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The Sports Report: Don’t miss the stunning Shohei Ohtani show

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) throws from the mound
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) throws from the mound during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday in Anaheim.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Iliana Limón Romero, filling in for Houston Mitchell who is on vacation (probably wondering how the Marlins became the Dodgers’ kryptonite). Let’s get right to the news.

Bill Plaschke urges you not to miss the Shohei Ohhhhh-tani show.

He has the perfect last name for this perfectly magical moment.

“Ohhhhh-tani!” intones Michael Araujo, Angel Stadium public address announcer, and here they come.

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The ohhhhhs. Every inning, from every corner, the awestruck crowd serenading baseball’s best player with an elongated syllable of amazement.

The first ohhhhh Tuesday night was heard in the top of the first inning, when Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani backhanded a sharp grounder by Boston’s Xander Bogaerts.

The second ohhhhh was heard in the bottom of the first inning when Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani lined an RBI double deep into the right-field corner.

On and on it went, dazzle after dazzle, unreal after unreal, ohhh after ohhh amid another two-sided Ohtani masterpiece in the Angels 5-3 victory over the team with the best record in the American League.

Now, in the wake of his final start before the All-Star break, an outrageous question can now legitimately be asked.

Is Shohei Ohtani having the best season by any player in baseball history?

The answer here is yes.

Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani (17) celebrates in the dugout after scoring
Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani (17) celebrates in the dugout after scoring off of a home run hit by Max Stassi during the first inning Tuesday in Anaheim.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Jack Harris breaks down the Angels’ win over the Red Sox:

Shohei Ohtani walked slowly off the mound, then waited at the far end of the dugout for Juan Lagares to jog all the way in from center field.

Lagares had just robbed a two-run home run with a leaping catch at the wall. And with a crowd of 28,689 going wild around him, Ohtani wanted to give his teammate thanks.

“I just said, ‘Nice play,’” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “There wasn’t much to say. That was a huge play.”

Indeed, after having almost everything go wrong in his previous start, a career-worst seven-run outing last week in which he only got two outs, there was little that didn’t go right for Ohtani in the Angels’ 5-3 win against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.

The Miami Marlins' Starling Marte slides into third base
The Miami Marlins’ Starling Marte slides into third base as Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) is unable to hang on to the throw during the 10th inning of a baseball game Tuesday in Miami.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers gave Tony Gonsolin the ball with one assignment: to pitch as deep into Tuesday’s game as possible. The Dodgers, down to four starters with Trevor Bauer on leave, were bracing for a bullpen game Wednesday. They needed innings from Gonsolin.

The right-hander gave them a season-high 5-1/3 against the Miami Marlins and didn’t surrender a run, but the Dodgers were forced to used six relievers anyway because their offense went silent. In the end, two mishaps cost the Dodgers in a 2-1, 10-inning loss at LoanDepot Park.

Blake Treinen was one out away from extending the game to the 11th inning when he threw a wild pitch that ricocheted away from catcher Will Smith.

The Marlins’ Starling Marte, who started the inning at second base, sprinted to third after a delay, prompting Smith to make a throw that short-hopped Justin Turner. Shortstop Gavin Lux retrieved the ball down the line, but his throw was high and too late as Marte walked the game off on the error.

“In hindsight,” Smith said, “probably should not have thrown it.”

The Dodgers (53-32) have dropped two straight games to the last-place Marlins (37-47) to begin the series after arriving in South Florida on a season-high nine-game winning streak. And they’ve done it in sloppy fashion: They’ve committed three errors, given up five steals and left 25 runners on base. They fell to 1-8 in extra-inning games and 11-16 in one-run games.

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, left, dribbles the ball against Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis (9)
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, left, dribbles the ball against Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis (9) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals Tuesday in Phoenix.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

NBA FINALS

On the NBA Finals: Chris Paul waited 16 years to get to the NBA Finals, bringing with him a team starving for its first championship.

The setting was entirely new.

The performance was same ‘ol Chris Paul.

“Just knew he’s ready,” Phoenix forward Mikal Bridges said. “He’s prepared his whole life for this moment and it shows out there on the court.”

Paul had 32 points and nine assists in an NBA Finals debut that was well worth the wait, Devin Booker scored 27 points and the Suns beat the returning Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks 118-105 on Tuesday night in Game 1.

Paul scored 16 points during a sensational third quarter that had Phoenix fans who waited 28 years to see the NBA Finals again screaming in delight.

“Every time he shoots it we think it’s going in,” Booker said.

ESPN's Maria Taylor
ESPN’s Maria Taylor works from the sideline during a game between Miami and Florida Aug. 24, 2019, in Orlando, Fla.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

ESPN

I wrote about ESPN’s problems following the Rachel Nichols tape fallout: Top Black voices keep leaving ESPN for a reason.

The latest symptom of a deeply rooted problem was thrust into the national spotlight when the New York Times reported Sunday that Rachel Nichols, who is white, was caught on camera suggesting ESPN should not have selected Maria Taylor, who is Black, over her to host a prestigious NBA playoffs pregame show.

“If you need to give [Maria] more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it,” Nichols said during a phone conversation, according to a video recording obtained by the New York Times.

The call was captured by an ESPN camera in July 2020 while Nichols was in quarantine in her hotel room in the NBA bubble. Video of the conversation was stored on ESPN servers and soon shared by company employees who were upset by the suggestion Taylor had not earned her role.

Nichols has apologized multiple times for the conversation, most recently on Monday at the start of “The Jump,” the daily NBA show she hosts. On Tuesday, ESPN announced that Malika Andrews would replace Nichols as its sideline reporter to “keep the focus on the NBA Finals.”

Nichols was not previously sanctioned by ESPN for her remarks. Taylor asked that she not be forced to work with Nichols on camera according to the New York Times report. The request was granted, but it was frequently revisited and Taylor was left to defend her position.

It’s a familiar pattern at the network.

“ESPN has a consistent history of undervaluing Black talent,” former ESPN anchor Jemele Hill told the Los Angeles Times in a Monday interview. “This isn’t a Rachel versus Maria story. This is a story about why they didn’t value Maria enough to allow her to take full ownership of the job.

“ESPN collects Black faces, but it seems like that when those Black faces become Black voices, it’s a problem.”

The combination of ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro’s early attempts to depoliticize content and conversation, economic stress accelerated by a global pandemic and a national reckoning with race created hostile working conditions for journalists of color at ESPN.

Bruce Thomson (left) was inducted into the San Pedro sports Hall of Fame. He died Tuesday. He was 61.
(Jamaal Street)

HIGH SCHOOLS

Eric Sondheimer on a legendary San Pedro cross-country coach: Bruce Thomson started out as a bookkeeper for a lumber business, then switched to teaching and coaching and became a legendary figure at San Pedro High and in the world of high school cross-country. He collapsed and died Tuesday while working out, his brother, Doug, said. Bruce Thomson was 61.

Born in Los Angeles, Thomson attended Hamilton High and UCLA. He was working as a bookkeeper when he got into coaching with the help of University coach Dick Kampmann and earned his teaching credential. He taught in junior high and coached at Hamilton until arriving at San Pedro in 1998. He’d guide the boys’ and girls’ teams to 15 City Section championships and was inducted into the San Pedro sports Hall of Fame.

He retired from teaching last year and was scheduled to become an assistant coach at Palisades. He was heavily involved in helping the City Section plan its cross-country and track championships.

“For the sport of cross-country, it’s a horrific loss,” said Vicky Lagos, the commissioner of the City Section. “He stayed in contact with all his ex-athletes. He’s synonymous with San Pedro cross-country and every single kid came back to say hello to Coach T. He touched so many lives.”

Sha'Carri Richardson celebrates after winning the fourth heat during the women's 100-meter run
Sha’Carri Richardson celebrates after winning the fourth heat during the women’s 100-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials June 18 in Eugene, Ore.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

OLYMPICS

On the Tokyo Olympics: Banned sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was not on the Olympic roster released Tuesday by USA Track and Field, a decision that means the American champion’s positive test for marijuana will cost her a chance at running on the relay team in Tokyo, in addition to her spot in the 100-meter individual race.

Richardson’s positive test nullified her win at Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, last month and the spot that went with it in Tokyo in the 100. Her 30-day suspension will end before the start of the relays on Aug. 5, which left open the possibility she could win a medal as part of the 4x100 relay team.

But her name was missing from the roster USATF sent out. The federation had two discretionary picks beyond the top four finishers in the 100-meter final at trials but chose not to offer a spot to the 21-year-old sprinter, who was expected to challenge for Olympic gold.

Asked about how Richardson was taking the news, her agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, responded: “We haven’t spoken about it at all. It was actually not a topic we focused on.”

NBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE/RESULTS

All times Pacific

NBA FINALS

Phoenix vs. Milwaukee
Phoenix 118, Milwaukee 105
Thursday: at Phoenix, 6 p.m., ABC
Sunday: at Milwaukee, 5 p.m., ABC
Wednesday, July 14: at Milwaukee, 6 p.m., ABC
*Saturday, July 17: at Phoenix, 6 p.m., ABC
*Tuesday, July 20: at Milwaukee, 6 p.m., ABC
*Thursday, July 22: at Phoenix, 6 p.m., ABC

*-if necessary

NHL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE/RESULTS

STANLEY CUP FINALS
All times Pacific

No. 2 Tampa Bay vs. No. 4 Montreal

Tampa Bay 5, Montreal 1
Tampa Bay 3, Montreal 1
Tampa Bay 6, Montreal 3
Montreal 3, Tampa Bay 2 (OT)
Tonight: at Tampa Bay, 5 p.m., NBC
*Friday: at Montreal, 5 p.m., NBC
*Sunday: at Tampa Bay, 4 p.m., NBC

*-if necessary

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1911 — Dorothea Lambert Chambers sets the record for the shortest championship match at Wimbledon — 25 minutes — by disposing of Dora Boothby 6-0, 6-0 in the women’s finals.

1934 — Elizabeth Ryan teams with Simone Mathiau and wins her record 12th women’s doubles title at Wimbledon, defeating Dorothy Andrus and Sylvia Henrotin 6-3, 6-3.

1953 — Walter Burkemo beats Felice Torza to win the PGA Championship at Birmingham (Mich.) Country Club.

1973 — In the first all-U.S. women’s Wimbledon final, Billie Jean King beats Chris Evert, 6-0, 7-5.

1974 — In Munich, West Germany beats the Netherlands 2-1 to win soccer’s World Cup.

1980 — Larry Holmes retains his WBC heavyweight title with a seventh-round TKO of Scott LeDoux in Bloomington, Minn.

1982 — Steve Scott of the Sub 4 Club sets a United States record in the mile with a time of 3:47.69 in a track meet at Oslo, Norway.

1985 — West Germany’s Boris Becker, 17, becomes the youngest champion and first unseeded player in the history of the men’s singles at Wimbledon with a 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over Kevin Curren.

1990 — Martina Navratilova wins her ninth Wimbledon women’s singles championship, beating Zina Garrison 6-4, 6-1, to break the record she shared with Helen Wills Moody.

1991 — Steffi Graf beats Gabriela Sabatini 6-4, 3-6, 8-6 to capture her third Wimbledon women’s title.

1993 — Tom Burgess tosses three touchdown passes, and Wayne Walker scores twice as Ottawa spoils the debut of the CFL’s first American-based team by beating Sacramento 32-23.

2002 — Juli Inkster matches the lowest final-round score by an Open champion with a 4-under 66 for a two-stroke victory over Annika Sorenstam in the U.S. Women’s Open. It’s her seventh major.

2007 — Venus Williams claims her fourth Wimbledon title with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Marion Bartoli.

2007 — Wladimir Klitschko beats Raymond Brewster with a technical knockout after six rounds, to successfully defend his IBF and IBO heavyweight titles in Cologne, Germany.

2012 — Serena Williams dominates from start to finish, beating Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 to win a fifth championship at the All England Club and 14th major title overall.

2013 — Andy Murray becomes the first British man in 77 years to win the Wimbledon title, beating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in the final. The last British man to win the Wimbledon title before was Fred Perry in 1936.

2018 — Kristi Toliver scores 18 points to help the Washington Mystics beat the Los Angeles Sparks 83-74 for coach Mike Thibault’s 300th career regular-season win. Thibault becomes the first WNBA coach to reach that milestone.

And finally

I can’t get enough of “Fernandomania @ 40.” Binge watch all seven episodes 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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