Hall of Fame Inductees
All Inductees By Name
Tommy “T” Thompson / Inducted 2016 Media & Organizers
Tommy “T” Thompson
Tommy Thompson was a Local One Ironworker and very proud of it. He was so proud of it that in1982 he started and founded the Dollars for Diabetes Union Yes Softball Tournament, a tournament sponsored by the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council. Unions affiliated with the Council had been collecting money to help fund research on diabetes through a program called DAD’s Day (Dollars Against Diabetes). They would collect money through street corner collections. The Dollars for Diabetes Tournament changed that collection process by featuring teams from the Building Trade Council playing for the tournament title and raising money to help fight diabetes. The first tournament was held at Amundsen Park on the Northwest side of Chicago. Under Hall of Famer Frank Lentine, the inaugural tournament was won by the Local One Ironworkers. The tournament raised ten thousand dollars the first year and regularly raises twenty thousand dollars each year. It is now held at St. Christina’s at 111th and Central Park in Chicago. Tommy grew up in Oak Park and was recruited to play sixteen-inch softball for the Takers in 1979 by Hall of Fame manager Rich Polfus. He started out as an outfielder, but Polfus quickly converted him to a pitcher when Tommy’s talents reminded Polfus of a young Mike Tallo (HOF). He was a tremendous city park pitcher who racked up championships at Oak Park, Amundsen Park, Sayre Park, Portage Park, Wells Park, Hamlin Park, Clarendon Park, his greatest softball championship. Tommy also won many tournaments, including the Ted Lechowitc Tournament at Kosciusko Park. One of Tommy’s greatest softball memories was the night he almost beat Mike Tallo and his legendary team Otto’s in the open game of the Forest Park Tournament in 1981. He lost 8-7 and then watched Otto’s slaughter everyone on their way to the tournament title. Besides being a great pitcher, Tommy was a dangerous hitter who prided himself on using a thirty-seven inch bat. Tommy and his wife, Judy, have 3 children – Casey, Jake, and Haley. All of his children were gifted in softball. Tom coached for the legendary Oak Park Windmills and both daughters were able to play for him. His son, Jake, is a well-rounded player this year and is playing with the Hex. Tom was well respected by his peers as a great ironworker, organizer, and labor leader. He should best be remembered as a great friend to many, a great teammate, and a great union member. Friends will always remember “hooty-hoot” as his trademark saying.
Northern Trust / Honored 2016 Team Recognition
Up until 1983, the Northern Trust Bank’s corporate softball team had limited success. About every other year, the team finished second in their Grant Park league, which qualified them to play in the GP Industrial Tournament. Once in the tournament, however, success was fleeting. They would maybe win their first game, but rarely would go any deeper in the tournament. However, in 1983, that all changed when Northern Trust won its first tournament and never looked back, winning over another dozen tournaments over the next twenty years. The team’s good fortune changed when Steve Sims and James Hudson joined the team. Steve and James played for the Hustlers, a South side powerhouse team that used to winning. However, Steve’s entry into the team was not as smooth as one might expect. During the March tryouts, Steve in particular did not stand out. In Chicago, March weather can be very brutal. That March was no exception and Steve did not fare well in it. It’s fair to say that Steve was not a “cold weather player” that year. After the final tryout, he waited breathlessly to find out if he made the final cut. Steve lamented, “I play on the Hustlers, but I may not make the bank’s team!” Well, he did make the team and history shows that his selection was the correct one because he was arguably its best player during many of the championship years. Once on the team, Steve and James joined incumbent starters Jerry Frey, Bob Brei, Gene Partipilo, and Mike Rohan. After finishing second in the league again, they entered the GP Industrial Tournament with a different mindset. Although not physically imposing (remember, they were bankers going up against railroad men) they prided themselves on solid defense and timely hitting. After beating their first four opponents, they played Rheem Manufacturing. Rheem was expecting to finish off an unbeaten season, having won all their league and other tournaments that year. However, Northern surprised them and won 13-8. For many players on the team, this was their first taste of championship in a long time. The following year, the Northerners repeated. Once again, they faced Rheem Manufacturing and once again they were victorious. Northern Trust continued to win but didn’t reach the championship round again until 1989. In the final game, Northern Trust was up by one run in the last inning against Santa Fe. Santa Fe’s leadoff man and speedster was on second with one out. Time was called and when play resumed everyone knew their number three hitter would jack one as far as he could hit it. If not a home run, it would likely score the tying run. Just as expected, the ball was shot into the right field gap. The Northern Trust players all hoped that they could hold them to just one run when John Oplt, their right fielder, defied the odds and not only caught the ball, but whirled and threw it back towards the infield. Jerry Frey caught the throw and relayed it home to a waiting catcher Johnny B. The ball and the runner arrived at the same time and amid the cloud of dust, the umpire strained to determine whether Johnny held onto the ball. Reminiscent of a Hollywood ending, when the dust settled, up from between the sliding runner’s legs appeared a hand with the ball in it. Game over; Northern won. There are many reasons why the men of Northern Trust played the game. This was one of them. That story was told and retold time and again whenever two or more of them gathered in a bar, at someone’s house, or in the bank cafeteria. Every championship had its own memories. Some were won when the least likely player got a key hit or made a great play. Some were won when the star players performed as expected. One was won when a player, not expecting to play, showed up and was inserted into the lineup to make the eighth player necessary to start the game. Had he not shown up, the game would have been forfeited and we would not have gone on to win the tournament. From 1983 thru 2002, the Northern Trust Bank team won 475 games, over 80% of all games played including tournament games. Key players on those teams include: Jerry Frey Bob Brei Gene Partipilo Mike Rohan Steve Sims James Hudson Ron Spivey Norm Cavedo Dan Doherty Maurice Oattes Chris Cobb Daryl Miles Terry Davis Reggie Knighten John Oplt Perry Gholston John Bierwaczonek Ray Carney Jeff O’Neill Bob Yess Robert Parker Randy Blackwell Barry Perry Bob Sturgis Tas Vasilakos Joe Yacullo Jim Van Pelt James Jensen Dave Hbrabrich Bob Keeley Dwayne Lee Jon Pivoney Pat Woolfe
Thunder / Honored 2016 Team Recognition
Thunder is a long time group of neighborhood friends that evolved into a consistent top-ten team, and for several years were much better than that. Frank Stella started the team in the Glenview Park District and Morton Grove Park District High School leagues in 1983. Thunder is still running in 2016 with no signs of slowing down. The majority of the team from 1983 through the late 1990s all went to high school together at Glenbrook South in Glenview and lived within four blocks of one another. After winning countless league championships in the Glenview Park District, Morton Grove Park District, Golf Maine Park District, and Des Plaines Park District, Thunder joined the more competitive Mt Prospect Park District and began playing in weekend tournaments in 1998. Thunder had some success right off the bat after stepping up in competition winning two tournaments in 1999, while finishing seventh out of field of forty-five in ASA Class “A” Nationals that year. From the mid-2000s through the present in 2016, Thunder has been a consistent top-10 team. Thunder has always had a strong core of loyal and dedicated players who spent more time together off the field than on. There was very little roster turnover from year to year. In 2016 the roster will have five players who are sons of former players. Since stepping up in competition in 1998, Thunder has the following accomplishments:
- 1015 wins
- Won thirty-seven league championships
- Won the Mt Prospect Classic League in 2012
- Won ASA Class “A” Nationals in 2007
- Won ten tournaments
- Finished third in ASA Class “A” Nationals in 2000, and 2004 after losing winners bracket final
- Finished third in ASA/SSA Major Nationals in 2009 and 2011 after losing winners bracket final
- Seven other top-ten finishes in Nationals for a total of eleven top-ten finishes in seventeen years
- Seventeen top-ten finishes in Major tournaments
- One of only four teams who played in Forest Park No Glove Nationals every year since 2007. Thunder had two top-ten finishes in that time span
- Finished third in ASA State Championships in 2007 and 2009
- Fourth in total number of wins in Mt Prospect Classic League history
- Team manager Frank Stella ranked fourth in total number of wins among managers in Mt Prospect Classic League history
- Thirty-nine players with All-American awards at Nationals
- Two players win the batting championship at Nationals
- Two players win the most home runs award at Nationals
- Two players win the most home runs award at Forest Park No Glove Nationals
- One player won the MVP at ASA Class “A” Nationals
Mike Tallo / Inducted 1996 1964-1979 Era
Considered to be the greatest 16” softball pitcher since 1950. Today every pitcher tries to emulate the quiet thin man who threw right and backed up to play defense. Mike came to the 16” game late after playing minor league ball for the Giants. He quickly made an impact with the Strikers and revolutionized the role of the defensive pitcher in the modern game, when he changed the “drag step” to more of a “step-back” creating a six man infield. Led by his efforts they won 181 games in ‘74 and had only 12 losses! A great defensive player with an unpredictable pick-off move, also a fine hitter and great streak hitter who was 23 for 24 in the 1974 windy City World Series of Softball. He played on six ASA National Champions (ERV Strikers, Bobcats, Lettuce, and Whips) and four USSSA World title winners. He was part of 10 championship teams in the Forest Park Tourney including Otto’s, Mr. Lucky’s, Stompers and teams noted above. Named as the MYP in more than 70 different tournaments during his career including the Winston Softball World Series and 4 USSSA World events. Mike only pitched 2 no-hitters and they were back to back in the same tourney! Only a broken hand from a line drive has really kept him away from playing more often in recent years. He was a co-host on the Miller Softball Report radio show with Tim Maher. Born 1943.
Sammy Taylor / Inducted 2000 1980's & 1990's Era
With a purported 36” vertical leap, sprinter speed and impressive upper body strength, Sammy Taylor was a triple threat in leagues throughout the Chicagoland 16” softball scene. A right handed hitter who consistently averaged over 700, Taylor could also surprise the opposition with his home run power. He played center field for the legendary Flamingos during their heyday in the 70’s and 80’s. He helped lead them the USSSA State Championship in 1988. Taylor was a consistent All-Stater and All-American at the ASA and USSSA levels. As one of the top players on one of the top teams during his era, Sammy Taylor has earned and richly deserves his place in the Softball Hall of Fame.
Jim Taylor / Inducted 2005 Richard J. Daley Friend of Softball Award
When Jim Taylor, Len Smith and Terry Bell formed Hometown Distributing in 1983, they immediately threw their support behind 16" softball on the South Side of Chicago, supporting many teams at Washington, Kelly, Grant, and Forest Parks. In the mid 1980s, the Touch and Jim realized their dream when Touch won the National Championship in Iowa. Jim has served on the boards of Chicago Convention and Tourism, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the National Beer Wholesalers, Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, the Chicago Girls and Boys Clubs - General R.E. Woods Unit and is a trustee of Teamster Local 744 Health and Welfare and Pension Plans.
Cheryl Teale / Inducted 2012 Women
When Cheryl was about nine years old, she and her sister Cathy, along with the neighborhood boys started playing baseball in the streets of Oak Lawn using the sewer covers as bases. When the Oak Lawn Park District decided to form a girl's softball league, Cheryl and her sister Cathy joined and their mother Mary managed the team that they named the Kool Kats during its initial season. That year Cheryl hit fifteen home runs, drove in sixty-three runs and earned the team's MVP award. The Kool Kats went on to take first place honors for several years and Cheryl was awarded many all-star awards. Cheryl attended Queen of Peace High School and played sixteen-inch softball until her senior year when the school left the Chicago Athletic Conference sixteen-inch league and joined the GCAC twelve-inch league. While playing for Queen of Peace she began to hone both her skills as a catcher, tagging out most runners who tried to score and also her long distance hitting skills. Queen of Peace won the CYO Sectional Championship in 1975 and 1976. In 1977 Cheryl was named the GCAC All-Area Second Team for her offensive and defensive skills. Her big break into sixteen-inch softball started in 1976 when she was seventeen and was asked to play for the Ringers, coached by Scott Carter. They were a dominant team at the time that played in the Bedford Park and Oak Lawn Park District women's leagues. They won several league championships and Cheryl earned many All-Star awards. She then switched to the Flames (renamed the Angels the following year) where she played for the legendary coach, Bill Broukal. As a member of the Angels, she started to play four to five nights a week in league play all over the south suburbs and played in tournaments on the weekends. As a member of the Angel�s she became a dominant catcher but also played first base and pitched when needed. But her real skills were in her "south-paw" hitting. When she came up to bat, the outfield would back up to almost the fence line. Cheryl's nickname was Scooter, and it came from her ability to round the bases. During her almost thirty years of playing softball, she hit hundreds of home runs and drove in hundred of runs as the clean up hitter. In 1980, the Angel's had their best season ending the season with a record of 57-8. They won titles in Bedford Park, Oak Brook and the Blue Island End of Season Tourney. In 1981, the Angel's repeated their success with a record of 53-8 and won the championship in Blue Island, Cal City and the Old Style Classic. In 1983, she was named to the League on Champion All- Star at the Old Style Classic. As a traveling team, the Angels traveled all over the country playing softball and traveled as far as Salt Lake City, Utah. In the spring of 1987, Bill Broukal passed away unexpectedly, so Connie Bruegmann stepped up as the coach and with Cheryl as the team captain, the Angel continued the legacy started by Broukal. The Chicago Sixteen-Inch Siftball Hall of Fame honored the Angels in 2002. Cheryl also played sixteen-inch softball for several other teams. She played for the Bidayos, Lightning, Altom, Good-n-Plenty, Arch Angels and the Diamond Girls. The Diamond Girls coached by Lisa Lovato, dominated sixteeninch softball in the '90s, just like the Angels did in the '80s. They played softball mainly in Tinley Park where they won league championship every year from 1992-2001. After the Diamond Girls called it quits, Cheryl continued to play twelve- inch softball until she retired in 2007 at the age of forty-eight. Cheryl came back to sixteen-inch softball in 2002-2004 to play in the Y-Me Tournament in Mount Greenwood. In 2003 the Angel's reignited their old glory days by winning the Y-Me championship. Besides excelling at sixteen-inch softball, Cheryl also excelled in twelve-inch fast-pitch softball. In 1976 while still in high school, she tried out for the Chicago Ravens, a newly developed team in the Professional Women's Softball League and even though she had only played fast pitch for one year, she made it to the final cut. Cheryl played fast-pitch twelve-inch softball at Moraine Valley Community College where she earned her Associates Degree in science. Cheryl continued her education at Illinois Benedictine College where she played softball for another two years. Once her eligibility expired, she became an assistant coach for her college team. She graduated at I.B.C. with a Bachelors of Computer Science degree. Cheryl continues to reside in Oak Lawn and enjoys training her dog in agility, spending time in Michigan, enjoying water sports and scuba diving in the Caribbean.
James “J.T.” Tencza / Inducted 2015
James “J.T.” Tencza
James Tencza has been involved in sixteen-inch softball as a player and coach for forty-five years. He started playing softball in 1964 at McKinley Park on Chicago’s South Side. He also played at Mark White Park (now McGuane Park). He started out playing centerfield but switched to shortstop after a knee injury. After his fifth knee injury on the same knee, he decided to give up playing and switched to coaching in 1985 with Mick Ballestri. During his career, teams he played on or coached racked-up three ASA “A” National second place finishes with the Scooters in 1995 and Crush in 2001. Flash took second in the ASA Majors in 2004. His teams won two ASA Major titles – 2008 and 2009 with Flashback. In 2011 Flashback won the SSA title. In 2010 they took second in the ASA Majors, losing to Windy City. His teams were equally successful in the Forest Glove No-Glove Nationals. Crush was runner-up in 2001 and Maxim took second in 2006. Flash won the title in 2005. Flashback won the No-Glove title three years-in-a-row from 2010 to 2012. His Chicago Police Department team won the City of Chicago championship more than twenty times.
Team The 45’s / Honored 2012 Team Recognition
Team The 45’s
The Miller 45s dominated the softball world during their peak years: 2001 to 2009. The foundation for that sustained excellence began in 1988, the birth year of the Bud 45s. The Bud 45's struggled through their early years in the Mt. Prospect Classic League and Des Plaines Power League, the top talent leagues on the North side. Hovering at the .500-mark, the 45's fortunes rose with the addition of several new players beginning with the 1992 addition of Tim Flanagan (HOF) and his younger brother, John Flanagan. 1993 brought Mike Caputo (HOF) Mike Stout (HOF) Tony Portincaso (HOF) Erik and Kurt Kiesel, Larry Downes and Mike "Rock" Consiglio. The 45s, buoyed by the influence of veteran talent, began a steady rise in Major softball, finishing second in the Forest Park Invitational tournament, and winning two other tournaments that year. The mid-90s success led to a Forest Park Major Invitational Tournament Title over Lettuce, and a winner's bracket final loss (4-3 to Lettuce) that still haunts manager Bob Rascia. 45s league play, in the both the Mt. Prospect Classic League and Cicero "Pro League" resulted in multiple top three finishes. 1998 ushered in a change in sponsorship from Budweiser to Miller Beer, a minor change dwarfed by the addition of the 45s franchise player of the next 10 years: Rick "88" Gancarz, and 45s mainstays Joe Dooley and Dan Mustari. Teamed with longtime 45's Pat Heraty, Mike Stout, Tony Portincaso and the Kiesel brothers, 1998 brought an ASA winner-up banner to ASA Major National Championships 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 ASA State Tournament Championships 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009 Westchester Championships 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011 Forest Park "No-Glove" Championships 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 North vs. South Championships 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 Chicagoland Classic Championships 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008 Mt.Prospect Classic Championships 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 Hodgkins Park / Westchester Park District and Miller Lite Championships 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 Nine-Year Record (2003-1011) 660 wins and 90 losses the expanding 45s collection. The 45s Bucks matchup in the elimination bracket final was an all-time 45s classic game. The clutch hitting of Stout, Kiesel and Mustari, along with an extra inning three run "bomb" by Gancarz carried the 45s over the Jeff Berger, Jim Matlock, and Keith Filkins led Bucks. All of these players would later join the 45s. Frank Mustari (HOF), Curt Uidl (HOF), Paul Brezinski (HOF) Len Nuzzo, Mike Oneill, Tony Prochenski lead the 45s into the 1999 season resulting in league dominance. The 2000 addition of Israel Sanchez, followed by the 2001 addition of Dan Jalowiec, Rich Villa, and Mark Frighetto created an allstar packed 45s line-up. The 45s stressed and played strong defense and solid fundamental hitting. Their 2001 infield of Oneill (3B), Mustari (SS) Frighetto/Berschell (SC), Villa/ Jalowic (2B) and Sanchez (1B) perhaps challenged only by the 2003 45's infield of Berger (3B), Mustari (SS) Portincaso/Frighetto (SC), Jalowic (2B) and Sanchez (1B) would likely top any all-time list. The 45s focused commitment to both league and tournament play lead to ASA Major National Championship Titles in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, along with forest Park Invitational Titles in 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The 45s captured 74 tournament titles from 2000 to 2009. Mt. Prospect Classic League titles were secured in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. The roster-wide commitment to league and tournament play allowed the 45s to accomplish total dominance in the 2003 to 2007 era, by way of multiple thirty-game win streaks, and four seasons with single digit loss totals. This team wide commitment to excellence resulted in a three-year stretch, from 2003 to 2005, without consecutive game losses. During that three-year period the 45s were a perfect 18-0 in ASA Major National Tournament play, with an overall record of 43-3 from 2001 to 2007 in ASA National Tournament play. The extraordinary commitment to team play was the bench Mark of the 45s, allowing the team to achieve extraordinary success through extraordinary play. The highlights were many, like overcoming a 14 to 0 first inning deficit to Traffic in the 2000 Forest Park Invitational, winning the Westchester Invitational, Forest Park Invitational and ASA Major National Title out of losers bracket in 2006, all against Maxim, and the very first Forest Park Invitational title, 4-3 over Lettuce in 1996 on Doug Perez's walk-off hit. The 1996 Forest Park Invitational Championship was definitely earned the hardway, with Sunday victories over The Doll House, Splinters and Lettuce, the top three teams that year, in succession. The disappointments were few, but unfortunately, memorable. The untimely passing of teammates Tom "Eggs" Czarnick and Terry Moran and sponsor James "Grandpa Jim" Terrence far overshadowed any on field loss. The sustained success of 45s was clearly driven by a star-studded roster of committed players whose day-to-day focus was unprecedented. The management team of Bob Rascia (HOF), Mike Caputo (HOF), and Ron Kubicki (HOF) guided the 45s with a passionate commitment to team, not individual, success. The 45s are extremely thankful to their generous sponsors over the years: 45th Ward Alderman Patrick Levar; Budweiser; Miller Beer' Bucks Lounge' Beacon Tap; Golden Tee and most of all, Al MacFarlane (HOF) and Splinter's Sports Club.
Mel Thillens / Inducted 1996 Media & Organizers
Mel created the Northtown softball field at Devon and Kedzie that everyone could enjoy in 1938. It was due to a suggestion by his brother Ferdy because there were no fields safe to play this popular sport. He added lights (oldest in Chicago) and his diamond became the site of the best men and women games/tournaments and round robin pot games in Chicago. The Northtown League was a tremendous success averaging 4,000 viewers per night until 1951. In fact some doubleheaders attracted more people than Sox games. Both his men’s and women’s Thifien’s Checkcashers were one of the best teams from the Northside. He was a supporter for the women’s game too, including the professional baseball league during WW.II and ladies pro softball in the 50’s. The best pitchers like Vivan Bates made $500 a week. His children’s softball and baseball clinics and support of little league baseball are legendary. When he switched to baseball for kids 10,000 boys tried out for his league’s teams. Chicago’s only Williamsport Little League World Series finalist were from the now renamed Thillens Stadium in 1952. Most kids in Chicago have played or dreamed of playing there. The first centerfield camera shot was from his park on WGN by Jack Brickhouse. Thillen’s Stadium was the site of the first 16” ASA Nationals in 1964 televised on the Wide World of Sports. The beautifully maintained landmark is still used today for games and benefits due to the family generosity and commitment to amateur sports. Born in 1914, survived by his wife Dorsi, two children and Ferdy.
Gary Thorsen / Inducted 2008 1980's & 1990's Era
Gary Thorsen’s love for baseball began in back yards and school grounds when he was just eight years old. He moved on to play neighborhood pick-up games and was named a high school All- American. His move to 16-inch softball began in 1970 when he met up with Fritz Zimmerman of March Manufacturing. Besides March, Gary also played with Petro of Bensenville (his hometown), Duo Fast of Franklin Park, and Phil’s Kids in Melrose Park. But it was playing for March Manufacturing and other notable teams in the 1980s and 1990s that gave Gary most of his memories and provided him with most of his opportunities. March Manufacturing, with Dick Cooper as manager, finished second to Lettuce in the ASA Nationals in Marshalltown, Iowa. Doll House, with Sal Vasta as manager, won the Forest Park No-Gloves Nationals and the Rockers, with Lane Nieman as manager, finished fourth in the ASA Nationals. Gary also played with My Chauffer, Attitude, Miller Taggers with Frank Holan, and with the Registers and Wally Pecs. During those years, Gary had the good fortune to play with such great players as Tim Decker, Pat Heraty, John Kelleher, Terry Moran, Frank Mustari, Mark Frighetto, Stan Bachusz, Buddy Doroskin, the Kelly brothers, Mike Stout, Rick Gancarz, Jim Matlock, Tony Prochemski, and Jeff Burger. He has received several 1st and 2nd Team ASA and USSSA All-American awards, but perhaps his greatest award occurred when he tied legendary power-hitter, Kurt Uidl, in a home run championship. Not bad for a “cutter”. Over his thirty-eight year career, he has formed many great friendships because of 16-inch softball. Although he finds time to play 12-inch senior ball, he considers 16-inch softball to be the better challenge. He compares it to a good game of chess because of softball’s strategy and constantly changing game situations. Gary has been president of the 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame for the past twelve years. His mission is to recognize and memorialize those who have made 16-inch softball Chicago’s “great game.” He is honored to be recognized by his peers and dedicates this honor to his mother. Gary lives In Bloomingdale, Illinois and still enjoys playing in an occasional pick-up game with his son, Graham, or playing catch with his other son, Garrett. He is the special events director for the Village of Bensenville.
Ted “Todge” Tomczak / Inducted 2001 1950-1963 Era
Ted “Todge” Tomczak
One of the best shortstops of the era, Ted Tomczak played on a variety of top teams including the Dunne Cones, the 1025 Club, Bennetts, Tracys, Ted Reese and Jim Roses. In 1945, Ted, with the 1025 Club, won 81 games against only 8 losses. In addition to his prowess at shortstop, Tomczak's 550 lifetime batting average and clutch hitting made him one of the top softball players of his era. In 2000, Ted had three children; Beverly, Barbara and Bonnie and lived in Chicago.
Ray “Topps” Topolski / Inducted 1996 Pioneers 1887-1949
Ray “Topps” Topolski
Ray began his softball career in the "Back of the Yards" at Sherman Park with his friends the Chi-Wolves. Played for Daly Hamburgs after returning from college. He flourished as a centerfielder with the Jimmy Rose team at Clarendon and Chicago and Kedzie Leagues until '59. One of his highlights was a 4 home run performance in an Allstar game at Thillens. Then he joined the champion Bobcats.and played CF until 1964 when the 6 children demanded more time and his wife Theresa was glad to get it. He was an excellent fielder and clutch hitter with a unique hitting style that created good power. He finished his illustrious 20 years helping his employer, Reliable Packing, win 2 Industrial Championships in the late 60s. He was a 3 sport letterman at Leo High School in football, track, and basketball. As a senior, he was honored as the Athlete for 4 Years by Cardinal Stritch! Played baseball and batted .330 and averaged 20 points per game in basketball for Lewis College. Grandfather to 15. Born 1933.
Ray Topps / Inducted 2001 1980's & 1990's Era
When he began his softball career in the Grant Park Industrial League, a young Ray Topps experienced a moment few players ever got the change to experience; he played on the same field with his father, Ray Topolski, a fellow Hall of Famer, who retired from softball in 1970. Ray went on to play with the Loafers at Kelly Park and the Nocturnes at Kelly Park and Windy City. In 1978, the Nocturnes went undefeated at Kelly Park. A feat never accomplish before or since. Topps then moved to the Bobcats and remained with them until many of the players decided to play in the 12” professional league. After that, he and a few friends played with the newly formed Whips. Four National Championships later, Topps was lured to play with his neighborhood friends on Touch. In 1985 Touch emerged from the loser’s bracket to clinch a National Championship, a win made all the more poignant by winning with old neighborhood friends. After Touch disbanded, in 1990, Ray, Mike Caputo, Joel Zimberoff and Rich Melman formed Lettuce, for which Topps played and coached until his retirement in 1998. During his 28 years career, Tops won eight ASA Major National titles, six USSSA Nationals, and one NSA title. Named to numerous All-Star teams, he most treasures being named Outstanding Player in Cook County in 1979. Known as a power hitter early in his career, Topps evolved into an excellent clutch hitter with a 500 lifetime batting average. In addition to his softball skills, Ray Topps also excelled in basketball at Brother Rice High School. He played on varsity for four years; two on the light weight team and two on the heavy weight team. Brother Rice was Catholic Co-Champions with Leo High School in 1973. Ray was named to the All-Catholic Lightweight Team in 1971 and was named All-Area Honorable Mention in 1973. In 2001, Ray Topps still enjoyed playing softball with fellow Touch teammates in the LaGrange 40 & Over League. He was owner and operator of Topps Construction Company in Chicago, living in the Garfield Ridge area with his wife of 26 years, Debbie. They have three children; Jenny (Monahan), Ray III and Jackie.
Traffic / Honored 2014 Team Recognition
Traffic is a classic neighborhood softball team from the Riis Park area that evolved into a consistent top- fifteen team. They started playing in a Sunday league at Riis Park in 1986. In 2011, they took second in the Westchester Tournament of Champions and finished fifth in the Forest Park No Gloves Nationals in 2013, proof that twenty-seven years later, Traffic is still competitive. Led by two different managers – Dean Pritt and Nick Gatta – Traffic has always had a strong core of dedicated and loyal players. Eight of the players on the 1992 team that won the televised 150-team Old Style Tournament grew-up within four blocks of each other. Throughout the years, players have come-and-gone, but the team has always competed at the top level while still maintaining that neighborhood feel. In its twenty-seven year history, Traffic recorded many victories and made countless memories.
• Won over 900 games • Won thirty league and tournament titles • Rank second all-time in Classic League victories • Played in twenty of the last twenty-one Forest Park Tournaments • Played in seventeen ASA National Tournaments • Won six USSSA / ASA Qualifier championships • Won two ASA Metro championships • Went 67-17 in neighborhood league and tournament competition in 1989 • Won the Old Style Classic in 1992 and took second in 1993 • Took second in the ASA State Tournament (2005) and third (2001) • Won the ASA “A” Championship in 2009 and took second in 1999
Richard Triptow / Inducted 200 Pioneers 1887-1949
An ad for the old North Town Currency Stadium Calls upon fans to come out and watch Chicago's greatest sports stars in action. It features Dick Triptow, with a star next to his name as a "crack cage and diamond star from DePaul." One look at Triptow's softball accomplishments shows that the ad was not an exaggeration. Dick Triptow played center and left fields for such legendary teams as Lill Coals, American Gear, Miskas, and the3 Witt Hanley Yankees. In 1941, while playing in the Booster-Hamlin League, Triptow was not only selected to their all-star team, but also voted the league MVP. He was also credited with the league's best play for that year; a one handed, leaping grab of a long ball after a hard run. Offensively, he was a homerun powerhouse, hitting multiple homers in many games. Defensively, he was a standout, throwing out runners from left or center fields and making all-star quality catches. Dick Triptow's athletic prowess extended beyond the softball fields of Chicago. He was a member of Ray Meyer's first basketball team at DePaul, and co-captained the 1944 second place team with George Mikan. He played a prominent role in DePaul's 1944 second place finish in the NIT tournament at Madison Square Garden. He was named to the College All American Team, the Herald American College All Star Team, Pic Magazine's All American Team, and the All Chicago Stadium Team. Triptow played six years of professional basketball. Three years with American Gear of Chicago, the National Basketball League (forerunner of the current NBA) champs in 1947. He played another three years with the Fort Wayne Pistons (now the Detroit Pistons). Triptow also played three years in the Chicago Cub farm system from 1944 to 1947. From 1950 to 1959, Triptow was head basketball coach and taught a course in business at St. Patrick High School in Chicago. He then headed to Lake Forest College, to head the basketball, soccer and baseball programs for the next 14 years. In 1965 he was named Soccer Coach of the Year by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. From 1973 to 1988 he was a counselor and Occupational Education coordinator at Lake Forest High School. He retired in 1988. He and his wife Helen have two daughters and live in Lake Bluff, Illinois.
Mel Turner / Inducted 1997 Pioneers 1887-1949
Mel played 12" and 16" softball during the 20s, 30s, and 40s, dissolving his team at the end of the season. While Mel made his living in the automotive world (securing numerous patents for technical advances in automobile repair tools,) his second love was softball. Mel and his family lived across the street from Bill "Rand" Stadium, which later became Rheingold and Bidwell Stadium. Besides playing for top softball teams in the early 1930s, Mel became a key member of the Leo Fisher Herald American structure, organizing South side teams to compete in the 600 team yearly city tournaments. In addition to organizing tournaments, Mel frequently settled disputes among players and teams. Once Mel became the Bidwell Stadium manager, he would frequently create a tournament in a matter of a hours. After every season Mel always organized a dinner for the umpires and wives of the Jim Allen Umpire. With his association with Leo Fisher, Charlie Bidwell. and Abe Saperstein (of the Harlem Globetrotters,) Mel also organized half time ceremonies for various sporting events at the Chicago Stadium. Besides his promotional efforts, Mel is also credited as being the- innovator of the yellow ball to improve night visibility. Mel played until he was 56 years old, still stretching a single into a double with - his famous head first slide.