on WCBS Radio. Four years later he jumped to WABC, cementing his reputation as a film critic over the next three decades.

In 1981, he joined "Good Morning America" and became a regular as the network's entertainment editor, easily recognizable by his thick mustache and glasses.

In addition to five New York Emmy Awards, he received a public-service award from the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, and was honored by the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association for general excellence in individual reporting.

Survivors include his son, Dylan, and wife, Ena Swansea.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Wrestler Benoit, wife and son found dead

Wrestler Benoit, wife and son found dead

By DEBBIE NEWBY, Associated Press Writer
11 minutes ago

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. - WWE wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife, and son were found dead Monday and police said they were investigating the deaths as a murder-suicide.

Detective Bo Turner told television station WAGA that the case was being treated as a murder-suicide, but said that couldn't be confirmed until evidence was examined by a crime lab.

The station said that investigators believe the 40-year-old Benoit killed his wife, Nancy, and 7-year-old son, Daniel, over the weekend, then himself on Monday. A neighbor called police, and the bodies were found in three rooms.

Lead investigator Lt. Tommy Pope, of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department, told The Associated Press the deaths were being investigated as homicide, and that the causes of death awaited autopsy results on Tuesday. Pope said the bodies were discovered about 2:30 p.m., but refused to release details.

The house is in a secluded neighborhood set back about 60 yards off a gravel road, surrounded by stacked stone wall and a double-iron gate. On Monday night, the house was dark except for a few outside lights. There was a police car in front, along with two uniformed officers.

Benoit was a former world heavyweight and Intercontinental champion. He also held several tag-team titles during his career.

"WWE extends its sincerest thoughts and prayers to the Benoit family's relatives and loved ones in this time of tragedy," the federation said in a statement on its Web site.

Benoit was scheduled to perform at the "Vengeance" pay-per-view event Sunday night in Houston, but was replaced at the last minute because of what announcer Jim Ross called "personal reasons."

The native of Canada maintained a home in metro Atlanta from the time he wrestled for the defunct World Championship Wrestling.

The WWE canceled its live "Monday Night RAW" card in Corpus Christi, Texas, and USA Network aired a three-hour tribute to Benoit in place of the scheduled wrestling telecast.

"My relationship with Chris has extended many years and I consider him a great friend," Carl DeMarco, the president of WWE Canada, said in a statement. "Chris was always first-class — warm, friendly, caring and professional one of the best in our business."

Bill's Comment: Based on what I have both read and heard, I would not be surprised if it was a double murder-suicide. The authorites found neither any stab wounds nor gunshot holes, my hypothesis is that they were poisoned.

The bigger question here is, "Why?" We may never know. In my opinion, he was one of the best ring performers in modern time. It is such a shame to see anybody die at such a young age. (Chris Benoit recently turned forty.) Hopefully, the autopsy will provide some answers. Stay tuned.

For more updated information regarding, please go to

Bob Ford | To tell the truth: Giambi's honesty and MLB

Bob Ford | To tell the truth: Giambi's honesty and MLB

By Bob Ford
Inquirer Columnist

Posted on Sun, Jun. 24, 2007

Jason Giambi, apparently a little slow on the uptake, has finally learned the biggest truth about baseball's continuing wrangle with the issue of steroids: Honesty will get you nowhere.
What honesty got Giambi last week was a date with former Sen. George Mitchell, the leader of baseball's official investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Mitchell must be tickled about it, because 15 months into his investigation he hadn't talked to a single active player, which was making it difficult to find stuff to put between the covers of his report. Plus, it was kind of embarrassing.

Then along came Giambi, who was quoted in a USA Today article on steroids last month, saying he was "wrong for doing that stuff."

That was the money quote as far as commissioner Bud Selig was concerned. He finally had someone to tie to the railroad tracks, someone who would allow him to look and sound like a tough guy. And, perhaps more to the point, he finally had someone he could feed to Mitchell, so that baseball's pretend investigation wouldn't look so blatantly toothless.

Selig huffed and puffed and threatened Giambi with suspension and punishment - which Giambi would have fought and won, by the way - but eventually settled for adding the player's name to Mitchell's empty appointment book.

"I will take Mr. Giambi's level of cooperation into account in determining appropriate further action," Selig said, doing his Mr. Stern Commissioner impersonation.

What Selig and the rest of baseball should have focused on was not merely that Giambi admitted using steroids during its heyday of abuse, but also on what he said about the entire issue of closure.

"What we should have done a long time ago was stand up - players, ownership, everybody - and said, 'We made a mistake,' " Giambi said in the article. "We should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward. . . . Steroids and all of that was a part of history. But it was a topic that everybody wanted to avoid. Nobody wanted to talk about it."

Apparently, that is still the case. Baseball, under Selig's leadership, is content to issue a meaningless report (someday) and then declare the war over. Giambi's suggestion that management accept some of the responsibility for what happened is going to take place when runners circle the bases clockwise.

Selig will sigh and bemoan the fact that a few misguided players might have cheated, but he will never admit that he and baseball's front office were either too stupid, too greedy, or too afraid to confront the issue when pop-armed freaks were destroying the game's precious records.

If Selig was to take Giambi's advice, he would offer amnesty, not the threat of punishment, for those who came forward to give fans an honest accounting of what happened. As it is now, the effect of steroids on the game is like the submerged portion of the iceberg. No matter how big it is, the imagination can make it bigger.

Coming forward, though, doesn't seem like a good option. The truth teller, as Giambi learned, is dragged onto the commissioner's carpet, browbeaten in public, and forced to testify in a court that has no rules at all.

Giambi, in a statement issued by the Players Association, said he would be "candid about my past history regarding steroids," but, much to the relief of some other players, added, "I will not discuss in any fashion any other individual."

That means Selig and Mitchell can continue to flog Giambi - "We got one! We got one!" - but the overall effect is merely cosmetic.

Meanwhile, Barry Bonds is just six behind Henry Aaron's career mark of 755 home runs. The Web site of the San Francisco Giants is imploring fans to cast votes to add Bonds to the All-Star Game roster. (Reminding them that, in baseball's ridiculous system, fans can vote up to 25 times for each e-mail address they have. Think the Giants' office interns are cranking out the votes?)

Bonds, who hit a home run every 6.5 at-bats in 2001 when he set the single-season record of 73, has four home runs in his previous 102 at-bats, including a homer Friday against the Yankees. He was homerless last week during a three-game series in Milwaukee, with Selig watching from the shadows of a luxury suite.

The record will be broken, though, and it will be broken by a man who cheated to break it. That is my opinion, and it will remain nothing more than opinion because baseball doesn't really want the truth out there. Baseball wants the truth to go away.

Anyone who, like Giambi, felt that honesty was a reasonable option got a real lesson last week. Honesty gets you nothing but a lecture, a threat, and a long conversation with George Mitchell. And that's a man with plenty of time on his hands and lots of empty pages upon which to write your name.

Contact columnist Bob Ford
at 215-854-5842 or

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Former All-Star Beck dead at 38

Former All-Star Beck dead at 38

Longtime MLB closer found in his home on Saturday
By Barry M. Bloom /

SAN FRANCISCO -- Rod Beck, a former reliever for the Giants, Padres, Cubs and Red Sox, has passed away, the Giants said on Sunday. Beck was 38 years old.
Beck's body was found in bed at noon on Saturday by two female friends who were visiting his North Phoenix home and there was no sign of foul play, said Sgt. Andy Hill, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Dept., which was dispatched to the residence along with medics from the Phoenix Fire Dept. The Giants were informed of Beck's death on Saturday night and told the players, announcers and front-office staff, who were openly talking about the death prior to Sunday's 7-2 victory over the Yankees at AT&T Park.

"It comes as a complete shock," said Barry Bonds, who played with Beck on the Giants from 1993-97. "We all just found out. He was a great guy, great for us when he was here."

No cause was released, pending an autopsy and possible toxicology report, Hill said, adding that an investigation is standard when a dead body is found alone. Also, Hill said undisclosed evidence was confiscated from the scene by investigating officers. Beck had a history of substance abuse and went into drug rehab only months before his career ended with the Padres in 2004, when current Giants skipper Bruce Bochy was the manager in San Diego.

Beck came up with the Giants in 1991 and holds the team record for most saves in a single season with 48 in 1993, although his career best was 51 for the Cubs in 1998. His 199 saves with the Giants is second in club history to Robb Nen, who finished with 206, and his 286 saves during his 13-year career places him 22nd on Major League Baseball's all-time list.

A three-time All-Star with the Giants, Beck was nicknamed "The Shooter" by his teammates on that 1993 team that won 103 games but lost the National League West title on the last day of the season to the Braves.

"Because he was a gunslinger, man," said Mike Krukow, the former Giants pitcher and current announcer who retired in 1989, before Beck joined the team. "That's the way he approached everything. He had a huge heart, a Hall of Fame heart."

Beck was estranged from his wife, Stacy, who traveled to California, where the couple's two daughters were in camp.

The Giants were told about Beck's death on Saturday night by Rick Thurmond, Beck's agent, who requested that the team refrain from issuing a formal statement until the girls were informed.

"Rod became a fixture in the San Francisco community where he spent most of his career," Thurman said on Sunday. "Shooter was a hard-nosed, blue-collar kind of guy who wore his heart on his sleeve, and that is what made him so endearing to baseball fans everywhere."

The Giants family has been rocked by a number of deaths in the last year or two, including Tom Haller, Ed Bailey, Jose Uribe, Chris Brown, Pat Dobson and Harmon Burns, the team's majority owner. Beck's was the latest to digest.

"Everyone in the Giants organization is deeply saddened by the loss of a dear friend," Peter Magowan, the team's managing general partner, said. "Rod Beck was a true Giant in every sense of the word -- from his dedication on the field to his selflessness away from the park. Today, our hearts go out to the Beck family. Rod will be deeply missed."

"He was just a regular person," added Brian Sabean, the team's general manager. "I don't want to say he was almost like a civilian in the clubhouse, but he wasn't at all like a baseball player. He loved cowboy boots, he loved kids, he loved country music and he loved to smoke cigarettes. He was an upbeat personality who respected the game, loved the game and loved the Giants. His stay here certainly set the tone for a lot of things we were able to do."

Likewise, the Padres have had their share of bereavement. Since Alan Wiggins died in 1991, Eric Show, Jack Krol, Mike Darr and Ken Caminiti have all perished young. Bochy, then a backup catcher, played with Wiggins and Show and when Krol was a coach on San Diego's 1994 NL pennant-winning team. Bochy managed Darr, Caminiti and Beck during his 12 seasons in the San Diego dugout.

Wiggins, Show and Caminiti all suffered drug-related deaths. And Beck was barely beginning his second season with the Padres when he went into rehab. He was released by the team on Aug. 24, 2004, and never pitched in the Major Leagues again.

"[Beck] went out and got some help, I know that," Bochy said on Sunday. "In '04, during the spring, he had some problems. That's when he went into rehab, but I don't know where."

The previous season, with Trevor Hoffman recovering from shoulder surgery, Beck was reclaimed off the junk heap and saved 20 games in 20 chances. It was one of the top feel-good stories in San Diego of an otherwise dreary 2003 season, the last for the franchise at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

"This is a bad day in baseball to lose a guy at such an early age who's done so much for the game," Bochy said. "[In San Diego], what a job he did for us. We were desperate at the time for a closer. I know he and Trevor became very good friends. He was such a warrior on the mound. Anybody who played with Rod Beck can tell you just what a great teammate he was, what a big heart he had."

Beck grew up in the Los Angeles area and was drafted in 1986 by the A's, who traded him to the Giants two years later. His San Francisco run ended when he became a free agent after the NL West-winning 1997 season, and he signed with the Cubs. Beck was on the mound against the Giants a year later and closed the NL Wild Card playoff game at Wrigley Field, putting the Cubs back into the playoffs for the first time since 1989. But he was traded to Boston before the 1999 season was complete.

Though his Cubs tenure lasted less than two years, he was fondly remembered in Chicago. Last Sept. 2 at Wrigley, Beck was invited back for a Giants-Cubs game to throw out the first pitch and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

"I heard the stories that he said, 'I'll pitch every day,' and that's the attitude I have towards pitching," said Cubs reliever Scott Eyre, who like Beck, lists the Giants and Cubs on his resume. "He pitched every single day and he saved every game for weeks straight. He went out there with nothing, and still had all the confidence in the world."

Beck's Boston tenure was equally as short, lasting little more than two years before he blew out his right elbow. But "The Shooter" still had his impact.

"I'm just a little lost for words," said Jason Varitek, the Red Sox catcher, who played with Beck during those years. "He didn't have the same fastball by the time he got to Boston, but you learn different ways to succeed. He could pitch. More so, he was just such a great teammate. A great person to be around. I just can't say enough about what a great teammate he was."

Beck missed the 2002 season after having Tommy John surgery, but in early 2003 he tried to rejuvenate his career with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. In Des Moines, he became a mini personality, living in his mobile home outside the outfield fence and drinking beer with fans when they dropped by to visit.

"He came there and his stuff wasn't what it was, but he had the savvy and the desire, even in Triple-A," said Mike Quade, the Cubs' third-base coach now and the Iowa manager back then. "It wasn't easy for him. He had a trailer and lived outside the ballpark. He was a fun-loving guy, a competitive guy, and he loved life."

With Beck's passing on Sunday, that's undoubtedly the way he will be remembered most.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for reporters Carrie Muskat and Ian Browne contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.