The "Battle of the Sexes" is coming back this summer, and this time there will be more than one winner.
More than 35 years after 55-year-old Bobby Riggs lost to 29-year-old Billy Jean King in a nationally televised "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match in September 1973, some local sports teams are also willing to put their pride on the line.
The Chicago Sky was the first to come forward and challenge a celebrity men's basketball team to an exhibition game on June 2, and now two suburban sports franchises are throwing down a challenge to each other.
The Schaumburg Flyers, the independent baseball club playing in the Northern League, have accepted a challenge to play fastpitch softball against the Elgin-based Chicago Bandits, the 2008 National Pro Fastpitch champions.
The two teams will face each other at 7:05 p.m. July 27, and the game will be played by NPF rules, which include underhand windmill pitching. The Flyers will use their wood bats, and the Bandits will stick with their metal bats.
"My friend Bill Sokolis (Bandits owner) has been bragging for years that his women could outplay our men at their game," said Rich Ehrenreich, the Flyers managing partner and president.
"So, I finally asked him, 'Are you saying what I think you're saying?' We looked at each other, and then we both got serious."
The Flyers, who open their home season on May 22, have a mix of players with college, minor-league and major-league experience. The Bandits, who open their home season in June, feature players such as two-time U.S. Olympic medal winner Jenny Finch, Olympian Vicky Galindo, and Canadian Olympian Caitlin Lever.
"This is a great opportunity to find out who is really the best in a battle of the sexes," Sokolis, the Bandits owner and CEO, said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to leaving Alexian Field with another victory for the Bandits and for women softball players all over the world."
The Sky, the WNBA franchise that plays its basketball games at the UIC Pavilion, will close its exhibition season with a game against an all-male team from the Entertainment League at 7 p.m. on June 2. The game will be played with WNBA rules and WNBA referees.
The E League features celebrities in film, television and music who also have talent on the court. Against the Sky, the E League roster includes two Chicago natives, Michael Clark Duncan ("The Green Mile") and Larenz Tate ("Crash"). They will team up with Grammy nominated artists Brian McKnight and Nelly, James Lafferty ("One Tree Hill") and 2008 E League MVP Donald Faison ("Scrubs"). Rounding out the roster are actors Frankie Muniz ("Malcolm in the Middle"), Columbus Short ("Cadillac Records"), Jay Harrington ("Better off Ted") and comedian Bill Bellamy.
"Playing against guys is nothing new for me and most of my teammates; we grew up playing against the guys in the neighborhood parks and in college," said Sky center Sylvia Fowles, who won a gold medal with Team USA in the Beijing Olympics. "They might be surprised as to how strong, physical, and talented we are."
The Sky's regular season begins on June 6 at Minnesota, and its home opener is June 12 against Atlanta.
Tickets for the softball "Battle of the Sexes" are available at flyersbaseball.com or at the Alexian Field box office. Tickets for the basketball "Battle of the Sexes" are available by calling 866-SKY-WNBA or at wnba.com/sky, and part of the proceeds will go toward the Sky Cares charity fund.