Hartford, Conn. • Former star pitcher turned television analyst Curt Schilling announced Wednesday that he is battling cancer.
The 47-year-old Schilling, who spent 20 years in the major leagues before retiring in 2009, divulged the news in a statement released through his employer, Bristol-based ESPN. It did not indicate what type of cancer Schilling has, when he was diagnosed or what his prognosis might be.
“With my incredibly talented medical team I’m ready to try and win another big game,” he said. “I’ve been so very blessed and I feel grateful for what God has allowed my family to have and experience, and I’ll embrace this fight just like the rest of them, with resolute faith and head on.”
ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said Schilling is taking a leave of absence. He recently signed a multiyear contract extension with the network and was to be part of the “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast team, as well as contribute to the network’s studio coverage, including its spring training coverage, Soltys said.
“Our thoughts are with Curt and his family during this challenging time,” the Bristol-based network said in a statement. “His ESPN teammates wish him continued strength in his cancer fight and we look forward to welcoming him back to our baseball coverage whenever he’s ready”.
Schilling played for five teams during his Major League career. He won three world championships, with the Arizona Diamondbacks (2001) and Boston Red Sox (2004, 2007), sharing the World Series MVP award with teammate Randy Johnson in 2001.
He won 216 games and struck out 3,116 batters during his career, but is perhaps best known for pitching in the 2004 ALCS and World Series after having stitches to mend an ankle injury. His bloody sock was later put on display in Cooperstown.
Schilling has been in the news recently after the failure of 38 Studios, a video game company he owned in Rhode Island, with the help of a $75 million state loan. The company went bankrupt last year, leaving Rhode Island taxpayers on the hook to pay back tens of millions of dollars.
Schilling said he invested and lost as much as $50 million.
This is not the first time he and his family have battled health issues.
Schilling recently revealed he suffered a heart attack in November 2011. His wife, Shonda, successfully battled melanoma in 2001.
His daughter, Gabby, took to Twitter Wednesday to ask for prayers for her father.
“So i guess the word is out, if everyone could just keep my dad and family in their prayers it would mean a lot!” she wrote.
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SOCCER • David Beckham hopped onto the Miami stage, his back to sun-splashed Biscayne Bay, and a pack of photographers jostled for position as admirers cheered and chanted.
“Thank you for the warm welcome,” Beckham said on an 80-degree February morning. In this case, it was soccer weather.
The sport moved a step closer to returning to South Florida on Wednesday, when Beckham confirmed he has exercised his option to purchase a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in Miami. The deal will be finalized when the former English national team captain can secure a financing plan and location for a new stadium.
Beckham attended a news conference with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to discuss their progress.
“This is an exciting time, and something we’re really looking forward to bringing to Miami,” Beckham told a crowd of more than 300 people on a downtown museum plaza. The event was frequently interrupted by cheers for Beckham, who’s popular around the world and especially in celebrity-smitten Miami.
Later Beckham made an appearance at a children’s soccer clinic, where he was mobbed by young players, their parents and the media. Some youngsters climbed on the shoulders of others to photograph Beckham. After half an hour of chaos, police and security personnel intervened to help escort him from the scene.
The retired soccer icon has scouted possible stadium sites and is seeking investors to assist with startup costs such as construction and player acquisitions. Among those who might become involved is Miami Heat star LeBron James, who has had recent conversations with Beckham about bringing a team to Miami.
“LeBron has become a friend over the last few years,” Beckham said. “We spoke about this on the business side and also as friends. He’s very interested in this.”
Beckham, looking the part of a businessman in a suit and tie, said city officials have promised the team’s stadium will be downtown, which is his preference.
“We don’t want public funding,” Beckham said to applause. “We will fund the stadium ourselves. We have worked very hard to get to this stage where we can fund the stadium ourselves. We want to create a football club that is the people’s football club.”
Gimenez — who at one point referred to Beckham as “Beckman” — said there’s political support for a plan.
“We started our negotiations last week,” Gimenez said. “We have to get rolling. There’s a time crunch. We are willing partners. We are very grateful that Mr. Beckham and MLS have chosen Miami as the site for their next franchise. We’re going to do all in our power to make sure we get the stadium built in the right place as quickly as possible.”
New teams have been announced for 2015 in New York City and Orlando, Fla., increasing the league’s total to 21. Beckham declined to offer a timetable regarding when Miami might play its first game, but a likely target is 2017.
The former Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Los Angeles Galaxy and Paris Saint-Germain star has the right to an expansion team at a discount fee of $25 million. MLS’s Miami Fusion played in Fort Lauderdale from 1998-01 before folding because of poor attendance, but this time, Beckham’s star power could make a difference.
“Miami is a vibrant city with a lot of passion,” he said. “I know this city is ready for football — soccer — this time around. I know this is going to be successful.”
The crowd at the news conference included a throng of chanting, singing fans.
“People here love this sport,” Garber said. “We together have no doubt it will be a very successful MLS team.”
Beckham said he also wants to start a children’s soccer academy in Miami. Shareholders in the team will include Beckham’s business partner Simon Fuller, the “American Idol” creator who is the driving force in franchise negotiations, and Marcelo Claure, president and CEO of Brightstar Corp.
Beckham said he’ll finalize his group of investors over the next couple of months. He declined to say what players he would like to bring to the team.
“We have a list,” he said. “We want to bring some of the best players in football to Miami to play on this team. I’ve seen what happens to teams when you bring great players in. I’m talking about the Heat.”
That brought cheers from the crowd. James and the Heat have won the past two NBA titles.
Beckham laughingly ruled out hiring his former manager, Alex Ferguson, to coach the team, but said he has ideas regarding that search, as well.
“I kind of know what makes a great coach and what doesn’t,” he said. “We’ll have a good coach here.”
Beckham praised the growth in recent of years of MLS and said he’s optimistic about the league’s direction. Regular-season attendance increased from an average of 15,504 in 2006 to a record 18,807 in 2012 before dropping slightly this season to 18,594.
“I’ve seen the change in this league,” Beckham said. “I’ve seen the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona come over to America. They want to play against the MLS teams. They’re interested in this league, and that’s what’s changing.”
CBS wraps up Thursday NFL deal
Football • The NFL has decided to shift eight of its Thursday night games to a broadcast network, and announced Wednesday that CBS won the bid to showcase more of television’s hottest property.
CBS will air the games during the first eight weeks of the season with its top broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, simulcasting them with the NFL Network. The league’s cable network will show six Thursday night games alone later in the season, produced by CBS with Nantz and Simms also in the booth. Two Saturday games are included in the deal, but it is unclear whether they will be on CBS or the NFL Network.
The NFL said the contract is for one year, and the league has an option to extend it for 2015. Financial terms were not disclosed.
CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and Turner were all interested in the NFL’s Thursday night package. Live television events like sports and awards shows are increasingly important for broadcasters as the audience fragments for traditional fare, and football games are the most dependable ratings-grabbers. Sunday’s Super Bowl, with 112.2 million viewers, set a record as the most-watched program in U.S. television history.
NBC’s biggest hit each fall is its Sunday night package of NFL games.
The NFL started a limited package of Thursday games in 2006, and showed 13 games on the NFL Network this past season. Its goal is to both increase the visibility of the NFL Network through promotion on television’s most-watched network, along with putting the Thursday games on firmer footing, said Brian Rolapp, the league’s executive vice president for media.
“We want to make Thursday night football as big as possible in the minds of the NFL fan,” Rolapp said.
Part of the reason for a short-term deal is the NFL’s indecision about whether it sees the Thursday night franchise as best for its cable network in years to come, or whether the rights money and greater exposure offered by a broadcast network is the smarter financial play.
CBS will have no flexibility in what games it broadcasts on Thursdays. The NFL will announce its Thursday schedule before the season begins, Rolapp said.
CBS is already the top-rated network, and its victory with the NFL short-circuited what would have been a strong move by a rival to cut into its lead.
“You can never be too rich or too thin,” CBS Corp. Chairman Leslie Moonves said. “You can never have too much programming.”
CBS airs its most popular comedy, “The Big Bang Theory,” on a strong Thursday night schedule. The NFL package will enable CBS to start its Thursday night schedule later in the fall, around the beginning of November, and give it a large audience to promote its other programming. CBS will also probably sprinkle some of its Thursday shows elsewhere on the schedule in early fall to give other nights a boost, Moonves said.
Not only will the games provide a short-term boost for CBS, but the network hopes relationships forged in this deal will offer an advantage if future Thursday games come up for bid.
“It’s our hope that our ratings, our performance and our production is pleasing to the NFL and this deal can continue on beyond this year or two,” Moonves said.