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The Sports Report: Should the Indians and Redskins change their name?

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona
Terry Francona
(Paul Sancya / AP)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell and we turn our attention to nicknames in sports.

On Sunday, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona said he believes the Indians need to change their contentious nickname.

“I think it’s time to move forward,” Francona told the Associated Press.

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Francona’s comments came two days after the Indians released a statement saying the organization is “committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”

The NFL’s Washington Redskins earlier said they will undergo a review of their name and logo. The Redskins announced their decision after several sponsors, including FedEx, which owns the naming rights to the team’s stadium, urged the franchise to change a nickname that has been deemed offensive for decades. Like Francona, Washington coach Ron Rivera has called for his team to change its name.

The Indians removed the highly debated Chief Wahoo logo from its game jerseys and caps last year, and now will consider changing a nickname that has been in place since 1915.

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“I’ve been thinking about it and been thinking about it before we put out that statement,” Francona told AP. “I know in the past, when I’ve been asked about, whether it’s our name or the Chief Wahoo, I think I would usually answer and say I know that we’re never trying to be disrespectful.

“And I still feel that way. But I don’t think that’s a good enough answer today. I think it’s time to move forward. It’s a very difficult subject. It’s also delicate.”

“Even at my age, you don’t want to be too old to learn or to realize that, maybe I’ve been ignorant of some things, and to be ashamed of it, and to try to be better,” Francona, 61, said. “I’m glad that we’re going to be open to listening, because I think that’s probably the most important thing right now, is being willing to listen, not necessarily just talk.”

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So that brings us to today’s poll: Should the Indians and Redskins change their name? You can click here to vote.

DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: What would a championship mean after this strange season, if COVID-19 doesn’t force a shutdown before the World Series? A 60-game season would mark the shortest in MLB history. Rules have been changed, rosters will be expanded, travel will be limited. This season would be unlike any other. Does this new normal diminish the championship?

“I think if there’s a championship to be won, we’re going to do everything in our power to win that championship,” said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. “So, people are going to say whatever they’re going to say but if there’s an opportunity to win a championship, we’re going to show up every day and work towards that goal and do everything we can to win it.”

The truncated season hurts the Dodgers’ chances of reaching the playoffs, where competition would return to a normal format. They were finely tuned for the 162-game marathon better than their peers. Shortening the season reduces the sample size, allowing for less-equipped teams to sneak into the postseason after hot starts. A 60-game sprint comes with different variables.

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Those variables don’t include the hoops every person involved in staging the season is required to jump through to attempt to stymie the spread of the novel coronavirus. This season’s champion could wind up being the team that best avoids the virus.

“To say there’s an asterisk on it or things like that, I don’t think is fair,” Clayton Kershaw said. “I think there needs to be a whole different category for what this season is. But at the end of the day, I think if you win this season, it’s going to feel pretty good no matter what.”

NBA

Dan Woike on the return of the NBA: Assuming the NBA can withstand the strains put on the league and its plan by COVID-19 and resume play July 30, Zion Williamson will be one of the prominent stars on the court near Orlando, Fla., even though he turns just 20 on Monday.

While the resumption of action will reunite fans with familiar faces — LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George and Anthony Davis — it also will showcase a trio of young players all fighting to make their postseason debuts from inside the NBA’s bubble.

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“With Zion, Luka [Doncic] and Ja Morant, those are great players that are going to be the faces of this league in a couple of years,” Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton said. “To have those guys all in one city competing for their first playoff experience, it’s going to be fun to see, I think. Exciting times. Hopefully, those guys are in shape and ready to play and put on a show.”

It appears all three are.

Morant, in an offseason tradition of players around the league, used his time to put on a dozen pounds of muscle. And Doncic, who was rumored to be out of shape, clarified that his trainer in Slovenia was mistranslated. He’s feeling great.

All three players are in position to make the Western Conference playoffs, with Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies and Williamson‘s Pelicans possibly headed for a showdown in the NBA’s first play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed.

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Williamson is the darling and his Pelicans are regarded as the favorites to eventually win that final playoff spot. That’s how he hopes things play out.

“We’re trying to make a playoff push,” Williamson said. “And we’re trying to get back into our full game condition within those eight games.”

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

A new feature for this newsletter, compiled by John Scheibe:

The American League was led by a pair of Leftys and a Babe on this date in 1933 when baseball’s first All-Star game was played before nearly 49,000 fans at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The exhibition was part of the Chicago World’s Fair.

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Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees hit a two-run home run to deep right field in the third inning off National League starter Bill Hallahan of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Lefty Gomez of the Yankees and Lefty Grove of the Philadelphia Athletics pitched six scoreless inning between them in the American League’s 4-2 win.

Ruth also contributed with his glove when he ran down a drive off the bat of Cincinnati’s Chick Hafey at the wall in the eighth inning that saved at least one run, possibly two.

Frankie Frisch of the Cardinals had two hits for the NL, including a sixth-inning home run.

1949 — On a sweltering day in Cincinnati, catcher Walker Cooper of the Reds goes 6-for-7, including hitting three three-run home runs, and drives in 10 runs against the Chicago Cubs at Crosley Field. Cooper also has three singles and scores five times to lead the Reds to a 23-4 rout. His 10 RBIs and 15 total bases are team records. The 15 total-base mark is broken in 2017 by Scooter Gennett who gets 17 in a game on June 6.

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1957 — Althea Gibson, 29, is the first Black tennis player to win a championship at Wimbledon when she beats American Darlene Hard 6-3, 6-2 for the women’s singles title at the All-England Club in London. It is Gibson’s second Grand Slam win following her victory at the French Open a year earlier. She would return to Wimbledon the following year and win again.

1975 — Ruffian, an undefeated filly, and Foolish Pleasure, the Kentucky Derby winner, compete in a match race at Belmont Park in New York. After taking the lead, Ruffian suffers a severe leg injury when she breaks the sesamoid bones in her right ankle and is pulled up by jockey Jacinto Vasquez. After a surgery that is unsuccessful, she is put down the following day and later buried in the track’s infield.

1986 — Slugger Bob Horner hits four home runs, the 11th player in big league history to do so, but they aren’t enough to help the Atlanta Braves beat the Montreal Expos, who pound the Atlanta pitching staff for an 11-8 victory. Horner’s first three home runs come off Expos starter Andy McGaffigan. The fourth is allowed by closer Jeff Reardon in the ninth inning, a deep drive over the fence in left-center that puts Horner in the record book.

1994 — On a warm, humid evening, Leroy Burrell breaks the world record in the 100-meter dash in a meet in Lausanne, Switzerland. Burrell’s time of 9.85 seconds betters Carl Lewis’ 9.86 clocking set at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo. Davidson Ezinwa of Nigeria edges Dennis Mitchell for second place. Both runners are timed in 9.9 seconds. Lewis is absent from the IAAF Grand Prix meet because of a disagreement over appearance money.

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1997 — Pete Sampras continues his grass-court wizardry when he wins his fourth Wimbledon singles championship in five years, easily defeating Cedric Pioline of France 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. It is Sampras’s 10th career Grand Slam title which ties him with Bill Tilden and leaves him two short of equaling Roy Emerson’s record.

1998 — Se Ri Pak, 20, of South Korea is the youngest winner of the U.S. Women’s Open when she sinks an 18-foot birdie on the 20th hole of a playoff to beat amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn, also 20, at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis. Pak and Chuasiriporn finish 72-hole play tied at six-over par 290, which forces an 18-hole playoff the next day. The tournament goes into sudden death when both players shoot a 73 in the extra round.

2011 — Caster Semenya of South Africa is cleared to return to track by the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, ending an 11-month hiatus while she undergoes gender tests after becoming the 800-meter world champion. Semenya is allowed to keep running in women’s events, although it is unclear if she has had any medical procedures or treatments during her time away.

2013 — Mike Bryan and Bob Bryan, the identical twins from Southern California, win their fourth straight major doubles championship with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil at Wimbledon. The victory is the third at the All-England Club for the Bryans and it makes them the first men’s team in the Open-era to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.

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AND FINALLY

Leroy Burrell sets the world record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 9.85 in 1994. 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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