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The Sports Report: Dodger legend Maury Wills dies at 89

Maury Wills steals his 100th base of the 1962 season as Joey Amalfitano tries to tag him out.
Maury Wills steals his 100th base of the 1962 season as Joey Amalfitano tried to tag him out.
(Ed Widdis / Associated Press)

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

From Mike Kupper and Steve Henson: A light-hitting shortstop, Maury Wills spent nearly a decade in the minor leagues honing his limited skill set, studying the tendencies of pitchers and teaching himself to hit from either side of the plate.

When the Dodgers finally pulled him up to the big leagues, it all paid off in spectacular fashion as he helped take them to three World Series titles in four tries and nearly single-handedly reintroduced base stealing as a major offensive weapon.

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An integral part of the 1960s Dodgers, Wills went on to lead the National League in steals six times, earned two Gold Gloves for his fielding and beat out Willie Mays for the league’s most-valuable-player award in 1962, when he mesmerized the baseball world by setting a record with 104 stolen bases, eclipsing the 47-year-old mark of 96 by the immortal Ty Cobb.

Never far from the stadium where he did so much of his damage to opposing clubs, Wills died Monday night at his home in Sedona, Ariz., the Dodgers announced Tuesday. He was 89.

Wills became a valued instructor with the Dodgers in his later years and developed a strong relationship with a young base stealer when Dave Roberts was traded from Cleveland to the Dodgers in December 2001. Roberts stole 118 bases in 2½ seasons before being traded to the Boston Red Sox, for whom he executed maybe the most famous stolen base in history during the 2004 American League Championship Series.

Roberts, who as the Dodgers’ manager wears No. 30 as a salute to Wills, had a single tear running down his cheek as he spoke about his mentor before the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

“He just loved the game of baseball, loved working and loved the relationship with players,” Roberts said. “We spent a lot of time together. He showed me how to appreciate my craft and what it is to be a big leaguer. He just loved to teach. So I think a lot of where I get my excitement, my passion and my love for the players is from Maury.”

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Plaschke: Maury Wills stole Dodger fans’ hearts. Changed the game. Not enough for Hall of Fame

Dodgers split doubleheader with Diamondbacks

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UCLA BASKETBALL

From Ben Bolch: No matter the circumstances, Jalen Hill could break out in a wide grin that made those around him feel everything was going to be all right.

“Just a really good kid, had a great smile,” said Josh Giles, his coach at Corona Centennial High before Hill went on to become a starting forward-center at UCLA. “He was a great basketball player, but I just loved him as a person.”

Hill made international headlines before his first college game, becoming part of the trio of Bruins involved in a shoplifting spree in China that led to season-long suspensions. He made no excuses, accepting blame and becoming a valued member of the team for nearly four seasons before retiring in the spring of 2021 because of anxiety and depression.

Even then, Hill sounded as if he were on the verge of clearing another hurdle.

“Now every day it just seems like I’m winning because I’m here,” Hill said, unleashing that smile again, “I’m alive and my mental state has changed immensely.”

Hill, 22, died recently after going missing in Costa Rica, his family wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday. Giles confirmed the news to The Times after exchanging text messages with George Hill, Jalen’s father.

ANGELS

Taylor Ward hit a tiebreaking RBI double during the Angels’ three-run sixth inning that ended with a triple play and Matt Duffy had a two-run home run among three hits as the Angels beat the Texas Rangers 5-2 on Tuesday night.

Ward doubled into the left-field corner to score Shohei Ohtani from first base against Dennis Santana (3-8), the first of three Texas relievers. Mike Ford and Jo Adell added RBI singles off John King.

USC FOOTBALL

From Ryan Kartje: One of USC’s top receivers from last season is preparing to sit out the rest of this one.

Junior Gary Bryant Jr. is expected to redshirt this season, coach Lincoln Riley said Tuesday. Bryant, who had caught just two passes in three weeks, is free to play in one more game while retaining his ability to redshirt.

The decision to sit Bryant for the rest of the season is a surprising turn for a receiver who ranked among the most productive playmakers in USC’s passing attack last year. Bryant scored seven touchdowns and tallied 579 yards for an offense that was without its top target, Drake London, for the second half of the season. Bryant also served as one of USC’s top returners.

But with a new fleet of transfer receivers, opportunities for Bryant have dried up. The eight routes he ran in USC’s win over Fresno State last Saturday represented a high-water mark through three weeks. He practiced with the scout-team offense Tuesday.

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Meet Raleek Brown, a Stockton youth football legend churning toward USC fame

CLIPPERS

From Andrew Greif: How fans will be able to watch every Clippers game during the upcoming season is not yet fully clear, but a piece of it is after the team announced Tuesday that 15 of its games will air exclusively on KTLA.

Of the Clippers’ 82 regular-season games in the upcoming season, 32 have already been earmarked as national broadcast games on either Turner Sports, ESPN, ABC or NBA TV. KTLA will broadcast four exhibition games starting Sept. 30 and 11 regular-season games, starting Oct. 25. Who will broadcast the rest is still being finalized after the team’s deal with Bally Sports expired over the summer. Discussions between Bally, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, and the team have continued. Seven of the regular-season dates chosen for KTLA broadcasts would have conflicted with Kings games, which also are carried on Bally Sports.

The move to carve out a portion of games on free, over-the-air television is in line with other attempts during Steve Ballmer’s ownership aimed at building a larger fan base by targeting mass audiences.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1940 — For the first time in the history of photo finishes a triple dead heat for first place is recorded, at Willow’s Park, Victoria, British Columbia.

1955 — Rocky Marciano knocks out Archie Moore in the ninth round at Yankee Stadium in New York to retain the world heavyweight title.

1980 — Richard Todd of the New York Jets completes an NFL record 42 passes and throws for 447 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-27 loss to San Francisco.

1982 — NFL players begin a 57-day strike.

1985 — Michael Spinks wins a 15-round unanimous decision over Larry Holmes Las Vegas to win the world heavyweight title.

1985 — Montana State’s David Pandt catches 21 passes for 169 yards against Eastern Washington to set an NCAA record.

1986 — Ken O’Brien’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Wesley Walker at 2:35 in overtime ends one of the highest scoring games in NFL history as the New York Jets defeat the Miami Dolphins 51-45. O’Brien passes for 479 yards and four touchdowns, all to Walker. Miami’s Dan Marino passes for 448 yards and three touchdowns as both quarterbacks set a record with 884 combined yards passing.

1994 — The North Carolina women’s soccer team wins its 89th straight game, setting the unofficial record for the longest winning streak in college sports. The 5-1 victory over rival N.C. State broke the mark of 88 in a row set by the UCLA men’s basketball team during the early 1970s.

1997 — The Buffalo Bills stage the third-biggest comeback in NFL history, overcoming a 26-0 deficit to beat the Indianapolis Colts 37-35. The Bills made the greatest comeback in the 1992 AFC playoffs, wiping out a 35-3 deficit to beat the Houston Oilers 41-38 in overtime.

2003 — Sam Hornish Jr. wins the fastest open-wheel race in history at California Speedway. Hornish’s Chevrolet-powered Dallara averages 207.151 mph in the Toyota Indy 400 — breaking the previous closed course race record of 197.995, set here last year by Jimmy Vasser in a CART Champ Car event.

2008 — The United States take back the Ryder Cup with a 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory over Europe. It’s the largest margin of victory for the Americans since 1981.

2008 — Baseball says farewell to Yankee Stadium, the home of baseball’s most famous team.

2008 — Miami wins for just the second time in 22 games, ending New England’s NFL record 21 straight regular-season wins with a 38-13 win over the Patriots. Ronnie Brown scores a Miami-record four rushing touchdowns and passes for another. The 25-point loss is New England’s biggest in seven seasons at Gillette Stadium.

2014 — Tom Brady passes for 234 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots’ 16-9 win over Oakland. The win is Brady’s 150th victory as a starting quarterback, joining Brett Favre (186) and Peyton Manning (169) as the only quarterbacks to accomplish the feat.

2018 — English golfer Oliver Fisher shoots the first round of 59 in the 46-year history of the European Tour. Fisher makes an eagle and 10 birdies on a par-71 course in the second round of the Portugal Masters held at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Club in Vilamoura.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Michael Spinks vs. Larry Holmes. Watch and listen 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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