Tue, Nov 01, 2005 - Page 18 News List

President Chavez congratulates Guillen

AP , CARACAS, VENEZUELA

Major Leagues

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez congratulated Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on his World Series victory and hailed him as a national hero on Sunday.

"I dare to say you are like the king of Venezuela," Chavez told Guillen, who appeared by telephone on the president's weekly television and radio program, "Hello President."

"Your triumph is the triumph of all of Venezuela," Chavez told the Venezuelan manager, who became the first Latino manager to win the World Series. Chicago swept Houston 4-0 in the best-of-seven series.

"I'm going to try to bring the World Series trophy so that my country may enjoy what the people of the United States enjoy," Guillen said, adding, "It's the first time the World Series trophy is going to leave the United States."

Baseball is the national sport of Venezuela, and among its biggest fans is Chavez, who says he once dreamed of playing in the major leagues.

Guillen says he is not a chavista, a term used for Chavez's die-hard supporters, in an interview published in Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional on Saturday.

"I'm not a chavista. I'm a Venezuelan," Guillen was quoted as saying. He said he had answered an e-mail from a Venezuelan who was disappointed to see he had appeared publicly on another of Chavez's recent programs.

"I said I liked Chavez, but with some ideology and ideas I don't agree," Guillen was quoted as saying. "It doesn't matter to me what they think. Why not say that I like the president?"

"You are a true leader, friend," Chavez told Guillen before they said goodbye. "The whole nation is waiting for you."

It wasn't immediately clear when Guillen next planned to visit the South American country.

Al Lopez, a US Hall of Fame catcher and manager who led the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox to American League pennants in the 1950s, died on Sunday at 97.

Lopez had been hospitalized in Tampa since Friday, when he suffered a heart attack at his son's home, Al Lopez Jr. said.

Lopez was the oldest living Hall of Fame member, Hall spokesman Jeff Idelson said.

With Lopez's death, former New York Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto, 88, becomes the oldest living member of the Hall.

Lopez hit .261 with 51 homers and 652 RBIs during a 19-year career in which he was one of major league baseball's most durable catchers and set the record for most games caught at 1,918. The record was later broken by Bob Boone, then Carlton Fisk.

Lopez was best known for being the only AL manager to lead teams that finished ahead of the New York Yankees from 1949-64. He helped the Indians to the 1954 pennant and, until last week, was the last manager to lead the White Sox to the World Series -- their 1959 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"We're saddened by the news," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said through a spokesman on Sunday. "Al lived a long and good life. We're so pleased we were able to win the World Series this year and that he was able to see it before he died."

Valentine'S day

After a two-plus hour informal and informational telephone conversation Sunday, Devil Rays officials heard enough to make Bobby Valentine the ninth official candidate for their manager's job.

But how much more they have to talk about could depend on how aggressively Valentine is pursued by the Dodgers, who are rebuilding their organization after firing general manager Paul DePodesta on Saturday, as well as how much money Chiba Lotte offers him to stay in Japan.

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