Hall of Fame Inductees
Blue Island Park District / Inducted 2012
Blue Island Park District
Blue Island’s Centennial Park was dedicated in the 1930s by the Park District. In 1939 the Citry of Blue Island opened a new ballpark at 123rd and Western in front of three thousand spectators. In 1963 the Blue Island Park District purchased the ballpark and renamed the stadium Hart Park after Mayor John M. Hart. With this acquisition Hart and Centennial Parks began to carve out their place in 16-inch softball history. From league play to hosting national tournaments, these fields showcased some of the best men’s and women’s teams in softball history, and they watched as players who were just starting out learned to play this game so uniquely identified with the Chicago area.
Clarendon Park / Inducted 2009
When it was completed in 1916, many considered north side Clarendon Park to be the largest and most practical bathing beaches in the country it lost this status in the 1930s when the Chicago Park District expanded Lincoln Park north to Foster Avenue, eliminating Clarendon’s lake frontage. While it was a great swimming beach and community center, 16-inch softball players remember Clarendon as the Mecca of softball during the 1950s and ‘60s. if you were a player or a fan, you had to be at Clarendon. Although Clarendon no longer sponsors its own leagues, players and fans will always remember it as softball’s greatest park during what many consider to be softball’s greatest years.
Clyde Park District / Inducted 2013
Clyde Park District
Clyde Park District located in Cicero has been the site of softball league for decades. Starting in 1985 executive director Rusty Carlson took the league to the next level by attracting some of the best teams in the game until 1995 with his Super A league and tournaments for men and women. His hard work set the tone for the games to still be played at Clyde for all ages, genders and diverse quality of play.
Westchester Park District / Inducted 2016
Westchester Park District
Mayfair Park in Westchester has been the host site for sixteen-inch softball leagues and tournaments for over fifty years. The early days of the league primarily catered to local and surrounding area teams. Back in those days, all games were played starting at 6:30 pm on three fields. In the early 70s, Westchester lit its first field, which was primarily used for its softball league. In 1983 the District made the decision to grade the entire park to alleviate water retention problems. Part of that renovation removed one of the three fields and the construction of two larger fields that could accommodate hardball, twelve-inch softball, and sixteen-inch softball. The league at that time hosted three separate leagues - an A and a B men’s league and a sixteen-inch women’s league. In the early 90s, the second field was lit and a twelve-inch slow pitch league was added when the women’s league was discontinued. Again in the early 2000s, the outfields were graded and the outfield fences were brought in to 300 feet. New lights and backstops were recently installed bringing in the fences to a more manageable distance of 270 feet. Teams such as the Miller 45’s, Flash, Signature Transportation, Flashback, Jynx, Impact have all called Westchester their home. Over the years the fields at Westchester have hosted a variety of tournaments. 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, for more than ten years.
Forest Park / Inducted 2010
"No Gloves. Never Had 'em. Never Will." This motto of the Forest Park No-Glove Nationals speaks volumes about the traditions surrounding this tournament. In July of 2011, they will sponsor their 43rd No-Gloves Nationals Tournament. It wasn't always called the No-Glove Nationals, but softball players have always regarded it as one of the top tournaments around both for the quality of the competition and for the tradition of playing Chicago's game without gloves. Here is the chronology of how this tournament evolved. 1969: First Tournament held with Fred O'Connor as the tournament director and Jim Sarno as the Director of the Park District and tournament founder. The Maywood Agents won the tournament. 1971: The Strikers tame the World Champion Bobcats 9-1 with Mike Tallo holding them to one run. 1974: The Bobcats win the tournament in their third try in a slugfest with the Bruins. Final score: 23-17. The tournament covered nine days and drew 15,000 fans, with 5,000 attending the final game. Dave Novak joins the park district staff in grounds maintenance. 1975 - 1985: Tournament held as a single elimination format with thirty or thirty-two teams. 1986: Willie "Steamer" Simpson first recorded tournament MVP. The format shifted from a weeklong tournament to the current three-day weekend tournament. 1987: Tournament moved to last weekend in July. Sidekicks Bar and Strohs Beer are the first sponsors. Mark Frighetto named as the MVP. 1989: Format changed to sixteen-team, double elimination. First reference to No-Gloves Nationals. Superintendent Larry Buckley's first tournament. 1990: Whips win their fourth tournament (83,'84,'85, and '90). 1992: Tournament field increased to twenty teams, double elimination with the top four teams getting a bye. 1993: Old timers game held between the Bobcats and American Rivet Sobies, Eddie Zolna and Tony Reibel organize the teams. 1994 - 1995: Tournament changed to thirty-two team, single elimination format. 1996: Format changed back to twenty-four team, double elimination format. 1999: Ten-Year Anniversary of Larry Buckley as Superintendent of Parks and the person responsible for the beautiful condition of the ball fields. 2000: Championship game broadcast around the world over the Internet by George Bliss. 2004: $330,000 ball fields renovation completed. 2005: Jim Sarno, tournament founder, passes away in August. 2007: Tournament dedicated to Lorraine Popelka who passed away on June 24, 2007. Lorraine volunteered at every tournament. 2009: Play-in games added to determine the final spot in the tournament. 2011: 43rd Tournament will be held and Larry Buckley will celebrate his 22nd year of caring for the most famous diamonds in 16-inch softball.
Grant Park / Inducted 2014
Grant Park has been the host site for sixteen-inch softball in Chicago since the 1920’s and grew popular in the 1933…when the World’s Fair showcased the game. The game fosters camaraderie amongst downtown co-workers in leagues from lawyers to media people and the site for tourneys on weekends. Including the largest in the history of the sport in the 90’s the Old Style Classic on Sports Channel TV. As the city’s front yard, Grant Park has hosted many sporting events, concerts and historical events, but the heart of the land still holds true to the game that we all love – sixteen-inch softball.
Hodgkins Park District / Inducted 2017
Hodgkins Park District
Sixteen-inch softball has been an institution at the Hodgkins Park District since the 1970s. It started with church leagues playing on an old baseball field and quickly evolved into one of the finest homes for “A”, Major, and Pro League softball teams. With its legendary twenty-foot high and two hundred-fifty foot fence and its perfectly manicured infield, great players from across the nation have come to the small town of Hodgkins, Illinois to play the game they love. As one of the founders of the now famous Lite Softball Classic, Hodgkins Park made a name for itself in the world of sixteen-inch softball. Championships were won and memories were made throughout the two-week tournament that is now in it s twelfth year. The Hodgkins Park District installed lighting in the late 1990s. As a result, more games were played and more players participated in their favorite sport. As softball grew in popularity, Hodgkins became involved with the Westchester / Hodgkins Pro League. Over the years, this league showcased many legendary and respected teams in softball. Besides sixteen-inch softball Hodgkins Park has become the home to a wide variety of teams and uses. The Lyons Township Blazers, a girl’s twelve-inch fast-pitch softball organization, has called Hodgkins Park their home for twenty years. The Park district hosts two annual softball tournaments for local middle schools. It has been used as an emergency field numerous times for area junior and high school teams. The University of Akron’s Women’s Softball team twice used the field for practice when they came to play Northwestern University. The Hodgkins Park District has always encouraged young players to get involved in softball for personal development and to ensure the future of the sport. The Park District and its former Executive Director, Ronald Kubicki, have become synonymous with sixteen-inch softball. Without Kubicki’s leadership, guidance, and foresight, softball might never have been played at Hodgkins Park. Originally meant for baseball, it became one of softball’s premier destinations and a place where players and fans could participate in a safe and fun environment.
Mt. Prospect Park District / Inducted 2008
Mt. Prospect Park District
Mt. Prospect Park District’s first involvement with major 16-inch softball came in the late 1970s when the district’s Meadows softball fields hosted a Winston Cup tourney. In 1982 they expanded its summer softball leagues from four to fifteen, then Rick Pyle and Bob Ancona started a softball league that attracted most of the major Chicago teams. In 1983, at the suggestion of Dick Cooper, the league became known as the “Classic League.” On average, the district has 100 recreational softball teams playing in twenty different leagues each summer. A team from the Classic League has won the ASA and SSA Men’s Major National Championships almost every season.
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.