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August 2018

Expanded Roster Report: Blue Jays Predictions

By Tammy Rainey

 

Every year fans anticipate what their favorite team will do when it comes to September call-ups. Of course if you’re a fan of, say, the 2018 Red Sox that’s not the foremost issue on your mind but for a team looking to build for the future like the Toronto Blue Jays are this year, it’s a shiny sprinkle of glitter on an otherwise potentially dreary string being played out.

 

The Blue Jays, like many other clubs, are notoriously slow and sloppy about publicizing such news (honestly, I probably have a rant-post in me for a future date about how teams could be so much better in the digital age about making an event out of certain roster activity throughout their system rather than letting beat reporters drag it out through the gritted teeth of some staffer) and here I sit, four hours from September 1, as of this writing,  with incomplete news for you. So I’ll tell you what I know from the beat reports, and offer my best guess at what goes on beyond that.

 

It was always easy to anticipate that Top 10 prospect Sean Reid-Foley would be back in the first wave and, indeed, he’s set to start for the Jays on Sunday. Joining him, per Shi Davidi, in the first bunch will be RH reliever Tyler Guerrieri and LH Jose Fernandez.  Another easy guess was the return of Justin Schafer, another RH reliever the team is impressed with, and veteran Jake Petricka but since neither have been down the requisite 10 days, they have to wait until after the AAA season ends on Monday.

 

That’s all the official word that’s on the wire on the subject as of now. But it’s certainly not the only players who’ll be coming north. There are a few factors one can look at as one tries to anticipate the potential moves. First, anyone on the 40 man roster is at least a theoretical possibility. Secondary to that, any player who might need to be added to the 40 this winter in order to be protected from the Rule 5 draft will be considered. If a player falls into neither group, it’s rare indeed to see him added because teams are obsessive about managing roster spots, particularly prospect rich teams.

 

Beyond that, historically teams don’t go to 40 players just because they can. The space in the clubhouse is limited and seldom do they pack in even as many as 10 extra players. Usually you see more relief pitchers than anything else but if a team has a position where the major league squad lacks depth, you can look for a match there too. With these considerations in mind, a savvy observer can make some guesses, but you never really know. For example, the three returning guys above were easy predictions, Guerrieri not as much but being on the 40 means it was no shock - but adding Fernandez to the 40 man roster is a mild surprise. He has had a good season at AAA and was a spring training invite the last two seasons so they have had their eye on him. Still, I didn’t expect it. So we have identified five pitchers, there are only two more on the 40 and one of them is injured and the other would have been likely to be designated to make room for Fernandez absent the Donaldson trade so let’s turn our attention to position players.

 

Shortstop Richard Urena has gotten enough major league work this year to make his return all but certain, ditto for outfielder Dwight Smith, Jr. The former has hit better in the majors than we have any right to expect given his minor league performance, the latter has acquitted himself well in previous appearances. Others on the 40 already include the following:

Catcher Reese McGuire - typically teams always add an extra catcher, but there are three in Toronto already so he might not make it.

First Baseman Rowdy Tellez - has had a very impressive recovery after one of his typical slow starts (and coming off a very troubled season in 2017) but while it would be good to get a look, 1B and DH are filled nicely and there are already a lot of extra bodies to try and work into an occasional DH role.

Center Fielder Anthony Alford - Player development manager Gil Kim expressed this week that the team was pleased with the progress Alford has made over recent weeks in recovering from a horrible start to the season (marred, again, by injury and interrupted by a brief recall in April) and there’s a pretty good argument for getting him in the hands of the major league staff for a few weeks. One could also argue for giving him a breather and sending him to the AFL in October, and in theory he could do both and i expect that he will.
Outfielder Dalton Pompey - To be completely honest, no one knows what the team is doing with him at this point. I can’t think of a single reason not to recall him (other than the problem of having seven outfielders in the room and getting everyone some reps. Particularly given he’s out of options next spring and every look is crucial at this point. But maybe they have decided to move on already?

 

Finally, there’s one non-roster player that might get added later. As of now he’s on the post-season bound New Hampshire Fisher cats where he’s an untouchable closer. If the playoffs go well he will be busy there for as much as two more weeks. But after that, it’s not impossible that Travis Bergen will get to dip his toes in the big league waters. He’s been a monster this year, he’s a lefty who could very well break camp with the Jay in 2019 with a good spring, and he’d be Rule 5 eligible this winter if not added. More evidence is that he was not announced on the initial roster for the Arizona Fall League where he would seem to be a natural fit (not that the two are exclusionary to each other).

 

Forced to predict, I’m pretty sure Alford joins the sure bets, Pompey too, and Bergen gets that cup of coffee. Anyone I haven’t yet mentioned would be a pretty big shock (unless the team acquires someone in a trade tonight that’s a logical candidate).


Picture it, Phillies, 1946: The Remarkable Life of Edith Houghton, First Full-time Female Scout

Hard as it is now, Houghton joined a boys club when it was damn near impossible.

By Jason Love

The Philadelphia 76ers made national news recently with the hiring of Lindsey Harding as a full-time scout. The former WNBA and Duke University basketball star became just the second full-time female scout in NBA history. Harding’s hiring is reminiscent of another female pioneer who made history with a different Philadelphia professional sports team over 70 years ago. 

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The Philadelphia Phillies hired Edith Houghton as a full-time scout in 1946. Houghton who grew up in North Philadelphia (the same neighborhood where WNBA star and Olympic gold-medalist Dawn Staley would hone her basketball skills years later) across the street from a baseball diamond. Bob Carpenter, the Phillies owner, decided to hire Houghton after she met with him and General Manger Herb Pennock. 

Houghton became the first full-time female scout working solo in Major League Baseball history. Bessie Largent was previously employed by the Chicago White Sox in the 1920s through the early 1940s scouting players. However, she worked alongside her husband Roy who was a full-time scout for the team. Bessie assisted Roy as they worked in tandem. 

Born in 1912 Houghton played for the Philadelphia Bobbies, an all-girl baseball team. The Bobbies pre-dated the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). The AAGPBL started in the 1940s and was the inspiration for the film A League of Their Own starring Geena Davis and Tom Hanks.  Houghton, the youngest player on the Bobbies, toured the United States and even Japan playing baseball throughout the 1920s. Known as “The Kid” she primarily played shortstop and was a student of the game. 

Established in 1883 the Phillies have never been known as a progressive team. The Phillies were the last team in the National League to integrate. Philadelphia was also one of the last teams to introduce analytics to their game plan. With the exceptions of their recent hiring of Gabe Kalpler and Matt Klentak, the Phillies are an old-school organization rooted in tradition. The hiring of Houghton was a bold move by the Phillies at the time. There is some debate as to why Carpenter took a chance on Houghton. Was he impressed with her knowledge of the game? The team had struggled for many years (decades even!) and some say he had nothing to lose with adding Houghton as a scout. He decided to take a gamble on the young woman with an incredible amount of baseball knowledge.  

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How did a young woman from North Philadelphia end up working for the Phillies? Houghton served in the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services) during WW II. After the war and needing a job, she simply asked to meet with the ownership. At this time the Phillies played at Shibe Park (later named Connie Mack Stadium) at 21st and Lehigh not far from her home. Growing up in the area, many people within the sport were familiar with the young baseball prodigy. Her persistence paid off, and she was brought in for the interview. 

After being hired, Houghton worked for the Phillies from 1946 – 1951. The region she covered was the Greater-Philadelphia area and South Jersey. Houghton signed more than a dozen players during her time with the Phillies although none ever made it to the majors. Since she was still in the Navy Reserves, she was called back to service during the Korean War. Once her service ended Houghton decided to move on from baseball. 

Many years passed since Houghton’s time with the Phillies before baseball saw another female scout working on a full-time basis. The Seattle Mariners hired Amanda Hopkins as a scout in 2016. She is currently in her third year working for the Mariners. Nathan Bannister is a pitcher Hopkins scouted who was drafted by Seattle. Bannister is playing for the Arkansas Travelers in the Mariners minor league system. 

In addition to the Mariners, other women are now working with MLB teams. The Oakland Athletics hired Haley Alvarez as a scouting coordinator. A few years back the A’s also hired Justine Siegal to work for the organization as a guest instructor with their younger players. Astrid DeGruchy worked on a part-time basis scouting for the San Diego Padres. Kim Ng holds a vice-president position within Major League Baseball’s executive offices. Women are making inroads into many different upper-level positions within professional baseball. 

Baseball had a female general manager on the minor league side of the equation a few years ago. Lindsay Rosenberg worked her way up within the Camden Riversharks organization until being named GM in 2015. The Riversharks were an independent team playing in the Atlantic League. Unfortunately, the Riversharks ran into difficulty with their lease at Campbell’s Field and the team folded after the 2015 season.

It is feasible that in a few years a woman will be a general manager for a major league team. Returning to Houghton, after leaving the Phillies she lived a relatively quiet life. Houghton ended up moving to Sarasota, Florida where she passed away in 2013 at 100 years of age. She is buried in Northwood Cemetery in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. It is fitting she is buried alongside professional baseball players such as Kid Gleason, Duke Esper and George Bradley. The Baseball Hall of Fame also has a display about her inspirational story. From growing up in North Philadelphia to playing baseball throughout the United States to visiting Japan to having her story told in Cooperstown, Edith Houghton lived a remarkable life. 

 

 

 

 


The Feminist, Celebratory, Unapologetic Victory of G.L.O.W.

'G.L.O.W.' Gives Women A Ringside Seat To a Feminist Uprising

By Jessica Quiroli

I can’t look away from Debbie Egan’s face.

The hold her every expression of pain, unhinged humor, desperation, heartache has on me is transcendentally powerful.

And in this moment, the final minutes of Season 2 of the Netflix original series “G.L.O.W.”’ she’s holding me so still that the only sensation I feel is my throat tightening, and a vague shakiness.

For that moment, standing before her ex-husband, Mark (Rich Sommer), and her infant son, Randy--Look. At. Her. Face.

Betty Gilpin is a brilliant revelation not just in that pivotal moment. She experiences so many different and complex emotions and situations, and plays them all to the hilt. Her utter embodiment of a woman on the verge makes taking my eyes off of her impossible. I felt her performance in my bones.

Every woman in the cast creates a unique energy. Each character carries a weight, expresses a desire to achieve, and represents something within each one of us, or, at least, someone we’re familiar with. Ruth, played pitch perfect by Alison Brie, stars as the central character who also offsets multiple key storylines. Her character is a mess, but knows it. She’s smart, but not particularly savvy, something she develops as time goes on when she's forced to up her game. She’s also the estranged best friend of Debbie--estranged due to extraordinary betrayals.

The dynamics between the two women is chemistry personified. Not only are they entirely different people, and opposites in how they live their lives, they’re also at constant personal odds over real-life pain. Lucky for viewers, and fictional fans in the seats, they bring that to their rivalry in the ring.

But, digging deeper, they represent an archetype. Debbie, the good wife and mother sacrifices a successful acting career, and her ambitions, in order to stay in her suburban home with Randy. Ruth’s single and struggling to find success in her career. She’s disconnected, uncertain, but ambitious and passionate, while battling wounding insecurities that lead to self-destructive actions.

The Netflix original series is set in the 80’s, but these women are as real and current today as in the era  of big hair. In the age of the #MeToo movement, they feel urgently necessary.

There are direct forms of sexual politics and harassment, such as Ruth’s private meeting with an exec who wants a sexual encounter, and, perhaps, if she cooperates, there’s a possibility that could facilitate the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling surviving. Women’s experiences as easily abused sexual objects, overpowered throughout industries big and small are weaved into the fabric of every episode and, of course, the entire premise. The women in the ring didn’t choose GLOW, it chose them. But, eventually, a bond forms even between the most unlikely of sisters. That camaraderie is so much the essence of female kinship and solidarity, whether personal or professional, or both. What these women get isn’t what they showed up for. But, as is so common, women begin to unravel, reveal and fight in ways brand new to them. 

There are important characters across the board: richly drawn with emotional depth and nuance. Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) is the leader the team needs: athletic, an experienced stunt woman, vocal, passionate and sharply instinctual. Her marriage to referee/actor Keith (Bashir Salahuddin) shows a healthy relationship between an African American couple, something television needs much more, and that includes all communities of color. Tamme, Welfare Queen in the ring, is superbly, poignantly portrayed by real-life wrestler Kia Stevens. While diversity is often discussed and not executed, the series will hopefully continue showcasing their talents, and increase their screen time. With creators Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive serving as executive producers, along with Jenji Kohan (Weeds, Orange is the New Black) and Tara Herrmann, the possibilities for the women of G.L.O.W. seem endless. 

Let's talk about Marc Maron. As Sam Sylvia, he plays G.L.O.W.'s weathered director. His behaviors are sometimes sexist, but there’s some unraveling here, too. His attitude toward Ruth as a director, or Debbie as a producer is barely camouflaged insecurity that pulsates through his face and voice in every scene. And he’s honest in many moments about that, privately, outwardly and in ways that require some old fashioned women’s emotional labor in order to recognize the subtext. We can’t praise him for his treatment of Ruth and Debbie as enthusiastic creative partners. We can, however, recognize that he’s not trying to abuse anyone, even as his inclinations are hurtful; and he’s as complex as the women he’s working with. Is Ruth a hero? Is Debbie? Both women hurt each other, manipulate, tear down, judge and play power games. In male-speak, that’s being a cutthroat business man. When you peel the emotional layers of Sam, Debbie and Ruth, you don’t see hateful, selfish, immoral people. You’re looking in the face of desperation, desire, loss of self, unspoken or unrealized love, and hopefulness. It’s easy to be equally angry or disappointed in them, as you simultaneously root for them, cry for them and laugh at the moments they surrender to their emotional nuttiness, no longer hiding their cracks.

Finally, there’s a larger theme here that cuts deep, making G.L.O.W. even more timely.

Just as this retro sports show has exploded in popularity and honors (TEN Emmy nominations!), women’s sports is emerging on a bigger stage, but, more than that, women are fighting more publicly, and with tremendous support. Serena Williams came under attack by the French Tennis Federation for a bodysuit she wore to compete. The suit, designed to help her with postpartum blood clots, wasn’t the final word. She wore a tutu the next two times she took the court, sending a message, with acid humor, that you can’t control women’s bodies without a defiant act, and a ton of outrage across social media. The WNBA has been fighting for equality in pay and coverage, and, the most powerful moment in recent sports history happened when USA Olympic gymnasts came forward as sexual abuse survivors, outing former coach Larry Nassar for years of harm. These moments change the guard. Creators of television and film would be wise to commit to reflecting that in their art.

I imagine a day in the fictional G.L.O.W. universe, when Debbie and Ruth stand on a stage being honored for their contributions as women and performers. I envision them speaking publicly and forcefully about the need to take power from the sexist monsters who attempted to or actually did assault them, and so many other women, while stealing their dreams with no consequences. The subplots that touch on these charged issues of sexual objectification and powerlessness are retro AND current. Big hair and spandex have changed. Other things don’t.

This is our time. And G.L.O.W. fits right in. 

 


Special Report: "Chyna," WWE's Cautionary Tale, Had Big Impact on LGBTQ Youth

Why has the WWE taken so long to honor Joanie Laurer's popular alter ego?

By Em Burfitt

The end of Joanie Laurer’s story is far too common. The perils of an addictive personality mixed with a cavernous need to be loved inside of anyone can be damaging. Why should the Ninth Wonder of the World be any different? 

As a kid in the 90’s, the WWE—then the WWF—was everything. More in, as a girl in the 90’s who was wild about it, there was nobody greater to watch than Chyna. Lying in a bath of bubbles around Summerslam may have taught me the meaning of “viewer discretion”, but I was never particularly advised.

I stopped watching wrestling around the time that the WWE let Chyna go, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Rumors swirled around the wrestling forums I used to lurk, where we’d each have terribly pieced together banners of our favorite wrestlers done in Paint. For years, the circumstances over her no longer appearing in the squared circle was because of the love affair between Paul Levesque—known as Triple H—and Stephanie McMahon, the boss’s daughter. Equally, for years, that tale was canon.

Turns out, according to Jim Ross, she’d bitten the hands that fed her by asking for more money than the company could handle for one superstar. This explains why she was let go, but as for being left out of the Hall of Fame when the stars already in its annals are, arguably, just as screwed up. Arguing to separate the art from the artist can only go so far, but Joanie certainly never killed anyone. 

Even though I stopped watching years ago, I still kept quite a bit of the memorabilia I’d amassed over the years. There’s a cover of RAW magazine with Chyna on the cover; on it, she’s holding up a metal globe on a background of stars. The last time I rifled through this box was right after she’d died. Another thing I hadn’t realized was that, in the time between when I’d been a teenage obsessive and that moment, this iconic woman many of us had looked up to had fallen on the wrong side of the tracks.

At the root of it all, Jim Ross said that she just wanted to be loved. Who can’t relate to that?

When I began reading more into Joanie’s post-WWE life, it was a mix of feeling empathy for her, and wonder. A wonder of how the same woman who pinned Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship received more flack for doing porn than she did praise for the entire legacy she’d left in the wrestling world. There was a feeling of disconnect. 

In an interview with Broadly, Joanie’s mother Jan LaQue, said that she’d advised her daughter not to go back to California. She told her to get away from the “Chyna” persona, and to just be her. After 30 years of not speaking as the result of a tumultuous decade that ultimately led to Joanie leaving home to live with her father, they’d been exchanging emails in the years preceding her last. In the course of the emails, LaQue thought her daughter wanted to escape the persona and return to who she was. 

I bring this up because, as a wrestling fan in my teens, the superstars were who they were on television. Despite relentless searches on dial up internet connections about wrestlers’ real names, Chris Jericho was Chris Jericho, Kane was Kane (and given his current political standings, if only that were still the case), and Chyna was Chyna. So if Joanie was Chyna to many of us who idolized her, then presumably, that was the path to being loved. And those of us who loved her or not, should know how solid her standing should be in the legacy of the WWE: the Hall of Fame.

Something I also remember from the wrestling days was a barrage of comments about how “Chyna is a man!” or “Chyna is a lesbian!” I’m a queer kid from a tiny town, so there was always an interesting level of what I like to call Whatthef-kery going on there. If being muscular means you’re “a man” or a “lesbian”, aren’t both of those terms, directed at a woman, meant as an insult? Statements like that not only affected Laurer—a woman who wanted to be seen as sexy and feminine—but gay kids like me who heard we weren’t “good enough” either. And, unfortunately, even after the WWE, these insults towards Joanie herself only increased after her sex tape with Sean “X-Pac” Waltman.

On that same note, is a sex tape really that much of a big deal?

In the PG-rated world of wrestling—all holds barred matches and playing with nails is fine—apparently, yes. 

But even if the first of many sex tapes didn’t exist, would Chyna have been inducted into the Hall of Fame? 

In the November 2000 issue of Raw magazine, which is both the one I mentioned earlier and also has an article about Chris Benoit, there’s an exclusive “sneak peek” into Chyna’s Playboy shoot. In the sneak peek, Laurer talks to the magazine about how she hopes the shoot will be inspiring. She says that from a Joanie Laurer standpoint, “There’s a lot of bodies that are not shown because they’re not the norm.” Later, she asserts that she can be bigger and stronger and still beautiful, regardless of outsider voices. “The great thing to me is that I can show [who I really am] in all of those aspects.” Maybe her personal downfall that would happen just a couple of years later came from not getting to be who she was at the same time as being part of her wrestling family.

I reached out via email to an incredible entertainment writer who might be one of the best voices on the topic of wrestling, LaToya Ferguson. I wanted another woman’s view on what happened with Joanie, as I navigate this strange world I was once so familiar with, from the outside, it’s often difficult to split what happened in the ring from what happened in reality. As the author of an in-the-works book on women’s wrestling—covering both sides of the McMahon/Levesque/Laurer divide—she was certainly the right person to ask.

In doing this, my internal search for reasoning behind wanting to know more ended up taking a different path to the same argument: Chyna should be in the WWE Hall of Fame. She should have been long before she lost the cage match to addiction. However many people out there say she wasn’t a good wrestler, I’d put my left foot on the line in saying there’s three times the number of people who say and think otherwise. I’m one of them.

Chyna should be in the Hall of Fame for a legion of reasons, but now, in ways, I understand there were things she did that destroyed the chance. Or liabilities that, when under the influence of who knows how many substances, she might. LaToya said it best via email, that there was always going to be a chance she’d go off script and maybe if she’d have gotten fully clean and apologized, just maybe, she’d have gotten back into the fold. Unfortunately, it sounds like there were other forces at work. When you’re surrounded by demons, it’s often difficult to see the lighthouse through the storm. And see who’s good for you, and who’s bad.

I’m 13 when I see Chyna enter the Royal Rumble. The first woman ever to do so. We only had video tapes of matches, so as far as we knew, the Corporate Rumble and Raw didn’t exist. I’m sure they’d mentioned her taking part on a title card at some point, but none of those stick. Entrances, on the other hand, were everything. Each entrance was a surprise to us, and at 30, when Chyna appeared, I was suddenly aware that girls could do anything. 

Despite the personal and professional differences between Joanie Laurer and Vince McMahon, with all of the private goings on put to one side, there’s simply no excuse strong enough to leave the Ninth Wonder of the World out of the Hall of Fame. This is a Hall of Fame that have lobbyists who want to see Benoit inducted, and unless the gender divide is bigger than I imagined, I’d say murder-suicide is worse than revenge porn ten years later. But even Benoit aside, the hall is full of wrestlers and celebrities, men and women, with their pasts just as dark as Laurer’s. 

Tammy Lynn “Sunny” Michaels was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011; since then, she’s been arrested various times and has also starred in her own adult film. She’s still in the Hall of Fame. Rightfully. For the 186 individual inductees in the Hall of Fame—including embarrassments in the “celebrity” ring such as Donald Trump, Pete Rose, and Kid Rock—there are 16 women. That’s across individual and legacy inductions. 

The Fabulous Moolah, whose brutal pimping ways have come to light in the last few years, was inducted in 1995. Not only did WWE not take her out of the Hall of Fame, they also nearly named a Battle Royal after her, only reconsidering after fans had made their ire known. Hulk Hogan, arguably the WWE’s most famous wrestler of all time, was involved in a scandal that included not only a sex tape, but a racist rant that meant it wasn’t just his mini-Hogan caught on tape. (You can find out more about this in the Gawker vs. Hulk Hogan Netflix documentary and sports journalist Dave Dyer’s column, about the WWE Hall of Fame’s hypocrisy). 

For those who don’t know, in short, Hogan received a suspension from the Hall of Fame after the scandal. Great, in ways, but what about 2014-inductee Scott Hall’s multiple arrests for domestic abuse and drunk and disorderly actions? Or Steve Austin’s spousal abuse? “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka allegedly killed his mistress in the early 80s, and granted, WWE pulled him out of the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t explain the countless superstars that have had the same kind of problems as Joanie had. What is it that makes her different?

If Hogan was making the WWE so much money via merchandise that he got reinstated because of his legacy, how about the legacy of Chyna?

In an interview with Jim Ross, Stacy Carter—who was once, as Miss Kitty/The Kat, Chyna’s manager and also one of her good friends while they were in the company—said that they didn’t talk a lot after Joanie left the WWE. Carter left, too, remarking to Ross that it was getting away from the wrestling world that saved her, but in the case of Laurer, the comfort and stardom of being a WWE superstar was, ultimately, what she craved. She also remarked on how much Joanie’s personality changed with the drugs. Like she was barely the person she knew anymore. Also, that she shouldn’t have gone back to LA so soon. (Statements that were echoed by Laurer’s sister, Kathy).

At the Judgment Day Pay-Per-View in 2001, Laurer had her last match as Chyna against Lita. Chyna would continue to hold the women’s championship for months after she’d left the WWE, but that match was the start of the women’s division being taken seriously. And when Chyna took Lita’s hand and raised it up over the ring, even not knowing we’d never see the Ninth Wonder of the World the same again, it felt like there was a shift. It breaks my heart, as a fan, that she was so deeply affected by circumstances that she’d never get to experience that thrill again.

Joanie Laurer had a difficult life. In the WWE, she found acceptance, family, and love. These are the kinds of purity that drugs take away. They don’t mesh with alcohol or meth or coke or steroids. But it’s those drugs that take away the pain. If people she knew and who knew her and loved her didn’t recognize her by the end, then we have to ask whether who she was around was a good influence. After reading the Broadly article, I’m even inclined to ask whether she knew that the WWE offered her their rehabilitation program or not. Did she know? Or were there voices that spoke for her?

After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

Chyna was a force to be reckoned with. But it’s with Laurer that her legacy lies. It was Laurer who brought a force to the ring so powerful for kids like me and thousands of others. It was Laurer who was unapologetically strong, who did dozens of things in the then-federation for the first time. She had problems, she made stupid decisions, she said and did stupid things—but why should that take away her legacy when it didn’t the countless others?

WWE will induct Chyna into the Hall of Fame eventually. I hope.

It just should’ve happened a long time ago. 

Because she was the Ninth Wonder of the World, but more importantly, she was human.

 

***

 

Thank you to LaToya Ferguson and Dave Dyer for your wise words and knowledge.

 


Dear MLB: A Call to Action

 

By Tammy Rainey

 

2018 has been a tumultuous year for Major League Baseball off the field.

 

From the arrest of Roberto Osuna for domestic violence to the string of players who were discovered to have tweeted out hateful and bigoted comments years before they hit the majors, events have served to give notice to the Commissioner's office and all 30 front offices that the sport needs to catch up to current events and, indeed, get out in front of controversial subjects rather than acting in a reactionary fashion.  

 

In the same vein, there are other things that it is past time for the sport to be forward leaning about, including the role of women at all levels of the game from the broadcast booth to the coaching staff to the playing field, the ongoing stigma against LGBTQ persons (that needs more than a yearly pride night to address) and the travesty that is the minor league pay structure for players.

 

While some of these subjects are still fresh in the public conversation and not far from the minds of baseball executives, I offer an open letter to decision makers in the sport of baseball at all levels with a modest proposal:

 

To all those involved,

 

I take it as a given that you all share the concerns of much of the public about the recent newsmaking controversies involving domestic violence and social media behavior. Likewise I’m sure that to varying degrees you have people tasked to address a wide range of off the field issues. I would like to suggest to you all, as a member of the public not directly involved in the sport save as a fan, that the public perception of this interest however is that it is a defensive, reactionary, stance rather than a proactive one.

 

It's an unfortunate reality, and all the more so in our highly connected society, particularly for an entertainment industry that much of what positive you might accomplish in any task is intricately connected to the public perception of those actions.

 

Therefore I propose that you consider a broad based “Blue Ribbon Committee,” involving representation from every party concerned with organized baseball, to discuss a comprehensive agenda for how baseball will look and behave outside the lines moreso than inside in the 21st century. By this I mean representation of players in the majors, the minors, in college, and even retired players, managers and coaches from all levels, team executives, broadcasters, writers, and more. I would go so far as to suggest Dale Murphy as a chairperson (his recent blog post about the perils of social media for the sport was very insightful and demonstrates a keen understanding of the issue.

 

Active players like Sean Doolittle and Justin Verlander have spoken clearly and insightfully. Writers like Christina Kahrl executives like Billy Bean and Kim Ng, staff like Nikki Huffman can and should bring a diverse input.

 

Voices which have perhaps not been welcome in the past, issues that may seem difficult to reconcile, must be dealt with if the sport is going to reach its fullest potential in the decades ahead.

 

The time is past for defending “the way it’s always been,” and only being dragged grudgingly forward when there’s no other option left. For example, surely you know as we all do how terrible it looked for billionaire owners to go to Congress for a bill to protect their right to underpay minor leaguers.

 

Whatever the reasons you may feel compelled you to avoid the minimum wage calculations, surely you must realize the light it cast you in every time the fans are reminded how little those athletes are paid. So find a way, it won’t cost you so very much if indeed any at all to  go above and beyond what the law would have required and fairly reward the efforts of these young men.

 

Simple math would suggest that, for example, one more dollar on every major league ticket would provide more than enough to do this without affecting the bottom line profits. And you’d be seen by every fan as doing more than you had to do, not less than you should.

 

That same desire - to lead out rather than hold back, ought to inform every hard discussion that such a committee would address. Where can more money help? Where can more education make a difference? Where would a culture shift change the dynamic? The sport has never been more financially successful than it is now and there’s no sign of a reversal in those fortunes.  The time is now to be bold, be creative, and take the grand old game that exists between the lines into the new century outside them. The first step is an open, frank, and wide-ranging discussion of what that looks like by people who are not afraid of change. The future, as they say, is now.



https://dalemurphy.com/the-perils-of-baseballs-social-media-moment/

https://twitter.com/whatwouldDOOdo/status/1024053915988443138


Skirting The Issue: Reflecting on the 2011 MLB Dress Code, Post #MeToo

By Jessica Quiroli

 

For all the things that have changed in America in recent years, sports media hasn't changed much. Women’s presence in the industry is still a thing. We continue to be judged on what we do, our looks, our manner and certainly how we dress. 

 

In the age of #MeToo, though, a changing of the guard can be seen. Sports media hasn't yet had its defining moment in the movement, but issues are being discussed more openly, and that's incredibly important. 

 

Sexist behaviors and attitudes are being analyzed on a whole new level, although it can be argued that women in media have been discussing those behaviors and attitudes for years. We did so privately, fearfully and, at times, self-loathingly, questioning how we might have contributed to our own abuse because, for so long, we were told we were responsible in some way for men’s actions. Athletes were largely given a free pass.

 

Abuse of women sports reporters became a national topic in 2008 when Erin Andrews, then with ESPN, was stalked and sexually assaulted, via peephole, by a man who filmed her naked in her hotel room before an assignment. Since then, organizations such as the Association of Women in Sports Media, as well as social media, have created more opportunities for women in sports to network, increase their profile, connect emotionally with other women in similar situations and, crucially, to finally be heard by the masses.

 

Now, when we talk on Twitter or Facebook, or on sports panels (though those still lack a strong female presence) about our experiences, we’re no longer screaming into a void. We’re connecting. We’re having more of an impact.

 

* * * 

 

Six years ago, Major League Baseball implemented a media dress code. The action sparked a long-overdue conversation about sexist attitudes toward women in sports media. It also created confusion and a large amount of outrage. 

 

Male reporters were directed not to wear flip-flops for "health reasons," per trainers consulted, but female media members were barred from wearing shorts skirts and halter tops. Surely those bans were not instituted for "health reasons." 

 

Now that we’re in the age of #MeToo, when increasing numbers of women — and men — are stepping forward to report sexual trauma and harassment, those distinctions take on a new meaning — or maybe we women are just being more honest in our reactions to how we are policed. 

 

A workplace dress code isn’t a problem, per se, but in the context of professional sports, the message it transmits can be. MLB’s dress code failed to resolve ongoing issues for women in media. The ban on short skirts felt particularly insulting: Were we expected to measure the length? Who would be observing us, and who would be deciding whether the skirt was to MLB's liking? Women, it seemed, were being directed to be good girls while men were given light-hearted directives. 

 

Jane McManus wrote about the double standards at the time for espnW: 

 

"Look at it from one woman's point of view. She saw a player drop his towel right in front of her like an aggressive dare, but didn't want to report it to MLB. Like a lot of young women, she feared that reporting the incident would make her a pariah in the locker room and destroy her ability to do a job she loves. 

 

Instead, the league instituted a policy to hold her responsible for wearing a skirt that doesn't go down to her knee, but does not address the problem of inappropriate player behavior. 

 

'I'm glad they're telling me how to behave,' she said wryly." 

 

Full disclosure: I was that unidentified woman. 

 

Later in the story, McManus referenced another unnamed source who felt anxiety about her attire but noticed that male reporters didn’t make adjustments during hot weather. She was worried about people noticing her bare arms. 

 

McManus also asked male and female baseball reporters whether they thought about the dress code while dressing. The women interviewed said "Yes"; the men she spoke to said "No."

 

* * *  

 

Women throughout the history of sports media have been subjected to all manner of verbal and physical abuse. There has been an attitude, usually unspoken but nonetheless clear, in press boxes and sports departments that "This is where men go."

 

The reactions to the Andrews case were eye-opening: They revealed a collective negative attitude toward women in general, and women in sports in particular.   

 

Andrews was forced to relive her humiliation and pain as she began her legal battle against her stalker, Michael David Barrett. The "she deserved it" line of attack made the rounds. Sometimes it was blatant; other times, it surfaced during casual chats among reporters. 

 

One woman, while sitting in the Phillies' press cafeteria, asked, "Who even does naked squats?" as if that were the issue, as if we had any right to ask such an absurd question. The subtext was: "She deserved it." 

 

Two years before MLB's dress code went into effect, NFL reporter Ines Sainz riled up the masses when she wore what was perceived as too-revealing attire to a Jets practice and was hassled by players. Many reporters, particularly women, wondered privately if baseball's new rules for attire were a response to Sainz and perhaps a criticism of Andrews, a kind of pre-emptive response before anything else happened. In many ways, though, they were a response to what had been a source of debate about women in baseball.  

 

A lot of baseball fans, in particular men, and male reporters shrugged at the new guidelines. They didn't get how itchy they made us because of what we had been experiencing for too long. We had been waiting for players to be punished for blatantly abusing us, and yet there we were, talking about our damn clothes. What might have seemed like an overreaction to our male colleagues was a boiling point for us.  

 

* * *

 

We female reporters are likely not adhering to all of baseball's guidelines, and no one has ever spoken out about being told they’re breaking the rules, so the media dress code's impact has probably been minimal at best, but something about it still stings.  

 

As Twitter has emerged as a powerful platform for survivors of sexual assault, physical abuse and sexual harassment, many of us have described our own experiences in raw, emotional detail. In light of those disclosures, baseball's media dress code has become more than just something that's absurdly unimportant or an act of misplaced attention; it's now a sign of a time that has passed, but also a time from which we haven't moved forward.

 

We’re still harassed. We're still underrepresented and overlooked by editors. We still speak in our private spaces about our frustrations and how we are treated differently than our male colleagues.  

 

In other words, we're no longer checking the length of our skirts. We're digging in, as we always have, and trying to get the job done. MLB hasn't shown a willingness to fully commit to changing the boys' club mentality. As the #MeToo revolution marches on, we women in baseball, and all other sports, are forcing change as decisively as possible.


Lifer: MLB Players Weekend Nicknames Ranked

Lifer: The Baseball Way

Welcome back to the fourth installment of Lifer by All Heels on Deck! Our team has been hard at work putting together some fun baseball content that’s sure to pique the interest of all baseball fans! This week, we’re featuring sentimental promotions, ballpark food ratings, and the wildly popular Players’ Weekend jerseys!

Everyone loves a meaningful theme night! You can’t quite put into words the feeling you have when your favorite team hosts a theme night that you can personally connect to. For Kat Cornetta and the entire city of Rochester, New York, that night came just this past week when the Rochester Red Wings celebrated their home town. The promotion united team pride with community pride, and the result was something extremely special. 

One of the best parts about visiting a ballpark is the ballpark food! Karen Soutar recently got to attend a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and she tried a variety of menu items that immersed her in the culture of Boston. Karen put her taste to the test, and rated and critiqued each dish she tried. After this review, you’ll know just what to order, and be all ready for your next trip to Fenway!

Everyone’s favorite weekend is back for the second time! Players’ Weekend is fast approaching, and the exclusive jerseys just dropped. The guys get to express themselves in one of the most creative ways, and we all get to better know our favorites. Who has the most creative nicknames? Who took the obvious route? Helen Silfin breaks down some of the interesting nicknames we’ll be seeing in just two weeks. 

You don’t want to miss this edition of Lifer! So, join us as we do life the baseball fan way!

 

~RoseAnn Sapia 

 

 

ROC the ROC

By: Katherine Cornetta

The Rochester Red Wings have been making huge strides in the minor league promotional game over the past two years. Last year, the Triple A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins rebranded for one game as the Rochester Plates, homage to the city's famous Garbage Plate. The promotion was so successful that every Thursday home game in 2018 has been designated a “Plates” night. The Red Wings have also challenged their Thruway Series rivals Syracuse in promotions, rebranded as an 1879 and 1880 baseball team, and created a ball cap giveaway celebrating the local zoo's newest animal addition. 

One of the most meaningful promotions was this past Wednesday, August 8th, when the Red Wings celebrated ROC the ROC night. What the team called the “marquee promotion of the summer” honored everything that makes the Western New York city special. The area's love of summer festivals, musical performances from the city's most popular party band and the downtown mall's beloved-but-departed monorail all had a part in the night.

Roctherocside

But the element creating the most buzz is the uniform the team wore that night. The jersey includes references to Rochester's nickname, the “Flower City.” The caps, which are available for sale now in the team's store, feature a logo that merges the team's well-known 1960s and 1970s logo with the city's official flower logo. On the side of the cap shows the team's current bird mascot with a lilac, the city's famous flower, in its beak. 

The cap is available in three versions: a flex-fit, adjustable and fitted, via the team's in-stadium store and their online store (http://redwings.milbstore.com/store.cfm?dept_id=1735&store_id=113&parentID=1735) for prices ranging from $20.99 to $31.99. It's the perfect salute to a beloved Western New York city and their longtime ball club.

Fenway Fare

By: Karen Soutar

I recently crossed a trip to Fenway Park off my bucket list.  While I was there, I tried some of their more unique menu items. In addition to the usual hot dogs, peanuts and crackerjack which are available at any ballpark, Fenway offers fans dishes that you can’t get at most other parks. Boston is well known for seafood, I wanted to try their clam chowder, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it in the middle of a July heat wave. Let’s take a look at a few interesting things I found there:

Lobster Tacos

Great idea, very filling meal. The lobster itself was great, if I have one suggestion to improve upon this, I would include more of the traditional taco toppings as options. Instead these tacos consisted of the taco shells, lobster, lettuce and a few chip shavings. Enjoyable in spite of the lack of variety. I give it a 4 out of 5 rating Lobster Nachos

My preferred option of the things I tried there. It had everything - plenty of food, lots of toppings featuring delicious lobster for a great variation on a ballpark favorite. 5 out of 5 for me!

Lobster roll

This is the one I was most looking forward to. Great option for a hot sandwich after a long day of travelling. But if you’re thinking that doesn’t look very filling, you’d be right. Market price on that day turned out to be $23. Trust me I get that seafood is expensive and what they gave me was very enjoyable but if I’m going to spend that much I’d rather not still be hungry once I’m finished. 3.5 out of 5.

Kosher vending machine

I must confess this is the first time I had ever seen kosher food options at a ballpark. That day’s menu options included cheese pizza, mozzarella sticks, pizza pockets, potato knish and onion rings. Just deposit cash and watch your chosen items prepared as you wait. A+ for inclusiveness and menu variety. Only thing is the portion sizes are a bit on the small side. 4.5 out of 5.

Lobster Roll

Kosher Vending Machine Lobster Tacos

Say My Name, Say My Name

By Helen Silfin

Players' Weekend

Players’ Weekend is almost upon us and that means we must prepare for ridiculously colorful uniforms and equipment, as well as fun nicknames. There are a handful of players with the last name Smith who have chosen to go by “Smitty” but beyond those guys, there will be really creative names on display.

In the “This May As Well Always Be On His Jersey Because I Hear It As Much As His Name” category:

• Shohei “Showtime” Ohtani

• Javier “El Mago” Baez

 

In the “Pop Culture” category:

• Walker “Ferris” Buehler

• Shane “Not Justin” Bieber

• Sean “Doc” Doolittle

 

In the “Wordplay” category:

• Andrew “Triggonometry” Triggs

• Yasmani “Yazmanian Devil” Grandal

• Seth “Quaterrican” Lugo

• Erick “Feddeccini” Fedde

• David “Baby Dahl” Dahl

 

In the “NSFW” category:

• Travis “Lil d” d’Arnaud

• Rich “D. Mountain” Hill

 

In the “How Do I Even Type This?” category:

• Brad “[box emoji] [burger emoji]” Boxberger

 

The only thing that could make these nicknames better would be to require broadcasters to use them all weekend. 

It is only the second year of Major League Baseball doing Players’ Weekend, but it has already become my favorite tradition. Baseball players are some of the quirkiest people on the planet, and their nicknames give us a small glimpse inside their heads. I cannot wait to learn where all the unique names came from – be it childhood, college, or a recent moment of cleverness. The game is most fun when the players on the field are having fun and Players’ Weekend is one of the best times for players to let their personalities shine.

Players’ Weekend is from August 24-26 (and if you are anything like me you are counting down the days).

 


Tunnel of Dreams: One Woman's Journey to Learn How to Play Baseball

By Mel Morales

Upon my 30th birthday, I made a promise to myself.

I promised to push past my fears and pursue what makes me happy. I have not always lived up to this promise, but I constantly remind myself of it when doubt starts to creep in. It is this promise that lead me to put an unthinkable dream in motion. 

Growing up trying to absorb as much as I could about baseball. I knew entire roster’s statistics, the unwritten rules and even player’s favorite colors. I consumed so much baseball that my dad and I could have deep conversations even though I was just 12 years old. I guess I watched every game I possibly could to make up for the fact that I didn’t have a chance to play.

I remember begging my parents to let me play. They knew how much it meant to me, but we simply could not afford the costs. Not just monetarily, but my parents were in the process of a divorce. Sports was the least of our priorities. I don’t know why, but I never asked about playing baseball again. Instead, I dove deeper into my love for baseball, watching from afar and never looked back. 

I came to a realization about one of the reasons I gave up on my dream of playing baseball. There were no women that I knew or saw that played the game. I’m sure they were out there, but it always seemed something so farfetched that I didn’t know if ever playing on a baseball field would become a reality. That changed in 2018.

Scrolling through my social media feed, I saw a post from the Puerto Rican Olympic organization promoting it’s women’s baseball team for the 2018 Women’s Baseball World Cup. It stopped me in my tracks. Could this be true? Are they sure they didn’t mean softball? An actual women’s baseball event and my country was participating? 

I felt a bolt of energy. My dream was awakened. The dream I had as a kid who so badly wanted to play.  I told myself if I couldn’t play, at least I will support those who can play now. But that wasn’t good enough for me. A sense of urgency overshadowed the moment of joy. I had no excuses not to try anymore. 

 

I looked in my local area for women or co-ed baseball teams, only to come up empty handed. I tried looking for a coach but the ones I found just worked with children (boys) ages 8-18. I had two things working against me: age and gender. Not willing to just give up, I called up the baseball coach at the university I worked, curious if he could lead me to someone who would coach me. I had to find my courage several times in our short conversation that went something like this:

Coach: “Sure, how old is your son?” 

Me: “Uh…I don’t…it’s for me.” 

Coach: “Oh, so are you wanting softball?” 

Me: “No, I want baseball.” 

He took a pause and I felt myself shrink a bit. “Give me your number and I’ll get you in contact with our training coach.” Wait, what?! It was starting to happen, and I did not know what to do with myself. A few minutes later I got a text message from the coach; once again I had to clarify that my desire was for baseball lessons, specifically pitching. A week later, I was in a pitching tunnel with my coach. 

It’s been two months since I made that call and I have no regrets. But I’ve also never felt so exposed and self-aware. Every time we have a session, men gather to watch my session. The head coach of the university team ask my coach what we were up to. When I’ve gone to the pitching tunnel by myself to practice, the attendant asked me why I was practicing, as he handed me a bucket of baseballs (wasn’t it obvious?). All I wanted was to learn how to pitch so I could play the game right.  I did not think about the exposure I’d experience as a woman. I’ve wanted to hide, but the promise I made myself echoes in my mind. I just couldn’t give up now. 

It took me a while, but now I embrace that exposure. Yes, I am a woman learning how to pitch. Yes, I am pitching from the top of the mound. No, this is not a fad. The reset in mentality allows me to look forward to my sessions, and just focus on improving. I remind myself that all that matters is what happens in that tunnel. The only feedback that matters is my coach. The only thing I owe myself is pushing past my fears. I want to see what I’m truly capable of. 

When we first started, I gave my coach clear instructions: do not go easy on me, push me like you push the college players, and give me honest feedback. After two months, I’m starting to think he enjoys this as much as I do. He sees my determination, and he brings new drills and challenges to every session. He knows I’m not doing this for a scholarship or something of the kind. He knows I just want to play and he supports my efforts. 

In a way, we teach each other about finding our place in the game we love. He teaches me fundamentals and mechanics, and I teach him that women are as capable and passionate about playing the game as men. During this summer, when we’ve debated the damaging implications of the lacking accountability of professional baseball players  homophobic, racist and sexist conduct, I took the time to tell my coach why these conversations matter. We both work with young people who, perhaps, were never held accountable for their actions. 

This is not how I envisioned my dream of playing baseball. But this is my journey. I have learned so much about myself in these past few weeks, and about how just the mere action of being in that pitching tunnel sends out a bigger message to the rest of the world. 

My next challenge coach gave me was joining a league. I love that he is encouraging, but this is too soon. Then again, what do I have to lose?