Oct 21, 2020

Axios Sports

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 1,423 words (5 minutes).

1 big thing: ⚾️ Kershaw leads L.A. to Game 1 win

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Clayton Kershaw dominated, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger dazzled and the Dodgers beat the Rays, 8-3, to open a surreal World Series.

Why it matters: 20 of the last 25 World Series champions won Game 1, including 14 of the last 17.

By the numbers:

  • 50%: Kershaw retired 17 of the final 18 batters he faced, and the Rays missed on 19 of their 38 swings against him, the first game in his career that hitters missed on 50% of swings (min. 25 pitches).
  • 1 of 2 players: Betts joined Chase Utley as the only players in World Series history with a HR and two SB in the same game.
  • 5th pair: Betts and Bellinger are the fifth pair of former MVP teammates — and the first since Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent in 2002 — to go yard in the same World Series game.

Newsflash: After years of heartache and struggle, Kershaw is dominating October. He's 3-1 in four starts with a 2.88 ERA, 30 strikeouts and just three walks.

"The Dodgers' bats are back. The Clayton Kershaw narrative is not."
— Claire McNear, The Ringer

As for the Rays, they have now had eight or fewer hits in each of their last 10 games — the longest such postseason streak ever.

  • Tyler Glasnow (4.1 IP, 3 H, 6 ER, 6 BB, 8 K) somehow allowed six runs on just three hits, while becoming the first pitcher in Rays history to throw 112 pitches (career-high) and get only 13 outs.
  • Silver lining: The Dodgers punished the Rays for sticking with Glasnow into the fifth by putting up four runs. The silver lining for Tampa Bay is they didn't have to burn any of their long relievers. Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo will all be fully rested for Game 2.

Looking ahead: Only 11 teams have won a World Series after losing the first two games, making tonight's Game 2 an almost must-win for Tampa Bay.

  • Dodgers starter: RHP Tony Gonsolin (rookie)
  • Rays starter: LHP Blake Snell (2018 AL Cy Young)
2. 🇷🇺 Russia hackers targeted Olympics

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Six Russian intelligence officers were charged Tuesday for their role in a series of cyberattacks dating back to 2015, including efforts to hack the 2018 Winter Olympics and the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

  • Why it matters: The men are part of the G.R.U., the same group that was responsible for widespread Ukrainian blackouts in 2017, efforts to manipulate the 2016 U.S. and 2017 French Presidential elections and NotPetya — the most devastating cyberattack in history ($10+ billion in damages).
  • The backdrop: In 2016, Russia was caught carrying out a statewide doping program during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (as chronicled in Netflix's Oscar-winning documentary, "Icarus"). The country was subsequently banned from the 2018 PyeongChang Games.

Details: In late 2017, G.R.U. operatives began a systematic attack on PyeongChang's opening ceremony, comprising months of social engineering that culminated in "taking down internet access, disrupting signals, grounding broadcasters' drones and taking down the official website," NYT reports.

  • Russian officials blamed North Korea for the attacks before getting to work on hacking the Tokyo Games in much the same way.
  • But British intelligence detected the cyberwarfare, coordinated with the FBI to confirm it and then alerted Japanese officials.

The big picture: Russia's Olympic ban runs through 2023. However, its athletes can still compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia, as long as they prove they're untainted by the doping scandal. Some are calling for a stricter ban, particularly in light of this latest scandal.

"The powers that be don't have the courage to stand up to Russia even when they damage and maybe permanently damage the Olympic brand and the Olympic values. If a toddler keeps getting what it asks for and keeps disobeying the rules, why would they act differently?"
— Travis Tygart, CEO of US Anti-Doping Agency (via NYT)
3. ⚾️ Baseball's newest billionaire dwarfs peers
Data: Forbes; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Steve Cohen's bid to buy the Mets was approved by MLB's Ownership Committee on Tuesday, all but assuring he'll be the team's new owner.

Why it matters: Cohen's net worth ($14.6 billion) would make him the second-richest owner in American sports behind Steve Ballmer ($73 billion), while also making him wealthier than the next three richest MLB owners combined.

  • That kind of money is transformative, as we've seen with Ballmer in L.A.
  • Despite the NBA's salary cap, his deep pockets and willingness to pay the luxury tax have helped the Clippers build a contender, and a new privately funded arena set to open in 2024 will make L.A. even more attractive.

The intrigue: In a league like MLB, which doesn't have a salary cap, having more money than your opponents matters even more.

Go deeper:

4. ⚽️ Champions League roundup
Photo: Chris Ricco/UEFA via Getty Images

PARIS — Marcus Rashford returned to haunt PSG, scoring another late winner as Manchester United won 2-1. Two seasons ago, Rashford's injury-time penalty eliminated PSG in dramatic fashion and sent United into the quarterfinals.

Ethan Horvath celebrates with a teammate. Photo: Alexander Demianchuk/TASS via Getty Images

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Starting in place of Simon Mignolet (positive test), American goalkeeper Ethan Horvath — a Colorado native who spent time in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy — lead Club Brugge past Zenit, 2-1.

Photo: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

BARCELONA — Lionel Messi became the first player to score in 16 consecutive Champions League seasons as he guided 10-man Barcelona to an easy 5-1 victory over Hungarian side Ferencváros.


  • More from Monday: Juventus 2, Dynamo Kyiv 0; Chelsea 0, Sevilla 0; Lazio 3, Dortmund 1; RB Leipzig 2, İstanbul Başakşehir 0; Rennes 1, Krasnodar 1.
  • Today's slate: Ajax vs. Liverpool; Bayern vs. Atlético Madrid; Real Madrid vs. Shakhtar Donetsk; Man City vs. Porto; Midtjylland vs. Atalanta; RB Salzburg vs. Lokomotiv Moscow; Olympiacos vs. Marseille; Mönchengladbach vs. Inter Milan.
5. ⚡️ Lightning round
Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images
Screenshot: @Pacers (Twitter)
  • 🏀 Pacers new coach: Nate Bjorkgren played at South Dakota when Nick Nurse was an assistant there. He later became Nurse's D-League assistant before getting his own D-League team. He was a Suns assistant for two years, then joined Nurse in Toronto in 2018, where they won the 2019 title together.
  • 💵 Rawlings + Easton: Rawlings Sporting Goods, which is partially owned by MLB, is buying Easton Diamond to form a baseball/softball giant. Rawlings is a leader in balls and gloves, while Easton is a leader in metal bats.
6. 🏊‍♂️ Study: Cold water could slow dementia

Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Cold water swimming may protect the brain from degenerative diseases like dementia, according to a new study conducted by Cambridge University.

  • Researchers found a protein in the blood of regular winter swimmers at Parliament Hill Lido, an open-air swimming pool in London.
  • This protein was shown to slow the onset of dementia in mice — and even repair some of the damage brought on by the disease.

Why it matters: There are an estimated 50 million people worldwide living with dementia, and that number is expected to nearly triple by 2050.

7. Oct. 21, 1975: ⚾️ Fisk waves it fair

Photo: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images

45 years ago today, Carlton Fisk hit his iconic, walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the World Series, willing the ball fair before it smacked off the Green Monster's foul pole.

  • The Red Sox ultimately lost to the Reds in Game 7, concluding a series that featured five future Hall of Famers.
  • Cincinnati had three: Joe Morgan, Tony Pérez and Johnny Bench (plus hit king Pete Rose).
  • Boston had two: Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski (plus that year's MVP Fred Lynn).

What came next: The Reds repeated in 1976, sweeping the Yankees. The Red Sox didn't make the playoffs again until 1986, when they lost the World Series to the Mets (Bill Buckner...).

Sports, man...

Source: MLB (YouTube)
8. The Ocho: 🚫 Forbidden javelin toss

Source: Desolvidar (YouTube)

Ah, the javelin. What it must feel like to toss a spear over 300 feet in the name of sport, Jeff writes.

  • But what if you revolutionized the technique to reach heretofore unseen heights, a la the the high jump's Fosbury flop?
  • Turns out, someone did just that in the 1950s, but it was so dangerous the IAAF banned it, relegating those supersized throws to the annals of history.

What happened: Nearly 70 years ago, Spain's Félix Erauzquin used what is apparently a traditional Basque technique, reminiscent of a discus or hammer throw, and immediately added roughly 50 feet to the world record.

  • Yes, but: The whirling dervish release meant successful throws traveled far, but errant ones could go literally anywhere.
  • That's not ideal when the projectile is a 10-foot-long spear, so the IAAF banned the technique, disqualifying any records set with it.

Where it stands: Czech Olympian Jan Železný holds the official world record of 323.1 feet. Uwe Hohn's 1984 toss of 343.8 feet is still the longest ever, but it's largely forgotten because the javelin was redesigned in 1986.

Go deeper: The dangerous and banned javelin technique (SB Nation)

9. 🏆 Championship trivia

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

2020 is the first year since 1999 that two states have faced each other in multiple championships across the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB.

  • Question: This year it's California vs. Florida (Dodgers vs. Rays; Lakers vs. Heat). What two states went head-to-head twice in 1999?
  • Hint: Different time zones.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ❤️ Why we love sports
Elliot M. Photo: Elliot M.

Elliot M. (Chicago native) writes:

It was July 3, 1969, when I stepped into the batter's box in a little league game. I had just turned 10 years old.
I remember the exact date because the very next day — the Fourth of July — I would jump off the kitchen counter, catch my knee on a cabinet handle, and require 18 stitches to close the gash.
I didn't know it at the time, but this was going to be the last at bat of my little league career.
A lot of kids have that fantasy of winning the big game with a walkoff grand slam, or making a three-point swish at the buzzer. My fantasy: simply make contact with a pitched ball.
See, I was the worst player on the team. Probably the worst player in the league. Maybe the history of the league. Like Lucy in the Peanuts comic, I was the stereotype of the worst baseball player imaginable.
Not only was my batting average exactly .000, I never even made actual contact. Not even a foul. Not even a bunt. But I loved baseball and my beloved Cubs, so I kept at it.
On the weekend before that fateful game, my dad had the brilliant idea to pitch tennis balls to me in the backyard. I was able to hit those — even as he gradually sped up his delivery. Maybe there was hope after all.
A little league game circa 1969. Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images
So here I am, stepping into the batter's box. I was still scared, but one thing my dad said had stuck with me: I should start my swing right when I see the ball leave the pitcher's hand.
I still remember seeing the ball hurtling towards the plate and starting my swing. I still remember hearing the crack of the bat, and feeling that sting in the hands when you don't make solid contact. I was so surprised that I stumbled as I ran as fast as I could to first base.
The ball was a slow roller to the second baseman. He fielded it cleanly, threw to first, and I was an easy out. A routine play. But for me, it was anything but routine. I hit the ball! Maybe I could do this after all!
The next day, with 18 stitches in my knee, my little league career was over, just like that. And as the summer progressed, my Cubs suffered one the worst late-season collapses in MLB history.
Although I never returned to little league, and although it took another 47 years for the Cubs to break the curse, I never gave up on baseball. In fact, I played adult softball and was actually pretty good at it.
Did that one simple ground-out change my life and give me a confidence that I didn't have before? I'm not sure. But 50 years later, it's still part of me.

✍️ Submit your story: Do you have a fondest sports memory? Or a story about sports impacting your life? To share, simply reply to this email.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Hump DAYYYY" Baker

Trivia answer: New York vs. Texas (Knicks vs. Spurs; Sabres vs. Stars)