Sunday, July 11, 2004

Perfect strike for all generations

Good Sports: A look at sports in the community

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A trim woman with sienna hair stood on the pitcher's mound recently, a place she had considered home until she was 22 years old. With an arm defying its 78 years, she drew back to launch the ceremonial pitch in a U-14 girls' game between Ohio Fastpitch Club Heat and Miami Valley Express.

When she finally released it, her first pitch in 35 years, the ball stopped short of home plate. It bounced before landing in the catcher's glove.

Wilma (Sullivan) Edwards of Westchester.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
"It," Wilma Edwards said, laughing, "was a perfect strike."

Nothing like the kind she threw as an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player in the 1940s. The league was launched by Philip K. Wrigley in 1943 to revive baseball during World War II, and by the league's end in 1954 more than 600 women played.

Known then as Wilma Sullivan, the Taylor High School grad pitched and played outfield for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Daisies.

It took a brainstorming session outside the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame to bring her to the mound. Her hairdresser, Beth Ruter, stood with the Heat outside the museum in Oklahoma City and said, "You know, I have a client who pitched and played outfield for the All-American team."

Her brother, Heat coach Bob Burlew, wanted to honor Edwards. Players signed a ball and presented it, along with a jersey and photo of the Daisies. Many girls had seen the movie A League of Their Own and knew women's baseball.

"I was impressed," said Stephanie Burlew, 15. "I thought it was so cool how she used to pitch."

Often waking up before dawn to play ball with her younger brother, Joe, Edwards flourished.

"Men used to see me throw and pitch, and they thought it was fantastic," Edwards said. "They even tried to get me to play on a boys' baseball team."

She read about the women's league forming and wrote to league president Max Carney in Chicago. He replied with a telegram, instructing her to try out in Fort Wayne. Edwards made the Daisies in 1946.

Her cream uniform, a shirt and skirt, were trimmed in brown. "It really wasn't so bad," she said, when paired with her spiked shoes and knee socks.

Not many people went to the games, she said, but the players were paid equally. Edwards' first weekly check was $87.

After leaving baseball to develop a singing career, Edwards worked concessions at Crosley Field for 41 years.

Today, Edwards likes watching college softball on television.

"I want to be out there so bad," Edwards said. "You never forget that part in your life."

Kyle McNeely/Blue Ash

McNeely was selected as an Official of the Year by the National Federation Officials Association for his contributions in baseball. He has been officiating for 20 years and also teaches baseball rules clinics across the country. "I got interested in rules doing games, when coaches and players knew more than I did. I wanted to learn," said McNeely, 50. He is primarily a high school and college baseball umpire in the Cincinnati area. He also is involved in football and basketball officiating.

Underwater Hockey/Roger Bacon

What started as a rebuilding season ended on a national level, as the Spartan varsity and reserve teams competed at the United States Underwater National Championships at Northeastern Illinois University June 25-27.

The reserve emerged victorious over the varsity, winning 5-4 in sudden-death overtime when reserve forward Andrew Kalvelage scored.

The reserve finished 13th and the varsity 14th in the 16-team tournament, which drew college and

adult club teams. Roger Bacon has the country's only high school underwater hockey program. A spinoff club, Team Cincinnati, consists largely of Roger Bacon alumni and placed sixth in the championships.

Roger Bacon varsity and reserve team members are Laura Kalb, Chris Michel, Ben Gerke, Anthony Hemingway, Michael Kalb, Katie Rademacher, Chris Gullette, Adam Meisman, Brandon Niederschmidt, Gabby O'Campo, Erin Rademacher, Amanda Strotman and Jenn Wells. Alumni players are Collin Wetzel, Andy Kalb and Kalvelage.

Blacktop Bulldogs/Madeira

The St. Gertrude's Blacktop Bulldogs fast-pitch softball team won the City CYO Fastpitch Championship in Reading June 7. They had the best record (20-4) in CYO play over the last three years, with two league championships. The team of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders practices in the parking lot. Participants are Jennifer Biele, Caroline MacKenzie, Cassie Mock, Marie Gertz, Nikki Campolongo, Colleen Graham, Ann Ramstetter, Lauren Mongelluzzo, Emily Poynter, Jennifer Weitzel, Gina Campolongo, Kevin Graham, Father Ken Letoile, Vince Poynter, Eric King and Dante Campolongo.



All thumbs

Thumbs up

1. Paul Newman. The car enthusiast/actor finished 15th out of 19 cars in the American FT Challenge sports car race Saturday in Salisbury, Conn. Driving a Corvette, Newman was in the top three until mechanical troubles hit. By the way, he's 79.

2. Bill Cosby. The comedian and part-time Harlem Globetrotter is going to be named an honorary member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The Globetrotters signed Cosby to a lifetime contract in 1972 for $1 a year. He got a 5 cent raise in 1986.

3. National Association of Basketball Coaches. They proposed last week that college players be granted five years of eligibility. God bless 'em, but haven't they noticed you can hardly keep kids in school for two years?

4. Roger Federer and Andy Roddick. The two are developing quite a rivalry, just in time for the U.S. hard court season that includes the stop here.

Thumbs down

1. The Athens Olympics. Five weeks away, several key construction projects are yet to be completed. Hotel workers staged a walkout demanding bonuses for extra work. And now . . . wild fires raging through central Greece. Yeesh.

2. Fans. Orlando Magic general manager John Weisbrod had to check into a hotel under an alias after receiving a pair of written death threats at his home in the wake of the Tracy McGrady trade. And the Magic won what, with McGrady? (Remember, fan comes from fanatic.)

The NBA players union. Director Billy Hunter warned players last Monday that there very well could be a work stoppage after next season, given the owners' initial offer. In a somewhat related matter, the Warriors Adonal Foyle, who averaged 3.1 points and 3.8 rebounds last season, has agreed to a five-year, $41.6 million contract.

Thad Matta. At the risk of piling on . . .

Online sports poll

QUESTION: Who do you think has a better chance of making the NCAA Tournament next season?

A: Thad Matta's Ohio State Buckeyes

B: Sean Miller's Xavier Musketeers

LAST WEEK'S QUESTION: If the Reds fall out of contention by the July 31 trading deadline, what do you think will happen?

(1,488 replies)

A: The front office will trade, or try to trade, some of the more expensive players on the team: 37 percent

B: A few trades might be made to free up some money, but it won't be like last year's fire sale: 42 percent

C: Nothing much. The team will stay mostly intact: 21 percent

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Who do you think has a better chance of making the NCAA Tournament next season, Xavier or Ohio State?