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Newsletter: The Sports Report: Dodgers mourn loss of Mike Brito, who discovered Fernando Valenzuela

Dodgers scout Mike Brito throws out the first pitch prior to a baseball game between the Dodgers and Rockies
Dodgers scout Mike Brito throws out the first pitch prior to a 2016 baseball game between the Dodgers and the Rockies.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Iliana Limón Romero, filling in for Houston Mitchell, who is on vacation. Let’s get right to the news.

From Jack Harris and Jorge Castillo: Longtime Dodgers scout Mike Brito, whose work in Mexico over nearly 45 years with the club brought three of the franchise’s most beloved stars and dozens of others to Los Angeles, died Thursday, the team announced.

Brito signed a teenage Fernando Valenzuela in 1979. He helped secure Yasiel Puig and Julio Urías for the organization. And for decades, his Panama hat and mustached grin made him an immediately recognizable sight around Chavez Ravine.

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He was 87 years old.

“My heart is very heavy today,” Valenzuela, now a Spanish-language broadcaster for the Dodgers, said in a statement released by the team. “Mike was a great man and instrumental in my success as a baseball player on and off the field. No one loved the Dodger organization more than Mike and we will all miss him very much. My prayers go out to his wife, Rosario, and all of his family and friends.”

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Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin delivers a throw against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

From Jack Harris: The fluffy tunes have become some of the most ferocious sounds at Dodger Stadium this year.

In any other context, the “Smelly Cat” song from the 1990s TV show “Friends” or Tom Jones’ single “What’s New Pussycat?” or “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, would hardly strike fear in an opponent.

But every time they’re played by Dodger Stadium organist Dieter Ruehle these days, it’s an indication the Dodgers’ “Catman” is again purring on the mound.

That was the case in the Dodgers 5-3 win against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, when Tony Gonsolin — the self-proclaimed feline fanatic who has flourished on the field during a career-best start to this season — gave up just two runs in seven innings to help the team to its fourth straight win.

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Like usual, the right-hander was efficient, needing just 93 pitches to complete seven innings for a second consecutive outing.

MORE DODGERS COVERAGE:

‘Total package’ Miguel Vargas one of three Dodgers prospects selected for Futures Game

Dodgers vs. Cubs: How to watch, streaming options and start times

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ANGELS

From the Associated Press: Rookie Adley Rutschman hit his first home run at Camden Yards and the Baltimore Orioles extended their winning streak to a season-best five games, beating the Angels 4-1 on Thursday night.

“It was awesome,” Rutschman said. “To hear everyone cheering, to hear the fans behind your back, it’s definitely a cool moment.”

Jordan Lyles (5-7) pitched into the seventh inning, giving up one run and five hits with four strikeouts and two walks on 104 pitches. Baltimore’s starting pitchers have given up one earned run or fewer 15 times in their last 20 games and carry a 2.46 ERA over that span.

The Angels' Brandon Marsh steals second base as Baltimore Orioles second baseman Rougned Odor leaps over him.
The Angels’ Brandon Marsh (16) steals second base as Baltimore Orioles second baseman Rougned Odor leaps over him while trying to catch an errant throw from catcher Adley Rutschman Thursday in Baltimore.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Jorge Lopez worked the ninth for his 15th save in 19 opportunities.

The Angels fell to 1-5 on their nine-game trip. They began the season with postseason aspirations but at 38-46 their record is two games worse than the Orioles, who have the lowest payroll in the majors.

WIMBLEDON

From Sam Farmer reporting from Wimbledon, England: So many elements of these glorious championships are ageless.

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The tennis balls, however, age like a pitcher of cream in the sun.

Players here punish these optic yellow Slazengers with such ferocity that the balls have to be replaced several times per match.

Cans of Wimbledon tennis balls
Over the course of the two-week tournament, Wimbledon goes through 55,000 tennis balls, including the 1,700 per day delivered to the practice courts in unopened cans.
(Anthony Upton / AELTC / Wimbledon)

The ball kids — boys and girls — only have six balls in circulation at any time during a match. There are three balls per can, and the first two cans are in play for the first warmup and seven games of a match. Thereafter, the balls are changed every nine games.

Over the course of two weeks, Wimbledon goes through 55,000 balls, including the 1,700 per day delivered to the practice courts in unopened cans.

“We have got a store that is absolutely rammed at the start of the tournament, and now even with a week left, it feels like all of the balls are gone,” said Andy Chevalier, Wimbledon’s ball distribution manager, who begins the storied event with 58,000 balls.

MORE WIMBLEDON COVERAGE:

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How Ons Jabeur brought cheers to Wimbledon; historic final with Elena Rybakina next

Injured Rafael Nadal withdraws from Wimbledon before semifinal

Meet Rufus, the hawk who keeps pigeons away from Wimbledon

WNBA

From the Associated Press: MOSCOW —

American basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty Thursday to drug possession charges on the second day of her trial in a Russian court in a case that could see her sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The abrupt guilty plea by the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist came amid a growing chorus of calls for Washington to do more to secure her freedom nearly five months after her arrest in February amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine.

A senior Russian diplomat said earlier that no action could be taken by Moscow on Griner’s case until the trial was over, and her guilty plea could be an effort by her and her advisers to expedite the court proceedings.

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Griner, 31, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while returning to play basketball in Russia, and police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Speaking through an interpreter, Griner told the court she had no intention of committing a crime and had acted unintentionally because she had packed for Moscow in a hurry. The trial was then adjourned until July 14.

MORE WNBA COVERAGE:

Photos: Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug possession and smuggling, Russian media say

The deep LA roots of Brittney Griner’s Crenshaw T-shirt

Plaschke: Brittney Griner pleads for freedom, but is America listening?

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Q&A: Why is Brittney Griner detained in Russia and when might she be released?

Breanna Stewart leads Sparks to win over Storm, snapping L.A.’s win streak

NHL

From Helene Elliott: Sports governing bodies and leagues have varied dramatically in their responses to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, ranging from outright banning athletes from Russia and Belarus from competitions in figure skating and track and field and on the hallowed grass of Wimbledon, to taking a business-as-usual approach in the NHL.

Pavel Mintyukov poses for a portrait after being selected tenth overall by the Anaheim Ducks.
Pavel Mintyukov wears a Ducks jersey after being selected tenth overall by the club during the first round of the 2022 NHL draft on Thursday in Montreal.
(Andre Ringuette / NHLI via Getty Images)

The league’s biggest sanction so far has been to decree the Stanley Cup won’t visit Russia this summer when the trophy makes the rounds among the winners, which will affect only Valeri Nichushkin of the Colorado Avalanche. But it’s clear that tension has escalated between the NHL and Russia, and it was reported last week that Philadelphia Flyers goaltending prospect Ivan Fedotov had been taken to a remote military base in northern Russia last week because he allegedly planned to leave for North America using fraudulent military identification. There are never any guarantees in the NHL draft — some kids peak at 18 and others take years to mature — but choosing Russian players this year seemed especially risky.

But the Ducks, drafting 10th after their fourth straight non-playoff season, chose Russian-born defenseman Pavel Mintyukov, 18, with the belief that they will be able to avoid potential travel problems because he has spent the past two seasons in North America and he doesn’t intend to return to Russia. If they’re right, they might have found a gem to strengthen a big, young defense corps.

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COLLEGE SPORTS

From David Wharton: The anger was immediate, arising just minutes after news broke that USC and UCLA were headed for the Big Ten Conference. Fans tapped out posts on social media, one after another, invoking the name of Larry Scott.

A year had passed since the former Pac-12 commissioner stepped down, yet people blamed him for the loss of two marquee programs. They labeled him “destructive” and “a fraud,” predicting that business schools would someday teach about his “leadership failures.”

Larry Scott single-handedly destroyed the Pac-12, they wrote.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott speaks at Pac-12 football media day on July 26, 2017.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott speaks at Pac-12 football media day on July 26, 2017.
(Mark J. Terrill/AP)

This vitriol emanated from a decision Scott made shortly after taking charge in 2009. At a time when other Power Five conferences were partnering with ESPN and Fox to launch dedicated networks — deals that would generate billions of dollars — Scott persuaded his universities to roll the dice.

The Pac-12, he insisted, should build its own network. The venture might need time to gather momentum, but it would allow the conference to keep all the control, all the profits.

“If we do this right,” Scott recalled telling his university presidents, “it will be successful.”

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MORE COLLEGE COVERAGE:

Commentary: George Kliavkoff got burned by USC and UCLA. Now he’s chasing a Pac-12 miracle

UCLA Olympic sports faced uncertain future until the Bruins jumped to the Big Ten

How much money waits for UCLA and USC in the Big Ten Conference?

Big Ten expansion: Will Notre Dame be the next to join?

SOCCER

From Kevin Baxter: Just 10 of the more than 800 players in MLS were born in Spain, so those who have made the journey here tend to be close. Until the whistle blows.

“We are like brothers,” Galaxy midfielder Víctor Vázquez said. “Of course, once the game starts, we are not anymore friends. For 90 minutes.”

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Or longer. Earlier this season Vázquez’s Galaxy twice beat LAFC, the team who employs Ilie Sánchez. Before each game, Vázquez received a warm hug from Sánchez, a former neighbor in Barcelona. After each game he got a stern text.

“He told me, ‘Don’t call me because I’m mad about the result,’ ” Vázquez said with a grin Thursday. “He said, ‘Don’t talk to me for a week.’ ”

The former teammates’ friendship will be tested again Friday when their clubs meet for the third time this season, this time at Banc of California Stadium. Although LAFC (11-4-3) has the best record, the most goals and best goal differential in MLS, it is winless in the last five editions of the intercity derby known as El Tráfico.

MORE SOCCER COVERAGE:

USWNT beats Jamaica, clinches spot in 2023 World Cup

OUR OTHER SPORTS NEWSLETTERS

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This date in sports

1889 — John L. Sullivan defeats Jake Kilrain in the 75th round in Richburg, Miss., for the U.S. heavyweight championship. It’s the last bare-knuckle boxing match before the Marquis of Queensbury rules are introduced.

1922 — Suzanne Lenglen beats Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, 6-2, 6-0 for her fourth straight singles title at Wimbledon.

1939 — Bobby Riggs beats Elwood Cooke in five sets to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon.

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1941 — Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox hits a three-run, two-out homer in the ninth inning to give the American League a dramatic 7-5 victory in the All-Star game at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium.

1955 — Peter Thomson wins his second consecutive British Open finishing two strokes ahead of John Fallon. Thomson shoots a 7-under 281 at the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland.

1967 — Billie Jean King sweeps three titles at Wimbledon. King beats Ann Hayden Jones 6-3, 6-4, for the singles title; teams with Rosie Casals for the women’s doubles title, and pairs with Owen Davidson for the mixed doubles title.

1978 — Bjorn Borg beats Jimmy Connors, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to win his third straight men’s title at Wimbledon.

1984 — John McEnroe whips Jimmy Connors 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in 100-degree temperatures to take the men’s singles title at Wimbledon.

1990 — West Germany wins the World Cup as Andreas Brehme scores with 6 minutes to go for a 1-0 victory over defending champion Argentina in a foul-marred final.

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1991 — Michael Stich upsets three-time champion Boris Becker to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

1995 — Top-ranked Steffi Graf wins her sixth Wimbledon singles title, beating Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

1996 — Switzerland’s Martina Hingis becomes the youngest champion in Wimbledon history at 15 years, 282 days, teaming with Helena Sukova to beat Meredith McGrath and Larisa Neiland 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 in women’s doubles.

2000 — Venus Williams beats Lindsay Davenport 6-3, 7-6 (3) for her first Grand Slam title. Williams is the first black women’s champion at Wimbledon since Althea Gibson in 1957-58.

2007 — Roger Federer wins his fifth straight Wimbledon championship, beating Rafael Nadal 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2. I’s also Federer’s 11th Grand Slam title overall.

2010 — Paul Goydos becomes the fourth golfer in PGA Tour history to shoot a 59. Goydos puts together his 12-under, bogey-free round on the opening day of the John Deere Classic. Goydos makes the turn at 4-under, then birdies all but one hole on the back nine at the 7,257-yard TPC Deere Run course.

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2012 — Roger Federer equals Pete Sampras’ record of seven men’s singles titles at the All England Club, and wins his 17th Grand Slam title overall, by beating Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

2014 — Germany hands Brazil its heaviest World Cup loss ever with an astounding 7-1 rout in the semifinals that stuns the host nation. Miroslav Klose scores a record-setting 16th career World Cup goal in a five-goal spurt in the first half and Germany goes on to score the most goals in a World Cup semifinal.

2016 — Roger Federer loses in the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time in his career, falling to Milos Raonic 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 on Centre Court. The 34-year-old Federer had been 10-0 in Wimbledon semifinals, winning seven of his finals.

2018 — South Korean golfer Sei Young Ki breaks the LPGA 72-hole scoring record with a 31-under par 257 in winning the Thornberry Creek Classic.

2021 — San Diego Padres relief pitcher Daniel Camarena records his first MLB hit, a Grand Slam, in his second at bat against the Washington Nationals’ Max Sherzer.

And finally

Watch the second episode of our award-winning “Fernandomania @ 40” series that chronicles how Mike Brito discovered Fernando Valenzuela.
.

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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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