Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: With my Hall of Fame vote ending soon, here are my choices in 2016

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



I will not turn this into a whine-fest but time on my lifetime Hall of Fame vote is running out.

A few months ago, the powers that be in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America decided that lifetime members who have not covered baseball in 10 years will no longer vote for the Hall of Fame.

It was an honor and privilege that I enjoyed having since 2008.

At first I was hacked off.

Once during the baseball winter meetings, a baseball executive, referring to another executive, said “He can kiss my red rosy ass!”

That was off the record.

Anyway, since I still have a couple of votes left, I was tempted to return this year’s ballot with a red-marker-scrawled message that featured many of those words – including red and rosy.

I thought of writing in votes for people like my son and daughter. I thought of wasting my votes on dudes who have no shot of even making the ballot next year.

But I care too much about sanctity of the vote to do something like that.

My biggest problem with this bonehead decision is that in the next four or five-plus years, a mountain of players from the years that I covered the sport will be eligible. But I won’t have a say in it.

Oh well. It’s out of my hands. I enjoyed it while I had it and still have a couple of ballots to go before they slam the door in my face.

This year, I voted for the same gang who have whiffed but picked up significant votes in recent years – Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith and Larry Walker. Since we can vote up to 10, I added newcomers Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman to the list.

In previous years, I only voted once for a guy who had no shot – a waste vote, if you will. I voted for Mark Grace simply because I felt he deserved votes and maybe deserved a shot at making a ballot the following year. He isn’t Hall of Fame material, but having the most hits in one decade should count for at least a vote.

This year, since my voting tenure is closing fast, I am relaxing my self-mandated rule of not voting for someone I haven’t selected in the past. I’ve heard more and more compelling evidence for Alan Trammell over the years and this year, I finally put the checkmark in his box.

Next year I will take a closer look at Tim Raines and see if I want to change my mind on him, too.

Eye-opening movie 

I saw the film “Concussion” during the holidays and I didn’t know it would be a mystery. Throughout the film I wondered who stole actor Albert Brooks’ hair.

But on a serious note, the movie graphically opened a lot of eyes on how bad these football collisions can hurt people in the long run. Even high school hits may pay off some bad dividends in later years.

I don’t have any answers to how this is all going to play out. I felt horrible about what happens to football players on the way to the car, but once I got into the car, I couldn’t wait to turn on the Notre Dame-Ohio State game to find out the score.

At times, as a trash-talking joke, I would yell at the TV when a player from a team I don’t like has the ball “Make him cough up some blood!”

After watching “Concussion” I may put that joke on the shelf.


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: A real 'W' of a moment

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Sometimes the best ideas are stolen ideas.

Years ago, I was working as a sportswriter at a local daily paper, someone had the bright idea to end the year by having each one of us write about a certain special moment or behind-the-scenes occurrence from that year.

It could be funny, touching or sentimental.

When I covered the Cubs, I did everything from Todd Wellemeyer’s belching ability to racing home after a Cubs workout to watch my son play in an All-Star game.

I loved writing those stories and when I became editor of the Reporter, it took me my second year to get my rear in gear and write one for 2014 and shared a tale about columnist Don C. White professing his love for his grandson during a December photo shoot after Don. C. spent way too much time the hospital mending from open-heart surgery.

So I am taking that stolen idea from years gone by (does anyone even remember Todd Wellemeyer anymore?) and bringing it back to the sports pages.

If took me all of a half a moment to come up with my favorite moment of 2015.

On Oct. 8, St. Laurence senior football player Alex Martinez had just been told his Chicago firefighter father, Rich, died suddenly at age 48. Alex tweeted to the world “My heart is broken in a million pieces.”

He was scheduled to be the starting quarterback the next night at Aurora Christian.

I planned on shooting photos at two other games and writing about one of them. So I called an audible and made a quick change of plans and shot a quarter of the Richards-Eisenhower game in Blue Island and headed to far west Aurora to see if he would play and how the team was holding up through this tragedy.

Well, the route from Blue Island to Aurora on a Friday night is filled with traffic and it took a while to get there.

I missed the pregame moment of silence that the Aurora school did for Martinez and his family.

When I got there late in the first quarter, he was indeed playing and playing pretty well.

Martinez threw for 202 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score as the Vikings won 63-24 for their fifth win in a row.

Then came the magic moment.

After the game, coach Harold Blackmon gathered the boys near the south end zone gave a speech and had Martinez stand up.

A couple of his pals presented him with this big box and Alex opened it up.

Inside was a team-autographed ‘W’ banner which was made popular by the Cubs, who happened to be playing St. Louis in the playoffs that night.

Martinez had a huge smile as he unfurled the huge ‘W.’

It was a moment you don’t see on a football field. It was a great moment of pure joy, camaraderie and offered some temporary relief during a dreadful 24-hour period.

“That was great for them to do that,” Martinez said.

Blackmon said the banner was one of the players’ ideas.

“Our kids really embrace family,” the coach said. “We all grieve with Alex. In the pregame speech we said for a few hours we wanted to get him to normalcy and doing something that’s fun. Alex’s dad loves the Cubs so they decided to give him a banner. We take care of our own.’’

They took care of their own and provided one of the best moments of 2015.

JEFF VORVA'S EXTRA POINT: Cubs, NU hoops hope to end futility streak in 2016

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


The race is on.

Well, it’s actually been on for many years but now it appears that either a finish line or a mirage is in sight.

I’ve been posing this question for years and it has three answers.

What will happen first?

$1a)      The Cubs winning a World Series.

$1b)      Northwestern’s men’s basketball team making the NCAA Tournament.

$1c)       Neither. The world will end before the Cubs win the top prize and NU makes it to the Big Dance.

In 2016, it looks like both teams are put into a position where it could happen sooner than later.

I don’t want to overhype this or get people’s hopes up, but there are some good signs.

The Cubs gave their fans a huge Christmas present when they signed that washed-up bum outfielder Jason Hayward to a huge contract.

What? He’s not washed up?

He’s not a bum?

Well, that’s what St. Louis Cardinal fans are saying, heh, heh, heh.

On paper, the Cubs look like they just about have it all. Good hitting. Good pitching. A manager that is adored by players and most fans – although he was a washed out bum after that weekend the Cubs were clobbered by the lowly Phillies in late July according to some fans who called in to the sports yak radio stations.

But World Series titles are not won on paper. First, teams must go through a 162-game grind and the playoffs are a month of unpredictability in which the best team doesn’t always win. Just ask Lou Piniella after he guided Seattle to a 116-win season in 2001 and couldn’t bring the big prize home.

It’s going to be a long climb for the Cubs but it should end up being a fun season for the fans.

The smart money is that Northwestern would have the better chance. It’s easier to make it to the NCAA Tournament than it is to win a World Series, even though the Wildcats never made it.


At least the Cub won a World Series, albeit more than a century ago.

NU’s streak of failure to qualify is astounding considering they had pretty good coaches such as Rich Falk, Bill Foster, the late Ricky Byrdsong, Kevin O’Neill, Bill Carmody and now Chris Collins, who is in his third year.

Year after year, the Wildcats generally have pretty decent non-conference seasons only to get torn up in the Big Ten Conference.

Carmody had four straight seasons of 17-14, 20-14, 20-14 and 19-14 overall but couldn’t put up a winning record in the Big Ten and that meant four trips to the NIT.

This year, the Wildcats have played a soft non-conference schedule and were 10-1 after beating DePaul in overtime Saturday.

I don’t think this is a great NU team, but the key is having a good Big Ten record. And some Big Ten teams are not setting the world on fire.

I see two winnable games against Nebraska, Minnesota and Penn State.

I see winnable games against Wisconsin, Illinois and Rugters.

That’s nine wins there.

I see two likely losses against Maryland and one likely loss against Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue and Michigan.

That’s six losses there.

They have two games with up-and-down Ohio State and one against Indiana and if they pick off one or two of those games, they are in great position for a plus .500 season in the Big Ten, which should put them in the NCAA Tournament.

But, keep in mind a lot of people have predicted this success after promising non-conference seasons only to have those dreams dashed over and over.

So who wins the end-of-the-futility race?

Let’s hope we all live long enough to see a winner.

Three more named Reporter-Regional Players of the Year

  • Written by Jeff Vorva





Page 1 boys CC player of the year

Photos by Jeff Vorva

Sean Torpy poses with Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin when Sandburg was honored by the village.


Vince Capuano did not run on Sandburg’s state championship cross country team.

He is not even on the roster.

But he may have had one of the biggest hand in the Eagles’ success without even realizing it six years ago.

Capuano convinced fellow Jerling sixth grader Sean Torpy to go out for cross country.

But Torpy wanted no part of it.

“It was my first day of school and the first day of practice for cross country and I was hemming and hawing about going out for the team,’’ Torpy said. “I was just about to walk out of the building and Vince came over and grabbed me by the hook of my backpack and said ‘I don’t want to go to practice alone.’ ’’

Sean tried out, loved the sport, and convinced his twin brother, Chris, to get involved, too.

In November the Torpys helped the Eagles win their first Class 3A boys cross country state championship and they went on to finish fourth in the nation. Sean Torpy became the Eagles’ top runner in the postseason and has been named the first Reporter-Regional Boys Cross Country Player of the Year.

Torpy finished third in the state with a time of 14 minutes, 25 seconds, and also was first at the Hinsdale Central Sectional. Odds are, the senior probably would have won a regional race, but many of the top Sandburg runners sat out that event to concentrate on sectionals and state.

Chris[j1] , is one of Sean’s biggest fans.

“He’s one of two guys on the team who has been running his whole career,” Chris said. “He’s been doing it since sixth grade. He was motivated for the team to win a state title. It’s been his dream for years even before he got into high school. Now that he is in high school and we won a state title…I’m proud of him and I love to see him up there and leading us. He motivates me and he motivates the other runners.

“He led the team to our first state title and it’s definitely worth it for him.’’

--Jeff Vorva



Page 1 Girls cross country player of the year

When Chicago Christian’s Allie Boss, April van Ryn, Alexis van Ryn and Jill Van Dyk teamed together to win the Class 2A 4x800 meter relay championship at the University High Track and Field Sectional in the spring and qualified for state, they knew they had a special team.

Three of the four athletes were on the cross country team in 2014 that finished 18th in the state and they decided to convince the fourth – April Van Ryn – to come out for the team this year.

Not only did van Ryn join the team, the junior finished first in the McNamara regional to help the Knights easily win that title by 39 points and she took second in the Lisle Sectional and helped the Knights win that event by 43 points.

The big test was going to come at the state meet on Nov. 6. As her teammates attested, the state meet can be overwhelming for a first-time qualifier because of the enormity of the event and the volume of runner in the race at Detweiler Park in Peoria.

She passed the test.

Once again, she led the Knights finishing 28th place overall with a time of 18 minutes 35 seconds and scored 17 points for her team and is named the Reporter-Regional’s first Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.

The Knights finished seventh in the state meet, up 11 spots from last year and van Ryn’s presence was one of the main reasons.

“She did so well on the track team that we really wanted her on the cross country team,” said Van Dyk, who finished second for the Knights in the state meet. “She really helped us a lot. We’re hoping next year we can place even higher.’’

The race was not as overwhelming for van Ryan because she knew what to expect, courtesy of the wisdom of her teammates and coach Jake Christiansen.

“I felt good and our race strategy helped a lot,” van Ryn said. “We needed to relax for the first mile and work harder in the second and third miles.’’

--Jeff Vorva



Page 1 girls swimmer player of the year

By winning medals in two events at the recent IHSA State Swimming finals at New Trier, Sandburg senior Clare Lawlor raised her career state medal total to seven, including six individual awards.

“It was a very sweet taste at state,” she said of the experience at New Trier High School Nov. 20-21.

The seven total medals earned by Lawlor also broke the school swimming record, for both boys and girls, of six medals captured by Brittany Kamper from 2009-2012 as Lawlor earned the first Reporter-Regional Girls Swimming Player of the Year.

The Rutgers-bound Lawlor finished fourth in the 100-yard freestyle (51.27) and seventh in the 50 freestyle (23.52). The finish in the 100 was the only time in her career that she qualified in the championship heat (top six places).

“For myself, it was really great to finish off the year so strong,” Lawlor said. “Also, to be able to share the experience with my teammates who also worked hard was really great. Had a lot of sophomores step and a freshman who really showed us what she had. She really helped us.”

With a young team to start the season, Lawlor took advantage of the opportunity to a mentor an example to the underclassmen. She got her first experience at state as a freshman, when she competed on the Eagles' 400-free relay team that finished ninth. That experience whetted her appetite for more.

“Every day in practice I really tried to help the team out because practices are so challenging,” she said. “It was good to help them and to put a perspective on the daily duties and also to positive for my teammates in every practice.”

In her career at Sandburg, Lawlor swam under the guidance of two coaches – the late and beloved Jane Caliendo and current coach Anna McBride. She said she’s grateful for the influence of both.

“Coach Caliendo impacted me significantly as an underclassmen,” she said. “Coach McBride was also a great mentor, and it was great having her as a coach. She worked so hard, and it motivated all of us to work harder.”

--Anthony Nasella



Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Red Stars hope for bigger kick with return to Toyota Park

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




In an area such as this, where professional teams such as the Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks have such a stranglehold on sports fans, it’s hard to break in and survive.

So when a new venture of a women’s soccer team popped up in 2009, I have to admit that I figured it would last three or four years before dissolving like many other sports ventures that dared to go up against the big five.

But the Chicago Red Stars are still around. They have gone through rocky times and I’m not actually sure how strong and stable the organization is financially, but I do know two things:

1—They are still here.

2—They are coming back home.

The team announced last Thursday that it will play its 2016 home games back at the 20,000-seat Toyota Park in Bridgeview. The Red Stars started there in 2009 and 2010 and left for the 3,000-seat Benedictine University venue in Lisle for the last five years.

Coming home will be like a new beginning for the franchise.

 “In 2016, it’s time to return to our original home – Toyota Park. Our fans and sponsors will now enjoy an exciting game day environment in a major league stadium, while our players and the rest of the teams throughout the NWSL will enjoy the benefits of competing on a world class, natural grass pitch,” said Arnim Whisler, owner of the Chicago Red Stars in a statement.  “It was hard to leave Toyota Park in 2010, but we are thankful for the warm reception and incredible support of Benedictine University and the Village of Lisle over the last three years.  It gave us an intimate and affordable setting as our club and the league have grown.”

Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek said Thursday he is glad to see the Red Stars back in his town.

“Women’s soccer has been growing and we think they can get a couple of thousand fans per game next year,” he said. “This is exciting.’’

The trouble with women’s soccer is that the casual fan only seems to get excited about it when the USA does well in the World Cup.

One selling point for the Red Stars is that the National Women’s Soccer League is so strong that fans will get to see every member of the 2015 World Cup champs on their respective team at Toyota Park in 2016.

Another selling point is the price. Officials say that more than 25 percent of the seating will be priced at $25 or less.

Also, parking will be free.

So in this second go-around at Toyota Park, the organization has a solid game plan.

But what is on the field will be just as important.

In 2009, the Red Stars won their first game of the year and then proceeded to go nine straight games without a win and built up an ugly 451-minute stretch without a goal. That doesn’t put fans in the seats.

The team has changed leagues a couple of times and had some decent seasons in Lisle and is coming off an 8-3-9 season and it made it to the semifinals of the National Women’s Soccer League Tournament. So the product on the field in 2016 should be pretty decent.

The Southwest Regional Publishing group, of which this newspaper is a part of, plans on giving the Red Stars coverage we hope to step up our coverage on the Chicago Fire as well. The Fire has done an outstanding job staying alive despite the big five.

All the ingredients are there for a better experience at Toyota Park for the Red Stars this time.

Will the Red Stars be able to start knocking off one of the big five? That’s highly doubtful.

But if they can put a product on the field that will bring fans back to Bridgeview game after game, perhaps they can carve a nice niche out for themselves and stay around awhile longer.Columnsig924