Howdy, my name is Houston Mitchell and this new “Larger Than Life” podcast about L.A. street racing legend Big Willie Robinson is really cool.
The All-Star game provides a much-needed break for players, coming a little past the midpoint of a 162-game season. However, all that free time gives some more time to think about things that can be pushed to the background a bit during the daily game grind. Like the unexpected death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Mike Trout and Tommy La Stella of the Angels wore Skaggs’ jersey number 45 during the All-Star Game in Cleveland. Other All-Stars wore No. 45 patches in Skaggs’ memory during pregame festivities and had the option of keeping the patch on during the game. Several patches fell off uniforms because they were stick-on rather than sewn on. A moment of silence in Skaggs’ memory was held before the game.
“We thought it would be a good way to show some love and respect for Tyler,” said Trout, who grounded out and popped out in two at-bats. “And I know he is looking out over us tonight.”
“It’s gonna be I’m sure a very emotional night for all of us,” said La Stella, who missed the game because of an injury but was in the American League dugout. “I don’t really know what to say, honestly. I don’t know what to expect. It’s one of those things that’s not gonna be easy but it’ll be right to have him with us in that way.”
“I think he was the best pitcher in the major leagues in June,” Trout said. “So yeah, we thought he deserved to be here. He was working hard to become the pitcher he was. I know ultimately one of his goals was to make an All-Star team.”
In the game itself, the A.L. staff struck out 16 as the junior circuit won, 4-3.
A lot of talk during the week centered on whether the ball is “juiced”, making it easier to hit homers.
“I believe the ball has changed,” MLB players’ union chief Tony Clark said during a luncheon address with the Baseball Writers Association of America. “And I don’t know why.”
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says if it’s happening, it’s not being done on purpose.
“Look, [Major League Baseball] has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball,” Manfred said.
He added, “The biggest flaw in that logic is that baseball somehow wants more home runs. If you sat in an owners meetings, and listened to people talk about how our game is being played, that is not the sentiment among the owners, for whom I work. There is no desire on the part of ownership to increase the number of home runs in the game. To the contrary, there is concern about how many we have.”
According to Clayton Kershaw, “They might be doing it. They might not be. I have no idea. I don’t know if I’ll ever know. I don’t know if we’ll ever know. I don’t really care. Because there’s nothing we can do about it. There’s literally nothing we can do about it.
“If they’re lying to us and they’re hiding it, covering it up so well, what are we going to do? And if they’re not, they’re telling the truth, then we look stupid. I don’t know what you do. The great thing is, it’s fair across the board. Both teams are having to deal with it.”
Here’s how the local players did in the game:
Cody Bellinger: 0 for 2 with two strikeouts
Max Muncy: 0 for 2 with one strikeout
Hyun-Jin Ryu: One inning, one hit, no runs
Clayton Kershaw: One inning, two hits, one run, struck out one
Walker Buehler: One inning, two hits, one run, struck out two
Mike Trout: 0 for 2
Game MVP: Shane Bieber, Cleveland, One inning, struck out the side
Most Lakers fans know who Bill Bertka is. Our Tania Ganguli caught up with him at the Summer League and talked to Bertka, now 91. An excerpt:
“The 91-year-old scout wore black pants, a Lakers pullover and a 2010 championship ring. Slowly he returned to the page on which he took hand-written notes about players the way he has for half a century.
“It’s like clockwork; it’s unbelievable,” said Warren LeGarie, the founder of the Las Vegas Summer League. “Where some guys are like, after all these years I can just kick back and watch it, Bill has not changed his manner of work. It’s very inspiring.”
“Officially, Bertka’s title with the Lakers is special assistant to the general manager/basketball consultant. Last season was his 50th working in the NBA, most of that for the Lakers. He started as an assistant coach and scout for the Lakers in 1968, and began attending summer leagues when they began in 1969. He proudly will tell you he hasn’t missed a single one.
“Back then, individual players would arrive and pay a fee for the right to have scouts from NBA teams and other countries’ leagues watch them play. Over time NBA teams began creating their own groups and sending teams to summer league as a group.
“Bertka’s methods have never changed. He scouts them the old-fashioned way. He remembered fondly having found Larry Spriggs, who played on the Lakers’ 1985 championship team, at summer league….”
“I’ve been fortunate that they’ve kept me,” Bertka said. “Coaching is a hazardous profession. I’ve been very fortunate the Los Angeles Lakers have permitted me to work with them over the years up until today. I hope they continue to let me work.”
“He’s worked with some of the greatest Lakers of all time through different eras — Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant. O’Neal once thanked Bertka for his coaching during a show on TNT. Bryant has talked about Bertka’s influence.
“He might not hear or move as well as he once did, but Bertka still can spot an NBA player from a college game. It was Bertka who fought and fought for the Lakers to draft Kyle Kuzma, who excited him when he saw him play in the Pac-12 tournament.
“He gets super animated and very opinionated,” said Jesse Buss, the Lakers’ director of scouting and assistant general manager, about Bertka loving a player. “Lot of curse words. It’s very funny when he gets passionate about a player. … Or if he doesn’t like a guy, he lets that be known too.”
Clippers rookie Terance Mann proving his point during summer league
Sam Farmer is in England to cover Wimbledon and wrote this about Serena Williams:
“Serena Williams, who is one match win away from becoming the oldest woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open era, was fined $10,000 for damaging one of the grass courts with her racket before the tournament.
“I just threw my racket; I got fined,” said the seven-time Wimbledon singles champion, clearly eager to change the subject Tuesday in the wake of her 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over fellow American Alison Riske in a quarterfinal match.
Asked what specifically she did that damaged the court, Williams said: “I guess if you could tell me, I would appreciate it. I mean, I have always been an Avenger in my heart. Maybe I’m super strong, I don’t know.”
That strength has never been in question, nor has the intensity that percolates within her. Motherhood hasn’t mellowed her much. Time hasn’t either. Should she get past unseeded Barbora Strycova in a semifinal, Williams would be participating in Saturday’s final at 37 years, 300 days. Martina Navratilova set the record by reaching a slam final at 37 years, 258 days.
“In the other women’s semifinal Thursday, Elina Svitolina will play Simona Halep. Both won in straight sets Tuesday, whereas Williams needed three.
Your favorite sports moment
What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Click here to tell me what it is and why, and I’ll start running them in future newsletters. And yes, if your favorite moment is about the Angels or Ducks or a team just outside of L.A., I’ll count that too. And the moment doesn’t have to have happened in L.A., just needs to involve an area team.
Our next one comes from David Weber of Avondale, Ariz.:
“I’m 66 and a lifelong Angeleno (until moving to Arizona in April). There are so many great sports moments I recall. But the one that was the most emotional for me was the Lakers’ championship in 1972.
“I suffered, really suffered with them in the 60s, particularly the devastating loss in the ’69 Finals. I started college in the fall of 1971 (UCSB-Go Gauchos!) and several of my dormmates and I would watch or listen to all the Laker games. During the 33-game winning streak (kids, ask your parents), we developed a ritual of playing Elton John‘s ‘Burn Down the Mission’ before every game. Great song; no idea what it had to do with basketball. That’s rituals for you.”
Odds and ends
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer not sure his horses can race at Del Mar this season…. Sparks fall to Wings after Candace Parker leaves game with foot injury…. LAFC looks to continue setting records while advancing in U.S. Open Cup…. City Section baseball all-stars win 10-0 to earn spot in championship game…. Tour de France stage 4: Viviani takes first career Tour stage in Nancy.
We also have other newsletters you can subscribe to for free. They are emailed to you and we don’t sell your name to other companies, so no spam from us. They are:
Our Dodgers newsletter, written by me. Subscribe here.
Lakers newsletter, written by Tania Ganguli. Subscribe here.
Horse racing newsletter, written by John Cherwa. Subscribe here.
Soccer newsletter, written by Kevin Baxter. Subscribe here.
Today’s local major sports schedule
Portland at LAFC, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+ (U.S. Open Cup match)
Born on this date
1921: Eunice Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics
1922: Boxer Jake LaMotta
1943: Tennis player Arthur Ashe
1945: Tennis player Virginia Wade
1954: Baseball player Andre Dawson
1960: NFL player Roger Craig
1964: College football coach Urban Meyer
Died on this date
1884: Chess master Paul Morphy, 47
Arthur Ashe defeats Jimmy Connors in the 1975 Wimbledon final. Watch it here.