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The year in sports
January 23rd, 2004
Winnipeg, Canada For a number of Jewish athletes 2003 was a year to remember; while for others widespread disappointment was the dominant emotion.
The Florida Marlins surprised virtually all of the baseball pundits, by winning the 2003 World Series over the New York Yankees. The nachas from the heady victory was shepped by 38-year-old pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal, who was given credit for the development of the young and developing pitching staff.
Outfielder Gabe Kapler, 28, traded in the off-season by the Texas Rangers to the Colorado Rockies, ended up being cut by the latter and was signed in late July to a contract with the Boston Red Sox.
Hot baseball prospect Kevin Youkilis, a Boston Red Sox farmhand and former University of Cincinnati slugging third baseman, tied a minor league record last year by getting on base 71 consecutive times at the AA and AAA level combined.
The formation of an Israeli bobsled team became known in 2003 and aims to gain entry into the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Winnipegger David Graves, a computer worker, along with San Francisco residents John Frank, a doctor and former tight-end with the NFL 49ers, and Aaron Zeff, who once flew F-4 Phantom Jets for the U.S. Air Force, and their coach, Ross Dominikovitch, hope to accomplish the oddity.
In mid-December the fellows finished fifth and sixth in a 12-team field in two races at the Americas Cup in Calgary. They cracked the important 57-second barrier.
In basketball, Michael Jordans replacement as president of basketball operations of the NBA Washington Wizards turned out to be Ernie Grunfeld, who had been the Milwaukee Bucks GM and was a fine player in his day.
In August another Jewish coach, Ron Rothstein, was named an assistant with the NBA Indiana Pacers. He was the Miami Heats first mentor in 1988-91 and coached the Pistons in 92-93. Rothstein followed that up with six years as an assistant with Cleveland.
Senior golfer Bruce Fleisher, now 55, ranked 10th this past year in total earnings on the Champions Tour. His earnings fell from $1.86 million in 2002 to $1.3 million in 2003.
The highlight for the former 1968 U.S. Amateur golf champion was capturing the Verizon Classic earlier in the year and taking home $240,000 for his efforts.
In 29 events Fleisher also finished second three times and third once. Not to mention making the top 10 ten times. Probably even more important, the 63, 205 lb. Fleisher has made much progress from a brush with prostate cancer.
Basketball coach Larry Brown, Naismith Basketball Memorial Hall of Fame member, resigned in May following six seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. A controversial relationship with star guard Allen Iverson was always rumored as the rationale for his leaving with two years remaining on his contract.
Not long afterward, Brown signed with his sixth NBA team, the Detroit Pistons, and brought on board his brother, Herb, as an assistant coach.
November saw Stan Kasten, the only person in professional sports history to simultaneously serve as president of three major league teams, resign as president of the Atlanta Braves of baseball, NHL Thrashers and the NBA Hawks.
And in soccer, the Union of European Football Associations continued to insist that Israel had to play its home matches against European competition outside of the Holy Land.
In hockey, forward Adam Henrich, 19, who plays with the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey Association, had hoped to play for the Canadian Junior Hockey Team in Finland in the world tournament but was axed from the squad.
Andrew Bubba Berenzweig, 26, decided in early December to leave pro hockey. The fifth-round Islanders draft pick was left unprotected by Dallas in the October NHL Waiver Draft and no team claimed the 62, 215 lb. defenseman. He was sent back to the AHL farm team in Utah, where he played in 47 games over two years. His NHL service comprised 37 games that saw him net three goals and seven assists.
Steve Dubinsky, 33, was forced to retire from hockey in 2003 due to a concussion. The Clarkson University grad drafted in 1990 by Chicago in the 11th round nevertheless forged a respectable career in the NHL also with Calgary, Nashville and St. Louis. He played in 375 games and, as a defensive center, managed 25 goals and 45 assists.
QB Jay Fiedler, 32, failed to lead the Dolphins to a NFL playoff spot in 2003 despite Miamis boasting a respectable 10-6 record. Owing to a left knee sprain, he started only 11 of 16 games this season. For the first time in his eight-year career, the Dartmouth College grad earned Player of the Week honors.
At 91, football legend Sid Gillman passed away in L.A. He was a member of both the College and NFL Football Halls of Fame. Gillman is credited with creating the modern passing game and being one of the originators of the Super Bowl.
Harvey Rosen is a sports writer based in Winnipeg, Canada.