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Plaschke: With the help of Dodgers history, team historian Mark Langill battles brain cancer

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Plaschke: With the help of Dodgers history, team historian Mark Langill battles brain cancer

He was struggling to walk, battling to talk, fighting to think.

But he never forgot the Dodgers. He couldn’t forget the Dodgers.

In the first days following surgery to remove two brain tumors, Dodgers team historian Mark Langill was having trouble recalling everything but the legacy that lives permanently in the deepest blue part of his soul.

“The strangest thing,” Langill said. “Ninety percent of my brain was temporarily affected, but the Dodger part never went away.”

During a walk around the Huntington Hospital hallway, an orderly asked him his room number and, thanks to the Dodgers, he remembered.

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It was Ted Sizemore’s Dodger rookie number, combined with Sizemore’s number when he returned to the Dodgers seven seasons later.

4105

As he continued his recovery, every day melting into the next, nurses would try to keep him alert by writing each new date on a grease board.

Thanks to the Dodgers, he never lost track.

Somebody wrote, May 1, and Langill immediately said, “Brooklyn Robins against the Boston Braves, 26 innings in 1920, longest game in major league history.”

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On May 5 he said, “Russell Martin’s debut in 2006.”

Dodgers historian Mark Langill was rushed to the hospital and had surgery to remove two brain tumors in late April after appearing unsteady at Dodger Stadium. He returned to work last week.

(Brian DeCloux / Spectrum SportsNet LA)

On May 7 he said, “Russell Martin’s first home run against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006.”

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Nearly two months later, Langill is out of the hospital and fighting to beat brain cancer with the staunchest of allies.

His sword is Dodger memories. His shield is Dodger highlights. He knows more about Dodger history than any living human, and that history is carrying him through the rocky ground where everything else is uncertain.

“All this obscure Dodger stuff stayed in my head,” said Langill, 59. “Whatever they cut out, they didn’t cut that.”

This reliance on Dodger landmarks actually began on April 25, the day he was rushed to the hospital after behaving unsteadily at Dodger Stadium.

As he lay in the speeding ambulance, all he could think about was, it was flag day!

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“Who can forget that?” he said. “April 25, 1976, the most famous play in the history of Dodger Stadium was made by an opposing player, Rick Monday saving the American flag.”

Later that day, while being inserted into the MRI machine, he assured the technicians that he was being calmed by the memory of … Andy Etchebarren?

“The 1966 World Series, he played for the Baltimore Orioles, he was the last man to bat against Sandy Koufax, and…he won the starting job in the spring because Dick Brown had a brain tumor,” Langill explained. “I survived the MRI by playing baseball brain tumor trivia.”

And when he learned that his surgeon would be Dr. Celene Mulholland? He never again forgot that name because, of course, Terry Mulholland pitched for the Dodgers in 2001 and 2002.

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Only Langill, it seems, would remember a celebrated neurosurgeon because of a pitcher who graced the Dodgers with a 1-1 record and 6.60 ERA.

“I can’t help it,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s who I am.”

It’s what he’s been for the last 30 years, a delightful human trove of information that constantly shares with players and fans alike. A former sports writer, Langill began working in the team’s publications department before spending the last 22 years as baseball’s first official team historian, a role which puts him at the forefront of the team’s powerful connection between its present and past.

“Mark can talk about something that happened in 1965 as easily as something that happened yesterday,” said Lon Rosen, Dodgers executive vice president and chief operating officer. “He brings great comfort to everyone because you can ask him anything and he always has the right answer.”

If a former player wants to relive glory days, he calls Langill, who derives joy from assisting Dodgers both famous and anonymous, from the day of their retirement until their death. He has provided memories and memorabilia for many memorial services and even served as an impromptu eulogizer at Willie Davis’ funeral.

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“Mark has always been my number-one asset to continue to understand the greatness of the Dodgers,” said Orel Hershiser, former pitcher and current broadcaster. “He brings another level of expertise and passion with the details he remembers at a moment’s notice.”

If a fan wants to embrace a special memory, they are also directed to Langill, who loves to print out ancient remnants to remind folks of their happiest Dodger moments.

“He is everybody’s brother, father, cousin, a trusted family member who remembers everything and is happy to share this knowledge with everyone,” said Rosen.

In fact, in his last game at Dodger Stadium before falling ill, Langill hosted an 80-year-old woman whose first game was at Ebbets Field in 1954 when Don Newcombe was pitching.

Langill surprised her by printing out the box score from that actual game, handing it to her, then they both basked in her wonder at reliving her childhood.

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“Suddenly she’s 10 years old again and sitting with her grandfather,” Langill recalled. “She said it was raining that day, and she talked about what it was like to be a 10-year-old at her first game and … to actually see her relive all that was priceless.”

A few days later Langill was spinning more great tales for new Dodger employees during a stadium tour when he became unsteady. He ended up at Huntington Hospital, where several days later Mulholland pitched a perfect game in removing two tumors the combined size of a lemon.

Before the surgery, Langill prepared himself by watching a laptop video of Game 2 of the 1974 World Series between the Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics.

“That’s the one game in that series that the Dodgers won, and it was won by my first favorite Dodgers team with my all-time favorite Dodger Jimmy Wynn,” Langill said. “I figured, if I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out my way.”

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He also remembered that it was the World Series where manager Tom Lasorda wore two different cleats because he had two different shoe contracts.

“Those are the little stories that make Dodger history so special,” Langill said.

Eric Karros, left, and Steve Sax throw out to ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 of the 2022 NLDS at Dodger Stadium.

Eric Karros, left, with Steve Sax throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 of the 2022 NLDS at Dodger Stadium, considers Mark Langill “the caretaker of Dodger history.”

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As the surgery approached and it came time to seek peace, Langill kept thinking about Gary Cooper’s quote while portraying Lou Gehrig, “All the arguing in the world can’t change the decision of the umpire.”

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He explained, “Some people in that situation rely on Scripture. I also rely on ‘Pride of the Yankees’.”

Throughout the ordeal, his recovery buoyed by his longtime partner, Patty Hirata, and registered nurse nephew Michael Rayala, Langill quickly bonded with various hospital workers through the Dodgers. He doesn’t remember much about the physical details of his stay, but he remembers discussing Shohei Ohtani with one orderly and then traveling back down memory lane with his first physical therapist.

“Mark has always been my No. 1 asset to continue to understand the greatness of the Dodgers.”

— Orel Hershiser

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“He said his earliest Dodger memory was when he was 4 years old and his mom took him to LAX and I knew exactly what he was talking about,” Langill said. “Oct. 23, 1957, Red Patterson arranged for a pep rally to welcome the team to Los Angeles.”

During his rehabilitation, while initially struggling with everything but his Dodger knowledge, Langill was strengthened by the way it connected him with his uncomfortable surroundings.

“It’s like knowing 100 languages,” he said. “You can talk to anybody at any age if it involves the Dodgers.”

During his many years with the Dodgers, he had made many of those unique connections, his constant outreach making him arguably the franchise’s most important public representative.

There was the longtime Brooklyn Dodgers fan who was on his deathbed and wanted to hear one more Dodger story before he passed. His daughter handed the phone to Langill, who proceeded to take the man on an audio tour of all the Brooklyn Dodger memorabilia spread around the stadium.

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“I told him, ‘We’re here for you,’” Langill recalled.

Then there is his annual reminder to Eric Karros every May 23.

“Happy Stan Belinda Day,” he will tell him because, on that day in 1992, Karros established himself as a future star by hitting a three-run walk-off homer against the Pirates’ Stan Belinda.

You can look it up. Langill’s memory of Dodger history is bulletproof.

“With him, we never need a fact checker,” said Rosen. “He’s right every time.”

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“He’s basically become the caretaker of Dodger history,” said Karros of Langill. “Anything you want to know, he’s your guy.”

Then there was the story of Roy Gleason, a former outfielder who doubled in his only major-league plate appearance for the Dodgers in 1963. After that season Gleason was sent to Vietnam and never played major league baseball again, ending his career with that one at-bat, always wondering if anybody on the Dodgers remembered.

Langill remembered. Langill always remembers. And when he heard that Gleason was feeling disconnected from an organization that indeed had seemingly forgotten him, Langill invited Gleason to Dodger Stadium in the summer of 2003.

Once there, Langill accompanied Gleason to a wall that contains most of the names on the Dodgers’ all-time roster. In a scene that brought both men to the verge of tears, Gleason’s name was there.

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“I was surprised that anyone in the organization even remembered my name,” said Gleason recently. “But Mark took the time to go into the Dodger archives and research my history.”

Later that season, Gleason threw out the first pitch and was surprised with a 1963 World Series ring.

“The best night of my life…a night I will never forget,” said Gleason. ‘And it all happened because of Mark Langill.”

This season Dodger history will have a new entry, a new landmark, a new hero, the date of June 17.

“That’s the anniversary of the first regular season ‘Freeway Series’ game between Dodgers and Angels,” Langill recalled. “Dodgers won on Todd Zeile’s walk-off home run against Troy Percival.”

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Well, yes, but this is about something bigger.

June 17 should be forever known as the day Mark Langill not only recorded Dodger history, but made it.

It is the day he returned to work.

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Dodgers activate Tyler Glasnow, sign veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed

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Dodgers activate Tyler Glasnow, sign veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed

The Dodgers have yet to make any trades ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline.

But their roster got another notable shake-up Wednesday.

Before their game against the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers activated pitcher Tyler Glasnow from the injured list, and signed and activated veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed.

In corresponding moves, shortstop Miguel Rojas was placed on the injured list with a flexor strain in his throwing arm. Pitcher Landon Knack was optioned, sent back to triple-A Oklahoma City despite his 3.07 ERA in nine outings this year. Reliever Ricky Vanasco was also designated for assignment to create room on the club’s 40-man roster for Ahmed.

Glasnow’s return was long expected, with the team’s right-handed ace returning as scheduled from back tightness he sustained before the All-Star break.

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Rojas’ placement on the injured list was also no surprise, after he was removed early from Sunday’s game with discomfort in his forearm.

While the team was initially optimistic that Rojas could avoid an IL stint, manager Dave Roberts said a medical scan this week showed the strain in Rojas’ arm. His timeline to return is unclear, but Roberts didn’t make the injury sound serious.

“I think it’s something that he’ll be able to bounce back from,” Roberts said.

In Rojas’ absence, the Dodgers signed Ahmed to a major-league deal Wednesday, inking the 11-year veteran and two-time Gold Glover two weeks after he was released by the Giants.

Roberts said Ahmed, a longtime member of the Arizona Diamondbacks who batted .232 in 52 games with the Giants this year, would serve as the Dodgers’ primary shortstop in Rojas’ absence — or, at least, until Mookie Betts returns in the next couple of weeks from his broken hand.

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“Got a call late last night, and came to terms pretty quickly,” Ahmed said of signing with the Dodgers. “Pretty obvious choice, just playing against these guys for a long time. Having the opportunity to compete and win a championship is something I want.”

The odd man out in Wednesday’s flurry of moves was Knack, the rookie right-hander who seemed to be establishing himself in the Dodgers rotation after a five-inning, one-run start Tuesday night.

Knack, however, became the casualty of a roster crunch. He had minor-league options. He was also the most recent member of the Dodgers rotation to pitch — which, with a couple off-days on the schedule in the next week, left his next potential start date unclear.

Instead, the Dodgers decided to send Knack down and preserve their bullpen depth, something that could be important the next two nights as Glasnow and Clayton Kershaw make their first starts back from the injured list.

“It was one of those timing situations for Landon,” Roberts said. “But I can’t say enough about what he did for our ball club.”

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Buehler’s next steps

Walker Buehler said he will begin a rehab assignment with triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday. It will be his first live game action since going on the injured list last month with a hip injury.

Buehler is expected to make two rehab starts, Roberts said, before rejoining the Dodgers rotation next month.

Before going on the IL, Buehler had struggled in his return from a second Tommy John surgery, going 1-4 with a 5.84 ERA in eight starts.

Hurt having Tommy John

In other injury news Wednesday, the team announced that prospect Kyle Hurt is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery next week, ending his 2024 campaign and probably sidelining him for most of 2025 as well.

A USC product acquired in a 2021 trade with the Miami Marlins, Hurt had emerged as one of the top pitchers in the Dodgers’ farm system, earning the club’s minor league pitcher of the year award last year while leading all minor-league pitchers with 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

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Hurt made his MLB debut with one outing last September, then opened this season in the Dodgers’ bullpen, giving up two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 innings over three appearances.

He missed a couple of months earlier this year with a shoulder injury, but had been back pitching for Oklahoma City for a month before exiting an outing on July 4 with an apparent arm injury.

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Xander Schauffele or Scottie Scheffler for PGA Tour Player of the Year?

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Xander Schauffele or Scottie Scheffler for PGA Tour Player of the Year?

We must begin this article with a pair of admissions: We remain eternally envious of our co-workers and media center brethren spending their July gallivanting around Scottish links courses, and try as we might, we have not mustered any enthusiasm for the 3M Open. We appreciate your understanding and instead have opted to write down and publish a conversation that began Sunday during the end of the Open Championship.

Hugh Kellenberger: Let’s start here: The men’s golf player of the year race has gone from a coronation of Scottie Scheffler to a two-man race between Scheffler and Xander Schauffele. The latter made it a conversation with his stirring win at the Open Championship, in one season vaulting from “best player to never win a major” to “a guy who can win half of the majors in a given year.” But I’m curious, Gabby, is performance in the majors the only data point that matters in this race, at least to you?

Gabby Herzig: This is a tricky one because I am definitely in the camp that majors define a career, but do they — and should they — define a single season? It’s hard to argue against the fact Scheffler has been dominant all year long, even though Schauffele was the best during two very important weeks. Scheffler’s six wins (compared with Schauffele’s two) include the Players, the Masters and four PGA Tour signature events, one coming just a week after his runaway victory at Augusta — and we still have the playoffs to evaluate. There are more than a few data points to take into account here, with strokes gained statistics, consistency and wins outside of majors being just the tip of the iceberg. Should Schauffele’s two-major season overshadow all of that?

Hugh: Deciding that it does means no other event matters more than the four major championships, and though that is true in the broad scope of a career, there is a level of nuance to it on a year-to-year level. Is Schauffele winning at Valhalla in 2024 automatically more impressive than Scheffler’s win at TPC Sawgrass, just because we’ve decided one is a major and the other is not? No, I don’t think so. They are roughly equal in almost every other way, including field quality. So if you say that of the five biggest events of the year, each won two, that narrows the gap in this POY conversation. And that’s before we get to this: Both will be at the Olympics and the Tour Championship. Are we going to end up having to crown someone based on what they do at Paris’ Le Golf National next week?

Gabby: That’s why things could get dicey — I wouldn’t say any of the remaining events in the 2024 season are necessarily going to sway the debate much, unless Scheffler or Schauffele goes out and wins two or even three more times. So why not just turn to the numbers? Scheffler is still leading the PGA Tour in strokes gained total by a significant margin — a stat purely based on week-to-week performance, compared with the field. No biases on which tournament means more. Just data. Scheffler holds a 2.760 strokes gained on average, compared with Schauffele’s 2.201. Then the list drops off to Rory McIlroy at 1.896. Schauffele is catching up to Scheffler, but he said it himself after winning the PGA: “All of us are climbing this massive mountain. At the top of the mountain is Scottie Scheffler. I won this today, but I’m still not close to Scottie in the big scheme of things.” Player of the Year is decided by a PGA Tour member vote. If there’s anyone who understands how difficult it is to perform to that high of a standard on a week-to-week basis, it’s Scheffler and Schauffele’s peers.

Hugh: Right, and it’s that group that picked Patrick Cantlay in 2021 despite his not winning a major, and Scheffler a year ago even though he didn’t win a major. What does that mean? I think it’s a Scheffler three-peat, though I’m here for the argument that Schauffele deserves his flowers. Gabby, I’ll let you make your pick and then ask you this: Who will be Keegan Bradley’s next vice captain pick after selecting Webb Simpson on Tuesday?


Keegan Bradley will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2025. (Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images)

Gabby: I’m with you, Hugh. I think they’ll go with Scheffler. This is the award for Player of the Year, not the Player of the Majors. But Schauffele deserves all the praise for what he accomplished at Valhalla and Royal Troon. He’s gotten over the major-winning hump and quickly joined a growing list of top active players with two majors (Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson). Perhaps his ability to knock off the first two so quickly will make him the best candidate to first get to three?

On to my Ryder Cup vice captain prediction. Tuesday, we saw Bradley select three-time U.S. team member Simpson as his first appointee. The pick aligns perfectly with what Bradley shared about his intentions when he was first announced as captain: He wants to surround his team with younger voices who are out there, week to week, interacting and building relationships with his potential members. I don’t think we’re going to see the next vice captain’s pick for a little while because I have a feeling it will be Rickie Fowler. While reporting on the selection process for Bradley, I was told Fowler’s name was part of the conversation about who could be the next captain. If Fowler doesn’t totally turn around his game somehow (he’s ranked 43rd in the U.S. Ryder Cup team standings), it’ll be a no-brainer decision for Bradley to bring him on board. He’s played in five Ryder Cups but he’s only 35 years old, and all the guys — and the fans — love him. Besides Tiger Woods, who is a complete question mark at this point, who would be better?

Hugh: Rickie Fowler, vice captain in charge of the vibes with a secondary emphasis on hydration. I can get behind it.

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(Photos: Patrick Smith, Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images) 

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French sprinter Sounkamba Sylla says she's prohibited from Paris Olympics' opening ceremonies over hijab

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French sprinter Sounkamba Sylla says she's prohibited from Paris Olympics' opening ceremonies over hijab

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A French sprinter said she will be prohibited from participating in the Paris Olympics’ opening ceremonies Friday night because she wears a hijab.

Sounkamba Sylla, 26, expressed her frustration on her social media last weekend.

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“You are selected for the Olympics, organized in your country, but you can’t participate in the opening ceremony because you wear a headscarf,” she wrote on Instagram, according to The Associated Press.

Sounkamba Sylla of France attends the 4x400m relay during the 26th European Athletics Championships Rome 2024 at Stadio Olimpico June 11, 2024, in Rome, Italy. (Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

Sylla is a member of France’s 400-meter women’s and mixed team relays. However, France enforces secular laws, and French Olympic Committee President David Lappartient said French Olympians are ordered to follow secular principles that apply to public sector workers, which includes a ban on hijabs.

“It’s perhaps sometimes not understandable in other countries in the world, but it’s part of our DNA here in France,” Lappartient said.

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PARIS OLYMPICS MEN’S SOCCER PLAY BEGINS WITH CHAOTIC MOROCCO WIN AS FANS STORM AND TRASH FIELD

Sounkamba Sylla hands the baton

Sounkamba Sylla of France hands the baton to teammate Alexe Deau in the 4x400m relay at the 26th European Athletics Championships Rome 2024 at Stadio Olimpico June 11, 2024, in Rome, Italy. (Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

He added that talks were underway to come to a solution to allow Sylla to participate in the ceremonies in a way her “beliefs are respected.”

“I have no doubt that a solution can be found,” he said. “We hope that everyone can take part in the opening ceremony.”

Sylla routinely wears a hijab while competing.

Sounkamba Sylla in Budapest

France’s Sounkamba Sylla, Camille Séri, Louise Maraval and Amandine Brossier pose for a photo after the women’s 4x400m relay heats during the World Athletics Championships at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest Aug. 26, 2023. (Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images)

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She ran with a black headscarf in several events, including the 2022 and 2023 world championships and the World Relays in May 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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