Friday, September 19, 2014

Lisa Marie Varon and the Squared Circle

Lisa Marie Varon was born in California and only came to Chicago a few years ago, but she certainly seems like a Chicago girl.  Having a great restaurant near DePaul definitely helped entrench her in the community.
Lisa is a real sweetheart.  We have interviewed her a few times and have talked with her many times.  She is simply awesome.
Speaking of awesome, her restaurant, The Square Circle, is one of my favorite places.  I love their pizza.  I am also a big fan of their Coke, which has become a long-standing joke.  Yes, there really is such a thing as great fountain Cokes (and likewise also bad fountain Cokes).
The Squared Circle also offers cheese-stuffed burgers, brick oven pizza, duck fat pizza and many more delicious options.  I plan on eventually working my way through the menu, but I tend to get stuck on their pizza.  It is just that good.
TSC has several televisions for your sporting events watching.  Wrestling is obviously a favorite here.  There is nothing like watching wrestling, new or old, while Lisa chats with you, which she often does.  People talk about comfort food, TSC is a comfort place.
Lisa Marie Varon might be a native Californian, but she is a Chicago girl and truly one of our very own!
Lisa Marie Varon and me in Chicago, IL-April 2014.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Leaving Megalopolis with Jim Calafiore

I have written many times of my interest in Aquaman, the most maligned superhero of all time.  Aside from bringing me years of enjoyment in comic book form, Aquaman has also been the cause of several interviews over the last few years.  At last year's Wizard World, Aquaman lead me to Jim Calafiore.
Califore is a well-known comic book artist.  His works include Marvel Comics Exiles, and DC Comics' Aquaman.  Yes Aquaman.  I met an actual Aquaman artist!
Calafiore graciously gave us a few minutes of his time and I probably tested his patience with my continued Aquaman pandering, but he was great about it.  Of course, Calafiore has also done other excellent work, such as creating the character Nocturne, the daughter of Nightcrawler and the Scarlet Witch.
His latest project (with Gail Simone) is Leaving Megalopolis, an original 80 page graphic novel.  I love the promo line, "When the caped heroes of the world's safest city inexplicably all turn into homicidal lunatics, no one is safe.  The only rational thing to do is get the hell out of town. If only it were that easy..."
Okay, I am hooked.  See, I don't need everything comic-book related to involve Aquaman.  I always enjoy good entertainment and Leaving Megalopolis promises to be just that!
You can check out my interview with this talented artist at On the Beat with Jim Calafiore at Wizard World.
Jim Calafiore and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2013.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Congrats to Mike Hessman

I have written many times about the curse of shunning a interview request.  Mike Hessman did not shun us and earlier this season, he reached a big milestone.
We originally came across Hessman while covering the Astros in Houston.'s Contributor Extraordinaire Matt Parker was early in is interviewing career.  He approached Hessman after Hessman had completed his batting practice and was heading into the dugout.  Matt scored one as Hessman answered his questions.  That interview can be found at On the Beat with Mike Hessman.
That was Hessman's last season in the majors.  Since then, he has played minor league ball for the Astros, Reds and Tigers.  He has over 1600 career minor league hits.  More importantly, in May, he hit his 400th minor league home run, becoming only the sixth player ever to accomplish that.  He also is the all-time leader in home runs at Triple A.
Those are some legendary stats, no matter what league.  Hessman's accomplishments cannot be denied.  I hope he does get another call to the majors, even as a September shot when rosters expand.  That would be a nice reward.
Hessman is 36 years old.  I don't know how much longer he intends on playing.  If he never makes it back to the majors, he will retire with 7 career big league hits and a .127 batting average.  He'll always have the 400+ homers though!
Mike Hessman and Matt Parker in Houston TX-Summer 2010.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cards That Never Were: Hank Allen 1973 & 1974

This is a recurring series in which I try to rectify sports card omissions, by creating "Cards That Never Were."  I do not claim this idea to be mine, but the creations are.

I don't know when or why I developed a real soft spot for sports relatives.  I just find it fascinating when pro athletes have relatives who also played professionally.
I also have a soft spot for underdogs.  That one is a bit easier to figure, since I never was a star on any team.
When you combined an underdog sports relative, I was immediately hooked.  I would follow the careers of the less-known brother (etc), while the bigger star relative grabbed the headlines (and deservedly so).
Such was the case in the early 70's when I discovered mega-star Dick Allen had a less successful brother named Hank.  Dick had a 15 year career, amassing 1,848 career hits and 351 home runs.  Hank played parts of seven seasons, collecting 212 hits and 6 homers.  They also had another brother, Ron, who briefly played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972.
Hank had some baseball cards (3 solo and 1 multi-player).  All of those cards pictured him with the Washington Senators.  He did not appear on a 1971 card (Senators), a 1972 (Brewers) or 1973  and 1974 (White Sox).
Since he had appeared with the Senators, I could not find any pictures of Hank with the Brewers and I grew up a Sox fan, I decided to concentrate on giving him his rightful two Sox cards.
For his 1973 card, I listed his position as 3B, where he played the most in 1972.  For 1974, I gave him the unusual INF-OF designation because his time was pretty split.  He even caught a game, but I wasn't going to include that.
Before I finish, I would like to call out my card-creating bloggers to see if anyone could make a 1972 Hank Allen Brewers card.  Someone out there can do it.  I know how talented you all are.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Friendly Encounters: Jack Keenan and Bridget McDonnell

This is a regular series about my friends who have met celebrities.

Jack Keenan has been a part of for the entire ride on the Chicago Bliss bandwagon.  He proved invaluable with his steady camera work, occasional interview skills and all around logistical assistance.
Bridget McDonnell was one of the first rookie hopefuls we met and interviewed in 2014.  Bridget not only made the team, but made some nice plays on special teams and on the offensive line.  She also has been referred to as "the Voice of the Rookies."  Bridget is always up for an interview and always delivers an interesting one.
We have met Bridget many times, but the best was the recent time on the field in Ontario, CA, after the Bliss won their second straigh Legends Football League title.
Jack and Bridget are both winners and have both made contributions to  I appreciate them and hope to see more of them here in the future.
Jack Keenan and Bridget McDonnell in Hoffman Estates, IL-June 2014.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bear Down Sunday: Game 2 San Francisco 49ers

The Chicago Bears lost their first game of the season last week.  Today, they face a tough opponent in the San Francisco 49ers.  While this isn't a "must win" yet, it would be an ugly start to go 0-2.
I would like to use today to highlight Chicago's best football coach, Keith Hac.  All Hac has done is lead the Bliss to consecutive Legends Football League titles.  They are 10-1-1 over the last two years and they are the favorites to dominate again next season.
I always say that I appreciate Hac's candor.  He talks a great game and the team backs it up every time.  He also admits when his team isn't playing well (which isn't often).
I saw Hac and his staff mold several rookie hopefuls into solid players, while motivating the veterans to up their game.  He knows what to do to get the most out of everyone.  The players love him and would run through a wall for him.  
While he does have some of the best players in the LFL, I am sure he has had much to do with that.  It isn't just luck.  He doesn't just get great players.  He helps make great players.  He teaches them and keeps teaching them.
Hac is a winner and he creates winners.  We don't see enough of either of those around Chicago.
Coach Keith Hac and me in Los Angeles, CA-September 2014.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Celebirty Jersey Cards #190 Jimmy Kimmel & Regis Philbin

This is a regular series which attempts to combine my lifelong passion for baseball cards with my semi-professional interest in celebrities.  Today I am featuring the Mets represented by two talk show icons.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Jimmy Kimmel rose to fame on Win Ben Stein's Money and The Man Show.  Eventually, Kimmel starred in his own show, Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Surrounded by his family, Kimmel seems to be a loyal guy.  This is also evident in his Mets love, as seen on his Celebrity Jersey Card.
Yesteryear's Jimmy Kimmel was Regis Philbin, although he is still very active today.  Philbin was born in the Bronx, NY and he remains true to his NY roots, as seen on this Celebrity Jersey Card.  I find it fitting that Philbin, who gave away so much green on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, is wearing a green Mets jersey.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wrestling with Noah and Gianna

At last month's Resistance Pro event, my cousins Ernie, his son Ernie and his grandchildren Justin, Noah and Gianna.  Of course, all five donned the Johngy shirt for our front row appearance.
I never get tired of seeing people in the Johngy shirt.  It just makes me laugh.  This took it to another level though.
"Big" Ernie has been married to my first cousin for 40ish years.  Their son Ernie and I have gotten closer over the last couple years.  Our families love each other, but somehow drifted apart a bit.
It has been great getting to know Ernie as an adult and to know his children.  Noah is a bright and articulate young man, while Gianna is an active, rambunctious young girl.  They are awesome kids and I hope to continue to see them grow.
It was so cool for me to look to my right and see these three generations sitting next to me.  Seeing them all supporting me by wearing the Johngy shirt was just super fun for me.
The kids (and adults) enjoyed their night at R Pro.  I believe it was the first wrestling event for the kids.  I know there is no better wrestling company than Resistance Pro for them to witness for the first time.
There is another RPro show tonight.  As always, I encourage everyone to come and check it out.
Noah, Gianna and me in Chicago, IL-March 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On the Beat at Resistance Pro's "The Real Thing"

It was a sweltering night in the Barn in Willowbrook, but that did not prevent the folks at Resistance Pro Wrestling from putting on another great event.  "The Real Thing" featured an evening full of wrestling, along with several extra cameras, as the long-awaited reality show tapings started to happen.
The AMC film crews were not the only ones doing any video recording.  As usual, grabbed a few stars of RPro for some interviews.
The Slobberknockers were making their return to the ring, after such an emotional debut a couple months ago.  We also got them for a return interview.  Despite the best efforts of a few joker wrestlers, the Slobberknockers held their composure throughout (most) of the interview.
Special Correspondent Jonathan McMahon interviewed Referee Mario Scruggs and I interviewed Referee Drew Thomas.  These were our first interviews with both of these refs.
After months of trying, I finally got to interview Musical Director Sheri Shaw.  Shaw is usually a whirlwind of activity, but we got her right before her day began.
We also spoke to Matt Knicks.  The Marvelous One discussed his recent attitude change and his split from former partner "Big C" Chris Castro.
Lasty, in a short video presentation, we gave Eric St. Vaughn a trophy commemorating his 40,000 YouTube Views for one of our previous interviews.  It was the first interview we have done (and only one so far) to have reached that mighty milestone.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ken Anderson Joined Al Snow in the Beatdown

As you have previously seen several times, I have been on the receiving end of Al Snow's punches on many occasions.  He even included Contributor Extraordinaire in a double-punch on us last year at Blizzard Brawl.
I am used to Al's punches.  I almost even like them.  Okay, sometimes I literally have asked for them.  Why not?  It's all fun.
At this year's C2E2, Snow kicked it up a notch.  When he saw Matt and me, he suggested a double-double punch.  In other words, he wanted someone else to punch one of us, while he punched the other.  He enlisted the aid of fellow wrestler Ken Anderson (aka Misteeeeerrrr Anderson), who quickly (maybe too quickly) agreed to the lunacy.
Within seconds, Anderson punched Matt, while Al socked me.  The best part is the fun these guys get from the pictures.  Both men had a great laugh at the theatrics.  I know I always get a kick out of it, but to see two wrestling stars join in on the shenanigans and get just as much humor out of it, just cracks me up more.
If you ever get the chance to meet Al, do not pass the chance.  He is one of the funniest, nicest guys out there.  I have met him many times and he is always on his game.  Thanks, too, to Anderson for his part in the fun.
Al Snow, me, Matt Parker and Ken Anderson in Chicago, IL-April 2014.