Sheryl Ring's Baseball Talk: Lance Berkman's Transphobic Beliefs Forgotten with "Good Guy" Label


One of my favorite parts of the offseason is baseball Hall of Fame voting. There are the player profiles, like these from Jay Jaffe, that remind you of the great players of just a few years ago. There are the hot takes – so many hot takes – about who should be in and who shouldn’t. And if you’re at all like me, there’s the endless refreshing of Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame ballot tracker, watching childhood favorites like Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez grow closer and closer to induction.

But as I watched this past year’s Hall of Fame debate, I was struck by something. Each cycle, we discuss the meaning of the character and integrity clause on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

We talk about it, most often, in the context of performance enhancing drugs, when we debate the eligibility of players like Barry Bonds. For the first time this cycle, we started talking about the need to consider character and integrity to the context of the #MeToo movement, with players like Roger Clemens, who groomed Mindy McCready for a sexual relationship beginning when she was fifteen years old, and Andruw Jones, who threatened to choke his wife to death – and actually tried. We talked about the character and integrity clause when it comes to players like Curt Schilling, who has compared Muslims to Nazis and called for the lynching of journalists. But however you fall on the question of how to treat this sort of behavior in the context of the character and integrity clause, we at least talked about it. We started a conversation.

Not so with Lance Berkman.

Lance Berkman is one of the sport’s good guys. Or, at least, he’s supposed to be. Bleacher Report talked about how scandal-free he was when writing up his candidacy. Bloggers talked about how underrated he was as a player.

No one talked about the character and integrity clause when it came to Berkman. No one even mentioned it. I couldn’t find a single article from a major publication about whether Berkman satisfies the character and integrity clause.

Jay Jaffe, my colleague at Fangraphs who did his usual admirable job of presenting other candidates’ more egregious behavior, didn’t mention it. And why would they? Berkman’s one of the good guys, right?

Good guys don’t go on television to call trans women “troubled men.”

Yes, that is Lance Berkman in a 2015 major market political campaign ad opposing the rights of trans women to use women’s bathrooms. That’s him introducing himself by invoking his baseball bona fides. And yes, that is former Hall of Fame candidate Lance Berkman saying that trans women are nothing more than “troubled men.” You see, Houston, Texas had a proposed ordinance that would protect trans women from discrimination, particularly in bathrooms. And Berkman became heavily involved in opposing it. Not only that, though: Berkman didn’t just oppose the ordinance, he actively trumpeted the invalidity of trans people, particularly trans women.

"My wife and I have four daughters. Proposition 1 would allow troubled men who claim to be women to enter women’s bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms," said Lance Berkman.

And because that wasn’t enough, Berkman made a second video explaining his reasoning for doing the ad. This video:

And in that second video, “good guy” Lance Berkman, he who was so above reproach that the character and integrity clause was considered a mere formality in his Hall of Fame case, said this:

Who knows what the intent of that person might be. They truly might think they're a woman, which is a little strange to me. But they could be a child predator. They could be somebody that's in there who likes to look at women and just claims to be a woman. ... If we're going to go down to the zoo, I just want to be able to live life without having to have an extra thing to worry about when it comes to protecting my family. ... It's crazy. It makes me want to say... 'wake up, America!' And that's what I want to scream at people because, what are we doing here? We have the potential for men going into a woman's bathroom. The very few people that this could be slanted as discriminating against, is it worth putting the majority of our population at risk... to appease a very small minority of the population? I don't think so. I think it's crazy, and it's unbelievable that we're even talking about this. ... We have to try to rise up against this threat, and the only way we can do that is go and vote 'No' against Proposition 1.

Amazingly, Berkman wasn’t done yet. Those videos were turned into radio ads that blanketed the Houston metro area. Unsurprisingly given Berkman’s stature, the proposed ordinance went down in defeat. Berkman went on KTRH 740 AM to talk about how he was the victim of “digital persecution,” and that “I felt that I had an obligation to stand for what is right.” And then came this:

"To me tolerance is the virtue that’s killing this country. We’re tolerant of everything. You know, everything is okay, and as long as you want to do it and as long as it feels good to you then it’s perfectly acceptable do it. Those are the kinds of things that lead you down a slippery slope, and you’ll get in trouble in a hurry," said Berkman

And still, after months of being the face of a political campaign that successfully demonized an entire already-oppressed community, Berkman still wasn’t done. He then gave an interview to Craig Calcaterra, doubling down yet again on his hatred of the trans community.

"It’s not an easy topic. You’re taking their word for it, saying that’s the way they’re born," Berkman explained. "The issue is, what to do about a 15 or 16-year-old boy who thinks he’s a girl and wants to shower with the girls? Maybe he is [transgender], maybe he’s confused. But I wouldn’t want him in the shower with my daughters. We shouldn’t have the rights of 2% of the population trump the rights of the other 98%. Is it a mental choice? I don’t know. But it’s a Pandora’s Box."

So in the span of four months, Lance Berkman said trans women were “troubled men,” accused the entire community of being predators, said tolerance was killing the United States, implied trans people are lying about their gender, called being trans a “mental choice,” and said that trans people aren’t entitled to legal protections because we’re so small a population.

This was just four years ago. And yet, despite how high-profile that campaign was, despite the fact that Berkman’s campaign ads are still up on Youtube . . . the entire affair was completely forgotten. The Cardinals even honored Berkman for his faith on “Christian Day” in 2017, despite protests from the queer community. Since then, in mainstream media and culture, Berkman’s rols as the face of a movement inciting hate and violence towards an entire marginalized community was completely ignored and forgotten.

But that matters. Or, at least, it should matter. In an era where we rightly talk about whether or not statutory rape and domestic violence should keep someone out of the Hall of Fame, trans rights are not less important. Nor is this issue mooted by the fact that Berkman didn’t get in anyway. Berkman didn’t get into the Hall of Fame because of a crowded ballot, not because of his comments on trans people. In fact, those comments were completely ignored at best, and celebrated at worst. If Berkman had been elected, no one would have batted an eye.

You can follow Sheryl on Twitter @Ring_Sheryl

Never A Doubt: The 2018 Boston Red Sox

By Helen Silfin


The 2018 Boston Red Sox had a season fans can usually only dream about. They won 108 games in the regular season and then those essential 11 postseason games to be World Series Champions. And while they always believed in themselves, and much of the fanbase believed too, many of the “experts” around Major League Baseball did not believe until the final pitch was thrown.



Just about every publication - including, SB Nation, Baseball America, USA Today, and The Sporting News - had the Red Sox winning one of the AL Wild Card spots and perhaps making it to the ALDS but no further. Possibly undeservedly, they were underdogs coming into the season.


The 2018 Red Sox spent one day with a winning percentage under .500, and that day was the first of the season. They never had a losing streak of over three games and were never more than two games back in the American League East. Their “worst” month of the season was September, during which they were still four games over .500. They simply never stumbled and never took their foot off the gas.


However, on their way to 108 wins people still wondered if they were for real. Even once the playoff field was set, most of Sports Illustrated’s experts left them out of the World Series.

  Rick Porcello

What separated the Red Sox from the rest of the pack may be the same as the reason so many questioned their legitimacy. They feasted on lesser teams, going 16-3 against the Orioles, 15-4 against the Blue Jays, 6-1 against the Rangers, and 5-1 against the Royals. They built a cushion that would have helped had they struggled against contenders like the Angels, Mariners, and Braves. The cushion also helped them win the AL East by eight games even though they only won the season series against the Yankees by one game. They somehow made it through the entire regular season without appearing to be truly tested.


Yet, in the playoffs they beat the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers handily - only losing one game in each series. Their offense bested both Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw along the way. They handled the best of the best like it was nothing.


So maybe their domination of lesser teams should not have been taken as a sign that they still needed to be tested, but rather a signal of their true greatness. They never played down to an opponent, collecting wins like coins in Super Mario. They collected so many that they were able to rest Chris Sale, their ace, in August and then essentially use real games in September as his rehab assignment before the playoffs.


A team with a Wild Card ceiling would never be able to do that.


It is a bit of a shame that the media never seemed to catch on to just how good this team was. Whispers of the 1978 Red Sox, 2001 Mariners, and the team’s 2016 and 2017 first round playoff exits surrounded them until they finally hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy.

  Jason Varitek Joe Kelly

Just about everything related to the 2018 Boston Red Sox was unbelievable, but perhaps most impressively, they really did not make their fans sweat. The high of a 21-7 start to the season never wore off. Dennis Eckersley proclaimed “It’s time to party!” on July 12th and he was absolutely right.


  World Series Banner





All Shirts

Lifer: Post-season Edition


Welcome back to the sixth installment of Lifer by All Heels on Deck! After a brief hiatus, Lifer is back with all new content for baseball fans like you. Our team of writers have been hard at work this last week thinking of ways to bring you closer to the game we all love. 


It’s October, so you know what that means! We’re in the midst of MLB’s Postseason, the most intense month the baseball season has to offer. It’s only fitting that this edition of Lifer be dedicated to the season we all love, even if our team didn’t make it this far.


What does it mean to a part of a team? Is there some joining force that rallies fans and players together as one? This season, Major League Baseball has gotten very creative with team branding, giving each team their own unique slogan for fans to use on social media. Well, this new branding is continuing into the Postseason. Our Karen Soutar takes a closer look at some of the creative Postseason gear fans can buy to make you feel even more connected to their favorite playoff team.


With the growing popularity of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube TV, the need for cable television is becoming more obsolete. What happens then, if you don’t have cable when every playoff game is broadcast on cable? Helen Silfin dives into the techniques and platforms you can use to ensure you won’t miss a second of October baseball. 


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


~RoseAnn Sapia


2018 Postseason Gear:

Slogan Fever


By Karen Soutar


If you’re a fan of one of the 10 MLB teams in the 2018 playoffs, you might be interested in picking up some gear to wear.  Whether you’re lucky enough to be attending a game, or just want something to wear around to support your team, MLB offers some good choices this year.


Over the past few seasons, MLB chose a slogan for each playoff team, and used it on Postseason merch. In 2015 it was “Take October”. In 2016 it was “Made for October”, along with “Postseason 2016” and the specific team logo. While it’s certainly nice to have postseason gear to wear, there wasn’t much to set one playoff team’s merchandise apart from another, besides the teams’ logo.


This year, MLB has taken creativity to another level. The common slogan for 2018 is “Defend”, and from that point, each team’s merchandise is more unique. For each of the six division winners, merchandise recognizes the division that they’ve won. Using the Cleveland Indians as an example, all their merch reads “AL Central Division Champs” in small print at the top. For each of the four Wild Card teams, merch reads “Postseason” instead. It’s after this initial branding that each team’s merchandise differentiates. This is followed by large print that is the focal point of the merch: “Defend Tribe Town” (Cleveland), “Defend H-Town” (Houston), “Defend the Bronx” (New York), “Defend Fenway” (Boston), “Defend So Cal” (Los Angeles)… You get the idea.     


But that’s not all! There are other options which are completely unique to each specific team, most of which incorporate official Twitter hashtags: #NeverSettle (Houston), #RallyTogether (Cleveland), #ForEachOther (Atlanta), #FlyTheW (Chicago Cubs). Others have gone completely unique in origin: Rocktober (Colorado. For anyone who was a baseball fan in 2007, who could forget their magical playoff run that year?!); Unite in the Bronx (obviously the New York Yankees); Our Crew Our October (Milwaukee); LA Determined (LA Dodgers); Do Damage (Boston); Win For Hero-Town (Oakland). For New York Yankee fans, there is #UniteInTheBronx. 


Apparel includes hats, T-shirts and hoodies for men, women, and children. There are men’s big & tall and women’s plus sizes available. 


The MLB post-season is now squarely focused on the perfect hashtag, so why not wear your team AND hashtag pride, Twitter/baseball lovers?



Cutting The Cord:

How to Consume October Baseball


By Helen Silfin


As someone who was used to a house full of TVs tuned to MLB Network, I never pictured myself not being able to watch a playoff game. Yet, this year I moved out of my childhood home and into an apartment with Wi-Fi, but not cable. Now that I have survived not only the end of the regular season but also the first rounds of postseason play, I feel qualified to direct other young people lost in this crazy cable-free world.


My first tip is to take advantage of streaming. If your parents or sibling or best friend has cable and will share their log-in information, you should be good to go. MLB Network, FS1, and TBS all allow you to watch live with a cable log-in. This is how I’ve watched most games because the apocalypse will come before my family cuts the cord.


My next tip is to use as many screens as possible. Sometimes games overlap. Sometimes you want to replay a web gem while keeping up with live action. Sometimes you also want to watch Dancing With The Stars. I’m just saying, if a game can be streamed on your computer, it can be streamed on a smartphone or tablet, too. The phone/tablet option also comes in handy when you know you could fall asleep at any moment and don’t want to risk your laptop sliding off your bed.


My final tip would be to use social media, especially Twitter, to your advantage. If you find yourself unable to stream a game or simply too busy to watch, the official @MLB account has been pretty quick to upload highlights, and people like @PitchingNinja will keep you up-to-date with what everybody is talking about. I have done this more than once already this postseason and have missed so little that I am pretty sure by 2020 there’ll be accounts live-tweeting every play of each game in .gif form. 


Adjusting to life without cable is very much a first world problem, but it can be done. Lord knows if I can get used to watching all my TV online, you can, too. (And don't tell anybody I told you this but if you are really in a bind and looking for a way to watch an MLB stream, reddit can be your best friend.) 



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.


Harry Leroy, The Blue Jay

By Karen Soutar

Harry Leroy Halladay. He went by Roy and was affectionately nicknamed Doc. The Toronto Blue Jays drafted him with their first pick in the 1995 draft. He would become the face of their franchise for the better part of a decade. This is a look back on the Halladay's Jays career highlights. 

September 20, 1998 - I was fortunate enough to be in Florida for the Jays series against the Rays September 18-20. The Jays found themselves in the hunt for the AL wild card spot that September. Talk around the team was that if they thought they still had a realistic shot at the wild card, the more experienced Chris Carpenter would get the start on the Sunday but if not, it would go to highly touted prospect Roy Halladay. Once the Jays lost the Friday and Saturday games, Doc got the nod for his major league debut. As hard as it was to deal with losses in the previous two games when the Jays had a legitimate shot to go back to the postseason, Roy's debut was very exciting to be able to attend. There was something about his demeanor right from the beginning that signaled to teammates, opponents and fans that he belonged there. Unlike some rookies, he wasn’t the least bit intimidated by being in “The Show”. The result for Halladay was 5 innings pitched, 3 runs, 2 earned runs in a game the Jays ultimately won in 12 innings. Not a bad MLB debut, but the best was yet to come for Doc.

September 27, 1998 - Back in Toronto, the final day of the regular season. In only his second career major league start, Halladay demonstrated his dominant potential in taking a no hitter in to the 9th inning vs the Detroit Tigers. With two outs in the top of the 9th, Bobby Higginson, who hit .284/.355/.480 that year, pinch hit and hit his 25th home run that season, ending the no hitter and the shut out with one swing of the bat. Still, Halladay would get the first complete game victory of his career, 2-1. The Jays and their fans went in to the off season full of hope for the future.

Unfortunately for Halladay and the Jays, the next two seasons weren’t as successful. His 8-7 record and 3.92 era in 1999 weren’t terrible for his first full season in the majors, but the club knew he was capable of much more. His career went south in 2000, finishing the season with a 4-7 record and an ugly era of 10.64, the worst era in MLB history for any pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched in a season. Ultimately Halladay himself went south, beginning the 2001 season with the Jays’ single A affiliate in Dunedin, Florida. There, he worked with former Jays’ pitching coach Mel Queen and accepted his recommendations. In order to get major league hitters out, he couldn’t just rely on throwing in the mid to high 90s, up in the strike zone, with the same delivery. Queen rebuilt Halladay’s delivery, taught him new grips for the pitches as well as a new mental approach to the game. (

It is very much to Halladay’s credit that he accepted Queen’s recommendations. Many professional ball players think that they have everything figured out especially once they have played in MLB, in spite of results to the contrary and refuse to be coached. Halladay on the other hand was going to do whatever it took to improve which he definitely did. He worked his way back up through the Jays’ minor league system and rejoined the Jays mid way through the 2001 season. Once he was back up, there was no more looking back.

For a span of 10 years from 2002-2011, Halladay was one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. In 2002 he earned his first of 8 All Star selections on the way to a 19-7 record and a 2.93 era. In 2003, his dominance reached another level, going 22-7 with a 3.25 era and his first of two career Cy Young awards. Doc led the American League that year in wins (22), games started (36), complete games (9), shutouts (2), innings pitched (266) and strikeout to walk ratio (6.38). His 2003 season was highlighted by one extra special outing.

September 6, 2003. Halladay pitched one of the best games of his career, a 1-0, ten inning shut out victory over the Detroit Tigers. I’m not sure what is more impressive, the fact that he only needed 99 pitches over 10 innings, 70 of which were strikes or the fact that the game took only 2 hours and 3 minutes to play. Through most of his career, Halladay was known for working deep in to games while maintaining the ability to get hitters out, working quickly and throwing strikes all of which were demonstrated on that day.

On January 22, 2004 - Halladay signed a 4 year, $42 million contract with Toronto, his first of two contract extensions with the club that drafted and developed him. As one of the top pitchers in baseball coming off of a Cy Young award winning season, he could have waited for free agency and almost certainly gotten even more money elsewhere but Doc was loyal. He wanted to stay in Toronto and win a championship in Toronto. The 2004 season itself was a down year by Halladay standards, going 8-8 with a 4.20 era and two disabled list stints, both due to right shoulder problems. In 2005 he was back to him dominant self, going 12-4 with a 2.41 era before the all star break. Halladay was not only chosen to the AL all star team in 2005, he had been chosen as the starting pitcher for the AL but on July 8, Texas Rangers’ Kevin Mench hit a ball that hit Halladay in the leg and broke his leg and the hearts of Jays fans, ending Halladay’s season.

March 16, 2006 - Halladay signed his second multi-year contract with the Blue Jays, a 3 year deal through the 2010 season. From 2006-2009, Halladay continued to excel for the Blue Jays, posting a 69-33 record over that span. He was an All Star in three of those four years including July 14, 2009 when he was the starting pitcher for the American League. He finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting in all four years. Still, the Jays couldn’t secure that elusive postseason birth, but not for lack of trying. On November 25, 2005, they signed free agent closer BJ Ryan to a 5 year contract and on December 6 of that same year, they signed one of the better free agent starting pitchers that year AJ Burnett to a 5 year deal. Adding those arms to an already talented team which included Halladay, they Jays thought they finally had a team that could contend for a championship. They did manage a second place finish in 2006 but it wasn’t enough for the wild card spot. In 2007 they finished 3rd, and in 2008 and 2009 they could only manage a 4th place finish in the AL East division.

Meanwhile Halladay had become increasingly frustrated. The Jays were clearly going in the wrong direction in terms of winning and making the postseason. He had remained loyal to the Blue Jays as long as he felt that he could. At age 32 in 2009 and with zero career postseason appearances, he knew it was time for a change. Halladay was very candid with Toronto’s front office after the 2009 season. ( He would not be signing any more contract extensions with Toronto after his current deal expired following the 2010 season. He wanted to play for a contending team so the Jays had two choices – they could grant his request for a trade to a contender and get as much as they could in return or lose him to free agency a year later. They ultimately traded Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies for prospects Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Taylor, all of whom had big upside. None ever lived up to expectations at the major league level.

It was bittersweet for Jays fans to hear of Halladay’s perfect game for the Phillies on May 29, 2010, or to watch him throw a no hitter on October 6, 2010 in his first ever postseason appearance, which he'd been waiting for his whole career. It was kind of like watching an ex-boyfriend move on and find the life he'd always wanted with another woman. I found myself cheering for the Phillies that postseason (in yet another year when the Jays weren’t there), only so that Doc could finally get his championship ring. It was not to be. The Phillies lost the 2010 NLCS in 6 games to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

2010 also saw Halladay win his second career Cy Young award, this one for the National League. He led the league that year in wins (21), complete games (9), shutouts (4), innings pitched (250.2), batters faced (993), walks per 9 innings (1.1) and strikeout to walk ratio (7.30) while posting a very fine era of 2.44.

2011 saw Halladay start his second All Star game on July 12, 2011 for the National League, finish second in Cy Young voting to Clayton Kershaw and once again reach MLB’s postseason with the Phillies. The team however didn’t go as deep in to the postseason as they did in 2010, losing the Division Series in 5 games to the eventual World Series champion St Louis Cardinals. Halladay started the deciding game 5 for Philadelphia vs his friend and former Blue Jays teammate Chris Carpenter for the Cards. Doc pitched a high quality game, going 8 innings and only giving up one run on six hits but unfortunately for the Phillies, Carpenter was that much better, pitching a complete game shutout.

In 2012-2013, things went downhill for both Halladay and the Phillies. The team hasn’t been back to the postseason since 2011 and as for Doc, it appeared that his age (35 in 2012), all the innings pitched (2,531 prior to 2012) as well as the well documented hard work that he put in between starts had finally caught up to him. He went 11-8 with a 4.49 era in 2012 and 4-5 with a 6.82 era in 2013 with disabled list stints in both years due to shoulder trouble. On December 9, 2013, Halladay signed a one-day contract with Toronto in order to retire as a Blue Jay. He'd come full circle.

Halladay will be eligible for MLB’s Hall of Fame in 2019. For me, looking at his career statistics it is a matter of when, not if he is inducted. 203-105 win/loss record, 3.38 era, 67 complete games, 20 shutouts, 2,749.1 innings pitched, and maybe most impressive, career win/loss percentage of .659, the eighth highest in MLB history.

In an interview on August 14, 2016 with Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star, Halladay said he would enter the Hall of Fame as a Blue Jay if he is inducted. I very much look forward to seeing his time come. It is tragic that he won’t be present to accept the honor due to his untimely death on November 7, 2017 at age 40, in a plane he was piloting. He was flying solo.

Karen Soutar is a lifelong resident of Toronto, Canada, baseball aficionado and die hard Toronto Blue Jays fan. Twitter: @KarenSoutar1