First baseman Mark Grace, a two-time National League all-star, agreed Tuesday to return to the Chicago Cubs for a two-year contract worth just more than $9 million. The Cubs have an option for 1998 that, if exercised, would make the deal worth about $14 million. Grace has the option to terminate the contract after the 1996 season.
Grace, a three-time Gold Glove selection, is coming off one of his best seasons. He had a National League-leading 51 doubles, drove in 92 runs and established career highs in batting average (.326), home runs (16) and runs (97).
The Angels signed infielder Damion Easley to a one-year, $305,000 contract, thus avoiding salary arbitration, and announced that pitchers Shawn Boskie, Mike Harkey and Rich Monteleone will not be tendered 1996 contracts, making them free agents.
Free-agent pitchers Chuck Finley and Jim Abbott both declined arbitration--they had until 9 p.m. Tuesday to accept--so the Angels will now have until Jan. 8 to sign the left-handers or risk losing them. Both have already received three-year offers from other teams.
Rod Beck, who set a major league record by converting 41 consecutive save chances for the Giants, agreed to a $6-million, two-year contract with San Francisco.
Ron Gant rejected the Cincinnati Reds' offer of salary arbitration, giving the club three weeks to come to an agreement with its top home run hitter. The Reds offered Gant arbitration Dec. 7 knowing the outfielder was not interested getting a one-year contract through arbitration. Gant, who made $3.5 million last season, is looking for a multiyear deal.
Rich Amaral and Doug Strange, reserves who played key roles for the Seattle Mariners last season, agreed to re-sign one-year contracts worth $400,000 and $350,000, respectively. . . . The Boston Red Sox and designated hitter Reggie Jefferson agreed to a $570,000, one-year contract. . . . The Detroit Tigers and right-hander John Doherty agreed to a $400,000, one-year deal. . . . The New York Mets acquired catcher Brent Mayne from the Kansas City Royals for minor league outfielder Al Shirley and agreed to a $750,000, one-year contract with reliever Doug Henry.
Seattle announced it will open the season on March 31 against the Chicago White Sox, the earliest opener ever in the major leagues. There have been openers on April 2 on two occasions.
Shinji Takehara became the first Japanese world middleweight champion when he won a unanimous decision over Jorge Castro of Argentina for the World Boxing Assn. version of the title in Tokyo.
Alberto Tomba celebrated his 29th birthday by winning a World Cup slalom for his first victory of the season at Madonna Di Campiglio, Italy. Tomba, the defending World Cup champion, clocked the fastest time of 1 minute 34.62 seconds on his second run.
Yves Dimier of France had his best slalom performance ever by finishing second, though he was 1.55 seconds behind Tomba.
Former President Jimmy Carter said there is still a chance that communist North Korea, the only country not to have accepted an invitation to next year's Olympic Games, will make itto Atlanta.
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Tennis player Jeff Tarango offered an apology to the Wimbledon umpire whom he accused of corruption and to the sport itself, and the Grand Slam Committee responded by reducing his fines by $15,500 and relaxing his two-tournament suspension.
Tarango's fines were reduced from $43,756 to $28,256, and although he still will be prohibited from playing at Wimbledon next year, he now will be eligible to compete in the Australian Open next month.
Former Clemson football coach Frank Howard, 86, has been released from the hospital after suffering a mild heart attack last week.