Media & Organizers
Frank Afable / Inducted 1997
Frank Afable earned his induction with George Morse at Clarendon Park. Frank started his softball - facilities management career at the ripe old age of fourteen when he started keeping score at third base and- center field at Clarendon Park. In 1972 he was promoted to Park Supervisor, a position he held from 1972 to1982. AccordingtoFrank, “I was given the opportunity to carry on a great tradition of softball left by George Morris and Tony Struppa.” His best memories include the Andy Frain Tournament and watching Reibel, Bertucca, and Volosik match with Ed Zolna for ten seasons of softball. Frank retired from the Chicago Park District in 1997 after 34 years of service. Frank and his wife Roberta have three sons and a daughter.
Bob Ancona / Inducted 1998
In his notes to his biography, Bob Ancona says this about 16-inch softball “The greatest thing is that this is a Chicago game. Anyone who grew up in Chicago has played the game. It’s a great game whether it’s played at a picnic, recreational park district league or at the highly competitive national championship level.” Besides great players, Chicago’s game also needs great organizers to create the leagues, tournaments, and championships. Of these organizers, Ancona and his Mt. Prospect Park District rank near the top. In 1982 Ancona with Rick Pyle and Jack Olson created the Classic League, which is now the longest running major division 16-inch league in Chicago. Besides organizing it, Bob Ancona served as the league director from 1982 to 1998. From 1985 to 1998 Ancona was the District Commissioner for the A.S.A. and from 1985 to 1998 he was Tournament Director for the ASA Championship, hosting the tournament seven times. In addition to these directorships, Ancona was also director for the A.S.A. Men’s Major Division National Championship, the A.A.A. Women’s National Championship, and Tournament Director for the A.S.A. Illinois tournament. Bob’s three greatest memories include the second place finish for Dick Cooper’s team, the 1997 Splinters championship, and the friendship of Tom O’Neill, Joe Hoffman, and Terry Reilly. Besides softball, Ancona also coached wrestling and placed in state and national competitions in freestyle wrestling. He thanks his professional staff at the Mt. Prospect Park District for their hard work in making Mt. Prospect one of the finest softball complexes in softball today. Their efforts have brought Chicago’s game back to Chicago!
George Bliss / Inducted 1998
“Play softball; it’s the greatest game in America!!” This quote summarizes George Bliss’ love for the game of softball and his many contributions through the Softball Hotline. Bliss’ involvement in softball began with a friend’s prompting to turn George’s two loves - softball and reading newspaper columns into a column dedicated to reporting softball. Bliss had a different idea. Backed by 25 years of computer experience, George created a voice mail system that tracked schedules, players, and results of the major softball happenings. With coaching from Tim Maher, Mike North, and Steve Kashul, Bliss began making appearances on radio and ultimately began television broadcasts of Super 16 inch softball. George lives in Crystal Lake with his wife, Kathleen, and their sons, George Jr, and Jimmy. Catch George “Live” everyday at 630/620-5214 for our sports updates.
Tom Bonen / Inducted 1996
Tom was the founder of the Windy City Softball Magazine and developer of the Windy City Softball Stadium in Bridgeview during the mid 1970s. He organized the Winston Softball Circuit and World Series, and other tournament venues. Tom was successful in stratifying the competitive levels that continue today. He was ahead of his time when he was one of the first to get a corporation to sponsor a sporting event campaign. He was the driving force behind the tremendous media coverage enjoyed by the game of softball during the 1970’s. He even accomplished getting Channel 11 to televise live the ‘75 World Series from the north end zone of Soldier Field. 4,000 still attended the game. He was the executive producer and broadcaster of the extensive radio coverage of the Windy City League. He was also the color commentator of the NBC telecasts of the 1976-77 World Series of Softball finals which attracted more viewers than the Cubs and Sox. He promoted the annual Home Run Hitting Contest at Comiskey Park and Windy City Stadium. In his own right a very respected player at Kelly Park, he played on the World Champion ERV Strikers from 1973-1976. Tom was an All-American outfielder in ‘74 and ‘75. Bonen graduated from Reavis High School in Burbank, Valparaiso University, and Northwestern University (MBA-1981). He p1ayed in three consecutive NCAA collegiate baseball national tournaments (1967-69). Married to Denise and has 4 children. His organizing skills then focused on the soccer front with his kids, when he developed the Southwest Soccer Club and was a sports columnist for the Daily Southtown. Born 1947.
Bob Campbell / Inducted 1996
Organizer, Player, Manager
Bob had enjoyed the game of softball as a player, manager, teacher and businessman. In 1961 bob started the Buc’s, a young team that enjoyed success for three years at Clarenden Park. In the next few years, he played for Continental Bank, Stoppers and the Bobcats. In 1969 Bob started the Bruins, the next six years they enjoyed great success winning leagues and tournaments including two State titles, two Metros, always top 4 at ASA Nationals. Bob was a three-time All –American and Lifetime 600 hitter. In 1974 Bob was co-founder of the award winning “Windy City Softball” magazine. In 1977 Bob joined deBeer Sports as a promotion and sales director. He designed the first Clincher aluminum bats and produced “A Game for Everyone, 16-inch Softball” Video. Later, he produced two hitting videos. “The Art of Hitting” has become a classic. Bob helped start the miller Pro League and was instruments in the 16-inch Chicago high school program. Today bob enjoys his Sports ministry, sharing his faith and teaching the game.
Dan Cahill / Inducted 2005
Picking up where Mike Royko and Don DeBat left off, Dan Cahill penned a weekly 16-inch softball column for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1985 to 1993. Every Monday, the Clincher crowd would turn to his popular “ringers, dingers and broken fingers” column to get the softball scoops. No major daily paper has run a softball column since. Cahill became interested in the game at an early age when his father would take him to various local parks to watch the sport. He also remembers seeing the World Series of Softball on Channel 11 in the mid-70s. An avid player himself, Cahill will never forget playing against the legendary 1981 Budweiser Whips in just his third game at age 18-his love for the sport was forever forged. Cahill was one of the founders of Chicago Softball Magazine and contributed stories to the Coors Softball Report and Red, White & Green. He has made several TV and radio appearances promoting the sport.
Rusty Carlson / Inducted 2009
Rusty Carlson began playing organized softball when he was fifteen. He would continue to play for the next twenty-two years in many leagues and tournaments, with the majority being played in Cicero, and at Kelly and Reece Parks. Besides playing, he also umpired for the ASA and USSSA for over twenty years. He umpired the Hawthorne “A” Classic and the Forest Park “No Gloves Nationals” for more than ten years, calling balls and strikes during the tournament games and for the championship games. He was the softball director for the Clyde Park leagues from 1985 to 1995 where he organized and directed nine men’s and three women’s divisions. The men’s divisions featured teams from Major to DD leagues; the women’s division consisted of A through C leagues, with eight to ten teams in each division. He also organized a boys 18-and-over division. The Major division was won by such legendary teams as the 45s, Jynx, Lettuce, Touch, and the Whips. The Super A league featured such teams as Bridgeport Crush, the Rockers, Stickmen, Safari Tigers, and other great teams. Eventually Major league games were played at Cicero and Forest Parks, with some of the games being played on local television at Forest Park. He also hosted and organized the twenty-four team ASA Women’s National tournament in 1988 in Cicero, won by the Bidayos. Clyde Park also hosted many USSSA and ASA tournaments and qualifying rounds. Clyde Park District had the reputation for hosting outstanding 16-inch softball games every night of the week. While the playing conditions were not always the best, often they were the only park playing during heavy rains due to the determination of park officials, players and coaches.
Mike Conklin / Inducted 1998
Current readers of the Chicago Tribune can find Mike Conkin as one of the co-authors of the INC column, but softball fans will remember Mike as the founder and author of “On Softball”, a weekly column in the Tribune during the 1970’s that many experts say revitalized 16" softball in Chicago and the Midwest. As author of this column, Conklin had a front row seat to many classic softball games, local tournaments, and world championships. Mike also edited and was a columnist for Windy City Softball magazine produced in the 70’s by Tom Bonen, Bob Campbell and Al Maag. Additionally, he wrote feature articles on softball for national publications, and co-authored with Ed Zolna Inside Softball, one of the first books to cover the finer points of “Chicago’s game.” Mike Conklin is married to Diane and has two high school aged children, Andy and Sydney. He resides in the northern suburbs.
Don DeBat / Inducted 1999
A veteran newspaper reporter and editor, Don DeBat covered business and real estate at the Chicago Daily News and Chicago Sun Times for 26 years. However, DeBat says the most fun he had during his newspaper was the two seasons he spent on the Daily News sports desk as a nightshift copy editor and author of a weekly column on 16" slow-pitch softball. Encouraged by famed Daily News columnist and softball pitcher Mike Royko, DeBat wrote about great teams of the 1970s, the Windy City Leagues of the 1930s and 1940s, and the colorful traditions of the 112 year old game that has become a subculture in Chicago. Yarns about Bobby Lamont’s “dump hitting,” skills, Clarendon Park’s “juiced ball,” and diagrams showing novices how to hit a softball using the “Chicago shuffle” were column highlights. In 1976, DeBat wrote about one of softball’s greatest organizers - Ron “Beetlebomb” Braasch - and captured first place in the Amateur Softball Association’s national sports - writing competition. DeBat, 55, is married to Realtor Sara Benson, and has two young sons, Don and Herb, who aspire to play high school softball. DeBat runs a successful real estate public relations firm with his daughter Aimee, writes a syndicated real estate column, and plays twice a week on “Risk,” his saloon- league team with his oldest son, Erik, a graphic designer.
Frederick DeBeer / Inducted 1996
A pioneer of baseball and softball manufacturing since 1889. Developed much of the equipment used throughout the industry today. He is famous in our community due to his development of the trademark of the game the “Clincher” softball. Softballs were stitched on the outside and rarely did they stand up to the gravel playgrounds of Chicago. The development of the bigger ball allowed people with little money to enjoy the sport longer and without a glove. He patented a covered stitch that allowed the 16” ball to last longer in 1934. The ball known as the “Clincher” would become a household name and the ball of choice for over 60 years in Chicago and New York. His son Fritz perfected and marketed the ball, Grandson Jim Muhlfelder continues the tradition today. Frederick was active in the business until his death at 95 in 1986. Born in Johnstown, N.Y., and attended Yale and Union College. Since Deceased.
Les Duncan / Inducted 1998
Les Duncan began his storied softball career in 1969 as an ASA umpire. From 1972 to 1980 he was ASA Area Director and umpired four National ASA tournaments. After going independent in 1981, Duncan rose to the position of National Director for all 16-inch softball for the country, a position he held until 1994 when the USSSA and the ASA joined forces. Duncan was responsible for all divisions of the USSSA Men’s and Women’s Nationals. In 1991 Duncan started the Chicago Classic softball tournament, which became one of the biggest 16-inch tournaments in the world with over 1600 teams participating over the past seven years. In 1998 Les received the Lifetime Chicago Softball Achievement Award. Besides umpiring and organizing, Duncan had a television show Let’s Talk Softball for three years on four cable stations. Les also found time to coach high school basketball for 14 years where he accumulated a 485 - 78 record. He received coach of the year honors from the Chicago Tribune and Coca Cola in 1966 and 1967. Returning to high school basketball coaching as an assistant at Thornton High School in 1991, the Wildcats were ranked second in Illinois with a 28 - 2 mark. Duncan has also organized Pop Warner football leagues, has been president of two park districts, and has been a professional baseball scout with the Chicago Cubs and is currently with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Les works as an assignment chair for high schools and grade schools and has 650 officials working for him. He retired from Commonwealth Edison in 1991 after 38 years of service.
Bill Dwyer / Inducted 2003
Frank Fiarito / Inducted 2010
From 1980 to 1994, Frank Fiarito coached the Panthers to twenty-nine league titles and six hundred wins. The teams finished second, third, and fourth in the ASA "A" Nationals and were runners-up in the eighty-two team USSSA 1989 state tournament. In 1995 he was the USSSA National Rookie Director of the Year for 16-inch softball. He served as the only commissioner of the Pro-League from 1995 to 1999. But he is probably best known as the director of the Terry Moran Annual Softball Tournament from 1995 to 2010. This tournament honors the memory of 2002 Hall of Fame inductee Terry Moran. More than 520 teams from all levels of softball play for the love of the game and to respect the memory of Terry Moran. Frank and his wife, Christine, have three children - Antonio, Isabella, and Sofia. They live in Mt. Prospect, Illinois
Bill Gleason / Inducted 1997
Bill Gleason is an icon in Chicago as a media journalist. He has been a gifted writer for the Herald American, Sun Times. a - Southtown Economist for over 50 years. But - be best known for being on camera... “The Sportswriters on TV” is an opening line that we have heard 200 times. Usually with a cigar and opinionated he is speaking on behalf of Chicagoans as though they were with him in a bar.
Harry Hannin / Inducted 1996
Harry Hannin was the main organizer and president of the Windy City Softball and Basketball Leagues from 1934 to 1949. His 1925 team, the Hannin Did Its, won fifty-five games in a row. These victories inspired the rush to play sixteen-inch softball. Hannin coached legendary DePaul Coach Ray Meyer. Twenty-six future major leaguers, including Lou Boudreau and Bill “Moose” Skowron, played in the Windy City League. It attracted 2,500-10,000 viewers per game and was often the premier event for spectators during that era. Each team had its own home field...Hillburn, Schubert, Bidwell, Parichy, St. Phillips, and Lane Tech to name a few. They had paid attendance of 389,000 over two seasons in the late 1940s at two fields. The players were paid for each game with more going to the winners. Hannin seemd to always have a cigar in his mouth and was often looking to make another deal. Besides organizing softball, Hannin was also the advance man for the Harlem Globetotters and was a boxing promoter. In 1939, Hannin and Leo Fischer of the Chicago Herald American organized the World Tournament of Professional Basketball. The games were played at two locations in Chicago. The tournament marked the first time that blacks and whites competed on even footing for a professional championship. From 1961 to 1962, Harry was the GM for the Chicago Packers, a professional basketball team in Chicago. He is credited with drafting Walt Bellamy, the 6'11" center from Indiana and the 1960 Olympic hero. The Packers are now the Washington Wizards. Harry Hannin passed away in November, 1989.
William “Dub” Hill / Inducted 2012
William “Dub” Hill
William Hill was raised on the South side of Chicago in the West Woodlawn neighborhood. He attended Mc Cosh Grammar School and Chicago Vocational High School where he played baseball and football. At fifteen, he started playing softball with the West Woodlawn Crusaders as a utility player in the outfield and infield. He played at Langley Field, Washington Park, Mc Cosh Playground and at other parks throughout the city. He was fortunate to have played with Hall of Famers Sweetwater Clifton, Dan Dumas, Bobbie Blackstone, Henry Curry, Leonard McKinnon and other great players. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, became a paratrooper, and obtained the rank of Sergeant 1st Class at the age of eighteen. He was discharged in 1954 and began a thirty-five year career with the United State Postal Service. He also attended Chicago State University where he majored in personnel management. For the last twenty years of his postal career, he worked with the Postal Inspection Service where he received many honors and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and became the officer in charge. He retired in 1989 and became an umpire with James Melton and Pete Dawkins (HOF). He was responsible for revitalizing sixteen-inch softball in the African-American community at Washington Park. In 1999 the league was on the verge of folding because teams weren't signing up due to a lack of leadership. The Sunday League had only twelve teams when he took over. William immediately began making phone calls, knocking on doors, and scheduling meetings with teams and the Chicago Park District to insure that the leagues would continue and to improve field maintenance. He also worked with the park district to install more field lights and to improve the washroom facilities. They also created a new set of playing rules and team schedules. As a result of his efforts, the Sunday League grew from twelve teams to thirty teams, and the weekday league grew to twenty teams between 1999 and 2002,. One third of these teams participated in ASA National Tournaments. In addition, special tournaments such as ASA qualifiers, the He Man, Afro-American Legends, and the Little Ball, Big Ball Tournaments were played at Washington Park. In 2005, the Chicago Park District honored him for producing Steel Gold, the first African-American National Championship team. Mayor Daley also honored him and the team for their outstanding contributions to the community. In 2006 Channel 11 (PBS TV) honored him for keeping softball alive in the community and in 2008, Channel 2 (CBS TV) honored him for his dedication to softball and for building the largest sixteen-inch softball league in the United States. The Washington Park Advisory Council honored him in 2010 for his many years of caring service to the park and for his vision of making Washington Park a focal point for the community. William has been married to his wife, Patricia, for fifty-three years. They have three sons - Steve, Michael, and Joseph.
Donald Jens / Inducted 2002
For millions of Chicagoans, the last weekend of July means one thing - a trip to Chicago's lakefront to witness the thunder and majesty of the Chicago Air and Water Show. From water-craft demonstrations to precision flying teams to the power and daring of the Blue Angels, Chicaoans owe a debt of gratitude to the late Don Jens. A former Chicago Park District supervisor, Don Jens worked out of an office at Lake Shore Park and was instrumental in expanding the Air and Water Show from a small gyn event in 1958 to the world-class event it is today. Softball players, however, remember Don Jens as one of the founders of the Windy City Softball League, one of the premier leagues in the history of 16-inch softball and, along with his uncle, Harry Weiner, introduced the Clincher as softball's official ball. Additionally, Jens was also an outstanding short-center fielder who played many games at Thillens Stadium. Don Jens grew up on the West-side of Chicago and graduated from Tuley High School. He served in the Army Medical Corps during World War II. He passed away in 2008 and is survived by his his two sons, two grandchildren and his longtime companion, Cindy LeBeau.
Charles Jensen / Inducted 2000
This marks Charles Jensen's second Hall of Fame induction. In 1977 Jensen was inducted posthumously into the ASA National Hall of Fame for his long and meritorious service to that organization. The Chicago native's softball and baseball umpiring career spanned thirty years. He was the ASA national umpire-in-chief from 1940 to '48, after serving as an assistant from 1933 through '39. He then served as the National Fastball League Commissioner from 1946 through '50, and was the Chicago ASA Commissioner from 1951 until his death at age 64 in 1969. Besides serving in local and national umpiring positions, he was a member of the International Joint Rules Committee on Softball. Charles Jensen was a retired engineer with Illinois Bell.
Gary Kasanders / Inducted 2011
Gary began playing softball with his when he was seventeen in his hometown of Brookfield, Illinois. He quickly developed a love for the competitiveness of the game and was picked to play on many teams throughout Chicago and the suburbs. He played first and third base for the Lords and the Squires in leagues throughout the Western suburbs and had the pleasure of playing with at least ten current Hall of Fame members. He credits Jim Donato and Bob Fejt as the two coaches who taught him how to play at a competitive level. In 1972 as athletic director, he began organizing men's and women's softball leagues. In 1983, he was promoted to Executive Director of the Westchester Park District. For the past fifteen years, he has organized sixteen-inch and twelve-inch softball leagues and the Pro League for the Park District. During these years, Westchester has hosted many national qualifying tournaments for all levels of softball, including the Westchester Tournament of Champions, considered by many to be one of the premier sixteen-inch tournaments in the Chicago area. Gary and his wife, Linda, live in Darien, Illinois. They have four children: Erin, Christopher, Meghan, and Steven. 11
Steve Kashul / Inducted 2008
Steve Kashul serves as the pregame, halftime, and post-game host for the Chicago Bulls, working alongside the play-by-play team of Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington on the Chicago Bulls Radio Network. He is co-owner of Channel Fore, Inc, a media production company that produces the Golf Scene for television and radio. He serves as the principal host of that show. He is also director of membership at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois. He received two Emmy Awards for his work as host of Chicago Bulls Basketball on SportsChannel from 1991 to 1997 and received a Telly Award (recognized worldwide for excellence in broadcast television) in 2006 for his work as host of The Golf Scene. But sixteen-inch softball knows Steve as one of the premier voices of Chicago softball. In 1993, with the help of Les Duncan, Miller Beer, and Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, the Grant Park Old Style Classic was televised from Grant Park. In fact, Steve broadcast games fifteen-years ago from the very place that Barrack Obama gave his historic Grant Park victory speech in November 2008. He also was the voice of the Pro League at Forest Park and Mt. Prospect. Steve later joined fellow Hall of Fame inductee Mike North to broadcast countless legendary games on Thursday night from Grant Park, Mt. Prospect, and Forest Park for the next four years. Additionally, he has appeared on a national scale as the lead announcer and voice of the Senior PGA Tour for CNBC in 2001 and has appeared during live events on the Golf Channel. Kashul has also served as the play-by-play voice for the Celebrity Golf Association’s Professional Golf Tour, Big Ten’s Women’s Volleyball, Illinois High School Association sporting events, and Men’s Professional 16-inch softball. He was a reporter and host for the Notre Dame Football Coaches Show and was a host of The Spirit of Sports, a show focusing on Special Olympics in Illinois. Steve is a featured writer / columnist for the Chicago District Golfer magazine and is a former writer for the Chicago Sun Times, focusing on high school athletics. He has also served on numerous committees, including The March of Dimes, LaRabida Children’s Hospital, Midtown Educational Foundation, Illinois Special Olympics, and the Chicago Cubs Managers Association. He is a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago where he majored in Communications. He was born and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois. He and his wife, Cindy, have two sons, Cory and Troy. They live in Naperville, Illinois.
Ed “Chicagoan” Kelly / Inducted 1999
Ed “Chicagoan” Kelly
Born in Chicago in 1924 and raised in the area now known as Cabrini-Green, Ed Kelly began his Chicago Park District career as a teacher at a local park and worked his way up to General Superintendent in 1973. For over a decade Ed Kelly managed the parks and its thousands of employees with the tact and efficiency of another Chicagoan and former softball player - Mayor Richard J. Daley. Before his career with the Chicago Park District, Kelly spent some adventure filled years as a tail gunner with the Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II. During his Marine career, Kelly was named to the Al-Service Basketball Team and won the welterweight boxing championship. He called upon these skills and memories when he managed the Park District by reviving the amateur boxing program, expanding the Junior Bears program, and initiating the citywide softball tournament. Kelly also installed closed-circuit television security at Grant Park Garage and lobbied for and presided over the renovation of Soldier Field. Besides his success as the Chicago Park District superintendent, Ed Kelly also had quite a stellar softball career that included stints with Spalters, O'Boyles, and Kool Vent Awnings where he did battle against many of the Pioneer legends of the game. Kelly was player - manager with Spalters when they twice captured the Windy City championship at North Town Stadium. Spalters also won nine consecutive jackpots at Thillens Stadium. He played on championship teams with St Cyr Knights of Columbus, started and ran the Andy Frain Invitational Softball Tournament for twelve years, and won the Grant Park Tournament of Champions with First National Bank. Ed Kelly even conducted baseball schools under baseball legend, Rogers Hornsby. Ed Kelly's dedication to the people of Chicago has not gone unnoticed. He has been voted Man of the Year by over twenty-five civic and private organizations, including the American Legion, Special Olympics, local Teamster organizations, and many senior groups. Kelly is also the Democratic Committeeman for the "Fighting" 47th Ward and has served as Chairman of the Democratic slate-making committee for thirty years. 16" softball players thank Ed Kelly for the opportunities he and the Chicago Park District have created over the past decades.
Richard “Richie Commish” Klein / Inducted 2010
Richard “Richie Commish” Klein
Richard "Richie" Klein began organizing softball games with the three other grammar schools in his hometown in third grade in 1958. His organizing efforts continued in1978, after his boss and the senior office-leasing executive from a rival firm engaged in some trash talking. A challenge was made and Richard was put in charge of organizing a softball game. He chose a triangular plot at Edgewater and Lake Shore Drive, created a makeshift field, and marveled when 300 people showed up to watch the game. He spotted a need and the next year started the Downtown Real Estate Softball League (DRESL) with four teams. Little did he know that his efforts would eventually draw thousands of people and their families into the game. The league continued to grow and expanded to diamonds along the lakefront. The first fruits of his labor appeared in the early 1980s, when business competitors who had teams in the league, began to toss around an idea to form an association of office leasing brokers. The Chicago Office Leasing Brokers Association ("COLBA") was the direct result of DRESL and is still the premier association for office brokers in Chicago. DRESL started with four teams playing on Friday afternoons in Oz Park in 1979 and by 2005 there were sixteen teams playing along the Chicago's lakefront. DRESL plays every Monday night, from the beginning of May to the second Monday in August. Those sixteen teams represent nearly every major commercial real estate brokerage, management, and development firm in Chicago. Since 2002, companies involved in various businesses relating to office space have been invited to participate in DRESL by sponsoring every Monday night with food, beverage and karaoke for the after party. This has helped forge closer relations with people at all levels in the industry. Young brokers just starting off get to socialize with brokers that have been in the business for thirty years or more. Brokers have negotiated deals, swapped firms and met their future spouses through DRESL For each of the thirty-one years he has been in the league, Richie has sponsored his own team. He played shortstop but switched to pitching after injuries decreased his range. Since the first official year, 1980, his teams have won six championships. He also pitches for Chicago Crush at the UIC on Wednesday nights. He grew up on Chicago's North side and remembers his mother listening to Jack Brickhouse describe Ernie Banks' exploits with the Cubs. Since then he has emulated Ernie's style. He always wears fourteen as his number and has copied Ernie's signature batting stance. He played baseball for New Trier High School in the mid-60s. Richard's two brothers, father and many of his uncles all played competitive 16" softball on the north side of the City. His older brother Mitchell was legendary for his monster home run stroke. Baseball and its wonderful cousin, Chicago 16" softball, has been a constant in Richie's life for as long as he can remember. It has given him a lifetime of great friends and memories. His love for the game is memorialized in his signature sign off from the newsletter he writes after every Monday night, the DRESL DROPPINGS- GOD BLESS AMERICA AND 16" SOFTBALL!!! THANKS RICHARD "RICHIE COMMISH" KLEIN
Bill Kohl / Inducted 2008
Bill Kohl graduated from Morton East in 1969 where he played football. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1973. He started his career in parks and recreation after coaching basketball teams to four titles in five years at Clyde Park, including two undefeated seasons. These teams included ability levels from sixteenand- under to men’s “A” teams. He returned four years later with a different group of players and once again led them to an undefeated record in the “A” league. Except for the seven years he spent running the softball and basketball programs at Clyde Park, Bill has been with the Hawthorne Park District. He started there in the early 1970s as softball director and eventually ran the famed Miller Lite Classic “A” Tournament from 1984 to 2000. The tournament had such parity among the competitors that for the first ten years, different teams won titles. The winners included Hotshots, Titans, Blues, Stooges, Doctors, Storm, BJ’s Pub, Gamblers, High Lites, Stickmen (the only backto- back winners), Ice, Luciano’s, Jynx, and Screwballs. Bill must have connections with the weather because tournament only had one rainout and only three games were affected during the tournament’s seventeen-year run. Bill is currently the co-recreational director at Hawthorne along with Deb Harris and Jim Terracino. They organize grade school basketball and volleyball programs. Jim Terracino also works with Bill during the softball season. Jim was also instrumental in helping make the Miller Lite Tournament a success. Over the years they have also hosted several of the Cicero-Berwyn Life All Star softball games, featuring the best players from each community. They also host police benefit tournaments to aid causes in the community.
Ronald “Colonel” Kubicki / Inducted 2000
Ronald “Colonel” Kubicki
Ron Kubicki started his career in 1972 in church leagues, followed by a stint with Touch of Class and Barrel of Fun. In 1988, Kubicki and fellow Hall of Famer Wally Filkins wrote a new page in softball history when they began to organize and coach the defending National Champion Sportstation team. From that point on there was no looking back as Kubicki went on to coach a Who’s Who of ‘80s and ‘90s teams; the Whips (‘89-‘90), Prime Time (‘92-‘95), Miller Lite Splinters (‘96-‘97), Puglise (‘98-‘99) until they became Bucks in 2000. Ron’s dedication to his teams and his unique understanding of 16” softball, have lead to appearances in eleven National Championship games. In addition to coaching, Kubicki is also an outstanding organizer, having organized the Life Area Classic with Larry Randa, and the Miller Lite / Hodgkin’s Park District Major Softball League in the summer of 2000. That league has awarded over $14,000 in prize money. Ron also coached seventh and eighth grade softball in LaGrange, Illinois. As former teammate Frank Mustari said about Kubicki, “Ron’s dedication and sportsmanship have made him one of 16” softballs true Hall of Famers.”
Tom Levar / Inducted 2008
Ask any sixteen-inch softball player to mention some of the top organizers for the past thirty years and Tom Levar’s name will surely appear at the top of that list. He started his organizing career as league director at Indian Road Park, running “A” and “B” league tournaments in 1977. The next year he moved to Portage Park and ran the leagues there until 1990. The Tuesday / Thursday leagues there featured legendary teams like the Playboys, Murder’s Row, the Stompers, and the Lyon’s 45s. In 1984 he took on added responsibility when he was appointed an A.S.A. commissioner by Ferris Reed and later by Tom O’Neill. From 1984 to 1990 he was the tournament director for the ASA Metro National Qualifiers in Des Plaines, Skokie, and at Portage Park. As tournament director, he organized and ran “A” and “B” tournaments from 1980 to 1990. From 1982 to 1990, he organized and ran eight-team invitation only tournaments that showcased some of the top teams of that era, including American Rivet, the Whips, and the Safari Tigers. Besides organizing tournaments, Tom also was an umpire, a player, and a manager. He was assignment chief and head umpire from 1984 to 1990 at the following Chicago parks: Portage, Indian Road, Wilson, Athletic Field, Clarendon, and Eugene Field. From 1976 to 1990 he played all infield positions with such teams as the legendary 45s: Lyon’s, Bally’s, and Budweiser. He also played with the Stones, the Alley, the Runts, and other teams. He also managed the Bally 45s and currently manages Good Wood that plays in Mt. Prospect’s “AA” League and plays at Hamlin and Indian Road Park. These teams won titles at the City of Chicago Metro Tournament, at Mt. Prospect, and in the ASA State and Metro tournaments. He has played in six ASA National tournaments and in three USSSA Nationals. He was also the color commentator for the Sports Channel 1986 coverage of the ASA Nationals in Mt. Prospect. Tom attended St. Patrick High School and holds a bachelor of arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University. Thomas and his wife, Debra, have two children - Thomas and Lauren. They live on Chicago’s Northwest side.
Al Maag / Inducted 2003
Watch any softball game and you’ll see fans marveling at the base clearing homerun, the split second calls at first base, and the diving grab that stifles a late inning rally. What you won’t see, however, is much attention being played to the organizer, the person who recruited the team, entered the tournaments, and made sure all the players got to the game on time (a task much more difficult than it seems). In modern softball, Al Maag was one of the top organizers whose talents added incredible dimensions to 16inch softball. Al Maag began his career playing pick-up softball games at Farnsworth School on Chicago's Northwest side. Eventually Al Maag organized this group of pick-up players into the Baggers, a tough neighborhood team that eventually competed in some of the main softball events in the 60's and 70's. Maag’s organizing talent became apparent early when he put together the Bagger Tourney in 1969, featuring some of the top high school and college age players. After the Baggers disbanded, Al became the manager of Molex, one of the top west suburban teams competing in major tournaments and won 2 Chicagoland Industrial championships. In 2000 Al Maag moved to Phoenix, Arizona and began organizing games for his new employer, Avnet Inc. He has organized two Avnet 12inch tourneys with over 40 men’s and coed teams. He is also responsible for bringing 16 inch softball to Tempe, Arizona, running 4 annual events Business to Business venues with 24 plus events. Besides his talents as an organizer, Al Maag’s other talents have benefitted16" softball. He was art director for four years of Windy City Softball, an ASA award-winning magazine. In 1993 he released videotape on the history of softball. Maag researched, wrote, produced, and filmed what is the first and only video history of Chicago’s great game with Tom Tillisch. Because of this effort, Al is known as a historian on softball and has been interviewed by WTTW and Sports Illustrated on questions about softball. Al Maag’s greatest accomplishment, however, might have occurred in 1995 when he co-founded the 16” Softball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is dedicated to honoring the great players of the past and in spreading the word of this great game to the next generation of players. Al organized and marketed the first awards dinner, getting together in one room some great sports marketers and some of the great players of all time. Along with Mike North, Maag is also responsible for convincing the Chicago Public Schools to add 16 inch softball as a competitive high school sport. He was also involved in the development of the this website. He continues to organize tournies in Arizona.
Tim Maher / Inducted 1997
Tim’s 16” softball career began at Visitation Grammar School. Besides playing in his younger days, Tim also organized teams at the farm club level. In 1970 he was the captain of the St. Rita High School Football Championship team. He also coached the Dobbers softball team for many years in the 70’s. Maher began his radio career in 1981 at WTAQ - AM 1390. He broadcast on WBEE - AM 1579 from 1982 to 1986 where he devoted much of his air time to 16” softball. With the help of sponsor Bob King of Miller Beer, the Miller Softball Report moved to WKKD - 95.9 FM in Aurora/Napervifie in 1990. Maher’s radio show is the only one of its kind in the Chicagoland area devoted to the promotion, advancement and enhancement of “Chicago’s Game”, 16” softball. Besides his broadcasting duties, Maher also is one of the top organizers of softball tournaments in the Chicago area. This year’s tournaments, highlighted by the Arizona Ice Tea Handicapper Classic, paid out an all time prize of $7,000. Tim serves as the chairman of the Hall of Fame Youth Committee, he organized the first Chicagoland High School Tournament, which was won by St Joseph High School. He also published a softball magazine in the 1980’s and the Softball Report Magazine for three years. Maher credits his spirit and desire to never quit to his parents John and Mary Jean Maher.
George Morse / Inducted 1997
A three sport star at Mt. Carmel, George went on to play basketball for Marquette University and professionally for the Sheboygan Redskins and the Chicago Bruins. George’s true love, however, was 16” softball. He played for such notable teams as the Golden Clothes and the Jimmy Rose Shamrocks during the 1939 season that included championships at Ogden Park and the 16th Ward Tournament. Morse’s career was interrupted by a 39 month stint in the Army during World War II. After the war, he returned to Chicago and became supervisor of Clarendon Park in 1946. Once on the job, he began a plan .: to make Clarendon the top softball park in the 50’s and 60’s by adding lights, bleachers, and four diamonds. To increase visibility at night, Morse had the balls dyed yellow in the basement of the park. A public address system and scoreboard kept the fans informed. Besides improvement to the field and ball, Morse instituted other changes to add an air of professionalism to Chicago’s game. First, a player was not allowed to enter the meticulously groomed field if he was not fully dressed in his team’s uniform. Second, Morse instituted rules changes. The base distance was increased from 45 to 50 feet, pitchers were allowed to take a drag step from the mound and perhaps the most progressive rule, he instituted the now universal third strike foul ball rule. These changes altered the face of softball forever and brought the top teams to Clarendon Park. Under Morse’s direction, Clarendon hosted two ASA Nationals and the prestigious Andy Frain Tournament. Fan reaction was tremendous. On many nights more people watched softball at Clarendon than saw the Cubs play during the day or the Sox that evening. In 1969 Morse assembled the Carlucci Bobcat team that went on to win the ASA National Championship. He returned in 1970-71 to manage them to two more national championships. Morse will always be remembered as one of the top managers and innovators in 16” softball history.
Mike North / Inducted 2008
Raised in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, Mike’s first real job was as a hot dog vendor at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park in 1969. After a stint in the military and several jobs with the City of Chicago, Mike capitalized on his talent for serving hot food and spicy sports talk when he opened his hot dog stand, Be-Be’s, in 1985. Among Mike’s frequent customers was the staff of Diamond Broadcasting, owners of WXRTFM and WSBC-AM. After suggesting the idea of a sports show to the Diamond management team, North launched the “NFL Handicap Show” on WSBC in 1990. Then, in 1992, the first Chicago-based sports radio station, The Score Sports Radio 820, was born. Mike was offered a job to host a radio show with former Chicago Bear, Dan Jiggetts, and soon they became The Monsters of the Midday, delivering a unique brand of opinionated, street-smart, sports talk to Chicago sports fans. In September of 1999, the Score changed signals and line-ups. The frequency became 1160AM and Mike began hosting his own show, The Mike North Show, from 12-4pm Monday through Friday. “My show is like sports with all the trimmings,” says North. It’s everything you want”exactly how you want it.” In August of 2000, The Score once again changed frequencies, this time to 670AM--the current station. Two years later Mike teamed up with another former Chicago Bear, Doug Buffone, and they soon became known as The Wise Guys. In September of 2004, North moved from the midday to the mornings. He worked this time slot with Fred Huebner till June 2008 when Mike chose not to accept the deal being offered to him by the Score management. While hosting his television shows, Mike has gone one-onone with many well-known sports figures, including Pete Rose, Dick Butkus, Walter Payton, and Wilt Chamberlain,. Mike’s shows include: Primetime with Mike North on WJYS TV Channel 62, Overtime with Mike North on WBBM-TV Channel 2. Mike has won two Emmys: one for his North Side segments on Fox TV and one for Primetime. Mike has also won four Achievement in Radio Awards: he was named Radio Broadcaster of the Year in 1996. Mike and Dan Jiggetts received the Best Midday Show in Chicago and Best Sports Show in 1997, and he won Best Talent on a News, Talk, Personality, or Sports Station in 2002. Mike’s other accomplishments include: receiving the Entertainer of the Year Award by the Special Children’s Charities, the Irv Kupcinet Award by the Ed Kelly Giant Awards, and the Richard J. Daley award by the Red Cloud Athletic Fund. Mike’s persistence in bringing 16-inch softball to the Chicago high school system as a varsity sport, a game he himself loves to play, earned him Man of the Year in 1999, awarded by the 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame. Additionally, Mike was selected by the board of directors of the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations to be the recipient of the prestigious 2004 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. In 2005, Mike won a Telly Award for a creating a commercial . Mike won the Silver Circle Award from The National Conference for Community and Justice of Chicago and Greater Illinois. In 2006 Mike was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, the first radio broadcaster ever to be inducted. Mike also received the 2006 Media Excellence Award from the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. Besides his radio and television work, Mike is the assistant basketball coach at Notre Dame High School and recently sat in for Don Imus on WFAN in New York. Jesse Jackson and Mike worked together to persuade the Chicago Cubs to erect a statue for Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. It was dedicated on Opening Day 2008. Also, Mike was featured on HBO’s Bob Costas Now as one of the premier sports radio hosts in the country. Steve Stone, noted broadcaster, commented recently that Mike North is the best one-on-one interviewer he has ever heard. Throughout his career, Mike has conducted over 13,000 interviews. After leaving the Score in 2008, he was the first broadcaster to do a live web show from a private business website, wildfirerestaurant.com. He currently writes a column with Dan Jiggetts for the Chicago SunTimes. Starting in January 2009 he will be executive producer and co-host of The Monsters In the Morning on Comcast SportsNet Mike and his wife Be-Be live in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago with their new dog “Lucky”, a black lab mix from the Anti Cruelty Society.
Dave Novak / Inducted 1997
“No gloves. Never had them, Never will.” This motto, coined by Dave Novak best summarizes his years of dedication to Chicago’s game – 16” No Glove Softball. Dave began his career at the Park District of Forest Park 23 years ago in 1974 when Jim Sarno hired him as Softball League Supervisor. From 1975 to 1983 he was Superintendent of Recreation and from 1984 to present has held the position of Director of Parks and Recreation. 1998 marks the 30th Anniversary of the Forest Park Invitational Tournament and will also mark Dave’s 25 years of involvement with this event -- the last 15 as Tournament Director. During the past 25 years he has had the opportunity to witness the best - of the 70s, 80s and 90s and has fond memories of this “family reunion” each July. In 1993 the Board of Park Commissioners dedicated the 25th Annual Tournament to Dave - family to honor his sister Joyce Novak, an avid softball player and fan, who was killed in a traffic accident the previous January. In addition to his association with the Forest Park Tournament, Novak was also involved in the formation of the Super 16 Pro League in 1995. He is still an integral member of that league after three seasons. Dave graduated from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Recreation Administration. He and his wife Carol have two sons. Since the age of 16, both boys have been carrying on their father’s tradition by working as members of the summer maintenance ground crew staff for the No Glove Nationals and playing 16” softball. It’s truly a family affair.
Tom O’Neill / Inducted 2000
Tom O’Neill has distinguished himself as a softball organizer, and a major college referee. As director of the Blue Island Softball League for 22 years, O’Neill presided over many ASA major championships. In fact, from 1980 to 1989, all ASA major championships were won by Blue Island teams. In 2000, O’Neill had served as ASA Commissioner for 15 years, and was then Vice-President of the ASA. In addition to his many softball duties, Tom climbed the ranks of major college basketball refereeing. As of 2000, Tom had officiated for 21 years in most of the major college conferences across the United States, and had worked the NCAA tournament for 18 years and the Final Four three times. In 2000 Tom and his wife, Vicki had been married for 32 years, and had three children.
Larry Piekarz / Inducted 2012
Larry Piekarz has worked in the parks and recreation field since 1979. He has worked for the Park District of Forest Park since 1989. He started as Superintendent of Recreation and was named Director of Parks and Recreation in 2007 when Dave Novak retired. He has also served as Commissioner for the Streamwood Park District for ten years and as State Director for the National Youth Sports Coaches Association for ten years. Larry has been involved with softball for over thirtyfive years as a player, umpire, league supervisor, and now as tournament director of the best softball tournament on the planet - the Forest Park No-Gloves National 16-inch Softball Tournament. His love of softball and the tournament shows every year when he and his excellent park district staff and commissioners are often the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave. Larry and his wife, Mary, have been married for over thirty years. They have four children - Joe (Courtney), Tom (Shelly), Betsy and Emily. Larry and Mary are proud grandparents to four wonderful grandchildren.
Irv Porter / Inducted 2004
Before becoming an umpire and a softball writer, Irv Porter was a softball player for eighteen years, starting his playing days in the 1960s. Indeed, Porter has played in nine World Tournaments. He recently completed his nineteenth year as an umpire, calling games at seven World Tournaments. Irv Porter’s softball writing career began when W.J. (Mac) McQuarrie, coach and sponsor of McQuarrie’s Catering Women’s Softball team, died in November, 1992. Irv Porter contacted Bill Dwyer of Chicago Metro Softball Magazine about writing an article honoring McQuarrie, a pioneer in the world of women’s softball. His article not only appeared in the next issue of Chicago Metro Softball, but it was also featured in the Illinois USSSA’s tournament guidebook the following year. Chicago Metro Softball Magazine liked Irv Porter’s article so much that they invited him to write an article about umpiring. From that moment on, his byline became a regular feature in the magazine. Although the magazine folded in 1996, Porter was hooked on softball writing, so he did what all dedicated writers do; he started his own publication - Illinois Softball Report in 1997. Illinois Softball Report was the premier softball-reporting source until 2002 when it was converted to a web based magazine. The move to a web based magazine brought numerous benefits to softball reporting. Tournament results could be posted quicker. Color photos and a photo album were added, along with the popular message board that allows players to share softball stories and to get in a few good natured “digs” about other players and teams. Players can also view tournament brackets online so they will always know who they will be playing. Veteran softball players respect Irv Porter for his playing days, his umpiring expertise, and most recently for bringing the exciting game of 16” softball to print and the internet. His expertise has earned Irv Porter numerous awards. He received the Illinois USSSA State Directors Award in 1986, 1991, and 1996; he received the 1990 Illinois USSSA Umpire-In-Chief Award; he received the 1994 Illinois USSSA Distinguished Service Award; the USSSA awarded him the 1996 Dwight Hall “Spark Plug” Award; and the Illinois Softball Report earned the 1999 USSSA Award of Merit.
Larry Randa / Inducted 2011
Larry Randa played a big role in the golden era of suburban newspapers and in a "golden era" of suburban sixteen-inch softball. Now the Community Relations Director for Valley View Community Unit District 365U in Bolingbrook and Romeoville, Randa is a former senior executive for LIFE Newspapers, a family-owned media group that published multiweeklies in more than twenty West and Southwest suburban communities. In 1982, while Managing Editor of the La Grange Park-based Suburban LIFE Citizen, he and park district directors from La Grange and Hodgkins launched what was to be known as The LIFE Area Classic. Randa, who played sixteen-inch softball for fifteen years in Western Springs and was the President of the Western Springs Community Softball League and also played in Riverside for several years, made sure the newspaper provided outstanding coverage of every single game played in that first double elimination "Tri Towns Classic." The tournament matched three teams from La Grange and Hodgkins and two teams from Western Springs. A year later that coverage expanded as The Tri Towns Classic became The LIFE Area Classic and teams from Pleasantdale were added. By 1985, The LIFE Area Classic featured thirty-two teams from sixteen towns from Cicero on the east to Downers Grove on the west. For the next five years, opening weekend showcased all thirty-two teams on fields in La Grange and Downers Grove with the championship game in North Riverside, often before a crowd of several hundred people. The last several LIFE Classics were among the first local sporting events to be taped and re-broadcast on cable TV. The list of great softball players who played in The LIFE Area Classic is extensive. And the coverage LIFE Newspapers provided was extensive as well. Larry and his wife, Debbie, live in Burr Ridge, Illinois. They have two children – Jennifer Reyes and Jill Tester and one grandson, Jacob Reyes.
John Ratkovic / Inducted 2001
Jack Ratkovic’s career as a coach and organizer began when he became a lifeguard at Armour Square Park in Bridgeport, teaching countless numbers of men, women and children the joys of swimming. He is also remembered for performing a dramatic high dive into a burning pool of water. He worked in the athletic department of the Catholic Youth Organization, coached a women’s softball team in the early days of women’s athletics, refereed basketball games in industrial leagues, and played a major role in organizing Little and Pony Leagues at Marquette Park. He even managed a semi-pro basketball team for the Ford Motor Company during World War II. From the late ‘60s to 1980, Jack Ratkovic was the supervisor at Kelly Park. While at Kelly, he supervised all the after school activities there, and at Kelly High School for twelve years. Ratkovic believed that playing sports was a way to help troubled young people stay off the streets, and he is credited with turning more than a few troubled lives around. He was also instrumental in getting lights installed at Kelly Park for the men’s softball league, one of the very best in Chicago at that time. After twenty years with the Park District, Jack retired to Padre Island, Texas. Retirement, however, did not stop his organizing activities. He helped establish the Texas Silver Hair Legislature, a governmental body dedicated to issues important to senior citizens. He was a guiding force in lowering insurance premiums for persons living along the Texas coast. His efforts paid off when he was elected to three consecutive terms in the Texas State Legislature. When Jack Ratkovic passed away on February 7, 1995, the Texas legislature adjourned at noon, and the flag over the Texas State Capitol flew at half staff in his honor.
Paul Rowan / Inducted 2005
Paul Rowan began his twenty-seven plus year softball-organizing career in 1978 when he formed the Dukes to play in a six-team league that he also started. The Dukes and the league stayed together for four years. From 1978 to 1982 he played for and managed a few neighborhood teams before the desire to play more competitive softball drove him to form the Ringers in 1982, a team formed with players from four neighborhood teams. The Ringers were well known, not only for their intense softball play but their entertainment and camaraderie off the field at many games and tournaments. Unfortunately an injury in 1987 forced him from playing the game for two years, but he still managed the team. From 1982 to 1988 the Ringers took second place (1982) in the Kelly Park “B” Division, won the titles at Graver Park (‘83), at the Bill Bonnett Tournament (‘87), and at Beverly (‘87); they were champions at the Oak Lawn Metro League (‘83) and the Calumet Park Metro (‘86); won the championship at Kennedy Park twice (‘82 and ‘86), and won the Ridge Park title four times from (‘82,’83, ‘86, and ‘87). In 1985 they captured the Coors Light “B” Tournament in Blue Island (1985) and were Chicago Park District champions. After making the ASA Nationals in 1983, they took 10th place in 1985 at Marshalltown, Iowa, a tournament highlighted by the perfect game that their pitcher recorded against the Stickmen. The next year they placed 26th in the ASA Nationals at Mt. Prospect. In 1985 Rowan organized the Best of Western 16” Tournament with ten teams playing in its inaugural tournament. The next year it expanded to include a men’s and women’s division. Since its inception, the tournament has continued to grow (with eighteen men’s and fifteen women’s teams) and attracts top male and female players from around the area. It’s not unusual to see Hall of Fame players hooking up with neighborhood players to compete in the tournament. Paul Rowan’s commitment to the neighborhood player can be seen when he presents two honorary trophies at the end of the tournament- the Scott Hurley Memorial MVP Award, given in honor of a neighborhood player who drowned while saving a girl’s life, and the Blainey Butler Memorial Championship Trophy, given in honor of a neighborhood player killed in a snowmobile accident a few years ago. He considers this presentation to be the highlight of the tournament. Besides the Best of Western Tournament, Paul has also organized the All Mixed Up softball team and This Is It in 1990 and 1995. All Mixed Up won the 1990 Sun Times Windy City Classic Recreational title and This Is It took 10th place at the ASA “A” Nationals. In 2002 and 2003 he organzized a softball team for boys and girls in the South Side Catholic Parish League and in 2004 he put together a team of local younger and older players to compete in several local tournaments. Paul Rowan’s goal in the very near future is to organize a women’s city championship series and to create a men’s twenty-five and under tourney in order to get the young players interested in the game. Paul is a Vice-President/Division Manager for Trainor Glass Company. He and his wife of twenty-three years, Joan Each Rowan, reside in Evergreen Park with their two sons and future 16” softball players, Zeke and Luke.
Mike Royko / Inducted 2001
It is a great source of pride to many older softball players that the quintessential Chicago newspaper man, Mike Royko, who grew up playing 16” on the streets and playgrounds of the city’s north side, loved 16” softball. His love of the game and it’s traditions was so deep that when he wrote of it in one of his columns, you could almost hear the “thwock!” of a well hit Clincher, and see the dust drifting across a Grant Park infield. Like tavern culture and ward politics, softball was in Royko’s blood, and it showed in his writing. Like every other devotee to the sport, Royko cherished it as a welcome release from the pressures of work and life. In his writings, Royko conveyed, as only he could, both the greatness and the goofiness of the sport and the people who played it. The columns were small gems, and would have been a great read in some obscure newsletter. The fact that Royko’s take on “Chicago’s Game” was being eagerly read by anywhere from one to several million people was the icing on the cake. One evening in 1977, Royko stopped by Kelly Park to watch aging Sobees’ outfielder Eddie “The Champ” Surma play. In the resulting column, Royko marveled at the skill and longevity of Surma, who was then in his mid forties and still playing outfield at the top levels of softball. Royko also used the occasion to ridicule modern day professional baseball players who didn’t possess half the heart and drive that men like Surma regularly brought to an amateur sport, simply out of their passion for the game. Another time Royko wrote of his law suit against the Chicago Park District for allowing the use of gloves in it’s Grant Park 16” league. Royko won that suit, in part due to help from an old west side ward boss and ex-16” player who testified on Royko’s behalf. The man, Bernie Neistein, is quoted as saying, “Gloves? The only time anybody on our team ever wore any kind of gloves was when they didn’t want to leave fingerprints.” Another column stemmed from an invitation by the Chicago Metro ASA to throw out the first pitch at a Men’s Major National tournament in Harvey. Royko turned them down flat, and spent 800 withering words, ripping into the organization for allowing players, in his words, to wear “those things” on their hands. Quoting Slats Grobnik, Royko asked, “what’s next? Players wearing bras?.” In what was perhaps the greatest column ever written about softball, Royko described the game in which he broke his ankle in the first inning and played the entire game on it. He didn’t even know he’d broken it until the next day. “Hit a double too,” he bragged, like a thousand other dusty athletes had done before him. Royko also managed and pitched for the Chicago Daily News, and later, the Sun Times teams. He was instrumental in getting the Chicago 16” World Series tournament televised on WTTW, channel 11, in the 1970’s. During that broadcast, Royko’s announcing colleague in the booth that day introduced a player coming up to bat by saying, “In real life, he’s a fireman.” Royko hesitated a second, then replied scornfully, “Buddy, this IS real life.” A true Chicagoan, Royko wasn’t above stretching the rules when it came to securing players. There’s a photo of the Daily News’ 1974 championship team in F. Richard Ciccone’s recent book on Royko. A crowd of players in Daily News uniforms are standing around Billy Goat Tavern owner Sam Sianis, who’s holding a large trophy, and Royko, who’s grinning like a kid on the first day of summer vacation. And there in the front row, one holding a copy of Windy City Softball, and the other a poster advertising the Chicago World Series of Softball, are noted Chicago newspapermen Mike Tallo and Tom Bonen. Can you say “ringers”? Welcome to our Hall of Fame, Mike. We’re honored to have you with us.
Joe Sarna / Inducted 2006
Like many young people growing up in Chicago, 16" softball became a passion for him early in life. He started playing organized softball at Cornell Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago when he was in the fifth grade at St. Michael School (starting on the sixth grade team). After grade school he played in the intermediate (or teen) league with his friends at Cornell Park. He attended De LaSalle High School and earned letters in baseball, football and hockey. He also ran track his freshmen year. He received his bachelor’s degree from Lewis University in Plainfield where he played intramural softball and touch football. After graduation he played with the Silhouette SAC team in the adult softball leagues at Cornell and Donovan Parks. He also played with the Chicago Park District team at Grant Park and captained the Chicago Park District co-rec team at Grant Park during the ‘90s, winning the league title for six straight years. He currently plays for the Beeks in the Marist High School alumni league. They have also played at Grant Park and in LaGrange. Throughout his career, he has played on teams that have won championships at each level they have played. When not playing softball, Joe spent many years organizing leagues and umpiring. He started organizing in 1968 when he became a Chicago Park District employee. He was fortunate to learn the tricks of the trade under Edward “Duke” Senka, a great player in his own right. He taught him how to draw up round robin and single and double elimination tournament draw sheets as well as other aspects of tournament and league formation. He has conducted softball, basketball and touch football leagues for all age groups, ranging from grade school through teen and up to adult leagues while serving as the physical instructor at Cornell Park, the playground supervisor at Minuteman Park and as park supervisor at Wentworth and Vittum Parks. While at Cornell Park, he also assisted Jim Venckus in organizing and running the 14th ward Ed Burke Softball Tournament, one of the largest softball tournaments in the Chicagoland area during the ‘60s and ‘70s. As co-coordinating manager of citywide recreation for the Chicago Park District, Joe organized citywide softball and hardball tournaments, ran the Junior Bear Football program, the Cubs Care baseball program, the Silver Skates Speed Skating program at eleven locations and organized four fishing programs. After thirty years with the Chicago Park District, he moved to the Mayor’s office of Special Events in the Sport Development Office. He organized and conducted the Mayor Daley Hall of Fame Softball Tournament at Grant Park and is also the organizer of the Winter Delights Speed Skating Classic and is an assistant organizer of the Mayor Daley Chicago Sport Festival, a estival that draws over 75,000 participants at McCormick Place. He also works with James Rey of the Chicago Park District organizing the popular Mike Royko Memorial Softball Tournament at Grant Park. He and his wife, Christine, have three daughters, Sherry, Wendy and Tammy and seven grandchildren. They live on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
Jim Sarno / Inducted 1997
Jim was the Director of Parks and Recreation for the Park District of Forest Park from 1965 to 1983. In 1969 he organized the 1st Forest Park Invitational Softball Tournament. Held over Labor Day weekend in 1969, ten all-star teams from the suburbs of Chicago began a tradition that is still considered the most prestigious softball tournament in the Chicagoland area because of the excellent competition and the quality of the facilities. With a background in landscaping, Jim had designed and constructed dozens of baseball fields throughout the Western suburbs. When he came to Forest Park, he transformed those fields into his own “field of dreams.” He hauled in truckloads of brick dust and blue clay from any source available. Because of his efforts, an infielder could never complain about a bad bounce on Jim’s fields. After Jim “built it”, the top teams began “to come” to play historic matches. In the early 70’s the rivalries between the Bruins, Strikers, the Bobcats, and American Rivet attracted thousands to Forest Park to witness softball at its finest. Jim’s organizational skills and field construction techniques moved a few miles south into Bridgeview in the mid 1970’s when Tom Bonen called on him when he was developing the Windy City Softball Stadium in Bridgeview. He also worked with Tom in organizing the - Winston Softball Circuit and World Series at Forest Park. Jim is retired and lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. He has three daughters.
George Schaaf / Inducted 2007
George Schaaf grew up in the South Englewood neighborhood of Chicago and attended Chicago Christian High School where he played baseball. He started his thirty-five year playing and organizing career at a young age with the Englewood I Church team and the Calvin Church team. Both teams won their respective leagues most of the years that they competed. He then played for the Bobcats, Shoes, ERV, Moore’s, Alsterda - Ready Paving, Don’s World of Sports and the Calvin Church Reformed League at the top parks around Chicago and the suburbs. He spent the early days of his career at shortstop but moved to become a top defensive pitcher later in his playing days. As a power hitter, he normally hit third or fourth in the line-up. He was selected to numerous all-tournament teams and won many all-star awards. As an organizer, it didn’t take him long to have a positive effect on the game. He started and ran the Holland-American Church League from 1951 to 1957. In the mid-70s he built the Windy City Stadium in Bridgeview. After the stadium was closed, he donated the lights to Chicago Christian High School and donated the stadium seats to the Oak Lawn Park District. He also sponsored hundreds of park district and church teams through his family business, Schaaf Window Company, and coached many men’s and women’s softball teams. He is currently building a new gymnasium for Chicago Christian High School and an athletic complex for Trinity Christian College. George was known as a gracious winner and a good loser. Throughout his playing and organizing days, he taught the game by playing hard and always striving to be his best. As an example of this character, he missed playing in a lot of tournaments (and missed a lot of recognition) because he never played on Sundays due to his religious convictions, but these convictions strengthened his character on and off the field. George lives in Frankfort, Illinois. He has five children, George Jr., Donna, Barb, Linda, and Bob. His wife, June, passed away.
Bob Sirott / Inducted 2006
Ask most Chicagoans what they know of Bob Sirott and they are likely to mention his current assignment as anchor of NBC News at 4:30 p.m. with Marion Brooks, or they might mention his years developing WTTW’s -Chicago Tonight into a one hour newsmagazine, or they might talk about his years as a radio and television journalist with other stations. But mention him to players and fans of 16" softball and they are likely to praise the twenty-five years he has spent promoting and supporting softball on television and radio. He started playing softball in pickup games at Eugene Park in the '60s. In the '70s he started the WLS radio ‘89ers softball team, playing various area teams and in charity games. During the '70s he also was a charter member of the “Radio and Records” softball team. Members of the radio community (off and on air personnel) and record and concert promoters in Chicago would get together on Saturdays at Lincoln Park for pick-up games. One station manager who had just fired one of his disc jockeys ended up on the same team with the fired disc jockey that day. All went well for them that day and at least for one day a week the playing of softball smoothed over radio and record rivalries. Besides playing on teams connected to his radio career, he also started playing in an Evanston league with teams organized by Rich Melman. The "over-30s" leagues of those days have evolved throughout the years into the “anyone who can stand league” that he still plays in today. During the '90s he organized the Fox Things softball team and played around the city and suburbs with the staff of Fox Thing in the Morning, a television show he hosted for seven years with Marianne Murciano (his wife). He also played in the media league at Grant Park and in various celebrity games with a team from Fox. One of the most memorable celebrity games happened at Thillens Stadium in a game pitting media all-stars against former Cubs and Sox players with Michael Jordan playing with the Cubs/Sox team. Michael Jordan hit a double and was going to stretch it into a triple with Bob Sirott playing third. As the throw came into third, all Sirott could think of was somehow injuring Jordan to the point that his career would be ended and he would forever be remembered as the person who dashed the hopes of Chicago. Needless to say, the dreaded collision didn't happen, Jordan slid safely into third and the fate of the Bulls’ championships was assured. As anchor of Chicago Tonight, Bob Sirott promoted softball with stories about the people, places and history of softball. Afew years ago, after interviewing former President Jimmy Carter, Bob showed him a clincher. The former president was so enamored of the ball that he took it back to Plains, Georgia, making him probably the only president who has a souvenir of “Chicago’s game.” He and Marianne Murciano currently host the Saturday Radio Special on WCKG from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. He has interviewed Hall of Fame coach/organizer Bob Campbell about his tips for softball players. These days, during the transition into the weather segment, it’s not unusual for the anchor to ask the meteorologist if it will be a good day for golf on Sunday. Sirott, however, asks if he will be able to get his softball game in. He figures he’s still too young to be playing golf.
Joseph W. Strzelczyk / Inducted 2012
Joseph W. Strzelczyk
Military veteran Joseph W. Strzelczyk is best known as a "team player" who has spent much of his life working with young people as a baseball coach. That passion to help others moved him to seek public office in 1990 when he was elected to a position of Trustee in the Village of Summit, serving two terms. In 1997, Strzelczyk has elected as Summit's Mayor and is currently seeking re-election to his 4th term in office. Strzelczyk's public service began in 1978 working as a Special Recreation Instructor for the Chicago Park District. "I enjoy public service and I enjoy working with people, especially young people and senior citizens," Strzelczyk explains. My background gives me a wide range of experience that helps me as the Mayor of Summit to maintain the village as one of the best in the Chicagoland suburbs." But before that, Strzelczyk launched his own business as a young man working as a self-employed "trader" at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange in 1976 where he also owned a prestigious Trading Seat. Strzelczyk is an experienced writer, working for the Daily Southtown beginning in 1985 writing columns on softball and sports, and later writing articles for the popular Chicago Softball Magazine beginning in 1987. He hosted the popular "Let's Talk Softball" on Cable TV for Jones and Multimedia and Metrovision cable systems, and was a sports commentator for 1570 AM sports radio's "Miller Sports Report" in the 1980s. He also coached for the North American Pro Softball league in 1980. Strzelczyk continued his writing avocation, completing background reports that are used in court judicial proceedings for Cook County and he also worked as a county probation officer. Strzelczek served honorably in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, 1962-1963, and served five years in the US Army Reserves until 1968. As Mayor of Summit, Strzelczyk said he is committed to the goals of the Democratic Party. "I am a proud Democrat. And I have always strived to carry the ideals of the Democratic Party throughout my career. For me, Democrats were always the people who helped people, the Party that looked out for the Working Man and Woman. Democrats work together to make our communities strong so that we can live the American Dream and our children can have an even brighter future," Strzelczyk explained. "I was instrumental in helping the Village of Summit become a Pro-Union and Labor shop. This has helped our people raise families with job security with a fair wage. As a lifelong resident of Summit, I celebrate our working class roots and families working towards the great American Dream. I will continue to do everything in my power to help those families and especially the children of Summit achieve those dreams." Strzelczyk says his key achievements include reducing the village debt and making Summit profitable in the last two years, for the first time in more than two decades. His tough management of finances and public spending is reflected in his frugal office surroundings in his own office. Strzelczyk said that he is most proud of attracting new businesses to Summit including Advance Auto, Family Dollar, Portillos, Summit Cold Storage and LaFinka, a new restaurant. He was able to also bring in Krispy Kreme Donuts, which unfortunately closed several years ago. A key to the community's success, he said, is "making people believe that they can achieve what they seek and also that we can fight and defeat crime." During his term in office, crime has made a steady decline. Describing himself as a "straight talker," Strzelczyk is proud of the balance and diversity in the community with strong representation from many of the regions ethnic groups including Albanians, Hispanics, African Americans and Whites. Over the years, he has secured more than $2.5 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding which he has used to improve streets and strengthen the Village's infra-structure. In 2001, under his direction, Summit was able to bring in a 78-unit, $14 million Senior Housing Development. And last year, Summit was included in the revenue sharing agreement with the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, which this year brought in more than $604,000 in added revenue to off-set the burden on taxpayers. The Stompers won the Kelly Park division title in 1975. They were the Forest Park runners-up in 1978 and won the championship in 1980. In 1984 and 1986 they took second place at the USSSA Nationals and won the title in 1985.
Tommy “T” Thompson / Inducted 2016
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.
Mel Thillens / Inducted 1996
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.
Joseph Umana / Inducted 2004
For more than fifty years, Joseph Umana did what most players did not want to do: he organized games and leagues so that softball players could play. His fifty-three year career of softball playing and organizing began in 1950 at Welles Park. Playing in an intermediate league, his team won two park championships and placed second in the Chicago Board of Education Tournament, a tournament that drew teams from across Chicago. In 1955 his team entered the Clarendon Park “B” League and won the championship in 1956. In 1957 Joseph Umana’s S & N Jewelers, under the sponsorship of Hall of Famer Nick “Niggy” Branman, moved into the “A” League at Clarendon. They captured first place in 1957 and won the overall championship in 1958. That year they also won titles at Chase and Portage Parks. For twenty-three years Joseph Umana organized and played for his company team at the Northwestern Railroad, winning industrial league championships nineteen out of twenty-three years. In 1969 and 1970 the Northwestern team won the championship at the highly respected Chicago Park District City Industrial Tournament at Grant Park. They took second place in 1972. For the past thirteen years, he has been managing and playing with a variety of teams in Des Plaines, adding to his streak of fifty-three years. During his fifty-four years as a player / manager, Joe Umana’s teams racked up an impressive record of championships and second place finishes. His teams took second place nineteen times and captured forty-eight first place titles (including three Industrial League City Championships). Besides playing at Clarendon Park, Joseph Umana also helped league directors George Morse and Tony Struppa by filling out schedules of play. This volunteer effort made enough copies of the schedules for every player and fan at Clarendon.
Tim Weigel / Inducted 2002
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.