Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Statues Week: Walter Payton in Chicago

Statues Week features sculptures honoring famous people or characters.

Walter Payton was one of the first superstars I watched from the beginning of his career. Payton starred for teh Bears for 13 seasons, amassing 16,726 rushing yards and 4,838 receiving yards. He also had 331 passing yards, 539 kick return yards and 39 punting yards. Payton could do it all. For much of his brilliant career, he was the Chicago Bears!
Payton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Tragically, he died in 1999 at the young age of 45.
In 2019, the Chicago Bears unveiled statues of Payton and former owner George Halas. The 12-foot, 3,000 pound statues were sculpted by Fisher Sculpture and designed by Populous. Both statues are on the south end of the Soldier Field area, just outside the stadium. 
I took my picture with the Payton statue while covering a Bears game in 2020. Since I never met Payton, this was as close as I would ever get.
Walter Payton and me in Chicago, IL-December 2020.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Statues Week: Orlando Cepeda in San Francisco

Statues Week is a celebration of interesting statues.

Hall of Fame shortstop Orlando Cepeda spent the first nine years of his career with the San Francisco Giants. In all, Cepeda would play 17 seasons, with other stints with the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Oakland A's, Boston Red Sox. and the Kansas City Royals. He retired after the 1974 season and was a Veteran's Committee HOF selection in 1999.
Cepeda's statue was unveiled in 2008 at AT&T Park, home of the Giants. Sculpted out of bronze by William Behrends, Cepeda's statue stands at 9 feet, with a five foot base. Cepeda was the fourth Giant to be so honored, following Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal.
I got my pic with the Cepeda statue while on my annual Boys of Summer baseball trip. The Giants shut out the rival Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 for a BOS winner!
 Orlando Cepada and me in San Francisco, CA-Summer 2011.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Friend Encounters: Statue Week: Bridget Mac & Scottie Pippen Statue

Friend Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities. This is also Statue Week. All week I am featuring some beautiful statues. This is a special Friend Encounters Statue Week edition. This is a special Statues Week edition of Friend Encounters.

Today's picture features two champions. Scottie Pippen won six championships with the Chicago Bulls and is Hall of Fame bound at some point. Always obviously overshadowed by Michael Jordan, Pippen still made the list of the Top 50 NBA players of all time. Being second banana to MJ is good and bad, but nobody can deny Pippen's talent.
Bridget Mac didn't win six championships, but she did win a Legends Football League title with the Chicago Bliss and I got to watch it happen. Bridget was the "Voice of the Rookies," always up for a fun interview.
When the Bliss won the Legends Cup several years back, each player got to spend a week with the actual Cup. Bridget took hers to the United Center for a photo op with the statue of Pippen. That makes this a Statue Week feature and a Trophy Week feature!
Bridget Mac in Chicago, IL-October 2014.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Celebrity Jersey Cards #639 Lisa Leslie & Chelsea Gray

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing sports jerseys. Today, I continue my season-long alphabetical journey through all Major League Baseball teams with a couple WNBA-MLB crossovers.

California native Lisa Leslie starred at USC, before embarking on a stellar 12 year career with the Los Angeles Sparks. She has been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball HOF. Leslie threw a ceremonial pitch for the Dodgers to earn her Celebrity Jersey Card.
Like Leslie, Chelsea Gray is also a California native who played for the Sparks. Gray played her college ball at Duke and started her pro career with the Connecticut Sun. She followed her one season with the Sun with five seasons with the Sparks, before moving onto the Las Vegas Aces last season. Also like Leslie, Gray tossed a pitch for the Dodgers and got her Celebrity Jersey Card.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

David Eckstein Surprised Me at Fan Expo

Yesterday, I wrote about an extra surprise when I met actress Ashley Eckstein. Today, I feature that surprise, her husband David.

David had an excellent 10 year Major League Baseball career. He started with the Anaheim Angels, but also played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres. He was the World Series MVP when his Cardinals won it all in 2006.

Of course as a Chicago Cubs fan, David and the Cardinals were rivals. Still, I am a baseball fan. Cubc loyalist or not, I would never pass a chance to meet a player like David.

As I wrote yesterday, always eep your eyes open at Fan Expo. You never know who might be with your favorite celebrity or just in the crowd. I was the first person to recognize David, which might not be a big deal, because most of the attendees are not hge baseball fans.

Fan Expo returns to Chicago August 10-13. As always, I will be "On the Beat" meeting all sorts of celebrities and creators.

For more info on Ashley, go to Also, check for updates and scheduling.

Ashley Eckstein and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2022.

David Eckstein and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2022.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Ashley Eckstein at Fan Expo

Fan Expo returns to Chicago August 10-13. As always, I will be "On the Beat" meeting all sorts of celebrities and creators. Last year at Fan Expo, I met a cool celebrity and got an added bonus of meeting her famous husband.

Ashley Eckstein is an actress, designer voice over actress and more.  She is might be best known as the voice of Ahsoka Tano in the Star Wars franchise. She also played Jan Brady in the TV-movie The Brady Bunch in the White House. She became an author in 2018 with the release of It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make It Happen.

While waiting to meet Ashley, I looked at her handler and he looked very familiar. Then it clicked in my head. It was David, her husband and former Major League player. When I approached him, I asked if it would be possible to get a picture with him, too. He immediately started coming around the booth. When I said it wasn't necessary, that I could take a selfie across the table, he brushed it aside and came around anyway.

Ashley saw it and I explained I was a big baseball fan, even though David played for the rival St. Louis Cardinals for a while. We all laughed a bit, but I think they both got a real kick out of me recognizing him.

Ashley took a few selfies with me and I went on my way. As I walked past the long line waiting to meet her, several fans asked why I took a picture with her handler. Even after I told them who it was, most still didn't know. There weren't a lot of baseball fans in the crowd.

The lesson here is to keep your eyes open. You never know who you might see at Fan Expo.

For more info on Ashley, go to Also, check for updates and scheduling.

Ashley Eckstein and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2022.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Arn Anderson and Brock Anderson at C2E2

Arn Anderson had an interesting wrestling career. He is considered one of the best to never win a major World Title. He won many tag team titles and midcard titles, but he never won the major belt in a big company. He was also in the Four Horsemen, a stable many view as the best faction ever.
Anderson is now in All Elite Wrestling as a manager onscreen and probably much more backstage. He has a tremendous mind for the business, on the mic, in the ring and on booking. His son Brock is a young talent in AEW, too.
Last year, my comic creator friend Dirk Manning announced he would be producing a graphic novel of Anderson's career. This is big news in the wrestling and comic worlds. Manning had tremendous success with Butts in Seats: The Tony Schiavone Story and I am sure Anderson's book will be just as successful and probably even better.
I met the Andersons at C2E2 last year, along with catching up with Mnning and Schiavone. I am betting the Andersons will be doing more signings as the book nears release.
For more info on the book, go to Also, go to for more info on C2E2 2022, running August 5-7. 
Arn Anderson, Brock Anderson and me in Chicago, IL-December 2021.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

On the Beat With Maddie Kapsimalis of Dayton SB

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Maddie Kapsimalis, who finished her second collegiate season on the softball diamond. It was a special interview for several reasons.

Although Maddie played her high school ball at Glenbrook South in a nearby suburb, I had not seen her play in person until this season when her Dayton Flyers played at Loyola. Maddie's father Greg and her godfather Chuck Gekas are longtime friends, which made it even more unlikely I had not seen her play.

Maddie had a stellar season, batting .358 after flirting with .400 for most of the season. As great as that season was, Maddie had even better stats in high school, where she put up a .407 average to rank her seventh all time in Illinois. She accomplished all of this while coping with type 1 diabetes.

A age six, Maddie was diagnosed with T1D, but that did not deter her from an athletic career. She set a goal to be  a two-sport varsity athlete and she achieved that goal in her sophomore year. She went on to Drexel and then Dayton, putting up impressive stats along the way. Maddie speaks openly about dealing with T1D, but she has dealt with it so long, it is part of life. Maddie's courage and the difficulties T1D brings should not be minimized or overlooked.

The Flyers finished with their second-most wins in program history. The future looks bright for the team and Maddie. Entering her junior season, Maddie will assume a bigger leadership role, while continuing to put up impressive stats at bat and on defense.

Maddie discussed all of this in our interview. Soft-spoken and humble, Maddie is special on and of the field. Despite my loyalty to Loyola, I love watching players like Maddie and teams like Dayton. You can't help but like them. I already look forward to Dayton's next trip to Loyola.

I wrote more about Maddie and her career on Check the story and interview, along with all the great sports coverage on EDF.

Check the interview at On the Beat With Maddie Kapsimalis on YouTube. Go to for more info on Maddie and the Flyers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Mark DeCarlo on Food and Travel

Born in Chicago, Mark DeCarlo has done a lot in the entertainment industry. He has hosted, created, produced and participated in many television projects. He even was a contest on Sale of the Century, winning more than $100k.
Several years ago, I met and interviewed Mark at a convention which had a lot of potential. The convention ended up being wrought with issues, but that's another story. The good news is I met so many great folks, including Mark. Our interview is at On the Beat With Mark DeCarlo.
Mark hosted a show on the Travel Channel for two seasons and also had a food and travel related podcast with his wife. I talked to Mark about all of this in our interview.
I love meeting folks like Mark. He is an under-the-radar celebrity, but he has done so much. He gave me several minutes of his time at the convention both on and off camera. In a convention filled with stars, meeting Mark ranked right up there as one of the best experiences.
Go to for more info on Mark and his career. There's also cool merch there.
Mark DeCarlo and me in Bloomingdale, IL-November 2016.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Friend Encounters: Elmo and Mad Man Pondo

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

Mad Man Pondo and Elmo. Now that is an interesting tag-team. There's the hardcore legend and the children's favorite. Would they be a mismatched, but effective, tag team? Would one lean towards the other? Perhaps an edgier Elmo? Or a soft side of Pondo? Whatever way it developed, it would be fun to watch.
I have previously written about Pondo many times. He is one of the good guys in the pro wrestling business and I don't mean his in-ring persona, although he is a fan favorite there, too. Pondo is pure professional. He is the king of hardcore and can be intimidating, but he is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.
He is also a great teacher. I saw him give advice so many times back in our days together at Resistance Pro Wrestling. Never pushy and always on target, Pondo helped anyone who went to him. He'd spend more time with others than working his own match. He was very giving and a huge asset to the locker room.
Pondo also had a lot of great stories. I loved listening to him tell tales in and out of the ring. I am not rubbing it in though. You can read about many of those stories in Memoirs of a Mad Man, his book written with my pal John Cosper.
It's a fantastic book and John was the perfect choice as a writer. A respectful historian, John has the knowledge and enthusiasm to help bring Pondo's stories to life. There is also talk of another Pondo book and I can't wait!
For more info and for John's other books, go to Also, check here for my updates from John.
Mad Man Pondo and Elmo in Hollywood Studios, FL-January 2020.