Matt Kemp aiming to return to the Dodgers’ starting lineup for first game after All-Star break

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Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp has been on the shelf for close to five weeks with a left hamstring strain that dates back to the middle of May. But he is making progress and already charting his return.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Kemp is planning to embark on a minor league rehab assignment next week and hopes to rejoin the Dodgers for their first scheduled game after the All-Star break (July 13 against the Padres).

Kemp will compete in the Home Run Derby on July 9 at Kauffman Stadium but will skip the All-Star Game.

The 27-year-old is batting .355/.444/.719 with 12 home runs and 28 RBI in 36 games played this season. The Dodgers have taken a sharp dip in the standings while he’s been sidelined and currently trail the Giants by one game in the National League West.

The Yankees stopped playing Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America”

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The Yankees have played “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch since 9/11. The version they play is the most famous version, recorded in 1939 by Kate Smith. As of today they will no longer be playing the Kate Smith version, however.

Why? The New York Daily News reports that it’s because “the Yankees were made aware of Smith’s history of potential racism.” Which is a rather interesting way of putting it, because there’s not much “potential” to this:

Smith was a famous singer before and during WWII who recorded the offensive jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among other treats. She shot a video for that song that takes place in an orphanage for black children, and much of the imagery is startlingly racist. She also recorded, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which included the lyrics, “Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”

I’m guessing this information was available in some Kate Smith biography or is in the memory of some of her big fans who may still be alive, but it was news to the Yankees until recently and once they learned it they decided that going with a version of the song NOT sung by Kate Smith was better. Good call!

Oh, and this was not the first time that the Yankees had to make this kind of call. Ten years ago they fired Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who used to sing the song at the ballpark during the postseason, after he made anti-Semitic remarks. Precedent, baby.

Anyway, I’m sure someone will complain about this, but I feel like there are better hills to die on than “the Yankees should continue to play the racist lady’s version of the show tune that, despite what we think of it now, was never meant as an actual patriotic anthem.”

If you feel like dying on that hill, be my guest. But please, show your work.