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The Sports Report: Fukushima is hoping for some Olympic gold

Workers in protective suits and masks wait to enter the emergency operation center at th Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in November 2011.
Workers in protective suits and masks wait to enter the emergency operation center at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in November 2011.
(David Guttenfelder / Associated Press)

Howdy, my name is Houston Mitchell. Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?

Olympics

Sports reporter David Wharton recently spent some time in Japan in preparation for the 2020 Summer Games. He spent some time in Fukushima and filed this report (which you can read in its entirety here):

“An hour north of Tokyo by way of bullet train, the land is lush and green, framed by thickly wooded mountains in the distance.

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“This vast rural prefecture in northeast Japan was once renowned for its fruit orchards, but much has changed.

“There has been a bad reputation here,” a local government official said.

“Since the spring of 2011, the world has known Fukushima for the massive earthquake and tsunami that killed approximately 16,000 people along the coast. Flooding triggered a nuclear plant meltdown that forced hundreds of thousands more from their homes.

“As the recovery process continues nearly a decade later, organizers of the 2020 Summer Games say they want to help.

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“Under the moniker of the “Reconstruction Olympics,” they have plotted a torch relay course that begins near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant and continues through adjacent prefectures — Miyagi and Iwate — impacted by the disaster. The region will host games in baseball, softball and soccer next summer.

“We are hoping that, through sports, we can give the residents new dreams,” said Takahiro Sato, director of Fukushima’s office of Olympic and Paralympic promotions. “We also want to show how far we’ve come.”

“The effort has drawn mixed reactions, if only because the so-called “affected areas” are a sensitive topic in Japan.

“Some people worry about exposure to lingering radiation; they accuse officials of whitewashing health risks. Critics question spending millions on sports while communities are still rebuilding.

“The people from that area have dealt with these issues for so long and so deeply, the Olympics are kind of a transient event,” said Kyle Cleveland, an associate professor of sociology at Temple University’s campus in Japan. “They’re going to see this as a public relations ploy.”

More reading:

Column: Homeless crisis could be the Fukushima of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics

Baseball

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Continuing our look back at the 1994 strike, a look at some records that could have been broken, and maybe in a parallel world, they were:

“Where regret should linger, only indifference resides. These days, reliving the 1994 season makes Matt Williams feel simply one way.

“Old.

“It was a loooong time ago, man, a long time,” Williams said. “I can’t believe it’s been 25 years. That’s crazy.”

“In a season lost to history, the stoic slugger was denied a chance to make some of his own, having hit 43 home runs in 115 games with the San Francisco Giants. Sweet-swinging San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn had a similar circumstance.

“Both men were chasing revered milestones, Williams on track to become the third player to hit 60 home runs or more in a season and Gwynn closing in on a .400 batting average, when a players strike brought the campaign to a screeching, and eventually permanent, halt Aug. 11.

“But in the moment, neither player was hung up on glory. They were consumed by goals larger than themselves. They cared more about their teams, and their sport.

“’94, it wasn’t about a personal feeling so much as it was about a group,” Williams said. “A strong, united group that wanted to push our game forward.”

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A creature of habit, Jim Riggleman poured himself coffee and scratched out some simple math on a napkin in his Houston hotel room.

The Padres manager usually put pen to paper to jot down lineups or tweak the rotation. But on Aug. 9, 1994, Riggleman had a different dilemma to solve.

How Gwynn could hit .400.

The Padres, reeling from a fire sale the previous offseason, weren’t serious contenders that year. Still, entering the final series before the strike, Gwynn still had a shot at the threshold.

On June 8, he was hitting .376. Then he found a way to raise it. Over the next two months, he went 85 for 209 (.407), using a steady string of line drives and well-placed grounders to bump his average to .392. During a trip to Cincinnati, teammate and current Angels manager Brad Ausmus asked Reds infielder Barry Larkin why everything Gwynn hit seemed to trickle into the outfield.

“His bat was so late coming through the zone that [infielders] would be a half-step short getting to those balls that they would field,” Ausmus said. “He just could wait so long because he had quick hands, great eyes. But it seemed like everything he hit, every time he touched the ball, it seemed to be a hit.”

With only three games against the Houston Astros before the strike, Gwynn needed to go nine for 12 or better. He began the first night with a double in the first inning and single in the sixth.

“He was so hot,” Riggleman said, “you knew it was possible.”

Gwynn batted in the eighth with runners on first base and second and no outs. The score was tied 2-2. Rookie left-hander Mike Hampton was on the mound. His focus fixated on history, Riggleman was evaluating the matchup in his head. That’s when Gwynn walked up to him with a question.

“Do you want me to bunt them over?” Gwynn said.

Riggleman was floored. Not since Ted Williams in 1941 had a player hit .400. In all the time since, only Rod Carew (.388 in 1977) and George Brett (.390 in 1980) had come close.

“He was willing to sacrifice that opportunity to do what was best for the team,” Riggleman said. “For a team that was probably 30 games out of first place.”

Riggleman waved Gwynn off and insisted he swing. He grounded into a double play. Still, the runner at second base advanced to third and later scored the eventual winning run in a game that didn’t really matter.

Twenty-five years later, Riggleman doesn’t remember many of the hits, or exactly what helped the Hall of Famer find another gear. Had the season continued, Riggleman believes Gwynn would’ve reached the milestone. Gwynn, who died in 2014, thought so too.

“Tony and I spent a lot of offseasons playing golf together,” Ausmus said. “He always thought he could have hit .400 if we’d have played it out.”

But at the time, Gwynn didn’t care. He wanted the Padres to win.

“That always resonated with me,” Riggleman said. “How unselfish he was.”

More baseball reading:

Red alert: Dodgers rookie starter Dustin May turns fiery on days he pitches

Dodgers release 2020 regular-season schedule

Jose Suarez is the latest young Angels pitcher to struggle as team falls to Pirates

Angels release 2020 schedule, will open on the road for the fourth straight season

Lakers-Clippers

The 2019-20 NBA schedule for every team was released on Monday, and those of you interested in who will be better, the Lakers or Clippers, won’t have to wait long for the first indication: The two teams play each other in their season openers on Oct. 22. It will be a home game for the Clippers.

The Lakers will also play the Clippers on Christmas Day, this time as a home game for the Lakers. It is the Lakers’ 21st consecutive season playing on Christmas.

Here is a look at the Lakers’ regular-season schedule:

All times Pacific

October

22 at Clippers, 7:30 p.m.; 25 vs. Utah, 7:30 p.m.; 27 vs. Charlotte, 6:30 p.m.; 29 vs. Memphis, 7:30 p.m.

November

1 at Dallas, 6:30 p.m.; 3 at San Antonio, 4 p.m.; 5 at Chicago, 5 p.m.; 8 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.; 10 vs. Toronto, 6:30 p.m.; 12 at Phoenix, 6 p.m.; 13 vs. Golden State, 7 p.m.; 15 vs. Sacramento, 7:30 p.m. 17 vs. Atlanta, 6:30 p.m.; 19 vs. Oklahoma City, 7:30 p.m.; 22 at Oklahoma City, 5 p.m.; 23 at Memphis, 5 p.m.; 25 at San Antonio, 5:30 p.m.; 27 at New Orleans, 6:30 p.m.; 29 vs. Washington, 7:30 p.m.

December

1 vs. Dallas, 1 p.m.; 3 at Denver, 6 p.m.; 4 at Utah, 6 p.m.; 6 at Portland, 7:30 p.m.; 8 vs. Minnesota, 6:30 p.m.; 11 at Orlando, 4 p.m.; 13 at Miami, 5 p.m.; 15 at Atlanta, 3 p.m.; 17 at Indiana, 4 p.m.; 19 at Milwaukee, 5 p.m.; 22 vs. Denver, 6:30 p.m.; 25 vs. Clippers, 5 p.m.; 28 at Portland, 7 p.m.; 29 vs. Dallas, 6:30 p.m.

January

1 vs. Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.; 3 vs. New Orleans, 7:30 p.m.; 5 vs. Detroit, 7 p.m.; 7 vs. New York, 7:30 p.m.; 10 at Dallas, 5:30 p.m.; 11 at Oklahoma City, 5 p.m.; 13 vs. Cleveland, 7:30 p.m.; 15 vs. Orlando, 7:30 p.m.; 18 at Houston, 5:30 p.m.; 20 at Boston, 4:30 p.m.; 22 at New York, 4:30 p.m.; 23 at Brooklyn, 5 p.m.; 25 at Philadelphia, 5:30 p.m. 28 vs. Clippers, 7 p.m.; 31 vs Portland, 7:30 p.m.

February

1 at Sacramento, 7 p.m.; 4 vs. San Antonio, 7:30 p.m.; 6 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.; 8 at Golden State, 5:30 p.m.; 10 vs. Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.; 12 at Denver, 7 p.m.; 21 vs. Memphis, 7:30 p.m.; 23 vs. Boston, 12:30 p.m.; 25 vs. New Orleans, 7 p.m.; 27 at Golden State, 7:30 p.m.; 29 at Memphis, 5 p.m.

March

1 at New Orleans, 5 p.m.; 3 vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.; 6 vs. Milwaukee, 7:30 p.m.; 8 at Clippers, 12:30 p.m.; 10 vs. Brooklyn, 7:30 p.m.; 12 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.; 15 vs. Denver, 6 p.m.; 16 at Utah, 6 p.m.; 18 vs. Utah, 7 p.m.; 21 at Charlotte, 4 p.m.; 22 at Detroit, 3 p.m.; 24 at Toronto, 4:30 p.m.; 26 at Cleveland, 4 p.m.; 28 at Washington, 5 p.m.; 30 at Minnesota, 5 p.m.

April

1 vs. Indiana, 7:30 p.m.; 4 at Sacramento, 7 p.m.; 5 vs. Oklahoma City, 6:30 p.m.; 7 vs. Chicago, 7:30 p.m.; 9 vs. Golden State, 7:30 p.m.; 12 vs. Minnesota, 6:30 p.m., 14 vs. Sacramento, 7:30 p.m.; 15 at Phoenix, 7 p.m.

The Clippers, meanwhile, will be a main attraction for the NBA. After opening against the Lakers, they go to San Francisco to open the new Chase Center in the Golden State Warriors’ home opener on Oct 24. The Clippers will play in a franchise-high 26 nationally televised games.

Here is a look at the Clippers’ regular-season schedule:

All times Pacific

October

22 vs. Lakers, 7:30 p.m.; 24 at Golden State, 7:30 p.m.; 26 at Phoenix 7 p.m.; 28 vs. Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.; 30 at Utah, 7 p.m.; 31 vs. San Antonio, 7:30 p.m.

November

3 vs Utah, 6 p.m.; 6 vs Milwaukee, 7 p.m.; 7 vs. Portland, 7:30 p.m.; 11 vs Toronto, 7:30 p.m.; 13 at Houston, 4:30 p.m.; 14 at New Orleans, 5 p.m.; 16 vs Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.; 18 vs. Oklahoma City, 7:30 p.m.; 20 vs Boston, 7 p.m.; 22 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.; 24 vs. New Orleans, 6 p.m. 26 at Dallas, 5:30 p.m.; 27 at Memphis, 5 p.m.; 29 at San Antonio, 5:30 p.m.

December

1 vs Washington, 7:30 p.m.; 3, vs. Portland, 7 p.m.; 6 at Milwaukee, 5:30 p.m.; 8 at Washington, 3 p.m.; 9 at Indiana, 4 p.m.; 11 at Toronto, 4 p.m.; 13 at Minnesota, 5 p.m.; 14 at Chicago, 5 p.m.; 17 vs. Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.; 19 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.; 21 at San Antonio, 5:3 p.m.; 22; at Oklahoma City, 4 p.m.; 25 at Lakers, 5 p.m.; 28 vs. Utah, 7:30 p.m.; 31 at Sacramento, 2 p.m.

January

2 vs Detroit, 7:30 p.m.; 4 vs. Memphis, 12:30 p.m.; 5 vs. New York, 12:30 p.m.; 10 vs. Golden State, 7:30 p.m.; 12 at Denver, 5 p.m.; 14 vs. Cleveland, 7:30 p.m.; 16 vs. Orlando, 7:30 p.m.; 18 at New Orleans, 12:30 p.m.; 21 at Dallas, 5:30 p.m.; 22 at Atlanta, 4:30 p.m.; 24 at Miami, 5 p.m.; 26 at Orlando, 3 p.m.; 28 at Lakers, 7 p.m.; 30 vs. Sacramento, 7:30 p.m.

February

1 vs. Minnesota, 12:30 p.m.; 3 vs. San Antonio, 7:30 p.m.; 5 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.; 8 at Minnesota, 5 p.m.; 9 at Cleveland, 4:30 p.m.; 11 at Philadelphia, 4 p.m.; 13 at Boston, 5 p.m.; 22 vs. Sacramento, 12:30 p.m.; 24 vs. Memphis, 7:30 p.m.; 26 at Phoenix, 6 p.m.; 28 vs. Denver, 7:30 p.m.

March

1 vs. Philadelphia, 12:30 p.m.; 3 at Oklahoma City, 5 p.m.; 5 at Houston, 5 p.m.; 8 vs. Lakers, 12:30 p.m.; 10 at Golden State, 7:30 p.m.; 13 vs. Brooklyn, 7:30 p.m.; 14 vs. New Orleans, 7:30 p.m.; 16 vs. Dallas, 7:30 p.m.; 18 at Denver, 6 p.m.; 20 vs. Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.; 23 at New York, 4 p.m.; 25 at Brooklyn, 4 p.m.; 27 at Detroit, 4 p.m.; 28 at Charlotte, 4 p.m.; 30 vs. Indian, 7:30 p.m.

April

2 at Sacramento, 7 p.m.; 4 vs. Oklahoma City, 12:30 p.m.; 7 at Utah, 7 p.m.; 8 vs. Chicago, 7:30 p.m.; 11 vs. Golden State, 5:30 p.m.; 13 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.; 15 at Portland, 7 p.m.

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 it could appear in a future newsletter. 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.

Today’s moment comes from Chuck Mozena of Paso Robles:

“On June 4, 1968, my dad and I went to see the Dodgers play the Pirates. It was a very memorable night.

“First off, I caught a ball although caught is a very generous term. We were sitting on the field level about 12 rows up. Before the game, Maury Wills, who was then on the Pirates (which to this day doesn’t sound right), was walking in front of us. Some kids farther back were yelling at Maury to throw a ball to them, which he did. However, he threw it too high and it hit the cement overhang of the second deck. The ball ricocheted off the cement, hit a seat a few rows behind us and then it rolled over my shoulder and landed in my lap. I am now 65 and to this day, it’s the only ball I have ever ‘caught.’

“That night was also memorable to historians of both baseball and the world. Don Drysdale pitched his sixth straight shutout to run his then-record total of scoreless innings to 54. Dad and I were still so excited that when we got home, we had my mom take a picture of Dad holding the programs and me holding that ball.

“It was a school night, so I went to bed. But I remember being woken up by my older sister yelling to my parents to come see the TV. For some reason I didn’t get up, so it wasn’t until the next morning that I learned Robert Kennedy had been shot. Along with all the memories of the night before, I will also never forget the look on my parents’ and sister’s faces that morning.

“My dad passed away at the age of 92 last October before the World Series (Dodgers, you couldn’t have won for my dad??) but as I write this, I see a framed picture of a program, two tickets attached at the cost of $3.50 each, and in the corner of the frame is a picture of a goofy 14-year-old standing next to his idol. Thanks, Dad.”

Odds and ends

UCLA’s Josh Woods excited to return after injuries left him battling ‘dark days’.... Sean McVay and Rams have ‘a positive problem’ with cornerbacks in camp.... USC receiver Munir McClain is creating a buzz that was absent during recruiting.... Philip Rivers and the Chargers are staying cautious when it comes to season predictions.... College football 2019: Will Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma produce a Heisman three-peat?.... Loyola’s Ceyair Wright is playing LeBron Jamesson in ‘Space Jam 2'.... Court upholds dismissal of lawsuit by ex-USC football player against NCAA, Pac-12.... Prep Zone releases early season football streaming schedule

Other newsletters

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

Dodgers at Miami, 4 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570

Pittsburgh at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, 830 AM

Born on this date

1912: Golfer Ben Hogan (d. 1997)

1935: Baseball player Jim “Mudcat” Grant

1949: NHL player Bobby Clarke

1955: Golfer Betsy King

1958: Golfer/sportscaster David Feherty

1959: Former Dodger Tom Niedenfuer

1964: Baseball player Jay Buhner

1969: Figure skater Midori Ito

1970: NFL player Elvis Grbac

1974: Former Angel Jarrod Washburn

1982: Speedskater Shani Davis

Died on this date

1989: NASCAR driver Tim Richmond, 34

1995: Baseball player Mickey Mantle, 63

2007: Baseball player Phil Rizzuto, 89

2012: Baseball player Johnny Pesky, 92

And finally

Mickey Mantle takes on Ernie Banks on “Home Run Derby.” Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email us here. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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