The Sports Report: Why the Rams signed linebacker Bobby Wagner

Howdy, I’m your host, Iliana Limón Romero, filling for Houston Mitchell, who is on vacation and planning the perfect fireworks display. Let’s get right to the news.

Times columnist Dylan Hernández argues Major League Baseball should find a way to properly honor Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

There was no mention of the month Kershaw spent on the injured list or how he hasn’t pitched a sufficient number of innings to qualify to be on the earned-run average leaderboard.

In the view of Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, this was a no-brainer: Kershaw should pitch in the All-Star Game.

“I don’t think there’s anybody more deserving to pitch an All-Star Game in Dodger Stadium,” Barnes said.

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate against the San Diego Padres Sunday

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate against the San Diego Padres Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Baseball can make it happen. Baseball should make it happen.

In fact, National League manager Brian Snitker should take it a step further and designate Kershaw the starter.

Baseball has a chance to manufacture a moment in what is generally an unscripted theater, and what better moment can there be than the 34-year-old Kershaw making his first All-Star start at home in what could be the final season of his Hall of Fame career?

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MORE ON THE DODGERS:

— Craig Kimbrel’s blown save costs Dodgers four-game sweep of Padres

— Catcher Austin Barnes agrees to two-year, $7-million contract extension with Dodgers

— Commentary: He made a name tossing peanuts at Dodgers games. That’s a no-no now

— How do you feel about the ban on tossing peanut bags at Dodger Stadium?

— For Dodgers and Dave Roberts, replay challenges this season have been … a challenge

USC BASEBALL

Ryan Kartje and I wrote this report: USC hired Andy Stankiewicz to be its new baseball coach, turning to a well-respected veteran to rebuild a fractured program that has the most national titles at the Division I level but hasn’t reached the postseason since 2015.

Stankiewicz, an Inglewood native, former Major League Baseball infielder and four-time Western Athletic Conference coach of the year, is leaving Grand Canyon University in Arizona to lead the Trojans.

“Andy has a proven record of success in building a winning program,” USC athletic director Mike Bohn said in a news release introducing Stankiewicz on Sunday. “Playing seven seasons in the MLB, he understands what it takes to compete at the highest level. Andy’s leadership, relationship-building abilities and player development make him a terrific fit to lead our program.

“Furthermore, his integrity and commitment to student-athletes align perfectly with our vision and guiding principles. He arrives at USC strongly recommended and respected by members of the baseball community, and we have the utmost confidence that he will elevate our baseball program back to national prominence.”

Stankiewicz supervised Grand Canyon’s transition from the Division II level to Division I, winning five regular-season WAC titles across both levels. He led Grand Canyon to its first Division I NCAA regional bid in 2021 after winning the WAC tournament. His team won 41 games in 2022, earning the first Division I NCAA regional at-large bid in school history.

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UCLA AND USC

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen on UCLA and USC moving to the Big Ten: It’s about name, image and likeness, they said. It’s about like-minded academic institutions. It’s about growing opportunities to recruit.

The true reason behind UCLA and USC’s drastic shift to the Big Ten Conference is much simpler than the language administrators use in long-winded statements.

It’s money.

With the Pac-12’s recent struggles and archaic TV deal, the conference’s teams were simply getting left behind, and jumping ship to the Big Ten gives USC and UCLA their best financial lifeline to compete in a college sports scene that is blurring the lines between professional and amateur more each day.

The Big Ten’s emergence as a financial titan began when the conference signed a six-year, $2.65-billion TV deal that began in 2017. At the time, the Pac-12 was outpacing the Big Ten in revenue thanks to a landmark TV deal under former commissioner Larry Scott.

MORE ON THE BIG TEN MOVE:

— USC athletic director Mike Bohn has a history of punching first in realignment fights

— Breaking down what a move to the Big Ten means for UCLA and USC Olympic sports

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

— Full coverage: USC, UCLA leaving Pac-12 to join Big Ten

UCLA GYMNASTICS

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen on former UCLA gymnast Nia Dennis: Months after she finished her UCLA gymnastics career, Nia Dennis flipped, leaped and danced her way across the iconic Met Gala steps. A marching band played behind her. Cameras flashed.

This viral gymnast still knows how to steal a show.

Dennis’ internet-breaking Met Gala entrance in 2021 marked the former UCLA star’s transition into her post-gymnastics life, a phase that could attract just as much attention as her two viral floor routines. Walking away from the sport has only broadened Dennis’ influence as she veers into different, unpredictable avenues. The 23-year-old is pursuing dancing, modeling and acting, preparing to launch her own business and continuing to advocate for issues like mental health awareness.

With such a busy schedule, it’s no wonder Dennis jokes that it feels as if more than a year has passed since she graduated from UCLA with a degree in sociology.

“All of my work was paying off,” Dennis said.

ANGELS

The Associated Press on the Angels: Mike Trout watched as a low sinker grazed the outside corner of the strike zone in the third inning Sunday, rung up once again in a weekend filled with strikeouts.

Before trudging back to the dugout he made a face that seemed to scream: Yikes!

The Angels star went 0 for 11 with nine strikeouts in a three-game series and Los Angeles hitters fanned 20 times overall Sunday as the Houston Astros won 4-2 for a sweep.

“Mike Trout is an he is a future Hall of Famer. He’s going to come around,“ Angels acting interim manager Bill Haselman said. “It’s too long of a season never to have struggles. And everybody goes through it, even the best in the game. And he’s going through it right now and we’re confident he’ll get out of it.“

SPARKS

The Associated Press on the Sparks: Nneka Ogwumike scored 22 points, Liz Cambage added 16 and the Sparks beat the New York Liberty 84-74 on Sunday at Crypto.com Arena.

Chiney Ogwumike contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds, Katie Lou Samuelson also had 12 points and Jordin Canada finished with 11 points and seven assists for the Sparks (9-11), who won consecutive games for the first time since the end of May.

Nneka Ogwumike made a layup midway through the third quarter to give the Sparks the lead for good at 53-52 and Chiney Ogwumike’s jumper with 1:22 left in the quarter stretched the lead to 65-57.

Crystal Dangerfield made a three-pointer, Han Xu hit a hook shot and Marine Johannes followed with another three-pointer to trim the Liberty’s deficit to 69-68 with 4:42 to play, but Cambage made baskets to open and cap a 10-2 spurt that gave the Sparks a 79-70 lead with two minutes left.

HORSE RACING

From John Cherwa on Bob Baffert: Trainer Bob Baffert woke up at 5 a.m. Sunday, much earlier than he has been getting up the last 90 days. He wanted to go back to a job he has enjoyed and excelled at for more than four decades.

He considered getting up earlier but passed on the idea.

“I thought about getting there at 12:01 a.m. and go to the barn and start hammering the signs back up,” he said with a laugh while sitting in box 227 in the Santa Anita grandstand watching his horses train for the first time after a three-month suspension following a positive medication test on Medina Spirit at last year’s Kentucky Derby.

A handful of people were there to see the familiar head of white hair. Trainers John Sadler and Tim Yakteen were there as usual as was jockey Mike Smith and a revolving contingent of well-wishers. Yakteen even brought a box of donuts, which were sitting there when Baffert arrived around 6:30. Baffert’s wife, Jill, came along for his first day back at work.

“It feels like the first day of school,” Baffert said.

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THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1910 — Jack Johnson knocks out Jim Jeffries in the 15th round at Reno, Nev., to retain the world heavyweight title and spoil Jeffries’ comeback.

1914 — The Harvard eight wins the Grand Challenge Cup to become the first American crew to capture the top event at the Henley Royal Regatta.

1919 — Jack Dempsey wins the world heavyweight title at Toledo, Ohio, when Jess Willard fails to answer the bell for the fourth round.

1923 — Jack Dempsey beats Tommy Gibbon in 15 for the heavyweight title. The fight almost bankrupts the town of Shelby, Montana, which borrowed heavily to stage it.

1930 — Helen Wills Moody wins her fourth straight singles title at Wimbledon with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Elizabeth Ryan. Moody would go on to win four more Wimbledon singles titles.

1964 — Maria Bueno of Brazil upsets Margaret Smith of Australia 6-4, 7-9, 6-3 for the women’s title at Wimbledon.

1975 — Billie Jean King beats Evonne Goolagong, 6-0, 6-1 for her sixth and final singles title at Wimbledon.

1982 — Jimmy Connors beats John McEnroe 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 for the men’s singles championship at Wimbledon. The match lasts 4 hours, 16 minutes.

1987 — Martina Navratilova wins her eighth Wimbledon singles title and sixth straight, beating Steffi Graf 7-5, 6-3.

1999 — Pete Sampras overwhelms Andre Agassi in three sets to capture his sixth Wimbledon title and tie Roy Emerson’s record with his 12th Grand Slam championship. Sampras is the first man in the Open era with six Wimbledon titles.

2002 — Venus and Serena Williams win in straight sets to set up their third title match at a major in 10 months — and the first all-sister Wimbledon final since 1884. Top-seeded Venus, the two-time defending champion, overpowers Justine Henin 6-3, 6-2. Second-seeded Serena routs Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-1 in 55 minutes.

2004 — Meg Mallon wins the Women’s U.S. Open with a 6-under 65, the lowest final round by a champion in the 59-year history of the tournament. Mallon finishes at 10-under 274 for a two-shot victory over Annika Sorenstam.

2008 — Dara Torres completes her improbable Olympic comeback, making the U.S. team for the fifth time by winning the 100 freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb. The 41-year-old wins in 54.78. A nine-time medalist, she already was the first U.S. swimmer to make four Olympic teams.

2009 — Serena Williams beats her big sister Venus 7-6 (3), 6-2 for her third Wimbledon title and 11th Grand Slam championship. In the fourth all-Williams final at Wimbledon, Serena comes out on top for the third time. Later, Venus and Serena win their fourth women’s doubles title at Wimbledon and ninth Grand Slam doubles title as a pair.

2010 — Rafael Nadal beats Tomas Berdych in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, to win his second Wimbledon title and eighth Grand Slam championship.

2011 — Tyler Farrar becomes the first American to win a July 4 Tour de France stage, dominating a sprint finish in the third leg as teammate Thor Hushovd of Norway kept the yellow jersey.

2014 — Germany becomes the first country to reach the semifinals for a fourth straight World Cup by beating France 1-0 in a quarterfinal match settled by a first-half header from Mats Hummels.

And finally

Happy Fourth of July.

Look back at past fireworks displays in Los Angeles.

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 [email protected], and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.