Gretzky vs. Ashe? Rafer vs. Billie Jean? Vote in third round of Biggest L.A. Sports Icon tournament


Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the tournament.

The second round of voting in the wild-card regional “Biggest Icon in L.A. Sports History” is over. Time to start voting in the third round.

Some rules.

1. There are four regionals, with 32 people in each regional, seeded from No. 1 to No. 32. The winner of each regional will face off in the Final Four. Those two winners will meet in the championship round.

2. With each matchup, there will be a link for you to click on to vote. You can also send your picks by email by clicking here. Or you can vote on Twitter by clicking here.

3. When voting, ask yourself “When I think L.A. sports, whom do I think of first?” and vote for that person.

4. A brief sentence or two accompanies each entrant below. It is not meant to be an all-encompassing list of their accomplishments, just a brief reminder of why they are on this list.


If you missed the third round of basketball, baseball and football, you can click here to vote in the basketball regional and click here to vote in the baseball regional and click here to vote in the football regional.

So without further ado, let’s get to the third round of the wild-card regional, with the second-round results after approximately 14,000 votes. Voting ends at midnight Wednesday. Remember, you can vote by email by clicking here, on Twitter by clicking here, or you can click on the link after each matchup.

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Biggest Icon in L.A. Sports History, wild-card regional (third round)

No. 1 Jackie Robinson vs. No. 9 Luc Robitaille

Jackie Robinson: He never played pro baseball in L.A. and was a multi-sport star at UCLA, so we moved him to the wild-card category. Robinson was the school’s first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. He was one of four black players on the Bruins’ 1939 football team. They went undefeated with four ties at 6–0–4. In track and field, Robinson won the 1940 NCAA title in the long jump at 24 feet 10¼ inches. Baseball was Robinson’s worst sport at UCLA, as he hit .097 in his only season.

How he got here
Defeated No. 32 John Force in the first round, 93.9%-6.1%
Defeated No. 16 Rogie Vachon in the second round, 92.4%-7.6%

Luc Robitaille: Robitaille was NHL rookie of the year after scoring 45 goals to go along with 39 assists for the 1986-87 Kings. He scored more than 40 goals in each of his first eight seasons, including three 50-or-more-goal seasons, with a career-high 63 in 1992-93. The Forum was filled with shouts of “Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc” throughout his tenure with the team and he remains one of the most popular, and best, players in team history.

How he got here
Defeated No. 24 John Ramsey in the first round, 78%-22%
Defeated No. 25 Karch Kiraly in the second round, 66.7%-33.3%

Vote via Polldaddy

No. 2 Wayne Gretzky vs. No. 23 Arthur Ashe

Wayne Gretzky: The greatest hockey player of all time, Gretzky expanded the hockey audience in the L.A. area and made the Kings a force to be reckoned with after he was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers.


How he got here
Defeated No. 31 Bob Baffert in the first round, 93%-7%
Defeated No. 15 Dick Enberg in the second round, 65.6%-34.4%

Arthur Ashe: In 1965, Ashe won both the NCAA singles title and the doubles title (with Ian Crookenden), helping UCLA win the team NCAA tennis championship. He went on to become one of the best men’s tennis players of all time, winning three Grand Slam event singles titles and 76 singles titles overall.

How he got here
Upset No. 10 Marcel Dionne in the first round, 61.4%-39.6%
Upset No. 7 Pete Sampras in the second round, 56.7%-43.3%

Vote via Polldaddy

No. 3 The Williams Sisters vs. No. 11 Jim Murray

The Williams Sisters: If you lived through the late 80s-early 90s in L.A., you heard a lot about two phenomenal young tennis players who were going to become the best in the world. It was an early version of the Ball family, without social media. And all the talk proved true, as Serena and Venus Williams became two of the best tennis players of all time, with Serena the greatest female tennis player who ever lived.

How they got here
Defeated No. 30 Florence Griffith-Joyner in the first round, 74.6%-25.4%
Defeated No. 14 Landon Donovan in the second round, 81.6%-18.4%

Jim Murray: The sports columnist worked at The Times for 37 years and was frequently the first place people turned when picking up the paper each morning. He was named National Sportswriter of the Year 14 times and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990.

How he got here
Defeated No. 22 Ryan Getzlaf in the first round, 87.4%-12.6%
Upset No. 6 Tiger Woods in the second round, 54.9%-45.1%

Vote via Polldaddy


No. 12 Rafer Johnson vs. No. 13 Billie Jean King

Rafer Johnson: He was such a good athlete, he could have fit into any of the regionals, but this seems like the right spot. At UCLA, Johnson played basketball under John Wooden and was a starter on the 1959-60 men’s basketball team. He was selected by the Rams in the 28th round of the 1959 NFL draft as a running back. He won a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1960 Summer Olympics. He lit the torch at the 1984 Summer Olympics and he helped apprehend Sirhan Sirhan after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

How he got here
Defeated No. 21 Jonathan Quick in the first round, 66.7%-33.3%
Defeated No. 28 Bill Shoemaker in the second round, 62.1%-37.9%

Billie Jean King: King won 39 Grand Slam event titles in tennis: 12 in singles, 16 in women’s doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles. She was born in Long Beach and attended Long Beach Poly High and Cal State Los Angeles. She is a pioneer in women’s sports and is currently a part owner of the Dodgers. King is an advocate for gender equality and has long been an advocate for equality and social justice.

How she got here
Defeated No. 20 Rob Blake in the first round, 81%-19%
Upset No. 4 Oscar de la Hoya in the second round, 50.7%-49.3%

Vote via Polldaddy

Don’t forget to vote

You can vote one of three ways: Click on each individual Polldaddy link above, click here to vote via email (with all your picks in one email) or vote here via Twitter.


It’s official: The teams that beat the Dodgers in back-to-back World Series have been branded as cheaters by Major League Baseball.


On Wednesday, three months after sanctioning the 2017 Houston Astros as cheaters, the league cited the Boston Red Sox for the same offense: the illegal use of technology to steal signs.

The sanctions assessed against the Red Sox, however, were far lighter, as the sins committed were judged to be far lighter. The only Red Sox employee punished: an advance scout who doubled as a replay room operator, who was suspended for the 2020 season.

Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora also was suspended for the 2020 season, but the suspension is for his role as the Astros’ bench coach in 2017, not for his conduct as the Boston manager in 2018. The Red Sox also were stripped of their second-round draft pick in 2020.


Mirai Nagasu grew up in her parents’ restaurant, Sushi Kiyosuzu in Arcadia, sleeping in the storeroom and earning quarters for washing dishes when she wasn’t in school or taking figure skating lessons.

Her mother, Ikuko, and father, Kiyoto, didn’t always attend her skating competitions because they felt obligated to keep their business open and their employees working. Mirai respected that — and she learned much more from them than how to make an appetizing tuna roll.

Like thousands of other small businesses, Sushi Kiyosuzu was staggered when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms. Ikuko and Kiyoto, who immigrated to the United States from Japan, couldn’t navigate the maze of government loan programs and were reluctant to tell their daughter how dire their situation was.


“They try to protect me from a lot of hardship. I think it’s more like they want to stay strong and be strong for me because I think that they know I would worry for them,” said Nagasu, who became the first American woman to land a triple axel jump in the Olympics while leading Team USA to a bronze medal at Pyeongchang in 2018, eight years after she finished fourth in the Vancouver Games.

Her need to be strong for her parents kicked in when she learned they had let go all but one employee. Through a friend of a friend, she discovered a restaurant relief initiative called the Power of 10, which launched last month in Washington, D.C., and funds restaurants so they can rehire staff and cook food for healthcare workers and others affected by the pandemic.

Read the rest of Helene Elliott’s column by clicking here.


1916: College football coach Bud Wilkinson (d. 1994)

1921: Baseball player Warren Spahn (d. 2003)

1943: Hockey player Tony Esposito

1965: Skier Donna Weinbrecht

1977: Former King Willie Mitchell

1983: Skier Jennifer Heil

2000: Snowboarder Chloe Kim


1983: Swimmer/actor Buster Crabbe, 75

1995: Sportscaster Howard Cosell, 77


When Bob Costas met Howard Cosell. Watch it here.

Until next time...

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