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Athletes Make News On Social Issues: The Week In Sports


I look forward all week to saying it's time for sports.


SIMON: This week, two expectant fathers were on the mound; reach for the Pampers. Also a new coach makes her mark in the NBA, and why can't the U.S. men play more like women? We're joined now by NPR's special sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: Let's hit baseball first. Two great pitchers - I've been savoring this phrase for a few days now - two great pitchers are on California rolls. Ha. Get it? Sorry.

GOLDMAN: Good one.

SIMON: Thank you.

GOLDMAN: Really good. And not to one up you, but may I add that L.A. Dodgers Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw are wasabi hot.

SIMON: (Laughter) OK. You win. Yes, two great rolls of scoreless- two great streaks of scoreless innings, right?

GOLDMAN: But before we talk about Zack Greinke and the 43 in two-thirds straight scoreless innings he has pitched, we need to talk about Zack Greinke the new father. He was scheduled to pitch last night versus the Mets. He missed the start so he could be with his wife for the birth of his first child. Now, amazingly, the Mets scheduled starter, Jon Niese, also was about to become a papa for the second time. He chose to pitch, watched the birth on FaceTime. You think Greinke's kid will hold it over Niese's someday?

SIMON: The two of them will meet in spring training a few years from now and say, well, my dad was there. What about yours? Well, my dad won the game. Yeah.

GOLDMAN: And happy to say, both mothers delivered healthy baby boys. Now, I'm not going to put a value judgment on what either pitcher did or didn't do, Scott, but the Dodgers did crush the Mets 7-2.

SIMON: Well, all right. God bless both families. That's best. And Zack will be on the mound against the Mets, right?

GOLDMAN: Tomorrow. And try to keep that streak going. He's chasing another Dodger great, Orel Hershiser. He holds the record for consecutive innings pitched without giving up a run - 59 straights in 1988 - Greinke, with 43 and two-thirds straight. He's been fantastic. He was - you know, he has an impossibly low earned run average of 1.30. Although, some opposing batters have grumbled that umpires are giving him a really big strike zone by umpires. Now, amazingly, Clayton Kershaw is kind of a secondary story on the Dodgers, something to say, considering...

SIMON: Winner, yeah.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, three of the last four national league Cy Young Awards. With his shutout win versus the Mets Thursday, Kershaw - in his last three games - has thrown 38 strikeouts, has not given up a walk. And now he's at 29 straight scoreless innings. So the talk in L.A. is about the second coming of Koufax and Drysdale.

SIMON: Yeah. Basketball - Becky Hammond of the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA's first assistant coach who happens to be female is really making a mark in the summer leagues, isn't she?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. She led the Spurs to the summer league title, which is only the summer league title. Your top players aren't playing. But, you know, someone's got to win it, and Hammond was impressive - the way she handled her team. She was in the huddles talking tough to the men, chewing them out when they got a bit too cavalier in their approach. Kudos to the Spurs, you know, another feather in the cap of head coach Gregg Popovich for hiring Hammond as an assistant, giving her the head-coaching opportunity with the summer league. She made the most of it.

SIMON: And is that the kind of record teams look for when they look for - begin to look for a head coach in a couple years?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, again it is just the summer league. But you know, Adam - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did talk about the real likelihood that a woman could coach at some point in the NBA. Remember, the league has blazed gender trails before. In the late 1990s, Violet Palmer became the first official - female official - to officiate at the highest level of any major pro sport.

SIMON: Just last summer, U.S. men's national soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann was being applauded for what his team did in the World Cup. This summer - big loss against Jamaica - what's changed?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, in the Gold Cup this week - against Jamaica ranked 76th in the world - major upset. Yeah, there are rumblings about Klinsmann. He was applauded for last summer's World Cup, although he was also criticized for what some believe are his tactical deficiencies as a coach. You know, there's concern that the U.S. men's team hasn't grown, hasn't had consistent success that was promised when Klinsmann took over in 2011. So we'll watch that. The U.S. men still trying to catch up with the success and popularity of the women's team.

SIMON: God bless. NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.