Hall of Fame Inductees
All Inductees By Name
Bill Wadington / Inducted 2016
Bill Wadington grew up in the Jefferson Park neighborhood on the Northwest side of Chicago at a time when you went outside and played sports – pinners on the front step until your dad told you to cut it out, running bases, hockey on the North Branch of the Chicago River (when it still froze over), pickup basketball, touch football in the street (“Head to the Chevy and cut to the Caddy but watch out for those fins.”), and swift pitch at Farnsworth School. But the game that the neighborhood loved the most was sixteen-inch softball. Like generations before him, he started playing it with his brother and a few friends in the street. The fire hydrant was home and the street corners were the bases. That arrangement worked well until you started hitting the ball into Mr. Clemen’s bushes. Then it was time to head to the schoolyard. Growing up in the 1960s was great for a number of reasons. You stayed out until the streetlights came on and later as you grew older, parents didn’t worry about where you were (or they didn’t show it), and there were plenty of kids your age to play with. Summer days were filled with countless softball games, interrupted by trips to Fines’ Candy store for a pop and some Hostess cupcakes. Then it was time for more softball. You chose sides by placing hands up a bat and trying to kick it out of the other person’s hand. If you did, you got first pick. As the players got older and grew tired of playing each other, they decided to join a league. So Al Maag (HOF) went to a sporting goods store, ordered some jerseys, signed the guys up for a league, and the Baggers softball team was born. The Baggers played at local parks on the Northwest side with some success. They played at Clarendon Park and in the CYO Tournament at Grant Park. Bill gave up the game in the early 1970s when his interests changed and he realized that he didn’t have the talent to play as the Baggers morphed into a more competitive team. In 1997, after the inaugural Sixteen-inch Softball Hall of Fame Dinner, Bill asked his childhood friend and Hall of Fame co-founder Al Maag what he could do to help. Al said that he could write the bios for the next dinner. For the past nineteen dinners, Bill has been writing and editing the bios that appear in the dinner book and on the plaques at Forest Park. He has also written the script for the dinner program and served for a number of years on the board of directors of the Hall of Fame. He helped organize the Hall of Fame Golf Outing and for two years compiled the bios and ads for the dinner book. Bill taught high school English and reading at Reavis High School, Downers Grove South High School, and Glenbard South High School. He was an adjunct faculty member at Moraine Valley Community College. Bill and his wife, Mona, live in Downers Grove, Illinois. They have two children – Megan and Benjamin - and three grandchildren – Claudia, Nathaniel, and Emily.
Craig “Duck” Wente / Honored 2016 Wall of Fame
Craig “Duck” Wente
Craig “Duck” Wente played, managed, and sponsored sixteen-inch softball teams for forty-two years. He started playing at eighteen with Durty Nellies and Runyon’s. He was an excellent second baseman and always betted over .500. As he matured, he became one of the top defensive pitchers in the game. He managed and sponsored Wente Trucking, later changed to the Wheelers. They played in Palatine, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect, Barrington, Crystal Lake, West Dundee, and Wheeling. The Wheelers still play in fifty and sixty-and-over- leagues. The Wheelers were perennial league champions at all the parks they played in. Playing as Splinters / Wheelers, they captured the 1997 ASA “A” Nationals, defeating Crush for the title. Craig was named to the All-Tournament team as their pitcher. He continued as player / manager when Al MacFarlane became the sponsor of the Splinters.
Washington Park / Inducted 2011
Located on Chicago’s South Side, Washington Park was named for President George Washington and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Du Sable Museum of African-American History, the Lorado Taft Sculpture, the Fountain of Time, and The architecturally significant Richard L. Jones National Guard armory are all located inside the park’s boundaries. The park hosts the largest sixteen-inch softball league in the country with teams playing on thirteen diamonds. The park has also hosted a number of ASA qualifying tournaments, the Claude Rhodes Tournaments, the Black American Softball Tournaments, and in 2006 it hosted the Gay Games Softball Cultural Festival.
Westchester Park District / Inducted 2015
Westchester Park District
Mayfair Park in Westchester has been the host site for sixteen-inch softball leagues and tournaments for over fifty years. The Suburban Life Classic was was one of the first tournaments to be played on them. Recently Westchester hosted baseball tournaments, state police softball tournaments, IHSA twelve-inch state tournaments, ASA sixteen-inch and twelve-inch ASA qualifying tournaments, SSA tournaments, state police tournaments, and the final games of the SSA “A” Nationals. Westchester is also the proud host of the Tournament of Champions, one of the premiere sixteen-inch tournaments held each year.
George “Wags” Wagner / Inducted 2003 1950-1963 Era
George “Wags” Wagner
"It was a great time for a great sport." Before there were batting averages, homerun stats, on base percentages, and national championships, there were money games. Some were big and some were small. League play was only a game during the week with a factory or an office team because the top players wanted to save their energy for the weekend money games. George Wagner played in a lot of weekend money games. George Wagner began his softball career at 51st and Union, playing many times in front of 3,000 to 4,000 spectators. Before his retirement many years later, Wagner would play with and against some of softball's great players. When playing for the Leo XIII Council, he locked horns with the legendary pitcher Lewa Yacilla, managing four hits off him in a losing effort. From 1949 to 1951 Wagner played with the original Bobcats, managed by Piccalo O'Halleran. They competed against Starlight Club, East Side Trojans, the Bill Bonnetts, and Weinbergs at Gill Stadium and Northtown. After serving in the Army for two years, George Wagner joined the Daley Hamburgs where he played with Zeke Ireland and Lefty Hunt. Many times in such a competitive arena, he would meet that night's teammates as he was warming up. During that era, money games were the place to be. Starting out in smaller games, the best players of that time moved into Sunday pot games with the top fifteen players playing with various teams under various names. George Wagner played shortstop and shortcenter. He batted third with most of his teams and was well known as a line drive hitter who favored left and right center. He retired from active playing in 1958. George Wagner retired from the Board of Trade after fifty years of service (for 25 years he owned a seat on the Board of Trade). He and his wife, Kate have four children, Susan, Ann, Kathy, and Edward.
Rich Wagner / Inducted 2009 Frank C. Holan Award
Rich Wagner played 16-inch softball with Sim's Bowl during the 1970s. Unfortunately, he suffered a serious knee injury while playing that forced him to switch to managing softball instead of playing it. He managed the Turtles from 1982 to 1990 before rejoining them for the '92 through the '95 seasons. During his time with the Turtles, he managed them to runner-up finishes in the ASA 'A' Nationals in 1985 and '86. He coached Splinters in 1991 and led them to the ASA National title in Kingman, Arizona. Rich managed March Manufacturing in 1994 and 2002 - 2005 until they became Flash. He managed the Diamond Dogs in 2000, Bats in 2001, Maxim Mortgage in 2006 and 2007, and Flashback in 2008-'09. Rich managed March to a 2nd place finish at the ASA Nationals in 2004 and 2006. He coached Flashback to the 2005 Forest Park championship and to ASA Major titles in 2008 and 2009.
Marshall “Rock” Waldo / Inducted 2011 1964-1979 Era
Marshall “Rock” Waldo
Marshall Waldo began playing softball when he was eleven. He credits his mentor, the late school instructor / supervisor, Dick Lubera, for his success. Lubera spent hours on end teaching Marshall and other neighborhood kids the fundamental parts of the game. He played baseball at Amundsen / Mayfair Junior College and at the Navy Pier Campus of the University of Illinois. Marshall Waldo's career playing "major" softball began with the Jesters at Clarendon Park in the late 1960s. They were a sub-500 team but competed in a strong league that featured such legendary teams as the Bobcats, Sobies, Stompers, Lyons 45s, Dwarfs, Shooters, Murderer's Row, and the Gaffers. They disbanded after two years and Marshall then joined the Dwarfs. He stayed with them when they became the Amalgamonsters. Neither team won a world series title but did place second, third, and fourth thanks to the Bobcats and Strikers. They did win many tournaments and league championships at Clarendon and Kelly Parks, the top leagues on the North and South sides. While with the Dwarfs and Amalgamonsters, he played with numerous Hall of Fame players. On teams with that many power hitters and with his great speed, the left-handed hitter batted either leadoff or second. He could consistently hit between the shortstop and short center fielder and between the short center and second baseman. Fielders were rarely able to throw him out, and he often stretched singles into doubles. He was one of the better "on-base" hitters with an average close to .600. He made numerous all–star teams. Defensively, he played left and center fields. He retired from softball in 1979. He started playing racquetball in 1977 and soon became an accomplished player, winning numerous tournaments and many state, regional, and national titles. He was a nationally ranked player and was named Player of the Year by the Illinois Racquetball Association in 1989, the first male player in Illinois to receive that honor. He is in the Illinois Racquetball Hall of Fame. He has two children – Kimberly (Steve) Ruge and Bryan (Jennifer) Waldo and five grandsons: Dylan, Drew, Jackson, Jake, and Ryley. He lives on Chicago's North side.
Dennis “Punchy” Wallace / Inducted 2007 1964-1979 Era
Dennis “Punchy” Wallace
Dennis Wallace’s softball career began when he was only four years old. His brother gave him a 16-inch softball and the rest is history. His natural talent was apparent early because whenever sides were picked, he was always one of the first players picked, even though he wasn’t always one of the bigger kids. He was selected because he was often the most consistent hitter and one of the best fielders because he learned a lot from the older players. When Dennis was nine years old he was noticed by David Wells and was asked to play baseball in the Ida B. Wells Little League. That year he never came to bat without getting a hit and was selected to the league all-star team for his efforts. But his fortunes were about to change when the team went to the Little World Series. Whenever Dennis came to bat during these games, he never got a hit. He would hit in practice but wouldn’t get a hit during the games. The team finished in third place. The next year he learned to play all outfield positions, he could pitch, and he could play first base. At thirteen he joined the Red Boys, a pony league team from Washington Park. His pitching prowess shined as he went on to throw twenty-five no hit games. The next year scouts from the Chicago Cubs came to watch him play. He was told that he would get a contract when he was seventeen. But that year he pitched too much and threw out his arm, so his chance at the majors was gone. With baseball out of the picture, Dennis tried to play softball with a neighborhood team but couldn’t compete due to his injured arm. At fifteen he made a successful return to softball when he and his friends formed the Junior Nobles out of Madden Park and began to dominate teams in cash games throughout the South side. One team that they beat had Cazzie Russell, the future NBA star, playing third base. He said that they had never played such a great team. At eighteen he joined the Chicagoans, a team playing out of the Altgeld Gardens. Unfortunately he went into another hitting slump but his defense kept him in the starting lineup. After he realized why he wasn’t hitting, he was able to hit to all fields and could hit with power. When he played with the Senators in the Windy City League and at top parks around Chicago, he was known as one of the best left-handed hitters of his time. He finished his career with the Flamingoes in the tavern league at 75th and Jeffrey. They took first place during the three years he played for them. He also played with the Challengers in the Post Office league on Sundays. They also captured first place every year he played with them. He was named the MVP of the Flamingoes in 1980. He and his wife, Sharron Perrie, have eight children (Dennis, Davin, Deaundee, Arylius, Justen, Romell, Lashonda, and Angellica). They live on Chicago’s South side. 6 4 - 7 9 E R A Dennis “Punchy” Wallace 22 C H
Jimmy Walsh / Honored 2005 Wall of Fame
“If I got asked, I played. Anytime. Anywhere.” This simple approach to playing the game of softball defined Jimmy Walsh’s 25-year career. Walsh was known throughout Chicagoland as one of the top utility players of his era because he could contribute not only with his bad but with his ability to play every position on the field. His reputation as a hitter was solidified when he once hit two homeruns off Hall of Fame pitcher Mike Tallo and helped him to be picked up by some of the top “a” teams of that time, including the Stompers, the Saints, the Blues, Thee Doll House, and Ice. Despite his play with some of the top teams, however, Jimmy remained true to the Taker out of Oak Park as his neighborhood team. Starting in high school, he played with Donny Baloon, Jerry and Joe Leahy, Mark Schultz, and Rick Spehn, and long-time player/ manager, Rich Polfus. Though the Takers never took a major title in softball, they were well known as a powerful neighborhood team that was not to be taken lightly. Besides the five Oak Park titles they won, the Takers also won titles at Calendon, Amundsen, and Kosciusko Parks. Especially pleasing was the 1982 championship at Clarendon when the Takers defeated Fusion, the Aces, Rocks, and Scorpions enroute to the title. He also competed in the industrial league at Grant Park and once played in a winter tournament at Hanover Park. Jimmy Walsh’s passion for softball was best demonstrated when he played nine games on a Sunday in the early ‘80’s. He competed in seven games in the loser’s bracket in the state tournament in Orland Park and then he drove to Oak Park to play with the OJs in the championship series, ending his day at midnight. He remembers playing in some classic games against the Whips and Otto’s. One game against Otto’s was particularly memorable because the Takers were beating Otto’s until Hall of Famer Paul Brezinski hit a two run homer to beat them. Except for missing too many family vacations at the lake, Jimmy has few regrets because of all the great teammates and competitors he to play with and against.
Mary Ann “Stretch” Walter / Inducted 1998 Women
Mary Ann “Stretch” Walter
As a young girl from 61st and Rockwell who played her first softball game as an eight year old, Mary Ann Walter became one of the of the top first sackers in the women’s leagues and was an original player on the women’s team with the most championships - Rose & Crown. With her trademark full splits that earned her the nickname “Stretch,” Walter was a consummate team player who led by example. Walter played 12-inch softball while a college student at Chicago Teachers College - South. There she met the friends and coaches who would become the nucleus of Rose & Crown. During Walter’s many years with Rose&Crown, they accumulated a record of 488 wins with only 44 losses and won nine consecutive ASA Metro Championships - which softball experts consider to be the most important tournament in women’s softball. In over forty tournaments they failed to finish either first or second only five times. They won fifteen league championships and have won 28 out of 36 tournaments. A pinch hitter who liked to play the ball over the short center’s head, two of Mary Ann’s favorite memories include winning the MVP honors in 1981 at the OJ’s Tournament and flying home from a cruise after a frantic call from a teammate to play the Angels, their archrivals even though she was sick with the flu. She went 4 of 5 that day to beat the Angels. Mary Ann credits her two coaches Bob Eskew and Joe Caliendo and her Rose & Crown teammates for her many successes in softball. Mary Ann Walter is a Human Resource Manager for Newcor Inc. in Detroit, Michigan.
Mary “Walzee” Walz / Inducted 2011 Women
Mary “Walzee” Walz
The youngest of five children, born to Jim and Louise Walz, Mary was raised in the south side neighborhood of Bridgeport. Having two older brothers, Mary was exposed to the game of softball at a very early age; and since her family lived across the street from Healy School, the schoolyard became Mary's baseball field. Her mother never really had to look farther than the schoolyard when Mary was missing in action! Starting back in grammar school, she was recruited by Armour Park's Instructor, Ms. Jan Pascente. Ms. Jan's team traveled to various parks in Chicago participating in leagues and tournaments. She attended Reavis and St. Barbara High Schools, where her gym teacher "Teach" at St. Barb's encouraged Mary to play with her team, the Rookies. After high school and throughout the next three decades, she would also play with Laura's, Cabaret, Wings, Wilson, Bad Attitude, Sandburg Village, Blue Cows, Smokin Joes, Clash, Lindy's, and Orange Whips. Early in her career, Mary played short stop, 3rd base and center field before she discovered that pitching was what she did best. Her aggressive pitching style is well-known and highly regarded by her opponents because of her high arc and deep consistent strike. Opposing players hated to see her on the mound because of her aggressive high pitch. Many coaches often claimed that when Mary pitched, it changed the whole game. Picking off runners on first and second base were her highlights and favorite memories of the game, but she admits without the cooperation of her teammates her successful "picks" would not have been possible. Her sense of good sportsmanship is legendary – she has always managed to be competitive but never a poor sport. Mary retired from competitive 16-inch softball in 2005. However, she continues to play 16-inch softball once a year in the annual Y-Me Breast Cancer tournament at Mt. Greenwood Park, regarding it as a great reunion for all 16-inch players. Currently, she plays 11-inch softball and will do so as long as she can. She also enjoys playing beanbags and is instrumental in running the annual "bags" tournament at Lindy's. Mary still lives in the same house across the street from Healy School and still crosses that street to bring the next generation of Walz kids to the schoolyard to play ball!
Sy Warchol / Inducted 2000 Richard J. Daley Friend of Softball Award
One of 16” softballs most devoted fans; Sy Warchol was born in 1929 in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. He attended St. Adalbert Grammar School and Harrison High School. He played softball at Cooper School and Harrison Park until he left to serve with the 25th Infantry Division in Korea. Warchol quit playing softball in 1969 to grab a bleacher seat, and witness some of the greatest 16” softball games in the last thirty years, usually with long time friend and fellow Hall of Famer, “Doc” Papierz. From his vantage point in the bleachers, Warchol fondly remembers classic matches between the Sobies and Bobcats at Clarendon, as well as exciting duels between Lettuce, the Bucks, Jynx and the 45”s at Mt. Prospect. His favorite memory, however, recalls the third place finish of his favorite team, Jynx, at the 2000 ASA Nationals. He likes Jynx best because, “they’re just a good bunch of guys.” Sy Warchol is retired from General Motors. In 2000, he and his wife, June, had been married for 42 years. They have two sons, George and Jim. As a longtime fan of Chicago’s greatest game, Sy Warchol adds color to an already vibrant softball scene. He richly deserved the Richard J. Daley award. Since deceased.
Anthony “Tony” Ward / Inducted 2015
Anthony “Tony” Ward
Tony Ward’s obsession with sixteen-inch softball began at the age of eighteen when he started playing for the Kings in the Black Olympians League at Madden and Ellis Parks on Chicago’s South Side. They won that league and that lit the fire for Tony to play softball every summer. The Kings later became the Budweiser Kings. For several years, they played at Rosenblum Park at 75th and Jeffrey. After the Budweiser Kings, Tony joined the legendary Flamingos. They won numerous leagues and tournaments and won the USSSA World Series of Softball in Harvey and the USSSA Nationals in Orland Park, Illinois. He then joined the Safari Tigers and later managed and played for Clique. They won numerous tournaments around the Chicago area. He later became a pivotal member of the California/Steel Gold team that defeated Lugnuts to win the 2005 ASA “A” Nationals. Prior to winning this title, they won the 2003 Hall of Fame Classic at Grant Park and the 2003 “A” State Championship. Through his work as a track inspector for the CTA, Tony played for the 3rd Rail team which is in an employee league. They have won eight championships in twelve seasons in that league. While playing for the Safari Tigers, Tony was fortunate enough to be mentored by Claude Rhodes (HOF), a legendary figure in sixteen-inch softball. To honor Claude’s memory, Tony created the Claude Rhodes Tournament and quickly shaped it into a top tournament in the Chicago area. For fifteen years, this tournament has featured many national championship teams. With Tony’s guidance, the Claude Rhodes Tournament has positively impacted sixteen-inch softball. As a player, Tony mainly played second base but also saw time in the outfield and at third base. In 2000, he was named to the 1st Team at the NSA World Tournament. In 2005, he was named to the 1st Team in the East/West Classic in Indiana. He was a high percentage, over the top hitter who laid balls over the infield with accuracy. As a manager, he compiled a record of 183 victories against 70 losses. Tony continues to coach softball. He also served as an advisory board member of the SSA and the Super Sunday Softball League. He has two children – Anthony, Jr. and Taylor Ward. He is retired from the Chicago Transit Authority and lives in Willowbrook, IL.
Austin “Spider” Ware / Inducted 2010
Austin “Spider” Ware
A lifelong softball player, Austin "Spider" Ware began playing with Hall of Fame inductee Billy "Bumstead" Johnson in 1961 at Parkman Elementary School. He co-founded and played second base with his first team, the Invaders, in 1963. They dominated play until 1967 when they merged with the Van Dykes, managed by the great Floyd Neal. From 1967 to 1969, the Van Dykes were the team to beat, winning a streak of local championships. In 1969 the Van Dykes played in the legendary Cocktail League at Tuley Park. In 1970 he followed his mentor, Leonard "Sarge" McKinnon (HOF), to the Iron Men in 1970. He then played for these tournament-winning teams: the Demons, the Safari Tigers (mid-'80s), the Bandits (early-'90s), California Gold (mid-'90s), the Rolling Dice (he was the extra hitter), the B-Athletes, and at the young age of fifty-five his bat was instrumental in making 10-Deep a contending team in area tournaments. Austin "Spider" Ware was known both as a gap-hitter who could hit down both foul lines and as a homerun hitter. As a player, he played alongside many Hall of Fame players, including Michael and Randy "Stretch" Lee, Michael "Ice Mike" Coleman, and Larry "La La" Washington. He was managed by Hall of Fame inductees Dan Dumas, Pete Dawkins, and Claude Rhodes. Spider credits most of his success to these three managers. He counts Henry "Hammering Hank" Kemp (HOF) as one of his idols. At sixty-three, he is a more experienced hitter and plays with and mentors the Silent Assassins, an up-and-coming young team. Austin served his country in the United States Navy for four years and was a Chicago police officer for twenty-nine years. As a Chicago police officer in the '80s and early-'90s, he pitched his team to victories in the Grant Park Chicago Police Tournament, pitching against officers who played for the Whips, Bud 45s, Lettuce and other top teams of that era. He pitched the Sixth Police District to the championship and was named MVP in the Police Olympics. In 1986, he earned the title of Most Decorated Police Officer for the Chicago Police Department when he walked into a robbery-in-progress while off-duty. He struggled with the gunman and eventually killed him during the struggle. Since his retirement, he serves as a parole agent supervisor for the Illinois Department of Corrections. Spider is the father of five children - Scharice, Moriah, Albert, Jozetta, and Allison and the grandfather of twelve grandchildren. He lives in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood.
Robert “Sticks” Warnock / Inducted 2000 1964-1979 Era
Robert “Sticks” Warnock
In the highly competitive and closely knit world of championship 16” softball, players destined for greatness are quickly noticed. This was the case with Bob Warnock when he began playing with the Crusaders. His talent was noticed, and he was soon playing with Ed Zolna’s Bobcats. It was a perfect match, and Warnock played with the Cats for thirteen years, as a major contributor to their string of championships and runner up finishes. With over a thousand home runs to his credit and a lifetime batting average over 650, Warnock was both admired and feared as a great power hitter who once hit three home runs in a single game at the ASA Nationals in St. Louis. His longest homerun was hit in Kal’s Park at Chicago and Kedzie. The ball came to rest at the base of the Roccola Building, having traveled a distance of nearly 350 feet. Since deceased.
Ray “Doc” Warren / Inducted 2015
Ray “Doc” Warren
Ray Warren played for the Safari Tigers from 1974 to 1993. In 1984 and 1985, they finished second in the ASA Major Tournament. In 1993, they won the Illinois title in Blue Island. He coached the B Athletes when they won the ASA title for Illinois. They placed fifth in the ASA Major Nationals in 1999. They also won the South Side Cocktail League and hosted the nationals in Mount Prospect. The B Athletes won the First Mike Royko Memorial Tournament, the Leukemia Research Preseason Tournament, and the Heritage Cup Championship. Ray and Sherman Martin coached Dogg Pound to a fourth place finish in the ASA Nationals. In 2011, Solution, managed by Jerry Brown won the ASA “A” Nationals. Ray played right field and won a number of best defender awards. He has three children – Nicole, Kateka, and Eric. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Larry “La La” Washington / Inducted 2005 1980's & 1990's Era
Larry “La La” Washington
Born in 1956, Larry Washington’s 28-year softball career began in 1970 when he started playing with the Princeton Stars. His talent was noticed quickly and in 1972 at the age of sixteen he joined the legendary Safaris and coach Claude Rhodes. From 1970 to 1976, he played simultaneously with Safari and the Flamingos until his brother, Sweet Billy Johnson, who played for the Flamingos, put some “sibling pressure” on him to play full-time for the Flamingos. He stayed with them until 1990. He then played for the Flashers, the Bandits, Click, and Bud 45s before ending his career in 1998 with California Gold. Given his outstanding athletic ability, he played a variety of positions depending on the needs of the team, including left and right field, shortstop, and even pitcher. Teammates and opposing players remember his outstanding speed and quickness in covering the outfield and infield. Besides his excellent defensive skills, Larry Washington was known as a top hitter of his era. He could beat out ground balls, hit to gaps in the outfield, and power balls over the heads of outfielders. He credits Larry Kelly, Leonard McKinnon, Jack Kelly, Mike Tallo, and his brother Sweet Billy Johnson as his mentors. For his efforts, he was named MVP at Blue Island in 1983 and at Marshalltown, Iowa with California Gold. Larry Washington lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Jim “Nugie” Watkins / Inducted 1997 Pioneers 1887-1949
Jim “Nugie” Watkins
Old Timers remember Nugie Watkins as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game during the 30s and 40s. He played for Ham's Didits, the Gas House Gang, and the Brown Bombers. At nineteen Jim "Nugie" Watkins did not realize the place he would make in 16" softball history when he began his playing career with the original Gas House Gang. Playing in some of the best leagues on the South and West sides of Chicago, Nugie and his team began to make a name for themselves. To move into the tougher "White" leagues of the city, Nugie searched many areas of Chicago to field a team that would be espectable against Chicago's top teams. These team members included Hall of Fame members Dan Dumas, "Sweetwater" Clifton, and Zeke Ireland. When the Gas House Gang entered the Windy City League in 1942, promoter Harry Hannin convinced the team to change its name to the Brown Bombers in order to capture the fame of boxing great Joe Louis and to increase their marketability. Watkins was the captain and hard hitting short fielder from 1939 to 1950. When "Nugie" Watkins was not playing for the Brown Bombers, he was playing for the Harlem Globetrotters from 1940 to 1945 at the unheard of salary of $100 per week. Watkins and his players also played in a semi-professional basketball team where they would travel to various cities and play games on Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday night, before returning to work on Monday morning. Since his retirement from G.T.E. in 1983 he has been working with Dr. Larry Hawkins and the Office and the Office of Special Programs on the .campus of the University of Chicago. This program believes that a well run sports program can be a positive force that can be used to - complement academic programs in schools. This endeavor has been credited with convincing the Chicago Board of Education to institute inter-school sports programs in seventh and eighth grades. Nugie still finds time to volunteer at various schools in Chicago teaching students the fundamentals of 16" softball.
Tim Weigel / Inducted 2002 Media & Organizers
Were it not for last year's Media inductee, columnist Mike Royko, this year's inductee Tim Weigel, may never have played 16" softball. It was Royko, who in 1971 upon hearing that the Lake Forest native had been a starting halfback for Yale's football team, drafted him onto the Chicago Daily News 16" softball team. An excellent athlete, Weigel helped the Daily News, and later the Sun Times softball squads win numerous Grant Park and Thillens Stadium titles, playing right field. According to biographer F. Richard Ciccone, Royko always said that Weigel made the greatest catch he'd ever seen in softball. It was on a line drive down the right field line, which Weigel dove for, caught, rolled over, and fired to second base for the double play. He also suffered the slings and arrows of Royko's legendary barbed wit. Weigel, who had never seen the city game played, swung at and missed the first 16" pitch he ever saw. "How the fuck could you miss a sixteen inch softball?" exclaimed Royko. In 1974, according to Ciccone, Weigel, who'd been installed as manager of the News team, tried unsuccessfully to take Royko out as pitcher after he'd given up six straight homers, but not even he could get Royko off the mound. Later that same year Weigel helped boost the game's profile by working with Royko and organizer Tom Bonen on the 1974 broadcast of the World Series of 16" Softball from Soldier Field on WTTW television. Weigel began his thirty year career at the Chicago Daily News in 1971. He moved to the Chicago Sun Times when the News folded in 1978. After reporting for both WLS-TV and WMAQ-TV, as well as WLUP and WMAQ radio, he was named Sports Director at WBBM-TV in 1995. Throughout his TV career Weigel relished his role as Chicago's Clown Prince of Sports. Blessed with both a quick wit and articulate manner, Weigel was a pioneer in bringing comic relief to our often over serious local sports scene. Underneath that jocularity, however, was an intelligence that saw him graduate at the top of his Lake Forest High School class, and earn degrees from Yale and Northwestern, and ultimately garner four local Emmy Awards for broadcasting excellence. The Northwestern degree was a masters in film, which Weigel's wife, Vicki Truax, believes held the germ of the famous "Weigel Weiner's" blooper award. Our beloved 16" game wasn't safe from Weigel's sense of humor either. Asked by a reporter during one of Rich Melman's celebrity games how it was to be playing softball again, Weigel laughed and said, "Just great! I can never get enough of jammed fingers and hip pointers." Chicago lost that warm, humorous voice in 2001 when Weigel succumbed to a brain tumor. "Tim Weigel brought enthusiasm , humor, warmth and intelligence to his coverage of sports for three decades." said Mayor Richard M. Daley, after Weigel's passing, expressing well what many people felt about Tim. "He could be serious when the situation warrented, but he never let us forget that sports are supposed to be fun." "He was taken much too soon." Clearly many others felt the same. Loud speakers had to be set up in Raymond Park, across the street from Weigel's funeral at First Congregational Church of Evanston, due to the number of people wishing to attend. As warm hearted as he was funny, Weigel took great satisfaction in helping those in need. He served on the boards of the Off The Street Club, the Evanston Shelter for Battered Women, the Evanston Homeless Shelter and the Chicago Chamber of Commerce Youth Motivation board. And Cub super fan Ronnie "Woo-Woo" Wickers singles out Weigel as one of those who helped him get back on his feet when he was homeless. This is not Tim Weigel's first posthumous honor. Last November he was honored by The Chicago Athletic Association - Chicago's oldest amateur athletic, social, and business club - as one of three inaugural Ring Lardner Award winners.
Bob Werderitch / Inducted 1998 Pioneers 1887-1949
Considered by many to be the second best pitcher next to the legendary Lewa Yacilla, Bob Werderitch entered the Windy City league at 17, the youngest player at that time to play major league softball. Batting clean-up for the Immel and Karis team, he led them to a second place finish his first year. He progressed from there to pitch for such legendary teams as Winkler Motors, Petrones, Lill Coals, Eugene Dietzen, and the CYO, winning Windy City and Herald-American championships in 1938, 39, and 1940 with Petrones. Sporting a .420 batting average, he also won M.V.P. honors in 1938, '39, and '40 in the Herald - American Tournament and in 1939 and '40 in the Windy City League. Werderitch later pitched Angels of Broadway to the Windy City championship in 1948. Two important memories for Werderitch include a 1-0 loss in 17 innings and pitching a game with the largest crowd ever to watch 16-inch softball at Hilburn Stadium. After retiring from softball in the early 1950s, he umpired for park and factory teams to keep in touch with the game. Bob Werderitch retired from Hammond Organ in 1982 after 28 years.
Leonard West / Inducted 2001 1964-1979 Era
Leonard West was an integral part of five championship teams as a pitcher, a third baseman or a first baseman. He helped win league titles at Kelly, Clarendon and James Park with the Strikers, and two championships at Kelly and Clarendon Parks with the Bobcats. He played with the Spartans at Bidwell Stadium and also with the Condors. West posted a lifetime batting average of 770 and hit more than 300 home runs in league and tournament competition. His excellent pitching record includes two no-hitters. In 1974 Leonard was named MVP of the ASA Nationals. In 2001, He and his wife, Mary Ellen lived in Palos Hills.
Team Whips / Honored 2006 Team Recognition
Little did Jimmy Lang Sr. know that the team he formed in 1976 would go on to win seven ASA National Championships, five USSSA World Championships and four Forest Park No Glove Nationals and would lay claim to being one of the best teams in softball history. In 1976 they started playing in leagues throughout the South suburbs. In 1979, playing as the Budweiser Whips, they moved into “big-time” competitive softball at Kelly Park and Blue Island. They were sponsored by Hall of Famer “Uncle” Pete Crnjak of Pete’s Hideaway from 1988 to 1990. In 1980 they captured their first ASA National Championship and repeated as champions in 1981, '83, '84, '88, '89 and '90. They won their first USSSA championship in 1982 and repeated in '83, '84, '87 and '88. They won the Forest Park No Glove Nationals in 1983, '84, '85 and '90. In 1986 and '87 a number of Whips players joined Sports Station and took the title at the ASA Nationals. They rejoined the Whips in 1988. The team disbanded in 1990 after winning the ASA title and the championship at the Forest Park No Glove Nationals.
Ed Whitman / Inducted 2004 1950-1963 Era
Ed Whitman’s softball career began in 1946 when he was an eighth grader at Blaine School in Chicago. When he entered Lake View High School (where he played baseball, basketball, and football), he began playing in money games with Allen Edmond Shoes. The older guys who could drive cars would pick him up and would give him ten dollars if their team won. At seventeen he started playing in some big games at Chase Park against a team lead by Willie Phillips who was playing Windy City ball. In 1949 Ed Whitman began a 24-year career at Clarendon Park ( except for the years from 1952 to 1954 when he served in the Army, playing football and basketball at Fort Riley, Kansas). When he returned from the Army, he resumed his playing days at Clarendon Park during what many softball historians consider the Golden Days of softball. During the 50s and 60s Clarendon softball attracted crowds of 2,000 people each night. At Clarendon Ed Whitman played with Piano Tap Tavern, Bettlebomb’s, and O’Boyle Transfer. In 1955 Piano Tap won the championship at Clarendon. Besides his playing days at Clarendon Park, Ed Whitman was recruited to play in the Daddy-O-Daly League, he played in the first softball World Series in 1964, losing to the Bobcats, and once hit five homeruns off the legendary pitcher Lewa Yacilla at Thillen’s Stadium in a game they won 29-22. He played at Trumbolt Park for fifteen years, played with Lyons 45s, and was selected to a Clarendon Park all star team. His greatest softball memory is getting the winning hit off Eddie Zolna to win the Portage Park championship in 1973. Ed Whitman played second base and right field but during money games would often switch to catcher. He was known for having a great arm and for having a rare understanding of the game. In his early playing days he was a pull hitter who eventually learned to hit to all fields. Perhaps the greatest compliment to Ed Whitman’s playing ability occurred when he was 53 and was asked by an eighteen year old to play at Clarendon. Ed and his wife, Margaret, live in Chicago. They have two daughters, Katie and Clare.
Phillip S. Williams, Jr. / Honored 2011 Wall of Fame
Phillip S. Williams, Jr.
Phillip Williams, Jr. was born and raised on the South side of Chicago. His father (and namesake) played softball at Ogden Park in the 1940s, so Phillip spent a lot of time as a seven and eight year old watching his dad play. He started playing softball on the street corners of his Englewood residence until the streetlights came on. In the 1950s he moved from the street corner to the ball fields at Bass and McCosh Elementary Schools. He then moved to the parks and playgrounds near his house. In high school, he played at Washington Park. He joined the Army in 1957 and was lucky enough to play with his Army team, stationed in Arlington Heights, Illinois. After his discharge from the Army in 1961, he joined the Postal Service in Chicago. They formed a twenty-five-team softball league where Phillip played on competitive teams from 1962 to 1968. He then became an all-star third baseman for a championship team called the Feather Merchants. In 1975 he formed the Bandits. They went undefeated in a thirty-team-league at Washington Park. They also played in several other leagues from the late '70s to the '90s. They qualified for national tournaments in Iowa and Blue Island. For the past twelve years, he was the lead representative in forming the Old Timers Softball Day at Grand Crossing Park. They play Old Timers games and enjoy sharing the camaraderie and memories of softball's "golden days." Along the way, he and his wife, Gloria, raised five children: Demetri and Demetrius (twins), Rosiland, Patricia, and Phillip who became cheerleaders for the teams he played on or managed. From 1985 to 1992, Phillip was the Mail Processing Manager for the main post office in Chicago. He retired in 1992 but was a consultant for the Postal Service for two years. He helped them plan their move to their new facilities. Phillip lives in Dolton, Illinois and still attends softball events throughout Chicago and the suburbs.
Harry Wilson / Inducted 1997 Pioneers 1887-1949
A top umpire of the 30s and 40s, Harry called balls and strikes at Windy City Stadiums and Soldier Field. Pioneer softball players remember Harry for his ability on and off the field. His ability to umpire was heightened by his great deal of playing experience. I addition to his umpiring duties, Harry also gathered stories from around Chicago and wrote his softball column for the Herald-American. Since deceased.
Charles “Pee Wee” Wilson / Inducted 2006 Pioneers 1887-1949
Charles “Pee Wee” Wilson
Charles Wilson was born on December 24, 1918 in Chicago. He attended Francis Willard Elementary School, Lane Technical High School (graduating in 1938) and Herzl Junior College. As a four-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball and softball), he played with a variety of legendary teams in all these sports. He played football for the Pepsi Cola Aces (1938 - 40), and the Golden Panthers semi-pro team (1947- 57), played baseball at Berean Baptist Church and at Herzl Junior College, and played basketball with the Chicago Bronzeville Trotters (1936 - 40), Herzl College and the Chicago Police Department Area One team from 1963 - 68. Softball is the sport, however, where Charles Wilson brought Hall of Fame performance to the playing field. He started his softball career with the Hawks, a neighborhood team, from 1936 - 38. He then moved to the Campbell Boosters (1938-40). Like so many players of his day, his career was interrupted by military service. He joined the Illinois National Guard in 1940 and served actively with the Army from 1941 to 1945, spending two and a half years overseas. He remained with the National Guard until 1970, retiring with the rank of colonel. When he returned from military service, he played with the VFW Charles Hunt Post (1948- 53), with the Goodyear All-Stars (1960 - 65) in the Budweiser's Tavern League (1965 - 70), with the St. Anselm Catholic team (1954 - 59) and with the Chicago Police Area One team from 1961 - 65. He also served as commissioner in the Daddy-ODailey Fun League and the Tavern League. He retired from the Chicago Police Department after twenty-seven years of service. He and his first wife, Rosetta, who passed away in 1993, have three daughters, one son and six grandchildren. He and his second wife, Jeanne, live in Huntsville, Alabama.
Mark Wilson / Inducted 2007 1980's & 1990's Era
Mark Wilson’s softball career began when he was fourteen and started playing in the Friday night high school league at Peak’s Park in Worth, Illinois. From that early beginning, he would go on to play with some of softball’s great teams (Barrel of Fun, Francanello’s, Whips, Bud Runners, Renegades, Bats, Hollywood Casino, Men from Uncle, Jelly, and Grasshoppers) and would win numerous team and individual honors. Six years later he made his move into softball’s major league when he joined the Eye of the Tiger team in the Blue Island League. Two years later (1983) he played in his first of many nationals. That year he was named an ASA Second Team All American. Before his career was over, he was named an ASA First Team All American four times (1984, ‘88, ‘90, and ‘91), a USSSA All American three times (1985, ‘88, and ‘89), and a NSAAll American twice. He was also selected to numerous ASA, USSSA, and NSA second and honorable mention teams. He won the batting title at the 1996 ASA Nationals in Brookfield, Wisconsin when he played with Francanello’s and was named Most Valuable Player in the 1988 ASA Nationals in Marshalltown, Iowa with the Whips. Teams he played for appeared in final four finishes four times at Forest Park. They appeared in the ASA final four seven times and won four ASA National titles (Whips, Hollywood Casino, and Men from Uncle) and won three NSA National titles. Throughout his career in “A” and “Major” softball, he played second base, first base and catcher. In time, catcher became his primary position where he was recognized for his knowledge of the game and for his ability to know the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing hitters. Besides his defense, Mark’s offensive skills featured numerous clutch-hitting performances with his signature line drive to the right center field gap. When he wasn’t playing softball, Mark worked as a project manager during the day and sports director at night for the Alsip Park District. During his tenure at the Alsip, enrollment increased to 147 teams in the summer of 2004, second only in Illinois to the Rockford Park District. He currently directs the softball program at the Blue Island Park District. Because of his efforts, the park district was awarded an ASA “A” National bid to the 2006 and 2007 summer league season winners. He continues playing with the Grasshoppers and hopes to win another “A” National title before retiring from softball. He is also an ASA registered umpire. He and his wife, Laura, live in Frankfort, Illinois with their two children - Douglas and Jessica.
Popati A. Wing / Inducted 2008 Women
Popati A. Wing
Popati Wing, who is best known as “T”, started playing softball at the Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago’ Southside when she was nine years old. Even though she had no formal training or coaching, she did have the one thing that great athletes possess ‘ talent. She played third base as the only girl to play with the boys. She honed her softball skills by playing the game “strikeout” with her brother before and after school. Her arm strength, speed, and hitting made her a top player at pitcher, shortstop, and left field. She didn’t play softball in high school because the sport wasn’t offered. But she has played with countless women’s and co-ed teams in parks across Illinois and other states. She has earned numerous awards, including league MVP honors and has been selected as captain of many teams. She played with Shinnick’s Bad Attitude, Force, Mixed Company, Family, Rookies, and Miceli’s Mob to name just a few. While playing with the Blasters from Waukegan, she hit the longest homerun by a female in Canada. That hit earned her a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. She tried out for a women’s semi-pro 12-inch team in the ‘80s without a glove. True to the nature of Chicago’s “no gloves” tradition, she caught with her bare hands. She made the team but was placed on the farm team so that she could learn to catch with a glove. During her high school days in the late ‘70s, she ran track and competed in meets both instate and out of state with Olympic Gold medalist Wilma Rudolph as he coach Her love of sports continues to this day. She still plays volleyball, racquetball, and 11 and 12-inch softball. Except now she uses a glove. Popati holds a bachelor’s degree from Chicago State University and is working on a master’s degree in Public Administration at Illinois Institute of Technology. She has been employed as a budget manager at IIT for the past twenty-five years.
Gerald “Jerry” Witry / Inducted 2006 1950-1963 Era
Gerald “Jerry” Witry
After graduating from St. Ignatius High School in 1947 where he was named an All-Catholic all-star in football, Jerry went on to Loras College to do more of the same. In fact, as a freshman, he caught the first pass ever thrown to him for a touchdown. That year he helped lead Loras to a perfect 8-0 record, playing both ways on offense and defense and earning Little All-American honors. After graduation, he signed a contract with the Chicago Cardinals, but illness forced him to miss that season. The next year he had a tryout with the Dallas Texans but was cut on the final roster move. While he played football in the fall, his summers were spent playing softball. He started with the Dodgers in Sherman Park and later joined the Dice Box, also at Sherman. Later he started playing in organized leagues with Jimmy Roses (59th and Damen) and the Bombers (Palmer Park). As he played more in leagues around the Chicagoland area, his powerful physique caught the attention of many “money” clubs. He played first base for the Thirty Kings Zolna’s Cats (at 47th and Damen), Grobe Realty, Beverly Lounge (Dawes Park), Fairway Lounge, the Spartans (Bidwell Park and Clarendon Park), and he was a starring player in the Daddy-O-Dailey League with Hall of Fame inductees Sweetwater Clifton, Bob Hobson, Whitey Johnston and Jerry Dowling. During his playing career, Jerry Witry played on ten championship teams and won nearly all of the sixty-plus round robin winner take all tournaments. He knew what it was like to start playing at 9:00 am and finish at 7:30 pm in Labor Day tournaments at 103rd and Bensley. Besides playing for and against some of the great teams of softball, Jerry also played against and earned the respect of some of softball’s greatest players, including Sweetwater Clifton, Ed Zolna, Bob Hobson, and the Dowling Brothers, to name a few. He was known for being able to hit the long ball (over 600 homeruns) and the sharp line drive through the infield. As a first baseman and short center, his defensive skills were such that he earned the nickname of “Hands”; in fact, many teammates can’t remember him ever dropping a ball. Gerald worked for Westinghouse Electric Supply and retired from National Cash Register. He and his wife owned a Henry’s Drive - In at 79th and Cicero for five years. He and his wife, Joan Marie, have four children and seven grandchildren.
Fred Wolf / Inducted 2002 1964-1979 Era
Fred Wolf began his softball career with the Sabers and Crusaders, before moving to Turner's Tap. Wolf helped Turner's win the Illinois State Championship with a victory over the Bobcats in the 1960's in DesPlaines. He then moved to the Loafers ( later Moore Business Forms ) where he helped win three Clarendon Park Championships and six Championships at Kelly Park. Over the same period, he played with Father Perez and won the Knights of Columbus State Championship four times. A veteran of all infield positions, Wolf was mainly a shortstop who ended his career with a .625 average. In addition to playing at Clarendon and Kelly Parks, Wolf and Moore Business Forms also won two championships in the legendary Daddy-O-Daley League at 77th and Southpark. To round out his championships, Wolf won three titles with Shoes and one with the Whips at Boudreau Park, and he was selected MVP in the Mt. Greenwood Tournament. Fred and his wife Donna have six children and twelve grandchildren. He worked as a glazier for 40 years with M.T.H. Industries and is now retired and living in Orland Park
Paul “Paulie” Wukach / Inducted 2015
Paul “Paulie” Wukach
Paul Wukach has been involved in sixteen-inch softball for forty-five years as a player (having pitched four official and documented no-hitters) and as a manager, and organizer. He started playing softball because of the influence of his uncle Wally “Stormy” Dazur. “Unc” organized “pickup” games at Palmer Square in the Logan Square neighborhood. The kids would mark off foul lines with sticks and use pieces of cardboard for bases. Paul’s uncle would pop the trunk on his old Plymouth and the kids would grab bats and balls, and the game would get started. As he watched his uncle, who many years later coached the Meister Brau Taggers, a team run by legendary manager Frank Holan (HOF), he began to develop his organizing and managerial skills. In the early seventies, Paul started and managed his own team, sponsored by M and M Lounge, in the Elmhurst Park District. Over the years, he has assembled a long and still growing list of many talented to be counted on to make positive contributions to his individual teams. He prefers the steady ball player to the player who might have more talent but who also brings distractions to the team. He has pitched and played second base for the Beavers at Chopin and Riis Parks (1976-1980), the Shooters at Independence and in the Clarendon “B” League, the Thirsty Whale at Riis Park and in Bensenville, the teams Machine, Tribe, Knockouts, and Spillage in the venerable Forest Park “A” Leagues (1978 – 2002), the tournament team Connectors (1979 – 1985), the Demons in Broadview (1985 – 1987), the Silver Threads at Portage Park (1984 – 1988), Deadliners in Oak Park and Chopin Park (1994 -2003), Leftovers at La Grange and Berwyn (2004 – present), Exit at Clyde Park / Cicero (2008-2012), and lastly, the Strokers at La Grange and Janura Parks and in Berwyn (2007 – present). As a manger, Paul put together teams based on the right mix of age and experience. He balanced his teams with young players who are vital to the game’s continuation and success and older players who might have lost a bit of foot speed or can’t “rip” line drives and “blue darts” like they used to but nevertheless supply the team with poise, instruction, and inspiration. He has managed Maloney Cadillac, Parade, Knockouts, Pride, Frozen Rope, and Exit. He still plays with and against many of his former players in the Over-50 Monday Night League at Clyde Park and in the Thirty-Nine-and-Over League on Friday night in Berwyn. Paul and his lovely and understanding wife, Janet, live in Elmhurst, Illinois. When they met thirty-eight years ago, Paul was able to convince her of his deep and committed love for her by cutting back from seven teams that season to five teams. They have two children – Trevor and Lydia. Trevor plays center field in Grant Park and at Westchester, and Lydia in an occupational therapist in Portland, Oregon. Life has been good for Paul and he remains very grateful.