Saturday, September 19, 2020

On the Beat With the New York Liberty

The New York Liberty played the Atlanta Dream on September 3 in the Liberty’s Fourth Annual Unity Day Game. The Liberty lost 62-56 in a tough defensive battle, but the importance of this game cannot be measured in the won/loss column.
The Unity Day Game was rescheduled from the original date of August 27 due to the walkout for justice that day. Like several other pro teams, the Liberty opted not to play that day to keep their voices strong in their effort to bring social change.
The Liberty and the rest of the WNBA continue to push for equality and social progress, The Unity Day Game is another way they choose to use their platform to raise awareness and bring change.
In the morning media session, players Layshia Clarendon and JKia Nurse expressed their thoughts on the game, team and issue.
After a successful career at the University of California, Clarendon was selected by the Indiana Fever in the 1st round (9th overall) of the 2013 WNBA draft. The guard played three seasons with Indiana, before moving on to the Dream. Midway through the 2018 season, she joined the Connecticut Sun, for whom she played through last season. She joined the Liberty this season. In her career, over eight seasons, she has played 217 games, averaging 7.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3 assists and .6 steals per game. She has a history of being a vocal advocate for social issues.
Nurse starred at Connecticut and was selected by the New York Liberty in the 1st round (10th overall) of the 2018 WNBA draft. In her three seasons, she has played 87 games, averaging 11.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2 assists and .7 steals per game.
Both women spoke passionately about the Unity Day Game. It would have been nice if this game was played on a bigger stage in front of thousands of fans in attendance and many more watching on television, but the significance is still the same. The players continue their goal of making statements and leading the charge.
Go to for more info on the league. Also, check here, and for my recurring coverage.

Friday, September 18, 2020

On the Beat With Skye Blue of Girl Fight Wrestling

I was “On the Beat” with pro wrestler Skye Blue as my coverage of Girl Fight Wrestling continues. Already a fan of her work, the soft-spoken Blue impressed me with her composure and attitude.
Twenty year old Blue has been involved in wrestling for about four years (although her mom might say she started before she was born). Her actual journey began in her junior year of high school.
Blue has wrestled a lot of matches since her debut. She's wrestled women and men and has won some titles along the way. She has accomplished much at such a young age and experience level. You can see a lot of her matches on YouTube.
At Epic Wrestling Entertainment presents Girl Fight Wrestling Jawbreaker at Park Memorial UMC in Jeffersonville, Indiana on September 26, 2020, Blue will face Billie Starkz. When asked about the bout, Blue expressed her excitement about facing Starkz. She had high praise for Starkz, deftly avoiding a lot of the usual trash talk, even when I encouraged a bit of it. Blue's respect for Starkz and love of the sport supersedes any ego.
Echoing the sentiments of the truly great performers, Blue's stated goal for Jawbreaker is to “have the Match of the Night and to steal the show.” She's do what she has to do, because that's the sport, but her goal isn't to destroy Starkz. Her goal is to have a great match with Starkz.
Twenty year old wrestlers don't usually think like that. Twenty year old wrestlers don't often speak of the youth and skill level of an opponent either. Blue isn;t a typical twenty year old wrestler.
Throughout the interview, I saw this young wrestler, who spoke like a veteran. More accurately, she spoke like an old school veteran. Blue has such a love for what she does. Her main goal isn't to make it “big time,” although obviously that would be great, but to make a living wrestling. This harkens back to the days of territories, road trips and wrestling for the love of the sport.
Before Blue battles Starkz at Girl Fight Wrestling's Jawbreaker, she will have another exciting match on September 19. At Chicago Style Wrestling's "Alive & Kickin',” Blue will face Kylie Rae. This is another dream match for Blue and for wrestling fans. It's also one more stepping stone in building Blue's already impressive resume.
At Girl Fight Wrestling's Jawbreaker, the main event will be Mickie Knuckles versus Su Yung.
Other matches include Salena Dean facing Charlie Kruel, Seishin versus Hawlee Cromwell, Megan DiFrancisco battling Camron Bra'Nae, Nikki Victory taking on Big Mama, Bailey McRoberts dueling Lillie Lockhart, and of course, Blue and Starkz bout, which just might steal the show. That's a lot of great action, but that's the goal of Girl Fight Wrestling.
I sincerely hope Blue never loses that refreshing mindset. She has the skills and attitude to not only make a living at wrestling, but to succeed on a high level. “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder” is a line from an old song. I hope Blue never loses her sense of wonder.
Continue to check back here for recurring coverage of Girl Fight Wrestling. Also, check out Girl Fight Wrestling on Facebook for updates and other info.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

On the Beat With the Chicago Sky 09/15/20

The Chicago Sky's season ended with a 94-81 loss to the Connecticut Sun in their one game playoff. The Sky will now leave “the Wubble,” while the Sun will advance to the next single elimination game on Thursday.
It was a disappointing, but not entirely shocking loss for the Sky. As losers of six of their last regular season games, the Sky had been struggling to find success of late.
After a strong start to their season, the Sky was 11-4 in first place in the Eastern Conference and viewed as a real threat to win the WNBA championship. Unfortunately, that would be the high point. They finished their schedule with only one more win (against the 8-14 Dallas Wings), while losing the other six games by an average of 7 points.
The departure of Diamond DeShields (personal reasons) and Azura Stevens (injury) hurt the team, but nobody used that as an excuse. The Sky acquired Stephanie Mavunga and signed Alexis Prince for additional bench depth, but it just wasn't enough.
In the post game presser, Courtney Vandersloot, Kahleah Copper, Allie Quigley and Gabby Williams were understandably upset, but they remained positive about what was accomplished this season.
The Sky fared well on the WNBA season average leader board ranks, including Points (3), Field Goal Percentage (1), Three Point Percentage (5), Assists (2), Blocks (3), Defensive Rebounds (5) and Plus/Minus (5). On the other hand, there were some lower end ranks, including, Offensive Rebounds (10), Total Rebounds (9), Steals (8) and Free Throw Percentage (7).
Individually Courtney Vandersloot led the league in assists and was 9th in plus/minus. Cheyenne Parker was 7th in offensive rebounds. That was about it for top ten individual rankings.
In the end, the Sky and every other WNBA team should be proud of this season. They stood tall during a health pandemic and social unrest. They stayed true to their goal of using their platform for social change. A full league photo was a first as far as I have ever seen in the world of sports. That photo speaks volumes, representing the unity of the players and the league. The Sky gave fans a season of fun.
I would like to publicly thank Director of Public Relations and Communications Kelly Kane and intern Jake Meister for facilitating our coverage, including giving us access to the team all season. I also appreciate Coach James Wade and all the players for their time, consideration and fun.
Go to for info on the league, including the rest of the playoffs. Check back here for recurring coverage of the WNBA.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

On the Beat With Athletes Unlimited Week 3 - 09/12-14/20

Another week is in the books for Athletes Unlimited. Like the previous weeks, Week Three provided a little bit of everything.
The final two games saw a pitchers' duel and a blowout. One Pendley sister (Nicole) robbed the other Pendley sister (Shelby) of a hit, but Shelby rebounded with a big home run. Speaking of home runs, there were many hit this weekend, including two off the bat of Stephanie Mauga in one game.
Some things remained the same however. Cat Osterman came out on top with three team victories and two pitching wins, including a brilliant 2-1 win over Team Piancastelli and Haylie Wagner, who also pitched a masterpiece.

Week Three final results are:

September 12
Team Piancastelli (Orange) beat Team Sanders (Purple) 7-4
Team Osterman (Yellow) beat Team Reed (Blue) 6-4

September 13
Team Piancastelli (Orange) beat Team Reed (Blue) 8-7
Team Osterman (Yellow) beat Team Sanders (Purple) 12-9

September 14
Team Reed (Blue) beat Team Sanders (Purple) 18-1
Team Osterman (Yellow) beat Team Piancastelli (Orange) 2-1

Team Osterman (Yellow) 3-0
Team Piancastelli (Orange) 2-1
Team Reed (Blue) 1-2
Team Sanders (Purple) 0-3

Week 4 Captains
Osterman, Reed, Victoria Hayward and Jessie Warren

Scoring was up this week. With a bit of help from the 18 run explosion yesterday, 79 runs were scored in total. That is up big time from Week Two's 61 runs. Again, the sample size is still too small to draw real conclusions, but it's interesting to note the scoring differences.
Osterman has a big lead in overall points and looks to be at the top when the season ends. While these athletes are all competitive, Osterman now has a bigger target on her back. Who, if anyone, will be the first to beat her or her team?
In other Athletes Unlimited news, pitcher Aleshia Ocasio will rejoin the league and is eligible for the Week 4 draft. Also, former Cal State Fullerton pitcher Trisha Parks has been added to the roster pool. Parks joined AU when Ocasio left for a family emergency. After passing the AU health protocol, both players will practice and remain with the league for the remainder of the season.
In media sessions with the players, AU writer Bruce Miles covered the game situation topics for articles on I ventured into other topics, including the players' causes, the playing conditions after the rain, the upcoming draft and more general interest topics.
One especially interesting part was Aubrey Leach discussing her grandmother Wilma Ann Williams-Leach, who played professional baseball for the Rockford Peaches in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The elder Leach played in 1953, but died in 1993, before Aubrey was born. Still, she remains a source of pride for Aubrey.
Also especially fun was Megan Wiggins, who is obviously enjoying the league immensely. Wiggins joked about the wet conditions, speed on the bases and hitting home runs, She also gave a big shout out to playing in Rosemont.
Games resume on Saturday, September 19 at noon CST as Team Warren will face Team Reed. All Week Four games will be televised on an ESPN station or the CBS Sports Network, but check your local listings.
Go to for more info on the league and the players. Also check the Athletes Unlimited Facebook page for more frequent updates.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

On the Beat With the Chicago Sky 09/14/20

The Chicago Sky finished the WNBA regular season with a 95-88 win over the Dallas Wings. The Sky finished in first place In the Eastern Conference.
The Sky had lost four consecutive games and six of their last seven. During that skid, guard Diamond DeShields (personal reasons) and forward Azura Stevens (knee injury) left the team. The Sky also acquired forward Stephanie Mavunga from the Indiana Fever for center Jantel Lavender.
Despite their Eastern Conference first place finish, the Sky is seeded sixth for the WNBA playoffs, as conference standings do not figure into the equation. At 12-10, the Sky are ranked ahead of the Connecticut Sun (10-12) and the Washington Mystics (9-13). This sets up the first round single-elimination games tonight featuring the Sky facing the Sun and the Mystics battling the Phoenix Mercury (13-9).
In the media session on Monday, Coach James Wade, forward Cheyenne Parker and guars Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley were upbeat and stressed the team simply had to play to their capabilities. While that is expected talk for a playoff team, it isn't merely lip service. Prior to their late season slide, the Sky was riding high at 11-4. They were battling for the top spot in the WNBA and were considered to be a real threat to the championship.
The Sky outscored the Sun 1,908 to 1,768. The Sky shot better from the field (49.1%-42.7%) and from 3 point territory (35.1%-31.2%). The Sun had an edge in steals (12.9-10.3) and rebounds (49.4-46.3), while the Sky led in assists (29.6-25.2). Overall. The Sky head into the game as 3.5 point favorites. I am predicting a Sky win 82-79.
Go to for more info on the league and the playoffs. Check back here, and for more coverage.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Friend Encounters: Dolly Parton and Evil Zebra

Friend Encounters is a weekly seeries featuring friends who have met celebrities.

It's been a while since we visited the Evil Zebra, everyone's (nobody's) favorite retired referee on the east coast. EZ would say he is the celebrity, but for the purpose of today, I say he takes second place to Dolly Parton.
The pair met on the set of The Mike Douglas Show. I still do not know how EZ got on the show. One day, I will pin him down and get the full story. Until then, I just get to enjoy his "Blast from the Past" posts on social media.
I keep telling EZ he should write a book or at least put his stories online somewhere. The guy has dozens (hundreds) of stories. His connection to the late actress Dana Plato is enough to merit publishing.
I'll continue prodding EZ for more stories and details, but I must be careful. He can be a bit surly. He is against pineapple on pizza and Chicago pizza in general. I try to explain that all Chicago pizza is not deep dish. We have some awesome thin crust and I actually prefer the thin crust better. He does embrace his place in The Jay Leno Club, although he often uses it for comedic fodder.
It's always fun seeing EZ encounters. I will continue featuring EZ and hoping to get more stories.
Evil Zebra and Dolly Parton in California-1980.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Celebrity Jersey Cards #498 Chubb Bradley & Martin Truex Jr.

This is a regular series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing jerseys. Once again, we are working our way alphabetically through all of the Major League Baseball teams.

After a successful college career at North Carolina State University, defensive end Chubb Bradley was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. Switched to outside linebacker, Bradley had an excellent rookie season. Unfortunately, a partially torn ACL, ended his 2019 season after four games. Bradley is recovered and looking forward to a great 2020 season. Bradley was greeted with thunderous applause when he threw out a pitch for the Colorado Rockies and ultimately landed on a Celebrity Jersey Card.
New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr. is a stock car racer. He is the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and a two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. Truex earned his Celebrity Jersey Card when he threw a ceremonial pitch for the Rockies. He wore #78 for his then #78 car. No Rockies player ever has worn #78. Actually, no MLB player has worn it either.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Cards That Never Were: Johngy Topps Athletes Unlimited 2020

Cards That Never Were is a recurring series in which I create virtual trading cards for players missed in various sets. It is a concept I have borrowed from far too many to list, but I appreciate all o their efforts.

Athletes Unlimited and the Topps Company are making history and softball cards. Topps is creating an online exclusive trading card set for the league. The 60 card set will feature all 56 players and four "About the League" cards. There will also be a special "Championship Set" in October, which will feature the Athletes Unlimited Softball League Champion, Defensive Player of the Season and other award and highlight cards.
There are 56 players in the league and each one will have a card. Who does that leave for a missing card creation? You have to see where this is going.
While I usually do my own PhotoShop work, newer cards give me fits and I occasionally lean on my friend Lynn from the Custom Baseball Cards Facebook group. Lynn is probably the best and most prolific creator in the group. He is my "go-to" guy on projects beyond my skill level.
Such was the case with this "necessary" Card That Never Was.

Friday, September 11, 2020

On the Beat With Big Mama of Girl Fight Wrestling

My coverage of Girl Fight Wrestling continues with an interview with Big Mama. I was “On the Beat” and I got a little background on and insight into her.
Big Mama started her wrestling journey in 2006 at BoneKrushers National Pro Wrestling Training Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Under the tutelage of wrestling veteran and former WWF referee Roger Ruffen and guest trainers TNA's Abyss and New Japan's Karl Anderson, Big Mama honed her skills in preparation for her debut. Two years later on April 5, 2008, Big Mama stepped into the ring for her first pro bout.
That is the basic biographical background of Big Mama's road to the ring, but the full story is a bit more colorful as she tells it in our interview. Long road trips from school, keeping her mom in the dark, turning 18 and more are part of the back story. Also, find out the role (or “blame” as we joked) her grandfather has in her story. Big Mama talks about all of that, her favorite wrestlers, her thoughts on Girl Fight Wrestling and Nikki Victory, her sometimes tag team partner, but opponent at Jawbreaker.
The “teacher versus student” is a wrestling staple and it will come alive again on Saturday, September 26 as Epic Wrestling Entertainment presents Girl Fight Wrestling Jawbreaker at the Park Memorial UMC in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The Big Mama-Nikki Victory story has a twist from the classic tale however.
While Big Mama definitely plans on winning and handing down a beating along the way, she is quick to state it doesn't change the tag team partnership with Victory. It's all part of wrestling as Big Mama sees it and she is right. She has fought with and against Victory before and the Big Victory tag team remains intact.
Because of their history and tag teaming, they know each other well. Will they capitalize on each other's weaknesses or will there be any mercy from one partner to another? Being familiar with Girl Fight Wrestling, I can tell you this can go many ways. One thing is certain though. It will be a great match.
In preparing for my interview with Big Mama, I watched some of her matches on YouTube. I saw shades of the legendary Earthquake in her, a comparison she does not dismiss and in fact, embraces. Much like 'Quake had a size advantage in many of his matches, so does Big Mama and also like him, she knows how to effectively use her size. Equipped with a solid move set and a mind for the sport, Big Mama is a force in the ring.
The Main Event for Jawbreaker is Mickie Knuckles versus Su Yung. Another match pits the purple haired maniac Charlie Kruel against “Small and Mean” Salena Dean, my two most recent interview subjects. In addition to Big Mama versus Victory, there are also a few other great matches. As Mad Man Pondo promised in our first interview about Girl Fight Wrestling, it is a show all about women, showcasing the best and toughest women.
As I continue to interview the fine women athletes about Girl Fight Wrestling, it becomes increasingly more apparent how passionate they are about it. It's also apparent it will be a great night. The more passionate these wrestlers are, the better the action will be.
Go to Girl Fight Wrestling on Facebook for more info and updates. Also, check out Fans of Big Mama on Facebook for news, updates and other fun stuff.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

On the Beat With Athletes Unlimited Week 2 - 09/05-07/20

Athletes Unlimited Softball wrapped up another exciting weekend of softball action at the Ballpark in Rosemont, Illinois. The six games had a little bit of everything.
Cat Osterman's teams remained perfect, adding three more wins to the three wins from the first week of play. Osterman pitched two gems, including a 2-1 nail-biter to end the week.
Team Ocasio had a solid week, but just couldn't beat Osterman. Despite losing two of three, Team Hayward had the biggest offensive explosion, scoring 13 runs in their second game. Team Show went 0-3, but lost two tight games.

Week 2 final results are
September 5
Team Ocasio (Purple) beat Team Show (Orange) 6-4
Team Team Osterman (Gold) beat Team Hayward (Blue) 5-2
September 6
Team Hayward (Blue) beat Team Show (Orange) 13-5
Team Osterman (Gold) beat Team Ocasio (Purple) 5-4
September 7
Team Ocasio (Purple) beat Team Hayward (Blue) 9-5
Team Osterman (Gold) beat Team Show (Orange) 2-1

Team Osterman (Gold) 3-0
Team Ocasio (Purple) 2-1
Team Hayward (Blue) 1-2
Team Show (Orange( 0-3

Week 3 Captains
Cat Osterman, Aleshia Ocasio, Janie Reed and DJ Sanders

Overall, scores were down from last week. It's too small of a sample size to call any trend. Last week, there was more offense, with teams scoring a total of 74 runs, while this week, 61 runs were scored.
Going into Week Three, one question is a main topic of discussion. Will Osterman ever lose? She's running away with overall points. She'll be captain again. As a captain, it is important to have a dominating pitcher and Osterman immediately starts off with the best, herself.
In the media session, I asked Osterman about the pressures and duties of being the captain. Would she like to just be a player for once? Of course, knowing her, I could have guessed tht answer. Sh loves it. She even stated she is having as much fun as ever. Competitors l;ike Osterman are never “just players” regardless of captian tiles.
One aspect of Athletes Unlimited that doesn't get enough exposure features the athletes playing for various causes they chose. Part of the financial aspect of the game involves players earning bonuses which go to these chosen causes. In the media sessions, I asked the athletes to discuss their chosen causes.
As seemingly everything else with Athletes Unlimited, this is a unique situation. I know of no other professional sports league where the players earn money for their charities. Many athletes have charitable causes, but there is no other league that does it like Athletes Unlimited. The next time someone mentions the greed of athletes, feel free to mention Athletes Unlimited.
We see the athletes' passion on the field every game, but this was an opportunity to see their passion for a given cause. As you will hear, some athletes are playing for local organizations, which others are playing for world-wide organizations.
In media sessions all weekend, I asked players about their chosen causes. Hannah Flippen, Nerissa Myers, Morgan Howe, Erika Piancastelli, Jessica Warren, Nadia Taylor, Janie Reed, DJ Sanders and Cat Osterman discussed their chosen causes. As I wrote, the causes are varied, but the emotions in these athletes. In a league for and by the athletes, this is something they decided to do to give back. It's a part of the league that deserves more exposure.
The Week Three draft is being held tonight. Check Global Women's Sports Radio for the results and our continuing coverage of Athletes Unlimited. For more info on the players and the league, go to