News & Notes

Baseball Improves Its Diversity

Chelsea Lynch takes a spill during a downhill race in Girdwood, Alaska. The U.S. Alpine Championships start today.
Chelsea Lynch takes a spill during a downhill race in Girdwood, Alaska. The U.S. Alpine Championships start today. (By Al Grillo -- Associated Press)
Friday, March 30, 2007

Major League Baseball received its highest grade for racial and gender diversity in a 23-year-old annual study, even as the percentage of black players fell.

Baseball got an overall score of B for 2006, up from a C+ in 2005, according to Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. MLB received a B+ for race and a C+ for gender. The NBA is the only men's league that has received an A for race.

Baseball got an A+ for diversity of players, with more than 40 percent of major leaguers being Latino, Asian or black. The percentage of black players dropped to 8.4 percent, continuing a decline from a peak of 27 percent in 1983, Lapchick said.

Baseball has set up an academy in Compton, Calif., and sponsors a program to revive the game among children in urban areas. MLB is staging an exhibition game tomorrow in Memphis between the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians that will honor the country's civil rights movement.

· TENNIS: In Key Biscayne, Fla., Justine Henin reached the final for the first time at the Sony Ericsson Open with a 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Anna Chakvetadze.

The top-ranked Henin is a five-time Grand Slam champion, but had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at Key Biscayne. Henin's opponent in the final will be three-time champion Serena Williams, who topped Shahar Peer, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, in the second semifinal.

Henin vs. Williams was once a fierce rivalry, but they haven't met since the 2003 Wimbledon semifinals. Williams has won five of their eight meetings.

"We had a couple of good fights in the past," Henin said. "When she's healthy and really focused, she's a great champion. She has nothing to prove to anyone. She did it in the past. It's great the level she's back to."

With a 14-1 record this year, Williams will climb to at least 12th in next week's rankings. She was ranked as low as 140th in 2006, when she played in only four tournaments.

On the men's side, Ivan Ljubicic advanced to the semifinals by beating Juan Ignacio Chela, 6-3, 7-5. Ljubicic, last year's runner-up, next plays qualifier Guillermo Cañas, who beat Tommy Robredo, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1. The other semifinal pits No. 10 Novak Djokovic against No. 12 Andy Murray. . . .

The ATP Tour was sued by organizers of the Hamburg Masters tournament to block a plan to downgrade their event's status.

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