Holmes “Daddy O” Daylie
Three things come naturally to Jimbo Levato; 16" softball, socializing and working. And few people have mixed in the things they value as well as Levato. Perhaps because of that, Levato, who turned 67 three days after his induction to the Hall of Fame, has the demeanor and physical movement of a much younger man. "I've had a great life," he smiles. "And softball was so big in it. That was my first love." The lifelong Bridgeport resident recalls going off with a softball and bat to the park while all his friends were out swimming. He'd hit the ball and chase after it. Then hit it again and chase it again, over and over. By the time he was 16 years old, he was playing big time softball with Tracy's. A left handed singles and doubles hitter, Levato prided himself on his consistency. "Didn't make very many outs," he says proudly, looking at his wife, Joyce. "I was always on base." "Always," Joyce nods. Much of his time was spent at McGuane Park at Halsted and 28th (then called Mark White Park) where Tracey's won nine championships, and at Armour Square Park, where they won three titles. He also competed on such legendary softball battlegrounds as Kelly Park and Donovan Park. In 1973, he was on the undefeated Diamond Oaks squad at Kelly Park. Levato recalls playing weekend round robin money tournaments against such top teams as the Amalgamonsters, and Bill Bonnetts. "They had uniforms, bats and everything. We had nothing," he says. "We wore these little dago-t's. But we knocked down a lot of those big teams." Levato retired nearly four decades later, at 55. He played center field until he was 49, then switched to pitcher. Along the way, he notes with satisfaction, he got to play with not only his five brothers, but all three of his sons as well. In 1985, while still playing ball, Levato opened Jimbo's. Situated directly across from Armour Square Park, and within sight of Comiskey, Jimbo's seems not so much a bar as an extension of the neighborhood and it's people. As he moves about the lounge and on the street outside, it's apparent Levato is at home among the people around him. Levato came to the bar business rather late in life at age 48, following an adult life working on trucking docks. He was approached by the lounge's previous owner, who was planning a move to Florida. The man asked Levato if he would be interested in taking over the place. "I said, y'know, I'm good with people. Let me try it," Levato recalls. "What have I got to loose?" He clearly relishes his role in providing a welcoming place for softball players to gather. Over 16 years, Jimbo's has sponsored local men's and women's teams and has served as the host bar for Bridgeport Crush manager Mick Ballestri's popular annual spring and fall 16" tournaments. He also sponsored the 1989 and 1995 Bridgeport Crush USSSA National 16" champions. "They all come here after the games," Levato says , smiling. "While they're playing ball they hardly talk to each other. After the games, they all come in here, they drink together, they laugh together, they sing with the jukebox. Just have a good time." Like a blue collar version of the famous Pump Room, over one hundred 8 X 12 photos of past and present patrons mix with the likes of the Three Stooges ("They come in here once in a while," Jimbo cracks), Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony LaRussa and other assorted major leaguers. "I found out that people would rather have their picture up there than the ball players," says Levato. "And it's worked out great." Of all the people he's known in softball over the years, he thanks Ballestri, along with brothers Carmen and Santo. "Mickey Ballestri's excellent," Levato offers. "And he devotes a lot of time to it. It's not easy getting 29 teams to come out for a tournament." Levato credits older brothers Carmen and Santo with impressing on him the values that would guide him through his life. "Never give up, and always give one hundred percent," he says, grinning. "And play hard," he continues. "And I always did." Still, Levato has at least one small regret. "It's still hard to watch and not play."
Although Al MacFarlane was born in Eugene, Oregon, Chicago softball and sports in general benefitted when his family moved east and settled on Chicago's northwest side. He attended Taft High School from 1957 to 1961, where he played baseball, football and ran track. As a quarterback, halfback and defensive back football proved to be his dominant sport. He was a key member of the 1960 City Championship team, was selected All-City and State in 1958, '59 and '60, was picked as the Sun Times Player of the Year in 1960, and was named All-American the same year. After high school, Al went south to the University of Louisville from 1963 to 1965. Once again he assumed a key role as a halfback, defensive back, punter and kick returner. These efforts earned him 1st Team Missouri Valley All Conference honors in 1965. In addition to these honors, Al was also named Back-of-the-Week three times in the Missouri Valley All Conference. In 1966 he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and spent the remainder of that year on the reserve team of the Chicago Bears. When his football career was over, Al MacFarlane made the plunge into the restaurant business in 1968. He is the present owner of the Spinters Sports Club, and has been sponsoring 16" softball for 30 years. Al cites two strong memories of his softball career; winning three National titles and being associated with many new friends and tremendous athletes, who are unique talents and true ambassadors of the game.
Jim McCabe played softball in Glenview during high school from 1973 – 1974. He was with Phoenix from 1978 – 1982 as manager. His team won the league in 1978 and 1979 against such teams as the Railbirds, the Rat – Pack, and Jack Daniels. Phoenix became the Scorpions and competed in the Classic League from 1982 – 1987. He then led the Spiros from 1988 until 1996 winning the Old Style Classic at Grant Park in 1994 and 1996. From 1997 – 2001 he managed Overtime, Quest and Sage. Jim joined the Bucketheads in 2002 and helped them place 2nd in the ASA Major Nationals in 2005. The Bucketheads became Windy City in 2010, and as manager Jim was a part of the win in the Major National Championships. In 2011 Windy City once again played in the National Championship placing 2nd in the country. Jim also enjoys managing a co-ed team at work which he has been a part of since 1998.
The Frank C. Holan Award has been established to honor a person for their deeds on and off the field. The person who best represents our game on the diamond and behind the scene and mirrors Frank’s passion for the game is Richard Melman in 1997. In fact, he is by far the most important person to impact the game in the last two decades. Rich Melman has been a softball player all his life and still plays today on the Over The Hill league. The past seven years he and Joel Zimberoff have managed the Lettuce team to 3 ASA National titles and has been runner up twice. His team has won every major championship in the game. They are the Yankees of the sport. In between games he is one of the most famous restaurant executives in the world. His influence has allowed the game to flourish the past six ears. His marketing strategy for his favorite game has been based on simple television exposure, team uniforms, and encouraging more teams to compete at the major level. The Grant Park Classic (6 years) and Pro League (3 years) that are televised were co-founded by Rich and producer David Hynes. The exposure of the game across the Midwest by the Sports channel crew of Mike North, Steve Kashul and George Bliss has been a boom to the game. The ASA reports more teams signed up more women and co-eds, and more tournaments played each year. He started the Windy City Classic which attracted A teams to set up and play the top teams. His ploy worked and the Major division has most teams competing each week in many years He is actively involved in the Hall of Fame and he and his wife Martha consistently support the community in many charitie, a few benefiting children to play 16 softball and has used celebrity softball games to raise money. He has also influenced his 3 children to play the game. His company vision at Lettuce Entertain You follows him and his team on and off the field, “Our vision is the Best We Can Be, realizing that we can always improve, we are constantly striving for excellence. Working to achieve this goal has been our ultimate reward.” If his pace and work continues, no one will be surprised if he has the most influence in the history of the sport. Frank would be pleased that Rich is the first recipient of an award in his honor.
In August of 1970, Jack Olson started the Scrappers. They played their first game in the Ed Kelly Fall Classic Tournament held at Clarendon Park. They beat three "A" teams from Clarendon's League and then lost 9-7 to the Dwarfs of Clarendon's "A" League. Because of their success, they were asked to play in the Clarendon "A" League the following year. They played there for twelve years and finished second or third each year. Besides playing at Clarendon, they usually finished second at Portage Park, always finished first in the Mather "A" League, and always took first in the Mt. Prospect Classic League and in the City tournament. One year they took second place at the state tournament at Rand Park in Des Plaines. That year they also beat the Sobies in the Andy Frain Tournament at Clarendon and in the Western Metro Tournament and they beat the Runts to make the semi-finals at Forest Park. In 1973 the Scrappers won the Northbrook Fall Tourney of Champions. Jack won the batting title for hitting .765 during the tournament. In 1974 he won the batting title with a .773 average for the Windy City Classic Tournament in Mt. Prospect. The Scrappers won three games during that tournament before losing to the Bobcats. In 1983 Jack was a USSSA Director and hosted a regional tournament in Mt. Prospect. The Scrappers qualified and played in the USSSA Nationals World Tournament. They ranked fourth in the final rankings after the tournament. In 1974 Jack started the Windy City Softball Magazine out of his offices. Jack Olson played first and third base during his playing career. But his primary value to his teams was his organization and his ability to get on base. Jack formed a women's sixteen-inch team and his wife, Sandy, a tremendous athlete herself, pitched for the team. They finished fourth, third, and second in the ASA Women's World Tournament in Harvey. Each year they lost to the Hall of Fame honored team, Rose and Crown. Jack and Sandy Olson live in Palatine. Illinois and spend half the year in Florida playing golf. They have three children - Jodi, Jake, and Kelly.
Bob Pagorek’s softball career began in 1953 when he was a seventh grader and lasted until 1995. During that time he played the game and managed some of the great teams of the ‘70s and ‘80s. He played in many Chicago Park District leagues, primarily on the Southeast Side, at Calumet City and Dolton and in Whiting, Indiana. He attended St Frances de Sales High School where he played varsity basketball for four years. He got his first taste of organizing in 1958 when he organized a team, bought the shirts and solicited a sponsor for an 18 - and under league at Calumet Park. From 1961 to 1978 he played five nights a week (sometimes playing two games at different parks the same night) and on weekends in senior park leagues, CYO ball and tournaments with such teams as Maggie’s, Honey’s Inn, Van Club, Jack’s Club, Ed’s Sports Club, Continental Bank, ERV and Jenny’s. He played first base for thirty-one years before alternating between first base, pitcher or extra hitter during the last ten years of his career. During those days the season ended on Labor Day at Trumbull Park with thirty-two teams in a single elimination tournament. The entry fee was thirty dollars and the prize was a team trophy and an individual trophy for each player (besides the money bet on the side during each game) and no one left until the champions were crowned. Around 1975 the Eastside team was formed and the team expanded outside its neighborhood to play in tougher competition. Their effort paid off when they won the 1976 Windy City “AA” Tournament. The victory came at a cost, though, because they lost some key players to the “big teams” because of the exposure they received. This setback didn’t stop them, however, because they called upon the young local talent of the Southeast Side and some veteran players to form the Eastsiders. They took the league crown for three years at Bessemer, Calumet and Dolton parks. They then moved on to competing in leagues at Harvey, Blue Island and Kelly parks, along with playing in tournaments all over Chicago and suburbs. In 1982 after losing some players, the Eastsiders and the Condors combined ranks to form the ERV Condors, playing at Harvey, Blue Island and Kelly parks. That year they won the July 4th Holiday Tournament in Calumet City, the thirty-two team Lacrosse Tournament and the ASA Chicago-area Championship in Blue Island. In 1983 he was back with the Eastsiders, playing less and coaching more. From 1976 to 1995 they had some great sponsors - ERV, the 10th ward, Pete’s Hideaway, Lakeside Inn and O’Hara’s. Since his retirement from active softball in 1996, Bob Pagorek likes watching local softball teams play or watching his grandchildren play their sports. He is involved with the Knights of Columbus and has served as Grand Knight for two years. One of his most rewarding moments was volunteering to help with the Special Olympics. He is a retired mechanical supervisor for the Rock Island Railroad (twenty years) and Metra (twenty-one years). He and his wife, Mary Ann, have two children, Bob and Cheryl, and four grandchildren.
Rick Pyle first became involved in softball during 1964 by organizing and playing on an intramural team at Glenbrook High School in Northbrook and continuing that summer in the Park District Teen League. He continued playing on and managing various teams into the early 1980s, but his real love for the game was in organizing all levels of play while working for park districts. In 1970 thru 1972 he was the Tournament Director for the Northbrook Park District Annual Tournament of Champions. He moved to the Mt. Prospect Park District in 1972 and met local team managers Frank Holan, Jack Olson, Herb Teichert, Ken Doktor, John Ewert and Scott Rossi. They collectively had aspirations to raise the level of competition to a higher level and Rick was "all in" to make this happen. He created a local Classic League, increased team opportunities and along with Jack Olson started offering several competitive tournaments. With this success, the search was on for additional opportunities and new facilities were required. Fellow staff member Bob Ancona (HOF) and Rick worked tirelessly, and with the tremendous help of the park district attorney, Mike Hogan, identified property of the Metropolitan Sanitary District, where a new sewage treatment plant was under construction. After eighteen months of back and forth negotiations, the park district received a lease for the desired property. Bob and Rick measured out the fields during a snowstorm and designed the conceptual complex on a cocktail napkin at a local sandwich shop. That facility is now known at Majewski Metro Park and is adjacent to the Northwest Tollway. The softball/soccer complex couldn't have been completed without a generous donation from Everett Weaver of the American Colloid Corporation, which provided funding for lighting the fields. Jack Olson, Bob and Rick met in 1981 to set in motion a series of meetings with the top teams to form a top flight "Classic League" for the 1982 season. And the rest is history. Rick ended his park district career after nearly forty years. His career included new softball complexes at Mt Prospect, Freeport and Streamwood. Getting paid to help organize a sport he loved made all the odd hours of work all worthwhile. He spends his retirement years between Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Wisconsin.