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Martin Fennelly, Times Sports Columnist

Martin Fennelly

Martin Fennelly is a sports columnist for the Tampa Bay Times. He was born in New York City, raised on Long Island and was sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium, minding his own business, when Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in one night to beat the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. Prior to joining the Times, he worked as a columnist for the Tampa Tribune, St. Louis Sun and Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Martin graduated from the University of Albany, where he studied history, and attended the University of Missouri Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in Lutz with his wife, Siobhan, their children, Conor and Norah, and, at present, five cats.

Phone: (727) 893-8495

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  1. Fennelly: Is Charlie Strong the anti-Freeze?

    College

    The Hugh Sleaze era at Ole Mess is over.

    Hugh Freeze resigned as head football coach Thursday to avoid being fired by Mississippi school officials. For those of you who had NCAA violations and investigations in the pool, you were wrong. Nor was it the defamation lawsuit filed against the school by former Rebels coach Houston Nutt. Might have been eventually, but it wasn't what brought Freeze down....

    In the aftermath of the Ole Miss mess, USF coach Charlie Strong's name started circulating as a possible replacement for Hugh Freeze. (Times 2016)
  2. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job building this pleasantly surprising club.

    Time to build some more.

    A proven reliever. A right-handed bat....

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.
  3. Fennelly: Resist the spectacle that is the O.J. Simpson parole hearing (w/ video)

    Bucs

    There's a favor I need to ask.

    Can we agree to NOT WATCH any of O.J. Simpson's parole hearing Thursday?

    Can we agree that we are NOT INTERESTED at all?

    Can we not sit there WITH OUR MOUTHS OPEN, transfixed by this?

    Millions will decide otherwise. They will watch Thursday's hearing, which will be carried on the networks, complete with guest analysis. NBC will use Chris Darden, a prosecutor during Simpson's murder trial, while Fox will go with Mark Fuhrman, the police officer who eventually pleaded no contest to perjury charges for statements he made during Simpson's trial....

    FILE - In this May 14, 2013 pool file photo, O.J. Simpson sits during a break on the second day of an evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017 seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Ethan Miller, Pool, File) FX717
  4. Is this a special Rays season?

    Blog

    It was one of those games we might point at if the Rays turn this into a playoff season.

    Yes, a win or loss in April matters as much as a win or loss in September, and certainly as much as a win or loss in July in Oakland.

    But it was still one of those games that made you think that maybe, just maybe, this could be a special season.

    The Rays rallied with two runs with two outs in the ninth to beat the A’s 4-3. Our baseball top cat, Marc Topkin, captured the late drama. They came out of nowhere, just like that, just like this season. ...

    Our latest contestant, Shane Peterson, delivers the winning hit for Rays against Oakland
  5. Fennelly: David Price confirms that Rays' victory is impressive

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I hurried to the Boston Red Sox clubhouse Sunday afternoon. Former Rays ace, current Sox upset person David Price, who pitched well, was speaking with media, which he now only does on days he starts.

    Great to hear your voice, David!

    Here's one thing Price said:

    "They threw the ball well. They played unbelievable defense. They had the big hits when they needed them. That's what you need to win baseball games, and that's what they were able to do."...

    Rays All-Star Chris Archer gives up two homers but otherwise keeps the Red Sox at bay while pitching into the seventh.
  6. Fennelly: Belmont Heights Little League reunion overflows with pride

    The Heater

    TAMPA — They were young princes, a Tampa treasure, bringing a city together. They were driven through city streets in military jeeps and Cadillac convertibles, along a parade route, after trips to the Little League World Series.

    They played at a place in the inner city, between a cemetery and a housing project, and performed youth baseball with sustained excellence like no league ever has in this area or anywhere else....

    Burgundy team member Derrick Pedro, who helped organize the game, waits for a pitch with Gold’s Ricky Davis catching.
  7. Man falsely imprisoned for 27 years returns to his Tampa field of dreams

    The Heater

    TAMPA — When the long nightmare ended in 2016, a few months shy of his 50th birthday, he walked out of the jailhouse in West Virginia. He saw his mother's face.

    "Thank you, Jesus," Gladys Gardner said.

    Not long after that, Jimmie C. Gardner traveled to Tampa, where he grew up and where he still had family.

    And about the first place he went was the storied Belmont Heights Little League complex in east Tampa, where Gardner had pitched and starred nearly 40 years earlier....

    (From left) Michael Taylor, and Jimmie C. Gardner share a laugh after talking about their days playing in the Belmont Heights Little League in east Tampa on Thursday, July 6, 2017. Taylor and Gardner were drafted by Major League Baseball teams out of high school. Former players and coaches from the Belmont Heights Little League program are playing in the Belmont Heights Celebrity Softball game on July 8, 2017. The storied Belmont Heights Little League has produced over 35 African-American baseball players in the Major Leagues such as standouts like Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield, Floyd Youmans, Carl Everett, Vance Lovelace and more.
  8. Man falsely imprisoned for 27 years returns to his Tampa field of dreams

    The Heater

    TAMPA — When the long nightmare ended in 2016, a few months shy of his 50th birthday, he walked out of the jailhouse in West Virginia. He saw his mother's face.

    "Thank you, Jesus," Gladys Gardner said.

    Not long after that, Jimmie C. Gardner traveled to Tampa, where he grew up and where he still had family....

    (From left) Michael Taylor, and Jimmie C. Gardner share a laugh after talking about their days playing in the Belmont Heights Little League in east Tampa on Thursday, July 6, 2017. Taylor and Gardner were drafted by Major League Baseball teams out of high school. Former players and coaches from the Belmont Heights Little League program are playing in the Belmont Heights Celebrity Softball game on July 8, 2017. The storied Belmont Heights Little League has produced over 35 African-American baseball players in the Major Leagues such as standouts like Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield, Floyd Youmans, Carl Everett, Vance Lovelace and more.
  9. Logan Morrison vs. Gary Sanchez: Home Run Derby or popularity contest?

    The Heater

    Logan Morrison just hit another one out of the park.

    The Rays' slugging first baseman, tied for third in the major leagues in home runs with 24 entering play Wednesday, is right to be irked at not being invited to Monday's All-Star Home Run Derby in Miami.

    And he said so.

    And I liked that.

    Morrison told Tampa Bay Times baseball writer Marc Topkin that Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (13 homers) doesn't deserve a spot in the long-ball exhibition....

    Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Logan Morrison (7) connects for a double scoring two runs in the sixth inning against th Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  10. This could be the week the Rays show they're for real

    The Heater

    You can't beat this week.

    Kevin Cash and his Rays — Longo, LoMo, Dicky, Arch, Beck, Souzapalooza and the gang — are at Wrigley Field, the friendly confines, to play the world champion Cubs (never thought we'd string those three words together) and reunite with good old Joe Maddon, the dream weaver himself. And that was Gentle Ben Zobrist at second base for the Cubs.

    Tuesday afternoon baseball at Wrigley. Fourth of July. ...

    Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays runs the bases after hitting a two-run homer against the Chicago Cubs during the fourth inning on July 4, 2017 at Wrigley Field  in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) 700011502
  11. Celebrating red, white and blue sports moments

    The Heater

    It's the Fourth of July. Happy fireworks.

    Today is when we remember that day 241 years ago, in Philadelphia, when we declared our free agency from England. Then our Founding Fathers went for cheesesteaks.

    It's okay today to wrap yourself in the flag.

    It's okay to protest, too. Anything you want.

    We can take it.

    In fact, it makes us better, stronger.

    Joe Louis fought the first time as a professional on July 4, 1934....

    FILE -In this Feb. 22, 1980 file photo, the U.S. hockey team pounces on goalie Jim Craig after a 4-3 victory against the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics, as a flag waves from the partisan Lake Placid, N.Y. crowd. It's been more than three decades since his landmark goal became the centerpiece of the U.S. Olympic hockey team's Miracle on Ice. For 60-year-old Mike Eruzione, it still seems like only yesterday. (AP Photo, File)
  12. Fennelly: Richard Petty turns 80, slowing down only to meet fans

    Auto racing

    Richard Petty drove his last NASCAR race a quarter-century ago. His last win came 33 years ago, on the Fourth of July, in the Firecracker 400 — his 200th victory. No one will ever come close to that. Or eating fried chicken with President Ronald Reagan after the race.

    "That was some deal," Petty said.

    The King turned 80 Sunday. The NASCAR legend spent the weekend at the racetrack. Nothing new there. Petty remains on-scene royalty. He pokes around garages, minds his race team, meets with sponsors and is swarmed by fans who spot the signature cowboy hat and wraparound glasses....

    Richard Petty, left, gets an 80th birthday cake from Chip Wile, president of Daytona International Speedway.
  13. Fennelly: At Daytona, fans of Earnhardts show their adoration

    Auto racing

    DAYTONA BEACH

    Welcome to Dale-tona

    That's what it said on the handmade sign atop the motor home parked in Turn 2 of the Daytona International Speedway. Colleen Weaver had made the sign. Her husband, Ron, was sitting under the tent, next to the kiddie pool, near the barbecue, with extended family.

    Ron remembered the 1998 day when Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500. He was there when Earnhardt died at the track. He was there the night Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona summer race on his first trip back after his father's death....

    Kyle Larson (42) goes airborne and hits the wall late in the race as Ricky Stenhouse passes underneath. Stenhouse later gets past David Ragan to take the lead for good.
  14. Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks Coke Zero 400, and looks back on career

    Auto racing

    DAYTONA BEACH

    The No. 88 logo is in the tri-oval grass. There will be a prerace video and highlights show. Daytona International Speedway management is encouraging fans to stand during the 88th lap of tonight's Coke Zero 400.

    All for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    But can he bring it home?

    So far, so good, so fast. On Friday, Earnhardt took the pole for tonight's race. He hadn't won a pole in four years....

    Earnhardt Jr., sitting in his No. 88 during practice, will be honored by fans on the 88th lap of tonight’s race.
  15. Fennelly: Is Cup series points leader Kyle Larson NASCAR's next big thing?

    Auto racing

    DAYTONA BEACH — Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are retirees. And now Dale Earnhardt Jr. is taking his last turn through Daytona International Speedway as a full-time driver.

    In a sport where legends are dropping off, NASCAR fans are looking for the next generation of stars.

    One nominee: the Cup series current points leader.

    His name is Kyle Larson and he doesn't turn 25 until late this month. He won a race and made the playoffs last season, but has truly broken through in his fourth season, with two wins, seven top-5 finishes and 10 top 10s in 16 starts, good for a 13-point lead over Martin Truex Jr. heading into Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona....

    Kyle Larson climbs into his car during a NASCAR Cup auto racing practice Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. [AP photo]