Originally created 11/27/05

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Baseball

Beckett pumped to play for Red Sox

In Boston, Josh Beckett would love jersey No. 21, but the newest member of Boston's starting rotation knows the Red Sox might not hand over Roger Clemens' old number.

"I'm going to wear whatever they give me," Beckett said when asked about his boyhood idol and fellow Texan.

"It would definitely mean something to me."

Beckett, in a conference call Saturday from his off-season ranch, said he's "pumped" to be playing for a passionate fan base after coming from the Florida Marlins.

Boston acquired the hard-throwing 25-year-old in a seven-player deal that was completed on Thanksgiving. The Red Sox traded four prospects to the Marlins for Beckett, third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Guillermo Mota.

"It's a new chapter in my life," Beckett said. "It's a challenge I'm looking forward to."

Beckett talked to Kevin Millar, who was the Red Sox first baseman for the past three seasons, and Red Sox pitcher David Wells to get a feel for Boston. Wells has asked to be traded, and has cited a lack of privacy in Boston, but Beckett says being in the spotlight won't bother him.

Beckett was the MVP of the 2003 World Series, when the Marlins beat the New York Yankees. He's knows all about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, but he's downplaying the hype.

"We've got a lot of games against other (teams), too, that we've got to win," Beckett said.

Horse Racing

Stevens ends ride with second place

In Louisville, Ky., Gary Stevens finished second in the last ride of his Hall of Fame career, pushing heavily favored Louve Royale within a length of winner Moonshine Gal in a 1 1/16-mile race on Churchill Downs' turf course.

Despite the loss, Stevens left as "the happiest guy in the world," he said to the applause from thousands of fans on a cold, overcast day.

"I don't have to go through the pain anymore," the 42-year-old jockey said, acknowledging a series of knee injuries.

Stevens finished with 5,005 career victories and more than $220 million in purse earnings. He will stay involved in racing, serving as an analyst for the TVG network.

  • In New York, it was another big day at the racetrack for Todd Pletcher.
  • The trainer won two of three stakes races at Aqueduct , highlighted by a surprise victory from 25-1 longshot Purge in the $350,000 Cigar Mile.

    Purge, ridden by Garrett Gomez, blew past Mass Media and pacesetter Value Plus in the stretch and won by 3¾ lengths. Mass Media was second and Gygistar was third in the 11-horse field.

    Pletcher, who set the North American record for earnings by a trainer Friday, extended his mark of more than $19.1 million by saddling his second consecutive winner in the Cigar Mile, the final Grade 1 of the year in New York. Last year, the 38-year-old Pletcher sent out Lion Tamer to win.

    Earlier, Pletcher's Bluegrass Cat won his third consecutive race, beating Flashy Bull by 1¾ lengths in the $200,000 Remsen Stakes for 2-year-olds.

    Skiing

    Austrian Strobl gets ninth World Cup win

    In Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, Olympic champion Fritz Strobl won the season-opening downhill for his ninth career World Cup victory.

    The Austrian sped down the relatively flat and shortened Olympic course in 1 minute, 40.96 seconds.

    "Sure, I'm a little surprised," Strobl said. "I don't really know what I did. The day was a bit of a whirlwind. I forgot my racing suit at the hotel this morning, so then I was in a hurry and a bit of a panic. I had no time to think about the race or how I was going to run it."

    Conditions became more difficult for late starters because of warming temperatures and a light snowfall after the 21st skier came out of the hut - in addition to the flat light and rough snow surface.

    Several of the top contenders who started later, such as reigning World Cup overall champion Bode Miller, were surprisingly slow. Miller finished 21st.