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The Sports Report: A sad farewell

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell and this is a newsletter I wish I didn’t have to write.

Before we get to today’s news, I need to take a moment to discuss a sad day for The Times’ sports department, and for many of our readers.

Longtime Times sports reporter and college football columnist Chris Dufresne died Monday night. He was 62.

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Dufresne was a nationally respected college football writer whose “Rankman” persona made his top 25 a must read for fans around the country. But all of that pales compared to the type of person he was.

Chris was a good friend and a good person who told great stories of his days working on The Times’ loading docks. I loved listening to him talk about being a champion on the classic game show “Joker’s Wild.” And he supported numerous colleagues through good times and bad. It’s a tremendous loss, and my heart goes out to his wife and three sons.

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DODGERS

The Dodgers informed full-time employees that the organization will implement a tiered system of pay cuts starting June 1 to avoid furloughs and layoffs as the organization proceeds without generating its usual revenue during the coronavirus outbreak, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.

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“Over the last several weeks, we have considered every way to better withstand the challenges presented by the virus. Today — while we remain very hopeful that there will be a 2020 season — we are implementing a number of measures to reduce our costs. We remain ready to play as soon as that becomes feasible,” the Dodgers said in a statement.

Every employee making at least $75,000 will experience a pay cut, with reductions ranging up to 35%. The bigger the salary, the bigger the pay cut. Employees making less than $75,000 will not be affected.

NHL

The NHL unveiled its plan to complete the 2019-20 season, confirming a 24-team restart format that wouldn’t include the Kings or Ducks, effectively ending their seasons.

The Return to Play Plan, which received approval from the league and NHL Players’ Assn. before being announced by Commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday, calls for the season to restart no sooner than July and move directly into a qualification stage for the postseason, with games set to be held at two yet-to-determined “hub” locations in NHL markets.

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Bettman called the plan “fair to all of the teams, and our best option under the circumstances,” and added that games won’t restart until “the go-ahead from medical experts and the relevant government authorities is given.”

The top four teams in each conference, as decided by winning percentages when the season was suspended March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will receive a bye into the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In the meantime, they will play a series of round-robin games that will decide their playoff seeding. Teams seeded Nos. 5 to 12 will participate in best-of-five qualification series to play their way into the 16-team field.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The Pac-12 Conference has taken its first step toward football season, as league executives voted Tuesday to allow voluntary, on-campus workouts for all athletes beginning as soon as June 15.

Decisions on when those workouts begin will be left to the Pac-12’s member schools. As the rest of college football begins trending toward normalcy, the conference many expected to act most conservatively in returning to football in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be falling in line with the other Power Five conferences.

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The vote to allow voluntary, on-campus workouts follows the NCAA’s decision last week to officially permit conferences and schools to reopen June 1. The Pac-12 previously suspended team activities through May 31.

Colorado chancellor Philip DiStefano, who serves as the group chair of Pac-12 chief executives, said in a statement that any considerations to allow athletes to return to campus were “foremost guided by the advice of our own medical experts along with public health officials.”

BASEBALL

After major league players made clear they had no interest in participating in a revenue-sharing plan for an abbreviated season, owners on Tuesday proposed that players instead accept a sliding scale of pay cuts.

While all players would be expected to take less than a prorated salary, the players with the highest salaries would lose the greatest percentage of pay. With players already having agreed that they would receive no pay for canceled games, the proposal set up a potential scenario for some of the game’s greatest stars to play about 50% of the season for about 25% of their previously guaranteed salaries.

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With the window closing on an agreement to play even half a season, the official statements from the two parties did not exude compromise.

From the Major League Baseball Players Assn.: “The proposal involves massive pay cuts and the union is extremely disappointed. We’re also far apart on health and safety protocols.”

From MLB: “We made a proposal to the union that is completely consistent with the economic realities facing our sport. We look forward to a responsive proposal from the MLBPA.”

I-5 SERIES

Barry Bonds hit two home runs and had three RBIs as Northern California took advantage of Southern California pitching to cruise to an 11-6 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-seven I-5 series, run through the APBA game engine.

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Bonds and Joe Morgan homered off Dodgers great Don Drysdale in a five-run first inning, and Bonds homered again in a six-run third as the North took an 11-0 lead after three innings at San Francisco’s Seals Stadium.

The 34-man rosters were chosen by fans via latimes.com/sports and sfchronicle.com/sports. More than 100,000 votes were cast. The lineups for Game 1 were chosen by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler. The NorCal team was managed by Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle and the SoCal team by yours truly.

Drysdale faced seven batters in the first inning, giving up three hits (a double and two homers), three walks and five earned runs. The only batter he retired was Joe DiMaggio.

To watch Game 1, click here.

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BORN ON THIS DAY

1912: Golfer Sam Snead (d. 2002)

1912: Baseball player Terry Moore (d. 1995)

1954: Former Ram Jackie Slater

1957: Swimmer Bruce Furniss

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1965: Tennis player Pat Cash

1968: Baseball player Frank Thomas

1968: Baseball player Jeff Bagwell

1974: Football player Danny Wuerffel

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DIED ON THIS DAY

1975: Boxer Ezzard Charles, 53

2000: Hockey player Maurice “Rocket” Richard, 78

2006: Football player Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, 39

2011: Basketball player Margo Dydek, 36

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2019: Baseball player Bill Buckner, 69

AND FINALLY

Bill Buckner homers for the Dodgers in Game 3 of the 1974 World Series. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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