In Brief: Seahawks-Packers Will Kick Off NFL Season
New York — As Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks get to kick off the NFL’s regular season by hosting the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 4.
That Thursday game is the first of four prime-time games on opening weekend. Also at night will be a Sunday matchup of AFC champion Denver and Peyton Manning hosting his former team, Indianapolis; and a Monday night doubleheader with the New York Giants at Detroit, followed by San Diego at Arizona.
The NFL will play three games in London: Dolphins-Raiders on Sept. 28; Lions-Falcons on Oct. 26; and Cowboys-Jaguars on Nov. 9.
A Saturday doubleheader in Week 16 has San Diego at San Francisco, and Philadelphia at Washington.
For the first time, games in Weeks 5 through 10 can be flexed from Sunday afternoon to night, with a limit of two. Beginning with Week 11, a Sunday game can be moved to prime time each week.
The New England Patriots open their season on Sept. 7 at Miami.
Suns’ Dragic Named Most Improved
Phoenix — Goran Dragic, whose breakout season helped the Phoenix Suns make a remarkable transformation, was named the NBA’s most improved player.
The 6-foot-3 Slovenian, who turns 28 in two weeks, flourished under first-year coach Jeff Hornacek’s double-point guard system, teaming with Eric Bledsoe to form a dynamic backcourt.
Dragic averaged 20.5 points and 5.9 assists per game, shooting 50.5 percent from the field, 40.8 percent on 3-pointers. He was the only player in the NBA to shoot better than 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.
Dragic received 408 of a possible 1,134 points, including 65 first-place votes, from a panel of 126 sports writers and broadcasters in the United States and Canada.
Connie Marrero, Oldest Ex-Big Leaguer, Dies
Havana — Conrado Marrero, the diminutive Cuban right-hander who pitched for the Washington Senators in the 1950s and in 2011 became the oldest living former Major League Baseball player, died in Havana on Wednesday. He was 102, just two days short of his 103rd birthday.
Marrero’s grandson said he died in the early afternoon.
“Connie” Marrero, as he was known in the States, was renowned for his control and for his presence on the mound despite standing just 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 158 pounds.
Born April 25, 1911, in the town of Sagua la Grande, about 220 miles (350 kilometers) east of Havana, Marrero’s nickname on the island was “The Peasant from Laberinto,” after the farm where he grew up.
He began his career playing third base, shortstop and the outfield, and his debut on the mound came by accident one day in 1935 when his Sagua club didn’t have a regular pitcher available. Marrero won the game, and the team asked him to remain at the position.
He went on to play at Cienfuegos, Almendares, Marianao and Havana, and briefly in the Mexican league in 1945 for the Indios of Juarez. He also starred on Cuba’s national team.
Marrero was already near the end of his career when he made his U.S. debut in 1950 at age 39. In five seasons with the Senators, he compiled a 39-40 record with an ERA of 3.96 and 297 strikeouts. He was named an All-Star in 1951.
Real Madrid Tops Bayern
Madrid — Karim Benzema scored in the 19th minute to give Real Madrid a 1-0 win over defending champion Bayern Munich on Wednesday night in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
The second leg is Tuesday in Munich. Chelsea hosts the other semifinal next Wednesday following a 0-0 tie at Atletico Madrid this week.