John “Butch” Backshis / Inducted 2000
John “Butch” Backshis
The standard of excellence, according to many baseball experts, is a player who has mastered the combined ability to hit, field and run the bases. They may have had John Backshis in mind when they created these standards. At 6' 1", 195 lbs. and a batting average of over 500, John Backshis was one of the top long ball hitters of the 40s and 50s. His defensive skills at first and third bases complimented his impressive offensive skills. His determination to take that extra base constantly tested the quickness and accuracy of opposing outfielders. Playing with the Masked Marvels, the Golemski's and the Starlite Club, he was highly recruited by some of the top clubs of those eras. He played on the Lazy Nines, one of the best teams of their time.
From 1950 to 1960 he played with the Cottage Inn, winning various championships and tournaments at Gill Stadium on the Southeast side. John and his wife, Emma, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in January of 2001. John passed away on December 18, 2010.
Floyd Berrien / Inducted 2007
Floyd Berrien grew up at 31st and Calumet. He attended Douglas Grammar School and Wendell Phillips High School, class of 1944. Floyd started playing softball in 1942 with two teams: the Pepsi Cola Aces at 33rd and Wentworth and at 62nd and Calumet and with the Gaylords at Madden Park. He also played with the Vicks and the Van Dykes. He was a catcher who hit in the sixth spot in the line-up. He also played left field. In 1957 he managed and coached youth softball teams before he started umpiring in 1960 for teams on Chicago's South and West sides. He retired in 1992. He is a retired truck drive and is a devoted father and husband. They have twelve children, twenty-eight grandchildren, and fifteen greatgrandchildren. He travels with his wife, a singer with the New City Mass Choir.
Ladislaus “Bingy” Boblak / Inducted 2002
Ladislaus “Bingy” Boblak
With an amazing lifetime record of 193 wins and 6 losses, Ladislaus "Bingy" Boblak forged a reputation as one of the top pitchers of his era while throwing against some of the finest teams in the Pioneer Era of 16" softball. Pitching for J.J. Zientek Post, Boblak once defeated the legendary Brown Bombers by a score of 4-3. Boblak and the Zientek team also experienced the other side of baseball, back in the "good old days", when they played Donkey baseball at B.Y.N.C. Field. With the Wildcats, Boblak was called upon to stop a rally by the 12th Ward Democrats, who had already scored six runs and had the bases loaded. Boblak came into the game and shut the door on the Democrats by pitching hitless ball for the rest of the game. He then let his bat do the talking, driving in two runs and scoring two more, resulting in the Wildcats beating the Democrats 8-6. Later, pitching for the BYN All Stars, Boblak helped his team defeat a team that included Jack Brickhouse and Bob Elston, two of Chicagoland's legends of radio. The following year, Boblak pitched the BYNC All Stars to victory of the Chicago Aldermen and their aides.
Peter Bondi / Inducted 1999
Born in 1917, Peter Bondi is one of the players who form the backbone and history of 16" softball in the Pioneer Division. Bondi played with some of the top teams from the early 30s until his retirement in 1953. Along with his five brothers, Peter Bondi played with Nielson Steel, Lombardi Kids, and Mel Turner in the Windy City Leagues. He also played with and was elected captain of such legendary teams as Nudos, Browns, Gold Star Pots, and Bondi's. Bondi's Tap helped keep softball alive during the Depression by sponsoring teams through the 50s. Peter Bondi is remembered as one of the top money and tournament players of his era. He hit bullet line drives and played excellent defense; Bondi was a pitbull on the field and a gentleman off the field. Besides playing, Bondi also managed many of his teams and served as league secretary for more than one league. Peter Bondi and his wife, Elaine, have three children.
Joseph “Joey” Brankis / Inducted 2001
Joseph “Joey” Brankis
Growing up in the 18th and Halsted area of Chicago, Joe Brankis played at many of the top parks, and in many of the top tournaments. Those events would draw 500 fans for regular games and 700 fans for playoff or money games. In 1941, while playing with the Ruppert Knickerbockers, Brankis won the Windy City League batting title, with a 541 average. He moved to the Fewer Boilers in 1942, playing at Bidwell Stadium because the Windy City league was not active. At Bidwell and other parks, Fewer Boilers played many great contests against the legendary Gas House Gang. Like so many others of his generation, Joe's softball career was interrupted when he served his country from 1942 to 1945 in the Army Air Corp. After the war, Chicagoans were again looking for great softball, so Brankis was signed on with the Tri-Plex Yankees, receiving a new 1945 Oldsmobile as a signing bonus. But the lure of Fewer Boilers was too strong, and he rejoined them later that same year. In 1948 Brankis was selected by Chicago softball fans to play right field on an All-Star squad peppered with such Hall of Famers as Lewa Yacilla, Eggs Bromley and Willie Perucci. When the Windy City League folded in 1949, Fewer Boilers moved to Northtown Mens Major Softball League under the sponsorship of Kool Vent Awnings. That year they lost the league championship to Midland Motors, but Joe won the batting title with a 588 average, edging out teammate Moose Skowron. In 1950, Brankis helped Hall of Fame inductee Frank Holan's Rocky Stars win the championship at Gary playground. In addition to playing softball Joe Brankis earned an engineering degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He owned and operated an engineering consulting company until his retirement in 1997, at the age of 74. In 2000, he and his wife, Irene had one son and two grandsons and lived in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Ben “Nicky” Branman / Inducted 1996
Ben “Nicky” Branman
Ben was one of the best power hitters in the game according to the Chicago American. One of the first of five inducted and one of only three living members of all the members selected by the Chicago American 16" Hall of Fame, which dissolved when the paper folded. Nicky was a tremendous 1eft power hitting first baseman for the Witt Hanley Yankees. Fewer Boilers, and Kool Vent.. playing on many of the Windy City League and City championship clubs. Known to be a big clutch hitter, his last inning home run won the championship game in 1950 for Kool Vent with style. It would be the last game for the Windy City League. Lifetime batting average of .425. Senn High grad grew up at Chicago and Franklin. His wife enjoyed the softball games so much if he wasn't playing she would still go watch a game without him. Born 1917. Since Deceased.
Jim Brennan / Inducted 1998
A graduate of St. Sabina Grace School and Leo High School, Jim Brennan was a member of the 1938 Leo Heavyweight Catholic champions. He continued playing basketball after graduation with the Sabina and Hamburg A.C. teams. Brennan's softball career began in 1937 with Widen's Bakery, the champions of the Pete Burke League, which played under the lights at 77th, and Ashland. In 1938 Brennan played with McCabes 9750 Club and Hines Hut in Labor Day and Memorial Day tournaments and at Hamilton Park and Grand Crossing. He also played in the Alderman Perry League with the O'Neills. 1939 - 40 found Jim Brennan playing with Fullerton Motors in the Industrial Leagues at Grant Park, Gage Park, Ogden Park, and at Five Holy Martyrs. An illness forced him to quit softball until 1949 when he won the St. Sabina League with Johnny Burkes Tavern. Jim was inducted into the Leo High School Hall of Fame in 1998. He lives in Oak Lawn with his wife, Joan. They have three children - Jim, Marybeth, and Carol and are blessed with six grandchildren.
Al Brocious / Inducted 2011
Al Brocious started playing softball for the St Laurence fifth grade team. He started playing third base and stayed at that position throughout his career. They played at "Moochers" Field at 73rd and Kimbark and competed for a nickel a man and the ball. From there they branched out to Grand Crossing Park, Grant Park, and Avalon Park. He played lightweight basketball for South Shore High School. He was selected to the 1st String All South Section Team in 1946. He was one of the most feared cleanup hitters during the 1940s and 1950s. He could hit powerful line drives to all fields or power the ball over stadium fences. He played for Nudos Dugout, one of the top "money teams" in Chicago. Nudos was located just around the corner from Grand Crossing Park, but the owner built his own field next to his tavern. His money games were played against the best teams from the Windy City League. They included such legendary players as Sweetwater Clifton and Buddy "The Bronze Bullet" Young, who went on to play for the Baltimore Colts. Besides Nudos, Al Brocious also played for Bondi's, Van Cleefs, Harry's Owl Club, Groves Men's Wear, Ray Motors, Bell Telephone, Illinois Central Panamas, and Mutual Loan. In the middle-'40s, Al and Mutual Loan won the Herald American Citywide Tournament for seventeen - year olds. This tournament featured hundreds of teams. The next year they competed in men's leagues. After the death of Charlie Bidwell in 1947, the Windy City softball scene shifted to Grant Park. There industrial teams boasted players who were listed as "employees" of the company but actually weren't. Not so in Al's case with the Illinois Central Panamas. They won the league title in 1951. Illinois Central also sent the entire team to New Orleans to play in a twelve-inch softball tournament. In addition to sixteen-inch softball, Al also played twelve-inch ball in the Army. They won the Batallion and Regimental championships. They then represented the 14th Armored Calvary Regiment for the V Corps title in Frankfort, Germany in 1953. He worked for the telephone company for thirtyfive years and with Illinois Central for nine years. Al and his wife of sixty-two years, Jean, live in Munster, Indiana. They have two children - Tom and Sue and five grandchildren.
Bill “Eggs” Bromley / Inducted 1997
Bill “Eggs” Bromley
A former Farragut football star, "Eggs" Bromley played first base for the Capital Dairy Softball team and with the Bill Parillo team. Known for his excellent defense at first base and clutch hitting, Bill Bromley and his teams qualified for many Herald - American Tournament elimination rounds. He was the leader of the top ranked Angels of Broadway. He was "Mr. Chatterbox" arid a players player.
Santo Bruno / Inducted 2000
Born in 1921, Santo "Sam" Bruno made his softball debut with the Mel-Oaks, a team from Melrose St. and Oakley Ave. On Sundays, the best players in the Bell School League would play marathon games for ten cents a man, with the bets doubling with each win. Some Sundays, Bruno and his teammates were joined by the Werderich brothers and played against Red Herder and Lewa Yacilla, who were paid $3 to $5 dollars a game. The victorious team took home $1.60 in winnings. Not bad money in those Depression era days of the late 30s. Besides Mel-Oaks, Sam Bruno also played with Riverview Park Boosters, North Center Bowling, Jake Recreation and Teletype Corporation. He also played with the legendary Lill Coals in 1943, where he hooked up with the Werderic brothers and fellow 2000 Hall of Fame inductee Dick Triptow. Sam Bruno also organized a team from Teletype that won three straight YMCA Industrial League Championships. At the close of the 1943 season, Sam Bruno joined the Navy and was sent to the Pacific Theater aboard the USS LST 710, that hit the beach at Luzon in the Philippines, where it was severely damaged by Japanese fire. The ship was dry docked, and the war ended while Sam was on leave. When he returned to duty, his was the first ship to anchor at the Japanese naval base at Ominato Bay in Amori, Japan. A graduate of North Park College, Northwestern University and the University of Michigan, Sam Bruno was an executive with Blue Cross and Blue Shield for 34 years. He has also served in various governmental positions for the Village of Niles. Sam and his wife, Frances have four children. In 2000 they were living in Niles, Illinois.
Marty “Doc” Bush / Inducted 1997
Marty “Doc” Bush
ike many of the top players of the 1900-1949 era and players of today, Marty played both with local teams and with teams in some of the top leagues in Chicago The local team, however, was the place here these players often felt the most comfortable and showed the most loyalty From 1934 to 1941 Bush played locally in the St. Dorothy's Holy Name League with the Kodakers (1935-39), Ryans (1934-37), Nudos (1936-39) in the Grand Crossing League, and MaCrons (1938-41) also in the Grand Crossing League. Bush also played in the Windy City Softball League National Division from 1937-1941 He entered this league in 1937 with the Baltimore Lumbers and stayed with them from 1937-39 when he moved onto the Lapota Steelers from 1940-41. During this span the Steelers were Windy City Champions in 1940. In 1940 and 1941 Bush was selected to the All-Star Team and won the title of the League's Best Shortstop. John Galvin, a teammate of Marty Bush, remembers him as a punch hitter who could also swing with power. His big quick hands, fast feet, and knowledge of the game combined to make him one of the top shortstops of his era. He attended the 1St Hall of Fame dinner in '96 and passed away during the year.
Paul “Legs” Bute / Inducted 1998
Paul “Legs” Bute
Born in 1916, Paul Bute is one of the original members of the Windy City League. He played for Al Horan Boosters, Farmer's Field, and Wellington and Ashland, original teams of the Windy City League. Bute's first team was the Miami Club, managed by Johnny Mancuso where he led the league in home runs and ranked as one of the top ten hitters in the league. He later won three championships with Salerno Cookies on a team with such famous teammates as Bob Auterich and Vern Parry. After Salerno Cookies, Bute also played with Adamowski's and won championships at Hilburn and Nortown Stadiums with Rhodie's Tap and Petrones. Besides excelling in softball, Paul Bute was also known as a top softball umpire at the Northtown and Clarendon Park men's senior league. A Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief for 33 years, Bute retired in 1977. A father of 4 children with 22 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren, he currently lives in McHenry with his wife of 62 years, Katherine.
Dennis S. Colucci / Inducted 2017
Dennis S. Colucci
Like many young people growing up in the inner city of Chicago, Dennis Colucci sought activities that were affordable and could be played in the streets and parks of Chicago. Sixteen-inch softball fit that requirement perfectly. He started playing organized softball in 1956 with the Jokers, a neighborhood team from Chicago Avenue. He became their starting shortstop and batted in the middle of the lineup. The Jokers entered tournaments at Humboldt, Garfield, and LaFollette Parks and won champions at these parks year-after-year.
They continued their success at local tournaments as they took a step up in1958, entering major league softball at Kells Park located at Chicago and Kedzie. In their first year at Kells, they made it into the finals. Dennis continued as shortstop and batted third with an average over.500. He also entered the Jokers in tournaments at other parks, so the team would often play an early game and then rush to Kells Park for a night game under the lights. While this arrangement presented difficulties, they benefitted from the increased competition. The Jokers also played in and won the John Marcin Elimination Tournament which consisted of 16 park district Championship teams from the North side.
Dennis played with the Jokers until 1963 when he joined the Rogues. For the next four years, he played shortstop and batted in the middle of the lineup. The Rogues played Class “A” softball at Kells, Clarendon, and many other parks. If there was a tournament, the Rogues played in it. They won a “sweet” victory in the Andy Frain Tournament in 1966 when they defeated the Bobcats 8-5 for the championship at Waveland Park. Dennis went “three for three” plus a walk and drove in two runs. He also played in park tournaments with Hogan’s Heroes and the Stompers.
Over the years, Dennis played with Hall of Famers Frank Lentine, Billy Masucci, Ken Furlanetto, Vito Maggerise, Bob Garippo, Mike Mareno, Dennis Andristis, and Charley “Missy” Micelli.
Dennis and his wife, Nancy, live in Oak Brook, Illinois. They have two children – James and Joseph, daughter-in-law Melissa, and their pride & joy, five-year-old granddaughter Macy.
James Canna / Inducted 2004
Pioneer softball players and umpires remember Jim Canna as a knowledgeable, fair, and dependable umpire whose reputation was always above reproach. A 1938 graduate of Hirsch High School, he began his umpiring career with Jim Allen in the Southwest Umpires Association in 1944 at parks on the southeast side of Chicago, including Avalon, Grand Crossing, and Bessemer. He also officiated at numerous round robin tournaments at 87th Street Stadium and Gill Stadium. In 1948 he joined the Official Umpires Association which was under the management of Jim Edgeworth, one of the most reputable umpires on the southside of Chicago. In 1955 Jim Canna began an eighteen-year career officiating in all the leagues at Grant Park, at Foster, Ridge, Clarendon, and Marquette Parks. He also umpired at O'Keefe Playground and for the playoffs in the Grant park Industrial Leagues. He ended his twenty-nine year umpiring career in 1973. Over that span he remembers calling balls and strikes for such legendary softball players and Hall of Fame members as Emil Flerik, Eddie Zolna, Red Hurter, Sweetwater Clifton, and Lewa Yacilla. Jim also remembers working with Jerry Markbreit. one of the top referees in the National Football League and later the chief rule interpreter for the NFL when Jerry was a young softball umpire. When not calling balls and strikes, Jim Canna referred basketball games for the Chicago Park District during the postwar years. Jim follows his brother, Tony, into the Hall of Fame. Jim Canna and his wife of fifty-eight years, Theresa Marie, have two children – James Canna and Mary Theresa Meadows and four grandchildren. He retired as a supervisor for International Harvester after forty-five years of service. He and his wife live in Lansing, Illinois.
Tony Canna / Inducted 1997
Tony Canna began his umpiring career after World War II in South Chicago and the East Side of Chicago with Jim Allen's organization. Shortly after that he joined Jim Edgeworth and the "Official Empire's Association" which he controlled later in his life. Tony worked with this organization until his retirement from officiating At the , time of his retirement, Tony was the rules interpreter for the Grant Park softball leagues and many other leagues throughout Chicago. Softball players rank Tony Canna as one of the top umpires of the 1940-60 era Umpiring at Grant Park, Grand Crossing, Avalon, Tuley, Bidwell, Foster, and Trumbull Parks, Tony was the arbiter of choice at money games and major tournaments. Tony also played semipro baseball during the 1930s and excelled in basketball. His many friends stand as a testament to his excellent umpiring abilities. Retired from Standard Oil and Kaiser Aluminum, Tony currently lives in South Holland, IL. Since De
Nate “Sweetwater” Clifton / Inducted 1996
Nate “Sweetwater” Clifton
The 6'9 lefty power hitter and first baseman was one of the most famous players in the game. He was a star player around Washington Park before he went to DuSable High School, thanks to the guidance of Dan Dumas. His guidance was not always divine as he would sneak out from Sunday School for big games. Played for the Brown Bombers and Capitol Records team of the Daddy O'Daylie League. He was the key to the two Bomber's Windy City successes in the late 40's. In '48 he took the WCL home run title from Red Hurter with 52. His DuSable High School basketball team was the first black team to win the Public League Championship with a record 45 points. Nate attended Xavier College, was drafted in the Army and served in Europe during WWII. Joined the Globetrotters in '48. So good, he was the first black player in the NBA and unfortunately has never garnered the notoriety Jackie Robinson did in baseball. He averaged 10 points 9 rebounds in seven seasons with the Knicks and one with the Pistons. He always covered the toughest scorer of each team they played. He also played 1st base for a Cleveland Indians farm team. His affinity for only sugar/sweets in his water drink is how his nickname was derived. He drank nothing else. One of the 1st athletes honored in the Chicago Afro American Hall of Fame. 1927-1990.
Larry Coutre / Inducted 2005
Larry began his softball career as a young teenager playing with Durso's at Green Briar Park on Chicago's Northwest side, winning several championships including the prestigious Knights of Columbus City Championship. He then played for Hall of Fame member Doc Scavuzzo with Alderman Hoellen's at Welles Park, Clarendon Park, and Thillens Stadium. His skills at center field and clutch hitting skills helped make them the team to beat of that era. Larry Coutre was a left - handed hitter who always hit in the top of the batting order because of the dual threat he brought to the plate. He could hit to all fields, or he could punch a ball down the third base line, utilizing his speed to get on base. When the bases were only 45 feet apart, opposing fielders rarely were able to throw him out and when the bases were lengthened, he still beat out most infield hits. Besides his speed, Larry could also hit the long ball. In fact, many veterans of the era remember him as being one of the top homerun hitters of his time. After graduating from St. George High School in 1946 where he played football, Larry played for Notre Dame from 1946 – 1950. He played with the College All-Stars against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field in 1950. After graduation, he played with the Green Bay Packers in 1950 until he joined the army. After his discharge in January of 1953, he rejoined the Packers and then played one year with the Baltimore Colts. Larry Coutre's softball career came to an end when he became an F.B.I. agent stationed in Knoxville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Marcia, have six children – Christine, Scott, Jeff, Linda, Matthew, and Janine – and two grandchildren. They live in Boca Raton, Florida.
Tom Cramsie / Inducted 2005
A 1939 graduate of De LaSalle High School where he played basketball and football, Tom Cramsie began his softball career at Horace Mann School at 80th and Jeffrey Avenue on Chicago's Southeast Side. Like many neighborhood teams, they kept the same nucleus as they battled other Southeast and South Side teams. Sponsored by Aidner Paints, Kromelow Insurance, Wee Folks Diapers, and O'Halleran's. Tom Cramsie played against such legendary teams as Sweet Water Clifton's Brown Bombers and teams organized by Tilden Teach and Notre Dame graduate Lou Rymkus during the late 1940s. He played in the Windy City League with the Douglas Senators in 1940 and 1941 and in tournaments at Grand Crossing and other parks on the South Side. World War II interrupted Tom Cramsie's softball career from 1942 to 1946 when he joined the Marines and served in the Pacific on Guam. Upon his discharge, the White Sox signed him to play with their Waterloo, Iowa team during the spring training in 1946. After the White Sox released him shortly after spring training, he went back to work for American Forge and stayed with them for 38 years, retiring in 1978 as vice president of sales. He then worked in the wire business for ten years before retiring completely. As a shortstop, Tom Cramsie had the reputation as one of the surest hands in the game at the time. One of his competitors, George McGuire, swears he never saw Tom make an error or bobble a ball. He was known as an above average hitter who could hit to all fields. Playing against Hall of Fame pitcher, Lewa Yacilla, he remembers when the pitch was not arced as much as it is today. Hesitation was the dominant move by pitchers back then. He retired from softball in the late 50s. Tom and his wife, Lorraine, live in Orland Park. They had six children, eighteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Thomas “Durke” Curran / Inducted 2006
Thomas “Durke” Curran
Thomas J. Curran was born and raised at 46th and Union in the Canaryville neighborhood of Chicago. He attended Tilden Technical High School where he was a member of the basketball team that captured the 1946 City championship. He got his start in 16" softball playing with the Gaels Athletic Club, winning the 1944 and 1946 championships at Fuller Park and taking second place in 1946 at Ogden Park. In 1947 and 1948 Tom Curran played with the Collins "700" Club and the Madonna Knights of Columbus. In 1949 and '50 he played with the S.S. Bobcats, the predecessors of the legendary Zolna Bobcats. They won the Back of the Yards title in 1949. He took a short break from softball when he entered the Army in 1951 and served in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division. For his time in Korea, Thomas Curran was awarded the Bronze Star and the Korean Service Medal with three battle stars. After his discharge from the service, he played for the Daley-Hamburgs (the future mayor was Chicago city clerk at this time) and the Madonna Knights of Columbus before retiring from softball in 1953 due to family commitments. Players from the Pioneer era remember Tom Curran as one of the top pitchers of his time. He is one of the first to use the hesitation pitch and perfected the pickoff play to second base. As a hitter he normally batted sixth and favored line drives to right center field. He was a Chicago police officer for thirtythree years (retired in 1988) and is now a Cook County Sheriffs Deputy assigned to 26th and California. He and his wife, Barbara Ann have four children, Dr. Mary Jo, Barbara Ann, Tommy and Kevin (deceased). They live in Orland Park, Illinois.
Frank “Blu Blu” Dalesandro / Inducted 2003
Frank “Blu Blu” Dalesandro
From 1933 to 1956, Frank Dalesandro was one of the best players in the top leagues in Chicago. A legend in his Taylor Street neighborhood, Daleasandro began his softball career with the White Eagles when he was only twelve years old. He then went on to win world titles with such legendary teams as Fewer Boilers, Triplex Yankees, and the Witt Hanley Yankees in the famous Windy City League. As defending Herald-American champions, Dalesandro and other legends Whitey Maytag, Sam Incandella, and Jimmy Hofmann and the Witt Hanley Yankees dueled Fewer Boilers with Ed Drabik and Steve Donchez in some classic softball games during the 40s. Dalesandro also played in big money games against the Brown Bombers and "Sweetwater" Clifton at Sheridan Park. Playing all the outfield positions in addition to third base and catcher, at 5'9" and160 pounds, Dalesandro was an unlikely but feared power hitter, who favored line drives to right center field, a skill he learned playing "line ball" in the school yards of Chicago. His hustle in the field and on the base paths earned him the reputation of being the second best player on the Yankees to Red Hurter, known then as the Babe Ruth of softball. With this reputation in tact, Dalesandro was offered a better contract by Fewer Boilers. In his later years he returned to his roots playing with the Morgan Fads, helping them to a second place finish in the Sheridan Park Tournament. Frank Dalesandro passed away on November 14, 1995.
William “Specs” Davis / Inducted 1998
William “Specs” Davis
Born on December 13, 1914 in Donaldsville, Louisiana, William Davis became one of the top softball pitchers and home run hitters of the Pioneer Era. William attended Douglas Elementary and Phillips High School in Chicago. Besides playing for the Gas House Gang, his softball career also found him as the pitcher on Dr. Goss' Collegians, Link Belt and the equally famous Brown Bombers, a team created from the Dawson Boosters and the Gas House Gang. Davis' tenure with Link Belt, a company he worked at for 26 1/2 years, led to the 1948 championship of interleague play between the ball clubs representing the many steel companies of that day. "Sweetwater" Clifton, Dan Dumas, Paul (PG) Vanmeter, Andy Nesbitt, and Big Bubba are some of the teammates of Davis'. William's pitching was characterized by hesitation, the speed of the ball, amazing accuracy, and the curve that Davis could put on the ball. Many hitters were mesmerized by these factors and by the accuracy of a pitcher who wore glasses. These glasses earned Davis the nickname "Specs". Besides being a great pitcher, Davis was also referred to as the "Colored Babe Ruth" because of his towering homeruns. William Davis was an accomplished athlete in many other areas. He boxed on amateur night at the Savoy Ballroom and was a member of the ABC Bowling Congress, amassing many trophies and carrying a 198 average as a bowler in the Chicago area. Articles on "Specs" Davis can be found at the Chicago Historical Society. Besides working at Link Belt, William Davis also worked as a butcher, a government map maker, and a timekeeper for the WPA. William left a legacy of so many children and grandchildren that they could have started their own softball league. Many of his grandchildren have played with or against such athletic greats as Dick Butkus, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and Michael Jordan. William Davis left a legacy as an accomplished athlete, wonderful father and devoted husband. Since Deceased.
Jim Di Vito / Inducted 1996
Jim Di Vito
One of the organizers of the Windy City League with Harry Hannin. While a terrific short center and outfielder, he was considered the best manager of the league with the champion Kool Vent, Fewer Boilers, and Witt Hanley Yankee teams. Especially proud of Kool Vent winning last season of both the Northtown League in 1949 and the Windy City League in 1950. Played in the City Championships at Wrigley Field in 30s. Born in 1916 at Taylor and Halsted and would become the pride of his neighborhood earning recognition in the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. After attending McKinley High, he graduated from DePaul U. His playing career was cut short as PT. Instructor for U.S.Army in WWII. Also managed Clark Field to the Western Pacific baseball championship in Manila against pro stars like Early Wynn and Joe Garagiola. A stellar community service background has led to a gym and racquet ball court named in his honor at Sheridan Park and the Duncan YMCA. He was named the 1982 Man of the Year by the Near West Side Community Committee. Jim and Angie have one child.
James “The Shiek” DiNardi / Inducted 1997
James “The Shiek” DiNardi
Born on Chicago's famous West side James DiNardi notched a reputation as one of the top two or three 16" pitchers of his era He earned the nickname of "Sheik" while a student at the Thomas Jefferson School on the West side where he was always the best dressed and subsequently attracted all the girls. Playing for such legendary teams as Midland Motors, Triplex Pistons, Continental Can, and the Owl Club, DiNardi regularly left batters swinging at thin air. In 1948, the Triplex Pistons, with Dinardi playing key roles both on the mound and with his bat, captured the championship of the Northtown Major League. He also pitched the Shopping Team to 18 of their 19 wins. As a reporter once said of Sheik DiNardi, "His stellar performance was reminiscent of the feats of Ironman McGinnity of old time baseball history." DiNardi's legacy lives on in his grandson Gino Murillo who currently pitches for the Gamblers.
Steve Donchez / Inducted 1998
The 1948 Softball World Series program places Steve Donchez in the same class of pitchers as Eddie "Lefty" Sevick, Ralph D'Orio, and the legendary James "Sheik" Di Nardi and Lewa Yacilla. Along with Bob Werderich and Zeke Ireland, Donchez and the Angels of Broadway won the Windy City Softball Championship. Besides being one of the top pitchers of his time and a colorful player who liked to argue with umpires, Steve Donchez also was a superb hitter. Steve passed away in March of 1998.
Dan Dumas / Inducted 1996
Dumas was a superb lefty pull hitter that made teams defense him with four infie1ders on the right side of second base.. leaving only the third basemen.. .he still would get hit to right. He had 3 straight batting titles in the Daddie O�Daylie League. He was MVP and batting champion in �62 and �63 in best league on the Southside, 49th and Dorchester, Southside Cocktail. He played for a variety of the top teams for 3 decades including; the Brown Bombers, Jive Ten, Old Men, Capitol Records and Demons. He was one of the first members of the American Sports Hall of Fame with Clifton and made an excellent defensive second baseman. Married and father of two girls, 1927-1996. Since deceased.
Jim Edgeworth / Inducted 1998
Softball in Chicago owes much to Jim Edgeworth who worked for many years with gusto and with characteristic good humor to promote it, especially in the industrial leagues. Jim grew up in Beverly at 91st and Pleasant Avenue. He attended St. Margaret of Scotland Grammar School and Mount Carmel High School in 1922. Sports were Jim's passion from childhood to adulthood. For over 45 years he was active as an umpire and referee of softball and basketball. He also coached at St#. Sabina at 77th and Racine. After being a member of the Official Umpires Association, Jim Edgeworth became one of the founders of the Umpires Protective Association. He served for almost a generation as the secretary and principal organizer of softball leagues of employees in the Clearing Industrial District. Many days Jim would skip his lunch hour to check the condition of the softball diamonds at Marquette Park. Jim and his wife, Ann, were married for 54 years. They have five children. His wife survives Jim and lives in Michigan City, Indiana.
Jack “Swifty” Flynn / Inducted 2016
Jack “Swifty” Flynn
In his 2001 biography of Mike Royko, Richard Ciccone quotes Tim Weigel saying that he was disappointed that Royko became a pitcher because according to Weigel “there’s no such thing as a good pitcher.” Although Weigel was a Yale graduate, starting halfback on their football team, and a legendary local sportscaster, apparently he hadn’t been around sixteen-inch softball to realize that there were a lot of great pitchers.
And one of those pitchers was Jack Flynn. He pitched for the Rockets, a Canaryville team from 47th Street. Flynn was seventeen in 1950 when he led the Rockets to the championship in the Alderman Clarence Wagner Softball Tournament at Davis Square Park. He later played for the Madonna Council Knights of Columbus and helped them with the 1955 championship with out fielder Jim McCardle (HOF) and Flynn’s coach/pitcher/mentor Tom “Turk” Corcoran.
Jack Flynn also pitched for the Burlington Railroad in the Grant Park railroad League and on the South side for the Dutch Reformed Church team called the Shoes in the late ‘60s. He pitched money games almost every Sunday for the Two - 45s with Hall of Famers George Wagner and Jack Lyman. Over the years, he pitched several one run games, a feat almost unheard of in the high scoring world of sixteen-inch softball. In 1957 in has best game, Flynn and his talented teammates came within one out of a rare shutout when Madonna K of C defeated St. Albert the Great at Armour Square Park 17 – 1. He received his nickname at this game. St Albert’s lone run came with two out in the last inning when an infielder’ error allowed the runner to score. Both teams signed the ball for Flynn as a souvenir. A few weeks later, St Alberts won the K of C championship. In a show of respect, they invited Jack and his wife, Dorisann, to their victory party.
In 1969, the Flynns moved from Bridgeport to Waukegan where they raised their seven children. They now have twelve grandchildren and a great granddaughter.
Robert “Bobby” Fallon / Inducted 1997
Robert “Bobby” Fallon
A veteran of many "softball wars" during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Bobby Fallon began his career playing left field for teams as Jack's Men's Wear, Slow Freighters, Nudo's Dugout, and Bondies. He switched to the other side of home plate in 1949 when he began umpiring for the Jim Allen Group. Robert Fallon probably didn't realize that he was about to embark on a thirty year umpiring-career that found him calling balls and strikes for some of the biggest money matches in the Chicagoland area. Besides umpiring for 16" softball, Fallon also officiated basketball, baseball, and football games at the high school. He was such a respected official that he referred at many high school championship games. He also served as a Big Ten footbal1 referee for 10 years from 1968 to 1979 and officiated many Chicago Bulls games before hanging up his striped shirt and whistle for the more serene seat of the spectator.
Bennie Feinblatt / Inducted 1996
The Albany Park athlete was a left handed Allstar centerfielder for Midland Motors and Fewer Boilers. Outstanding defensive player and one of the fastest players in the game. In the service he played ball with the best baseball players in the game. This encouraged him to tryout for the White Sox. They told him to give up softball, work on his swing and come back next year. He said he would make more money playing 16" and never went back to tryout. Since Deceased.
Leo Fischer / Inducted 1996
This sports writer for the Chicago Herald American had a vision that the sport of softball was going to be important to people of all ages if promoted. His local tournament organizing efforts in the 30s eventually developed into the City Championship and the finals were held at Wrigley Field. Backed by William Randolph Hearst, his publication allowed him to organize the first national softball tournament during the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago's Grant Park. Even though the 55 teams played with different size balls and rules he compromised on a 14" ball. The games began and were seen by over 100,000 people. Note the team entry fee was only 2.50. He kept the nationals going until W.W.II, Eventually he would found/organize the ASA, Amateur Softball Association and served as its first president. Deceased.
Emil Flerick / Inducted 2004
A 1943 graduate of St. Rita High School, Emil Flerick played 10", 12", and 16" softball in the Herald – American Tournaments in the late 1930 and early '40s. Like many men of his era, he entered the Navy but played basketball and softball during his years of service. He was discharged in 1946 and resumed his softball career with Stony Tires, Knob Hill, and the legendary Kool Vent Awnings in the Windy City League. He also played with the Jugheads at Sox Park. When Windy City disbanded in the late 1940s, Emil Flerick played at Thillens Stadium (formerly the Northtown League) with the Weinberg Studebakers. That year Emil Flerick hit enough homeruns to place him in the top five in the league; he also batted .528 for the year in helping Weinberg Studebakers to a second place finish. Flerick teamed up with Hall of Famer Vern Parry and switched teams to join the First National Bank of Chicago in 1950. First National is remembered as the only team to retire the Erickson Trophy of Grant Park by winning it for three consecutive years. First National won the City Tournament in the 1960s. Besides playing with Vern Parry, Emil Flerrick also played with such legendary players as Tom Pilot, Art Chickenowski, Wes Alhgrim, Bill Haig, John Incardone, and other Windy City players, many of whom are current Hall of Fame members. Emil and his wife of fifty years, Mel, have two children – Paul and Ken and seven grandchildren. He retired 1985 from First National Bank as an Assistant Vice-President after thirty-five years.
Johny Galvin / Inducted 1998
Bill Rand's, Harry's Owl Club, Nudo's Dugout, the Lapota Steelers, and Cronin's all stand as icons of softball's early days. As a top defensive third baseman who had a reputation as a great power hitter, Johnny Galvin was a leader on these legendary teams. Playing at such early softball parks as Grand Crossing Park and Bill Rand Stadium, Johnny Galvin and his teammates forged a link that connects the Pioneer players to the modern teams of today. Besides being a top softball player, Galvin was also an All American football player at Purdue who had a brief stint with the Baltimore Colts football team and the New York Yankees. He also played football in the short lived (one year) Windy City Football League with the Glen Ellyn Bears and the Spokes. Galvin was the Athletic Director of Argo High School for 30 years. In 1997 they named the football field the John Galvin Memorial Field. Johnny Galvin and his wife, Pauline, live in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Since Deceased.
Babe Godlewski / Inducted 1996
Played in the Windy City League for 11 seasons, Member of American Gear, and best seasons were with Midland Motors. Was in the Murderer's Row lineup with Hurter, Paul Camaratta, and Moose Migon. Right hander was a '48 Allstar at shortstop... .and premier long ball hitter. Also played for the Chicago Police Dept. Since Deceased.
Arthur “Lefty” Goldfeder / Inducted 1996
Arthur “Lefty” Goldfeder
His .760 batting average was the highest in Windy City League competition. A Chicago American Hall of Famer in center and left field, his total hits record stood for 14 years until '48. He was 66 for the first 100 at bats in his rookie WC season in 1934. Played for Hannin Did Its, and Adducci's. The best chop hitter in the game.. rarely thrown out on grounders to the pitcher.. .due to his speed. He started at Logan Square Ball Park. Played on the Judge Ellars, and the Six Pointers who were the Chicago American City Champs from '33 to '35. The finals were held at Wrigley Field. Played for the top industrial team in '38. Born in 1911.
Jack “Goldie” Goldstein / Inducted 1997
Jack “Goldie” Goldstein
As trainer or the American Gears professional basketball team, Jack Goldie had a foot . :... - guaranteeing that their team would have a cab ride home after the game. He would tear a ten du when the cab driver arrived at the game, telling him that he would get the other half when he renirn - them up after the game. It never failed! Besides being a trainer for the American Gears, \vhtire responsible for the physical conditioning of George Mikan, Stan Patrick, and Dick Triptow, Jack was also :iarr for the Chicago Bears during their summer training camps in 1941, 42, and 43 until the regular trainer. Lotshaw, was finished with his duties as trainer for the Chicago Cubs. Besides having been the "dapper - dan" of professional trainers, Jack Goldie also worked as a softball urnpn as umpire - in - chief of the Windy City League and called ball and strikes for the National Girls Professional League and the North Currency circuit. As stated in The Dynasty That Never Was, Jack Goldie was "a great guy to have around." Jack Goldie is deceased.
Michael Hanas / Inducted 2002
During a 30 year 16" softball career, playing for some of the great Pioneer Era teams at some of the legendary softball stadiums, Michael Hanas has indeed experienced some of the great moments of the early days of softball. Hanas played with such Pioneer teams as Bonnetts, Silhouettes, Whips, Jack O'Lanterns, and the early Bobcats. In Windy City softball, Michael played for Midland Motors, Fewer Boilers, and the Triner Grant Giants. He won MVP honors with the Ford Motor Company and the Good Sportsmanship Award at Grant Park while playing for the former Mayor Daley team. Besides playing in the classic era of softball, Hanas coached mens and womens softball at all levels from grade school through college level in Concord, New Hampshire. He organized youth sports organizations and leadership conferences. He also ran an umpire association for twenty years, featuring many former players as umpires. In addition to playing and umpiring softball, Michael Hanas also organized touch football leagues in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
George Hancock / Inducted 1996
The founder of softball. Hancock was a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade. In 1887 on a rainy Thanksgiving Day while waiting for the ticker tape results of the Harvard-Yale football game at Farragut Boat Club in Chicago, now a land fill south of Soldiers Field, a group of bored young men tied up a boxing glove and started hitting it with a broom handle. The Ivy League Alumni game ended in a high scoring tie as legend has it. After enjoying this indoor form of baseball Hancock designed and wrote rules to formalize the indoor sport. Since deceased.
John “Heck” Hechinger / Inducted 2000
John “Heck” Hechinger
John Hechinger began his softball career with St. Viator Grade in 1942 when they made it to the quarter finals in the St. Ignatius tournament. A left fielder who also played first and third, Hechinger had a lifetime batting average over 600, and hit 350 home runs. From 1942 to 1957 Hechinger's teams won twelve championships on such teams as St. Viators, Ideal Liquors, the 35 Club, the Addison Bears, and Murph's Lounge at Mozart and Riis Park from 1948 to 1950. Hechinger played with Fewer Boilers, Spalter Finance, Leo Rose Clothiers and Kool Vent Awnings at the North Town and Windy City Leagues from 1948 to 1952. He also played simultaneously at Clarendon Park with Town Pump, Marino Brothers, Addison Bears, and the 35 Club. From 1947 to 1950 Hechinger played with St. Cyr Council. They won the City Championship once, and lost twice. While with St. Cyr, John Hechinger played along side Lewa Yacilla, Charley Russo and John Abbatacola as short center. He entered the Counter Intelligence Corps in 1952, and served until 1955. When he came out, he earned his law degree and met Mary, who would become his wife. He went on to play with the Tom Thumbs, with Hall of Famer Bob Lamont, and Knights of Columbus with Johnnie Lattner in center field. During his legal career, John Hechinger served as a judge in the Cook County Juvenile Court, the Criminal Court, and the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court. In 2000, he was "Of Counsel" with the law firm of Rock, Fusco and Garvey Ltd. and lived with his wife, two sons and a daughter in Chicago.
James Holmes / Inducted 1997
James Holmes is known as a superb left hand hitter and right fielder who played with some of the top leagues on the Southside. Holmes played in the top division at 49th and Dorchester and in the Southside Cocktail League. Holmes interrupted his 16" career with a three year stint in the Marine Corps. Once he left the Marines, Holmes managed the Ironmen for ten years. He also managed the Unknown. Bunch who won the Black World Series in 1984. Holmes later went on to manage the L.A. Posse, an excellent team, for about five years. In addition to his softball skills, James Holmes also played football for eight years with the Chicago Panthers of the Central State League. Holmes is married and is the father of three sons.
Zeke Ireland / Inducted 1996
The "Hank Aaron" of softball he was the best black home run hitter in the Windy City Leagues. He had a unique stance with the bat above his head. The right handed hitter was one of the first to break the color barriers of the league. Allstar catcher for Angels of Broadway in '48. He played with Kool Vent championship teams in '49 and '50. Deceased.
Terrell Jackson / Inducted 1997
Terrell Jackson attended Smyth Elementary School and Crane High School in Chicago. He started his illustrious softball career in 1947 at Stanford Park at 14th and Union Avenue. Jackson made an impression as a tough ball player at the young age of twelve because every year he was selected to the Stanford Park All-Star Team that played against teams of different age levels from other parks in Chicago. Jackson's years at Stanford Park prepared him to play with more competitive teams. First, Jackson played for a few years with the Dexters. After graduating from Crane High School in 1952, he played with the Westside Dodgers, a team that he had admired throughout his childhood. While a member of the Dodgers, Terrell had the opportunity to play with and learn from such great athletes as James "Big Zeke" Ireland, Bob Joyce, Leon Edwards, James "Killer" Cain, Sully Palmer, Perry Minniefield, Linwood "Woody" McCrary and William Clark. The Dodgers played all the top teams at Fosco Park and Franklin Park. Jackson played in all the major tournaments and big money games. One of these tournaments was sponsored by Daddie 0'Daylie's Fund League. Jackson retired from league softball in 1972 and remembers the pleasure of playing with some of the greatest softball players of all time.
Michael C. “Iron Mike” Kirksy, Sr. / Inducted 2017
Michael C. “Iron Mike” Kirksy, Sr.
Michael C. Kirksy Sr. was born on April 29, 1933 to Ethel and Edmon Kirksy in Homer Louisiana. They relocated to the Summit-Argo area when he was eight years old. As a youth Michael loved to play all different sports. Some days he would be playing so hard he would forget to go in for dinner.
He attended Argo Community High School where he played basketball and excelled in football. He received all-conference, all suburban and all-state special mention honors in football. Despite his natural talent for football he had a passion for sixteen-inch softball.
After graduating from Argo in 1953, Michael played for the Trojans until he enlisted in the Army. He returned to Summit after serving two years in the Army and played shortstop for the Vets/Bombers. He also played for his company team, Corn Products, in the Industrial League and played all positions. In 1971 the Bombers took first place at Marquette Park, Avalon Park and Grant Park. He retired from the Bombers in 1972 after playing with them for nineteen years.
The Bombers planted a seed in the Summit-Argo Community by hosting the Old Timers Picnic. The picnic brought the community together thorough the game of softball and encouraged the young people to play the game he loved so much. The picnic is still going strong after forty-two years.
One of his proudest moments as a parent is that all five of his sons also loved sports and played throughout high school. Although they didn’t follow his footsteps in softball, he had one son, Mike Jr, that made All State in high school as a football player. His youngest son, Mel, received All Conference in football. Mike went on to play at Ellsworth College and received special mentions, and Mel played on the 1983 football championship team at SIU Carbondale.
Michael and his wife, Velma, have been married for sixty - three years. They have raised eight children –Michael Jr., Marvin, Mark, Manuel, Mel, Darlene, Monica and Henry. He worked at Corn Products for forty years and he still resides in the Summit-Argo area.
Andrew “Gipp” Karkoska / Inducted 1998
Andrew “Gipp” Karkoska
Born in 1922, Gipp Karkosa played short - center, hit .500, and managed some of the top softball teams of the past forty years: Lake Valley in 1940 - 45 and '45 - '46, Zolna's Tavern from 1948 - 50, and the legendary Bobcats in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. A boxer who never lost a fight and once turned down a pro contract, Karkosa served in the U.S. Coast Guard where he appeared in several acts with Sid Caesar. Karkosa also played for the Bobcats when they won the World Series in 1964 and played basketball with Bob Kennedy of the White Sox and Cubs. Gip and his wife of fifty years, Kay, have two daughters and five grandchildren.
Roy Kindt / Inducted 2007
In nominating Roy Kindt to the Hall of Fame, fellow Hall of Famer, Bob LaMont, describes Roy as someone who was never in the limelight but was someone who had a profound effect on the popularity of 16-inch softball. As one of softball's great managers, he played with some of Chicago's great athletes during the pre-World War II days, earned three battle stars fighting in the Pacific during World War II, and then managed a Hall of Fame team during the 1970s Roy Kindt grew up in the Belmont and Central area of Chicago's West side and attended Steinmetz High School. He played hardball with the Chicago Romans and the Bel Central Cobras. As a center fielder hitting in the number three slot, at seventeen he was the youngest (and possibly the best) player on the team. The Cobras were managed by Johnny Niggling, whose brother Johnny Niggling was known as the New York Yankee killer, and competed against some of the top hardball teams in Chicago: Winkler Motors, Benda Coals, Cole Boosters, the River Grove Nationals, Graylins, and the Giants, a team from Washington Park that featured players from the old Negro League. These players competed for the Kansas City Monarchs, the Birmingham Black Barons, the Memphis Red Sox, and Chicago's own American Giants, who played in the old Chicago White Sox Park. Even though they were beyond their peak playing years, they were still great players. In 1942 Roy left for military service in World War II. He started his twenty-year career in organizing and managing softball teams in the early 60s when he managed the St. Pascal CYO team. He took them to three championships at Clarendon Park and at Grant Park. During the last ten years of his career, he managed the Lyon's 45s, a Northwest side powerhouse and a Hall of Fame team that won numerous league and tournament titles. Because of his managerial skills, they competed against some of the notable South side teams of that era. Roy is retired from softball. He is also a retired accountant for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. He and his wife, Anne, have a son, Tom, a daughter-in-law, Jacque and two grandchildren, Heather and Troy. They now split their time between Chicago�s Northwest side and Arizona.
Willie Klemchuk / Inducted 1996
fter many seasons he was rated the best player in the Windy City League and Mr. Softball in '48. That season the great defensive short center had the most hits in Windy City history with 83. He played on a variety of teams including Aducci's and Witt Hanley Yankees... especially the '47 and '48 Midland Motor championship group. Won 2 MVP's in 13 All star seasons. Right handed batter and thrower. Married to Virginia and one son. Born 1921.
Alex Kuhn / Inducted 2005
Al Kuhn, who grew up on the North Side of Chicago and attended Senn High School, will be remembered as one of the great pioneer of 16" softball. He played with North Shore Congregation in 1937 with Stanley Stein, Morris Pomeroy, and Hall of Famer Ben Branman. In later years he played with in the Windy City League with Stony Tires and Martin Jewelers where he worked for many years. He also played at Waveland Park in big money games. He played his last game in 1957 in the Bnai Brith League for Cinema Lodge and died in December of that year. At 5'9" and built like a fire plug, he had great speed and power and could hit a single or the long ball. He primarily played catcher or first base. He will always be remembered as a player who loved the game so much that he would often take time off from work to play with his children and friends.
Sam “Dusty” LaBarbera / Inducted 1996
Sam “Dusty” LaBarbera
The exciting third baseman was a crowd favorite with pantomime characterizations and playing in the style of Pete Rose with head first slides since 1940. Played on the championship teams of Midland Motors and the Yankees. Best season was .399 and 11 homers for '44 champion Yanks who won 23 straight. Allstar for Fewer Boilers in '48. Considered one of the toughest competitors playing. 1919 -1979. Survived by his wife Shirley and 3 daughters and one son.
Casey LaRocco / Inducted 2004
Like many young men growing up during the Depression, Casey LaRocco faced many hardships. After his parents died when he was fourteen, he joined a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in Michigan and Wisconsin planting trees and building drainage systems. When a heart murmur kept him out of the service during World War II, he started playing softball with Gorenson Bowling in 1939. This experience carried him into the big time world of softball when he played in the Windy City League with such teams as Triplex, Midland Motors, Senator Adducci's, and Broadway Motors. His greatest softball memory occurred in 1948 when Broadway Motors beat Midland Motors for the Windy City title at White Sox Park in front of a large crowd. During his thirty-seven year softball career, Casey LaRocco played on teams that won at least twenty-four park, City of Chicago, or Windy City championships. He also played in some of the memorable "pot" games during the Golden Days of 16" softball. Besides softball, Casey also played semi-pro basketball, travelling to games throughout Chicago and parts of the United States. Many pioneer ballplayers call Casey LaRocco one of the best short centers to have ever played the game. He started his career as a homerun hitter, but became a punch hitter when he played in the Windy City League. He set the table so the big power hitters of that era could drive him in. Casey and his wife, Anne, have two children ,Caz and Bonita LaRocco Grantner, six grandchildren and one great grandchild. They live in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Eugene “Gene” Leo / Inducted 1999
Eugene “Gene” Leo
Eugene Leo played in the Golden Era of softball, primarily on the South and Southwest sides, when every neighborhood had a softball team good enough for pot games. Playing four nights a week with three games on Sunday, like many softball players of this era, Eugene Leo's career can be divided into two segments - before and after World War Two. Before the war Leo played on the usual neighborhood teams. He won the O'Keefe Men's League five times before and after the war. After he returned from the war, his career diversified when he played with his first Windy City team, Harry's Owl Club. Later he formed and played shortstop on his own Windy City team, the Douglas Senators. Eugene Leo left the softball diamonds of Chicago for college in Colorado in 1949. After graduation, he returned and played for Swift and Company in the Southwest Industrial League in Gage Park. Clinching the championship in that league, they headed for the playoffs in Grant Park. They took the championship of the Greater Chicago Industrial League in 1952. Leo contributed to the championship by slugging the most home runs and maintaining the highest batting average. Eugene Leo resides in South Holland with his wife, Virginia.
Edward “Eddie” Leonard / Inducted 2001
Edward “Eddie” Leonard
Over his two decade career in softball, Edward Leonard was known as a tough fielding second baseman back in the days of 45 foot bases. He could also hit powerful line drives or drop a well placed ball to any field. Ed served his country in the Navy from 1942 through 1945. When he returned from the service, he played with Ed Zolna and the other Jimmie Rose players on the Cowboys from 1946 through 1950. He also helped the Snipers win many big money games during the late 40s. During the 1950s Ed played with the Marquette Club featuring Lefty Hunt, and with Electric Motors, a top money ball club of the era. In 2000, Edward Leonard was living in Blue Island, Illinois.
Chester “Whitey Maytag” Matykiewicz / Inducted 1996
Chester “Whitey Maytag” Matykiewicz
He was the right hander who played for Witt Hanley Yankees, Fewer Boilers and became an Allstar 2nd sacker for Midland Motor's- considered by many the best defensive player in the game at the position and always had a high batting average. Played on both Midland Motor's and Witt Hanley Yankee title teams. The '43 championship game ball after an 11-8 win was given to Whitey for his exceptional play by his fellow Yankees. A fan favorite and will always be known for his big smile, generosity, and being a family man. State wrestling champion for Lindblom Tech High School. Born in l917. He and his wife Grace have passed away. They are survived by two children and three grandchildren.
John “Mickey” McCallum / Inducted 2000
John “Mickey” McCallum
In nominating John McCallum for the Hall of Fame, Tommy Frangella, a 1998 Hall of Fame Umpire inductee, said that McCallum embodied three important characteristics of a great softball player; "His fielding was flawless, his hitting was tremendous and his sportsmanship was beyond reproach." Born in 1919, John McCallum graduated from Mt. Carmel high school in 1939 and began his softball career with Amstader's and Grove's Menswear in the 30s. As news of his talent spread, he was picked up by other teams that read like a Who's Who of Pioneer softball. In the 1940s he played with Jack's Menswear and the Kodackers, and with Nudo's for big money games. He also played with Harry's Owl Club in the Windy City League, helping them to become one of the great teams in softball history. In the 1950s John switched to Conroy's. John McCallum's passion for the game, and his two decade involvement helped shape 16" softball into the game it is today. John's three daughters are Sue, Patty and Joanne. His son's are Jay and Barry. He also has twelve grandchildren. In 2000, John lived in Palos Heights, Illinois.
Leonard “Sarge” McKinnon / Inducted 2002
Leonard “Sarge” McKinnon
In over 40 years in 16" softball, Leonard "Sarge" McKinnon forged a legendary reputation as a player, manager, umpire and administrator. The Wendell Phillips High School graduate started playing softball in 1942 at the Wabash YMCA at 37th and Wabash when he founded the Nighthawks. He played first base and was their top hitter. The next year, the Nighthawks became the Vagabonds and McKinnon played with them for three years, leading them in hitting and fielding. He then played with the Junior Clowns out of the Southside Boys Club. McKinnon's softball career took off when he became a member of the legendary Ironmen, organized in 1946 by Stanley "Champ" Schealey. McKinnon played first base, short center and third base with the Ironmen for 31 years, leading them in home runs. In 1971 Leonard became the manager of the Ironmen, a position he held from 1971 to 1981. He was also league commissioner from 1966 to 1981, when he retired from active player to umpire, a position he still holds. Leonard McKinnon and his wife of 48 years have seven children and twelve grandchildren. He retired from the Illinois National Guard as a Sergeant First Class after 36 years of service.
Wally Meyers / Inducted 2002
Wally Meyers began his softball career in 1937 as manager and first baseman with Becker Coals at Hamlin Park in the Lincoln - Belmont Softball League. His superb fielding at first base and ability to get on base earned him All Star honors that year along with Hall of Famers Dick Triptow and Bud Gierke. Meyers also earned All Star honors at Weber Park as captain of the 45th Ward Boosters. Meyers and Becker Coals earned a distinction rare in softball history; they were the first team to play in the newly opened, fully fenced Northtown Currency Exchange Stadium. Becker Coals lost to Thillens Check Cashers in that game, despite four home runs and a double from Meyers. Wally's efforts were not unnoticed, however, as Mel Thillins asked Meyers, Bud Gierke and Ed Grzonka to play for him. Thillins later went on to organize the North Town Currency Exchange Softball School, a major effort to teach softball skills to youngsters, and Meyers was recruited as a special instructor. Like many other young men of his time, Wally's softball career was interrupted by World War II. He joined the Army Air Force and flew 12 combat missions, including bombing oil fields in Germany and Romania, before being shot down the day after D Day. For his heroism, Meyers received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, as well as the Purple Heart. Unfortunately, his wounds were serious. Shrapnel had shattered his left arm and he remained hospitalized for an extended period. Wally returned to Chicago's far less dangerous softball wars in 1946, but his play was limited due to paralysis in his thumb and two fingers of his left hand. Still, in 1947 he captained and played first base for the 45th Ward Boosters at Hamlin Park. There in a major jackpot game, Wally hit a ground smash past Hall of Famer Stan Szukala to win the game. After that he decided it was time to hang up his spikes and retire from the game.
Charles “Missy” Miceli / Inducted 2006
Charles “Missy” Miceli
Charles Miceli was known to his teammates and opponents as Mississippi, but that was too long for a nickname, so it was shortened to Missy. Over his five-decade softball career as a shortstop and pitcher, he was truly one of the great players of the Pioneer era. In the early 1940s, the Boston Red Sox twice offered Miceli a contract, but he refused them both times in order to stay with friends and family in Chicago. In the mid-40s he was a star shortstop and hitter as a member of the Angels of Broadway playing in the Windy City League. He led them to the Windy City title at Comiskey Park. In addition to Angels of Broadway, he played with Petrones, the Stompers, and Superior Lions at all of the major parks around the Chicago area. From 1968 to 1980 he pitched for the Stompers at Amundsen Park. At forty-eight he still hadn't missed a beat, averaging two or three hits per game and pitching them to twelve titles. The Stompers also played in the 30th Ward Championships, an event that attracted thirty-two of the top softball teams in the area. The Stompers won the event for eight consecutive years. When the Stompers disbanded in 1980, Miceli played for and managed Missy's Rags, an Amundsen Park team that won four league titles from 1981 to 1986. He was a recreational leader for thirty-three and a half years with the Chicago Park District at Amundsen Park. He passed away in June of 2002. He leaves behind his wife, Lynn, a daughter, Katie and a granddaughter. Another daughter, Kathleen, preceded him in death.
Pete “Mungo” Monaco / Inducted 1999
Pete “Mungo” Monaco
Great teams consist of many factors - great players, loyal fans, dedicated sponsors, and intelligent managers / coaches who weave often diverse personalities into a unified team capable of winning championships. Pete Mungo's efforts represent the pinnacle of success as he played and later managed St. Albert the Great's 16" softball team from 1960 to 1975, winning seven Knights of Columbus State Championships. He also managed the Knights of Columbus All Star Team to five victories; won five 11th Ward Championships, and was selected manager of the year five times. Pete Monaco was born in 1919 and attended Tilden Tech from 1933 - 1937 where he starred in football. His football knowledge proved valuable a few years later when he coached the McGuane Park 12 - 13 year old football team to the Chicago City Championship at Soldier Field in 1970. He also was coach of the championship Monaco Colts semi-pro football team. A list of athletes who have played for Pete Monaco reads like a Whose Who of 16" softball fame. Willie Frencl, Joe Gucwa, Jake Jacobi, Champ Cerna, Willie Simpson, Al Cech, and Ed Zolna have all worn or donned a uniform for Pete Monaco. Besides winning onfield accolades, Pete Monaco has also served his community with his administrative efforts. He was president of the Southside Knights of Columbus for fifteen years and received recognition awards from the Chicago Park District, the Commission on Youth Welfare, and the South Chicago American Legion. Peter and his wife, Francis, live on the Southside of Chicago where he is enjoying his retirement from the Chicago Park District.
Sol “Muzzi” Mosillami / Inducted 1999
Sol “Muzzi” Mosillami
A graduate of McKinley High School in 1944, Sol Mosillami played with some of the great pioneers of 16" softball. He began his career in 1942 with the Witt Hanley Yankees. A shortstop and occasional second baseman who batted leadoff most of his career, Mosillami was known for being a clutch single hitter who was hard to keep off the basepaths. In 1944 Mosillami's fielding and hitting skills helped the Witt Hanley Yankees win the Windy City League in a tough match against Eggs Bromley and the Angels of Broadway. 1944 was also an important year for Sol Mosillami because he entered the army. Fortunately, he was sent not far away to Navy Pier, so he didn't lose much playing time. The late 40s found Mosillami playing with different ball clubs, including Midland Motors in '46, Canadian Ace Brewers in '47, Fewer Boilers in '48, and Kool Vent Awnings in '49. Mosillami's tenure with Kool Vent proved fruitful in 1950 when they won the Windy City title at Lane Tech, the last year for the Windy City League when Harry Hannin joined forces with the Harlem Globetrotters. Mosillami's career continued into the 60s and 70s when he played for the Kool Vent Yanks, Cherry Lounge, Knights of Columbus, and in C.Y.O. competition. A true pioneer of the game who played with and against such legendary figures and Softball Hall of Famers as Whitey Maytag, Jimmi DiVito, Lewa Yacillo, Verne Parry, and Steve Donchez, Mosillami retired from softball in 1983 after 41 years. Sol currently lives in Chicago. He has a son and two grandchildren.
Sol Mosillami in action
Gene “Moz” Mozdzierz / Inducted 2007
Gene “Moz” Mozdzierz
Gene Mozdzierz grew up in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago around Bloomingdale and Hermitage. He started his sixty-two year plus softball career when Father Jim Grzybowski from St. Mary's of the Angels, who also played in the Windy City league, started teams for students in the seventh and eight grades. When is was time to go to high school, he took his baseball talents to Lane Tech where he played shortstop and helped Lane to a second place finish in the city high school league. He started playing competitive softball at Thillen's Stadium with the Chi-Orioles club and the Northtown Vaults when he was just fifteen. In 1945 they took second place at Thillen's and in 1946 the Chi-Orioles won the Harold-American title when they defeated the Southside Cardinals. He then went on to play against such legendary teams as Midland Motors, Kool Vent Awnings, Monica Orioles, Ma's Tavern, Wrightwood Park and Martin Jewelers. He played periodically with teams sponsored by Congressman Dan Rostenkowski. The Chi-Orioles and the Rostenkowski teams captured twenty-five plus league titles. During his forty-four year playing career, teams he played on won 833 games against only 168 losses. He played shortstop for forty-four seasons (from 1945 to 1988) and was known for his speed and outstanding defensive skills. He batted leadoff for most of his teams for most of his career. Besides playing softball, Gene Mozdzierz also played semi-pro baseball. His baseball team, the Kolski-Boosters, won six league titles, a state title, and finished seventh in nationals during a twelve year span (1952 - 1963). Since 1989 to the present, he has managed, pitched, and played shortstop for the Chicago "Lite" Seniors, a 12-inch softball team. He is a semi-retired independent painter. He and his wife, Nana Lee, live in Addison, Illinois. They have four children (Gina, Joy, Donna, and Tom) and three grandchildren (William, Courtney, and Shayne). He thanks his sponsors for the Chi-Lite seniors, Terry and Kathy Mullarkey.
Barney Nemec / Inducted 1998
A great defensive and strong hitting second baseman, Barney Nemec began his softball career from Cornell Park at the age of eighteen, Barney Nemec played with the Fuka Bullets until World War II interrupted his efforts. After his return from the war, Barney played with Stony Tires, Bill Rand's, Shaw Jewelers (they once beat Fewer Boilers 11 - 3 with Nemec gathering six hits) and Midland Motors in a Sunday league at 103rd and Church. Some of Nemec's fond memories include hitting seven home runs in two nights at Hillburn Park, playing at Comiskey Park with previous Hall of Fame nominee Sweetwater Clifton, and the many $1,000 pot games at Cornell Park with the Robie's and the Bill Banana's. In 1948 and 1949 his team won the Industrial Division of Edison, a league sponsored by the Herald-American. In the Grant Park Tournament of Champions, Nemec's Edison team lost 2-1 to Illinois Central Railroad. Nemec hit a towering home run to score Edison's only tally. That year Barney was also nominated to the All Star team. Barney lives in Chicago.
Joseph “Joey” Neumann / Inducted 2003
Joseph “Joey” Neumann
"I am grateful for having played with and against some of the greatest players of the 1940s." This quote best summarizes the attitude Joe Neumann brought to the great game of softball. Joe Neumann began his career at Audubon Playground with the Vagabonds in 1936. In 1940 and 1942, they switched to Hillborn Stadium and locked horns with Fewer Boilers, Lil Coals, and the Brown Bombers. Like many of his era, World War II interrupted his playing days. From 1943 to 1946 he fought with the Army artillery in North Africa, France, and Germany. He resumed his softball career in 1946 when he and the Hub Vagabonds won the Wells Park championships in 1946 and 1947. In 1947 he was selected as an All Star and Most Valuable Player in the Wells Park Industrial League while playing with Northwestern Railroad. 1949 saw Neumann playing with the Vagabonds at Wells Park and with Spalter Finance at Northtown. In 1951 Neumann joined Alderman Fleck playing at Hanlon Stadium and with Alderman Freeman, winning championships at Hanlon Park and Clarendon Park respectively. Joe Neumann ended his career in 1962 playing with a team from the Post Office. Primarily a short center and shortstop, Neumann also played second base and in the outfield. He batted third on all of his teams and ended his career with a .380 plus batting average and notched 125 homeruns. Neumann remembers as a highlight of his career a fifteen run victory over Moose Skowron and Kool Vent Awnings. Joe Neumann is retired from the Post Office. He and his wife Lorraine have three children – Joe, Kathy, and Margaret, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Stan “Nosh” Norka / Inducted 2000
Stan “Nosh” Norka
The youngest of three softball playing brothers, Stan Norka was born in South Chicago in 1924. He began his playing career at 17, when he was added to the roster of the legendary Joe LaPota Steelers in the Windy City League. Like many players of his era, Stan Norka's softball career was interrupted when he answered America's call to fight in World War II. Upon his discharge from the Navy, he continued 16" softball on such teams as Wisconsin Steel, Santa Maria Council and Vi and Koys. Stan joined his brothers Tony and Ed with Higgins Boosters, Lombardi Kids and Baltimore Lumber. They helped lead these teams to numerous championships in the Herald American Tournaments. As a Chicago Police Detective, Stan also played on Police softball and hardball teams. Stan was well known throughout his era as a top defensive outfielder, first baseman and clutch hitter. Stan's softball skills were so strong that he was often recruited by Frank Witt for some of the big pot games. As an opponent once said, "Put any seven players with the Norkas, and you would have a winning team." Stan and his wife Cindy have two daughters; Nancy Carrol and Donna Myers. In 2000 he was living in Avon Park, Florida.
Tony “Buzz” Norka / Inducted 2004
Tony “Buzz” Norka
After graduating from Bowen High School in 1936, Tony Norka was recruited by Dust Motors to play in the Windy City League. He stayed with them for two years before moving on to play with the great LaPota Steelers. Once they disbanded Tony continued his softball career with Joe Higgins, Mel Turner, Baltimore Lumber, and Club 22, playing at parks on the southside and at Thillens and Bidwell Stadiums, These teams won numerous park championships on the southside, Tony Norka played shortstop and second base throughout his career. He was a third or fourth hitter who won numerous batting titles in the many leagues he played in. Like many of his peers, his softball years were spent fighting World War II. He served aboard the troop ship, General Gordon, crossing the Atlantic Ocean nineteen times. On one of his trips he returned five thousand German prisoners of war to Virginia. Tony served as a police officer in Chicago for thirty years, retiring as a sergeant in districts on the southside. He worked at Gateway Industries after his retirement before moving to Florida where he headed the security detail for seventeen years at Cypress Wood, a gated community. He and his late wife, Violet, have one son and a granddaughter.
Vernon Parry / Inducted 1996
Vern was the "Joe DiMaggio" of the sport and a great consistent hitter.,. once hitting safely in 54 consecutive games. He played 2nd base for 5 champions of the Windy City League, including Kool Vent. He lea his employer the First National Bank to six industrial Chicago American titles. The right hander was an original Chicago American Hall of Famer. Twice named MVP of the Windy City League and chosen to the Allstar team nine times. Deceased.
Bill “Willie” Pierucci / Inducted 1996
Bill “Willie” Pierucci
Considered the greatest hitter of the 40s and the Windy City League. This fast lefty punch hitter lead the Windy City League over 12 seasons on six separate occasions with the top batting average. First played for Hoffmans and then for Salerno Cookies, Fewer Boilers, the title teams of the Witt Hanley Yankees and Midland Motors. Also known for his unique style as he rounded the bases and touched them with his hand. The Tilden Tech star hit .530 in '48, when it was rare if anyone hit .500. All star catcher in '39 and '48, One of the great gentlemen of the game. Born 1920, he and Mary have 2 children. Since deceased.
Bruno Pinkos / Inducted 2002
Bruno Pinkos began his athletic career at age ten playing 17" softball inside the YMCA near Crane High School. At that time, back in 1926, they played the game with an "upshort" position, a position in front of the batter. He began his 16" softball career playing with his close friends, the legendary Werderich brothers at Cameron School. While he was never a great hitter, Bruno was well known as an excellent defensive second baseman, known for his aggressiveness on the field and on the bases. In the late thirties, Pinkos joined with Wickland Motors and Harry Hannin to play in the Windy City League, and helped them to win the Windy City Championship in 1938. About that time he was also making a professional move that would benefit both he and softball. He became a reporter for the Neighborhood Newspapers, a chain that covered the Northwest side, and was eventually promoted to sports editor. Softball benefitted when Pinkos organized a league that grew from sixteen teams to one of the largest leagues in Chicago with 64 teams. The entry fee was fifteen cents per man, and the league games were played at Spencer Coals and Mills Stadium. Bruno later served as president of the Northwest Times League; his first office was inside Irv Mages' first sporting goods store. The Northwest Times League ended with outbreak of World War II. After the war, Bruno played with State Representative Petrone's at Thillens Stadium in 1945 and '46. Pinkos ended his softball career when he began his career with Prudential Insurance, eventually ranking second out of 20,000 salesmen. Bruno lives in Mt. Prospect and has two children and four grandchildren. He still serves as a consultant to Prudential Insurance.
Hurter “Red” Redmond / Inducted 1996
Hurter “Red” Redmond
The "Babe Ruth" of the sport and a big gate attraction, the big right handed firefighter was the most prolific homerun hitter of the Windy City League during the 40s. His MVP season was in '4 when he lead the league in hits, avg. and 31 HRs. . leading Mid.: Motors to their first of two Windy City titles. Also a member of the Witt Hanley Yankee championship teams. He was so good the St. Pat's High School star was an original member of the Chicago American Hall of Fame created in '62. Perennial all star in the WCL. Famous cover photo for the '48 Championship program held at Comiskey included Red and DiMaggio shaking hands. Deceased.
Claude Rhodes / Inducted 1997
Veterans of the many softball wars on the Southside remember Claude Rhodes as a superb player who was also the youngest player on his neighborhood team in the early 1930s. Claude was a top notch short center, also known as the "roving center." During World War II he remained the youngest player because everyone his age went off to fight the war. Claude had a brief period away from the Windy City. Upon his return he began to manage the Safari Tigers. His love of the game and excellent management skills were obvious because the Safari Tigers played in all the major tournaments. They went to the nationals for nine straight years and became the only black team to win the Winners Bracket in 1984 and 1985. They were second place in those years only to the World Champion Whips and Touch. He is still involved with the Clique team. Claude's contributions to the world of 16" softball will be remembered by those persons close to the Southside game.
Harry “Swede” Roos / Inducted 1996
Harry “Swede” Roos
The first team he played for was the House of David. He was so young he couldn't grow a beard to look like his teammates. The big 6'7 first baseman was an excellent power hitter for Ryans, American Gear, Magic Chef, and Harry's Owl Club. He was on Leo Fischer's Herald American Allstar squads in the 30s. He was an all-around athlete as a semi-pro football player and an early NBA player for the Ft. Wayne Zollners. Eventually he played on the first Lakers basketball team with George Mikan. He coached the first pro basketball team in Portland, Oregon, the Portland Indians. Since 1954, Portland taverns and churches have had organized leagues playing 16" ball thanks to a keg of beer bet by Harry. 1913-1979, Survived by his wife Lola, 4 sons, and 5 grandchildren.
Anthony “Anno” Ross / Inducted 2006
Anthony “Anno” Ross
According to fellow members of the Pioneer era, Anthony Ross was one of the best left fielders who ever played the game. He had two abilities that gave him one of the deadliest arms of his era, he would spin in the air as he made the catch so he was ready to throw when he landed, and he had long arms that generated a lot of power. These two factors surprised a lot of base runners looking to stretch a single into a double or score on a long fly ball. A graduate of Hirsch High School and a resident of the Grand Crossing area of Chicago, Anthony's long arms also made him an excellent line drive "place" hitter. He usually batted third or forth in the lineup and could be counted on to drive in runs when needed. From the late 30s to the early 50s (with timeout to fight in World War II where he was stationed in Iceland), he played for some of the top teams of his time, including Mel Turner's, Bondi's, Ace Steel, Nudo's, Slo Freighters, Brown's, and Chicago Merchants. His love of the game showed as he played Monday through Friday, on Sundays in tournaments, and in money games at some of the great stadiums and against some of the great teams and players of his time. He will always be remembered as one of the great ambassadors of the game. He was in the restaurant business for much of his adult life as a partner in the Ranch House at 123rd and Halsted and in Jonathan Livingston Seafood in Naperville. After retirement, he became the head of maintenance for Brookwood Towers, a condominium complex in suburban Wooddale. Anthony Ross passed away on February 28th, 2001. He leaves behind his wife, Geraldine, and two children, Jim.
Auggie Ruff / Inducted 1998
Imagine a time before television and video recorders, cellular telephones, videotaped replays, and widespread radio coverage of sporting events. Now add to that mix the popularity of local boxing matches, basketball games, and the emergence of 16-inch softball as a spectator sport that sometimes drew more fans than the Chicago Cubs. The task for the sportswriters of those eras was to recreate the color and action of these games for their readers. Of those writers, Auggie Ruff emerged as one of the top writers of all time. Born on August 31, 1906, Ruff graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in 1923. He played high school basketball, football, and baseball and played basketball in the semi-pro industrial leagues. Auggie's strength, however, was# found in writing about these events. Auggie was a sportswriter and editor for the Daily Calumet, a paper at the time that can be compared to the Daily Herald of today. Readers remember Auggie's great narrative talent that captured the excitement and drama of the classic softball matches of the time. Auggie covered such great teams as the Brown Bombers, the Gas House Gang, Lapota Steelers, Midland Motors and countless others. He also covered the many "pot games" between such teams as the Baltimore Lumber and Lombardi Kids. When Auggie retired after many years with the Daily Calumet, the great writer Leo Fisher emceed the gala that included the top sportswriters of the time. 16-inch softball owes a tip of the bat to Auggie's many contributions to the game. Auggie is 93 years old and lives in Chicago.
Julio Sachetti / Inducted 2005
Julio Sachetti was the youngest of six children in an Italian immigrant family and the first of the children to be born in the United States. Growing up in the Italian neighborhoods of Chicago, Julio learned to play softball on the vacant lots and cinder parks of the city. Julio and his teammates from the neighborhood would pool their money to buy a bat and a couple of balls. They played pick-up games in the neighborhoods until they were eighteen when they joined competitive leagues at Garfield and Altgeld Parks during the mid to late 1930s. Julio's main team – the Cal Ads (California and Adams) – were Altgeld Park champions from 1936 to 1939. Julio was the captain of his team and was a natural born leader. He mainly played as a catcher but was also known to play wherever his team needed him. With bulging forearms that were larger than most men's biceps and an "eye to eye" glare at the opposing pitcher, Julio frequently singled or doubled – all while maintaining that defiant glare at the opposing pitcher. Besides being the team catalyst, Julio was responsible for team strategy that often led to some "candid" discussions with umpires. Julio and his two brothers, Louie and Joe, helped build the Chicago subway system, a trade that definitely helped build the "jackhammer forearms" that produced so many memorable hits. At age 25, and like many players of his era, World War II interrupted his playing days from 1943 - 945. He resumed playing 16" after his discharge, competing through the mid 1950s until his retirement from softball at forty. During his years of playing, Julio Sachetti competed against many of the great players in the Windy City leagues, including Lewa Yacilla, Red Hurter, and Sam LaBarbera. With his trademark sayings "Never look afraid" and "Let's single em to death," Julio Sachetti relished many victories against some of the great players in softball history. As a reminder of his passion for softball, his family placed a 16" softball with him upon his death in 1993. Julio never took the easy way in life or in softball and would have been honored on being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Julio'�s wife, Mary, and his daughters Judy, Diane, and Liz share in this great honor.
Don Savage / Inducted 2014
Don Savage has been a member of a sixteen-inch softball team for seventy- eight years, from 1935 to the end
of the 2013 season. His teams have won more that forty championships and Don has played in or managed
in approximately thirty-five senior leagues at parks throughout Chicago and the suburbs
Don attended St. Philomena
Elementary School and Kelvyn Park High School on Chicago’s North Side. He attended Ford College and the Freight Traffic College. In 1939, his team, the TNTs (short for dynamite), defeated the Hawks to win the Mozart Park championship in front of more than eight hundred spectators. In 1944 he won the Northtown batting title. In 1944 and 1945, St Philomena won the CYO Senior League title, defeating a South Side team loaded with Windy City players. Saint Philomena was led by brothers Bob (HOF) and Lou Werderitch and Don.
In 1947, they lost in the city semi-finals to an Adduci team that included such legendary softball players
and Hall of Fame members as Nick Branman, Whitey Maytag, Nick Pierucci and many others. Don played
at Northtown, Kosciuszko, LaFollette, and Mozart parks, the top parks in the early days of softball. In the early 1940s and 1950s, Don’s teams always enjoyed competing against some of softball’s legendary players at Mozart Park. In 1973 he arrived at Independence Park
at the last minute. He learned that his team was a man short, so he played with his right wrist in a cast. He had two hits and a walk to help the Bakers win the championship.
Don has been running a golf tournament out of Mozart Park for sixty-seven years. It started in 1946 with his softball players and has grown each year. He is also a member
of the “Ye Old Has-Bens Club” that meets annually at Hawthorne Park. He has organized many trips to Notre Dame and Bears football games and Cubs games. For fifteen years he has participated in the Six-County Senior Games and the Chicago Senior Games, winning over 150 awards in various sports and competitions.
Don thanks Bill Muellner, his first manager (and Chicago Cardinal player), who in 1935 got him involved in the game. He also thanks Mugs Molley at Wildwood Park and Hall of Famers Mike Coyne and Joe Umana for keeping him involved in softball for the past twenty-five years.
Don worked for Gateway Building Products for sixty years. He rose to the position of vice-president. He
and his wife, Theresa, have two daughters – Peggy and Ginny. He has lived on North Tripp his entire life. Don turned ninety-six in 2013.
Santo “Doc” Scavuzzo / Inducted 2002
Santo “Doc” Scavuzzo
In 1936, Santo "Doc" Scavuzzo began his fifty plus year softball career playing second base with Duro-Lite Pencil at Green Briar Park. In 1940, Duro-Lite expanded their competition by winning championships at both Green Briar Park and Sauganash Park. 1947 saw Scavuzzo help the DeSoto Knights of Columbus. In 1948, Scavuzzo joined Rhode's Tavern in the Welles Park League. That year they made a name for themselves when they played the legendary Brown Bombers in a two game money series, winning one of the games. Scavuzzo expanded his range of influence in 1949 when he organized the Hoellen Ball Club at Welles and Winnemac Parks and won championships at both parks. From 1950 until his move to Colorado, Scavuzzo's team competed against and beat some of the legendary teams of the era at some legendary parks. he came in second to Kool Vent Awnings at Thillens Stadium as a member of Town Pumps with Ken Speirs and the great Notre Dame legend Larry Coutre, and won league championships and big money games at Clarendon and Welles Parks. "Doc" Scavuzzo carried his love of 16" softball to Colorado, where he organized and ran a 16" league for three years before organizing a 12" club that won numerous Colorado and regional championships. In 1994, he was inducted into the ASA Hall of Honor in Colorado.
Ken Speirs / Inducted 1999
With a softball career spanning 40 years, Ken "Kenny" Speirs remembers getting hits off the legendary Lewa Yacillo and Sheik DiNardi. He started his career at Waters Park on the Northwest side of Chicago. He also played at Welles Park, Thillen's Stadium, Clarendon Park, Chicago and Kedzie, and one year with Fewer Boilers and the legendary Eggs Bromley. One of the top ten hitters every year at Norttown and Clarendon Parks, Speirs led the team in doubles and batted second or third with every team. He started his career at third base, moved to left field where he earned the nickname "Spider" for his remarkable hands. He later took over at short center when a teammate was hurt. He never left that position as he became one of the best shortcenters in the game. Speirs remembers playing four games on Sunday - CYO Ball, two pot games in the afternoon, and a night game at Thillen's. His team won the CYO championship three years in a row with the Queen of Angels. With the Alderman Hoellen Boosters Speirs dominated Welles Park for ten years. At Nortown Speirs played with Town Pump where he was runner up to such teams as Midland Motors, Kool Vent, and Spalters. Kenny Speirs played at Clarendon into his 40s where he won the league championship with Warm Friends, Ryan's Jungle, and others. He also was runner-up to the Bobcats two years in a row while playing at Chicago and Kedzie. He was invited to the Cub's school at sixteen while a student at Amundsen High School. Ken served with the Navy Amphibious forces for two years in the Pacific Theatre and served in Korea for a year. He retired in 1984 from Illinois Bell Telephone after 34 years of service. Ken and his wife of fifty years, Caye, have seven children and 16 grandchildren.
Stanley “Lefty” Stein / Inducted 2006
Stanley “Lefty” Stein
Stanley Stein ranks as one of the top left fielders and hitters of the 30s and 40s. He started playing softball at seventeen and quickly made a name for himself. He was the leadoff man for North Shore Congregation (a Hall of Fame team honored in 2005), Judge Shillers and the legendary Windy City Teams which included the Triplex Yankees, Midland Motors, Witt Hanley Yankees, Chicago Mail Order, and Senate Florals. He was the lead-off hitter for Witt Hanley in 1941, a team that the Softball News on September 12, 1941 called the greatest collection of softballers ever to be assembled on one team. In 1937 he led the league in hitting and one year was the second leading hitter in the league with a .619 average. He continued to be one of the top leading hitters throughout his career. Playing with such softball greats and Hall of Fame members as Art (Lefty) Goldfedder, Red Hurter, Lewa Yacilla, Whitey Maytag, Jimmy DiVito, and James "Sheik" DiNardi to name a few, Stanley Stein was a true pioneer and star of the game. His speed and ability to get on base earned him a place as one of the top players of his era and beyond. He worked for International Harvester and Sara Lee. Stanley Stein passed away in 1998. He leaves behind his sons, Fred, Joel, and Jerald, and two grandchildren, Michael and Jamey.
Stan Szukala / Inducted 2001
Stan Szukala's career can be divided into three phases; before World War II, after World War II, and behind the plate as an umpire. Before World War II, Stan played with such memorable teams as Champagne Velvet, Tripp Inn, Alderman Brody, 4-11 Café and the Touhy Club. After World War II he moved to Northtown Currency and Champagne Velvet with Mike Vukovich and Bud Schrke. Stan moved to umpiring in 1948 and worked some of the great games at Clarendon and Northtown Parks. In addition to a great career in softball, Stan Szukala made his mark in basketball starting on the DePaul University squad from 1937 to 1940. He was team captain his senior year, when DePaul posted a 22 and 6 record. He was also co-captain of the College All-Star team that defeated the Harlem Globetrotters in Chicago Stadium before a crowd of 20,000 fans. Szukala, the game's MVP, hit the winning basket in overtime. Stan played professional ball with the Chicago Bruins in the National Basketball league for two years before he entered the military service. He was a key player in Camp Grant's record of 58 and 6, and won All Army honors as captain of the 34 and 4 Valley Forge General Hospital team. Upon his discharge from the Army, Stan rejoined the National Basketball League, playing for the Chicago American Gears for two years, and leading them to the 1947 National Championship. After retiring from professional basketball, Stan Szukala worked in trucking and public relations for thirty years. He retired from the transportation industry in 1979, and in 2000 he lived in Chicago.
Ray “Topps” Topolski / Inducted 1996
Ray “Topps” Topolski
Ray began his softball career in the "Back of the Yards" at Sherman Park with his friends the Chi-Wolves. Played for Daly Hamburgs after returning from college. He flourished as a centerfielder with the Jimmy Rose team at Clarendon and Chicago and Kedzie Leagues until '59. One of his highlights was a 4 home run performance in an Allstar game at Thillens. Then he joined the champion Bobcats.and played CF until 1964 when the 6 children demanded more time and his wife Theresa was glad to get it. He was an excellent fielder and clutch hitter with a unique hitting style that created good power. He finished his illustrious 20 years helping his employer, Reliable Packing, win 2 Industrial Championships in the late 60s. He was a 3 sport letterman at Leo High School in football, track, and basketball. As a senior, he was honored as the Athlete for 4 Years by Cardinal Stritch! Played baseball and batted .330 and averaged 20 points per game in basketball for Lewis College. Grandfather to 15. Born 1933.
Richard Triptow / Inducted 200
An ad for the old North Town Currency Stadium Calls upon fans to come out and watch Chicago's greatest sports stars in action. It features Dick Triptow, with a star next to his name as a "crack cage and diamond star from DePaul." One look at Triptow's softball accomplishments shows that the ad was not an exaggeration. Dick Triptow played center and left fields for such legendary teams as Lill Coals, American Gear, Miskas, and the3 Witt Hanley Yankees. In 1941, while playing in the Booster-Hamlin League, Triptow was not only selected to their all-star team, but also voted the league MVP. He was also credited with the league's best play for that year; a one handed, leaping grab of a long ball after a hard run. Offensively, he was a homerun powerhouse, hitting multiple homers in many games. Defensively, he was a standout, throwing out runners from left or center fields and making all-star quality catches. Dick Triptow's athletic prowess extended beyond the softball fields of Chicago. He was a member of Ray Meyer's first basketball team at DePaul, and co-captained the 1944 second place team with George Mikan. He played a prominent role in DePaul's 1944 second place finish in the NIT tournament at Madison Square Garden. He was named to the College All American Team, the Herald American College All Star Team, Pic Magazine's All American Team, and the All Chicago Stadium Team. Triptow played six years of professional basketball. Three years with American Gear of Chicago, the National Basketball League (forerunner of the current NBA) champs in 1947. He played another three years with the Fort Wayne Pistons (now the Detroit Pistons). Triptow also played three years in the Chicago Cub farm system from 1944 to 1947. From 1950 to 1959, Triptow was head basketball coach and taught a course in business at St. Patrick High School in Chicago. He then headed to Lake Forest College, to head the basketball, soccer and baseball programs for the next 14 years. In 1965 he was named Soccer Coach of the Year by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. From 1973 to 1988 he was a counselor and Occupational Education coordinator at Lake Forest High School. He retired in 1988. He and his wife Helen have two daughters and live in Lake Bluff, Illinois.
Mel Turner / Inducted 1997
Mel played 12" and 16" softball during the 20s, 30s, and 40s, dissolving his team at the end of the season. While Mel made his living in the automotive world (securing numerous patents for technical advances in automobile repair tools,) his second love was softball. Mel and his family lived across the street from Bill "Rand" Stadium, which later became Rheingold and Bidwell Stadium. Besides playing for top softball teams in the early 1930s, Mel became a key member of the Leo Fisher Herald American structure, organizing South side teams to compete in the 600 team yearly city tournaments. In addition to organizing tournaments, Mel frequently settled disputes among players and teams. Once Mel became the Bidwell Stadium manager, he would frequently create a tournament in a matter of a hours. After every season Mel always organized a dinner for the umpires and wives of the Jim Allen Umpire. With his association with Leo Fisher, Charlie Bidwell. and Abe Saperstein (of the Harlem Globetrotters,) Mel also organized half time ceremonies for various sporting events at the Chicago Stadium. Besides his promotional efforts, Mel is also credited as being the- innovator of the yellow ball to improve night visibility. Mel played until he was 56 years old, still stretching a single into a double with - his famous head first slide.
Paul “Pee Gee” Van Meter / Inducted 2000
Paul “Pee Gee” Van Meter
When considering the all time greats in the history of 16" softball, Paul "Pee Gee" Van Meter and his teams; the Gas House Gang and the Brown Bombers would have to be placed near the top of the list. A graduate of DuSable High School in 1937, Van Meter was born in 1918. He began his 16" career in 1936, when he played for the Giles Athletic Club. From 1938 to 1940 he played with Whelan Boosters, until World War II interrupted. Paul served with the Army in the South Pacific, until his discharge in 1946. After the war, Paul's softball career took off when he joined the Dawson Boosters, that later became the Gas House Gang. They eventually merged into the legendary Brown Bombers, which featured such Pioneer Greats as Sweetwater Clifton, Danny Dumas, Jim Watkins, Zeke Ireland, Andy Nesbitt, Bill Davis and Norvell Calhoun. Van Meter's presence helped elevate the Brown Bombers to a place in softball history. Jim "Nuggy" Watkins, also a Hall of Famer, says that Paul's defensive skills at third base, and his consistent hitting make him "one of the best in Windy City history." He ended his playing career with Jives – 10 Old Men of the Daddy O'Daily League from 1954 to 1960. Van Meter switched to the other side of the plate when he became one of the top umpires at Meyering Park, once his playing days were over. Paul and his wife, Marjorie have three children; Thomas, Arla and George.
Frank “Squeeks” Vodicka / Inducted 1998
Frank “Squeeks” Vodicka
Playing for the Bill Rands in the Windy City League at the ripe old age of fifteen, Frank Vodicka began his softball career as the youngest player on that team and possibly in the entire league. Vodicka's entry into 16-inch softball seemed preordained when he was born directly across from Cornell Square at 50th and Wolcott. A short -center with the reputation for being a solid defender who could also hit to all fields, Vodicka played George Young 16 inch yellow ball during the 30s and 40s. In 1937 he was honored by being interviewed by Frank Reynolds and Bob Elston on WBBM radio. Besides the Bill Rands, Vodicka played for such legendary teams as Midland Motors, Dust Motors, Stoney Tires and the John T Dempsey's and was managed by such great managers as Lewa Yacilla, Bill "Happy" Parillo, Bill Newbaur, Ray McDonald, and Chester Matykiewicz (Whitey Maytag). Frank's championships include two in1941: the Greater Chicago Hotel Tournament with the Hotel Shermans, and the Grant Park Industrial Tournament with Joslyn Manufacturing; Mayor Kennely's Civic Award in 1944, the Fewer Boilers Herald American Tournament in 1945, and the Trinor Grant Giants, the Robeys, and Silhouette Lounge. Born in 1922, Frank Vodicka lives in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
Jim “Nugie” Watkins / Inducted 1997
Jim “Nugie” Watkins
Old Timers remember Nugie Watkins as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game during the 30s and 40s. He played for Ham's Didits, the Gas House Gang, and the Brown Bombers. At nineteen Jim "Nugie" Watkins did not realize the place he would make in 16" softball history when he began his playing career with the original Gas House Gang. Playing in some of the best leagues on the South and West sides of Chicago, Nugie and his team began to make a name for themselves. To move into the tougher "White" leagues of the city, Nugie searched many areas of Chicago to field a team that would be espectable against Chicago's top teams. These team members included Hall of Fame members Dan Dumas, "Sweetwater" Clifton, and Zeke Ireland. When the Gas House Gang entered the Windy City League in 1942, promoter Harry Hannin convinced the team to change its name to the Brown Bombers in order to capture the fame of boxing great Joe Louis and to increase their marketability. Watkins was the captain and hard hitting short fielder from 1939 to 1950. When "Nugie" Watkins was not playing for the Brown Bombers, he was playing for the Harlem Globetrotters from 1940 to 1945 at the unheard of salary of $100 per week. Watkins and his players also played in a semi-professional basketball team where they would travel to various cities and play games on Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday night, before returning to work on Monday morning. Since his retirement from G.T.E. in 1983 he has been working with Dr. Larry Hawkins and the Office and the Office of Special Programs on the .campus of the University of Chicago. This program believes that a well run sports program can be a positive force that can be used to - complement academic programs in schools. This endeavor has been credited with convincing the Chicago Board of Education to institute inter-school sports programs in seventh and eighth grades. Nugie still finds time to volunteer at various schools in Chicago teaching students the fundamentals of 16" softball.
Bob Werderitch / Inducted 1998
Considered by many to be the second best pitcher next to the legendary Lewa Yacilla, Bob Werderitch entered the Windy City league at 17, the youngest player at that time to play major league softball. Batting clean-up for the Immel and Karis team, he led them to a second place finish his first year. He progressed from there to pitch for such legendary teams as Winkler Motors, Petrones, Lill Coals, Eugene Dietzen, and the CYO, winning Windy City and Herald-American championships in 1938, 39, and 1940 with Petrones. Sporting a .420 batting average, he also won M.V.P. honors in 1938, '39, and '40 in the Herald - American Tournament and in 1939 and '40 in the Windy City League. Werderitch later pitched Angels of Broadway to the Windy City championship in 1948. Two important memories for Werderitch include a 1-0 loss in 17 innings and pitching a game with the largest crowd ever to watch 16-inch softball at Hilburn Stadium. After retiring from softball in the early 1950s, he umpired for park and factory teams to keep in touch with the game. Bob Werderitch retired from Hammond Organ in 1982 after 28 years.
Harry Wilson / Inducted 1997
A top umpire of the 30s and 40s, Harry called balls and strikes at Windy City Stadiums and Soldier Field. Pioneer softball players remember Harry for his ability on and off the field. His ability to umpire was heightened by his great deal of playing experience. I addition to his umpiring duties, Harry also gathered stories from around Chicago and wrote his softball column for the Herald-American. Since deceased.
Charles “Pee Wee” Wilson / Inducted 2006
Charles “Pee Wee” Wilson
Charles Wilson was born on December 24, 1918 in Chicago. He attended Francis Willard Elementary School, Lane Technical High School (graduating in 1938) and Herzl Junior College. As a four-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball and softball), he played with a variety of legendary teams in all these sports. He played football for the Pepsi Cola Aces (1938 - 40), and the Golden Panthers semi-pro team (1947- 57), played baseball at Berean Baptist Church and at Herzl Junior College, and played basketball with the Chicago Bronzeville Trotters (1936 - 40), Herzl College and the Chicago Police Department Area One team from 1963 - 68. Softball is the sport, however, where Charles Wilson brought Hall of Fame performance to the playing field. He started his softball career with the Hawks, a neighborhood team, from 1936 - 38. He then moved to the Campbell Boosters (1938-40). Like so many players of his day, his career was interrupted by military service. He joined the Illinois National Guard in 1940 and served actively with the Army from 1941 to 1945, spending two and a half years overseas. He remained with the National Guard until 1970, retiring with the rank of colonel. When he returned from military service, he played with the VFW Charles Hunt Post (1948- 53), with the Goodyear All-Stars (1960 - 65) in the Budweiser's Tavern League (1965 - 70), with the St. Anselm Catholic team (1954 - 59) and with the Chicago Police Area One team from 1961 - 65. He also served as commissioner in the Daddy-ODailey Fun League and the Tavern League. He retired from the Chicago Police Department after twenty-seven years of service. He and his first wife, Rosetta, who passed away in 1993, have three daughters, one son and six grandchildren. He and his second wife, Jeanne, live in Huntsville, Alabama.
Lewa “Rocco” Yacilla / Inducted 1996
Lewa “Rocco” Yacilla
Many softball historians will tell you that Lewa Yacilla was one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He was the pitcher you wanted on the mound in money games. Lewa started playing softball in the Granada League at Polk and Halsted. He played for the city champ Adducci's and many others. He was best known for being on eight Windy City League championship teams and five runners-up teams, including Fewer Boilers, Kool Vent Awnings and the Witt Hanley Yankees. He pitched the only no-hitter in the history of the Windy City League for Salerno in 1939. He is credited with over 3.000 wins. Lewa, who earned the nickname "Mr. Softball," was also a Gompers Park director who fiercely promoted the sport he loved. He was also a community leader who helped physically challenged children. Lewa was inducted in the 1963 Chicago American Softball Hall of Fame and the Italian- American Sports Hall of Fame. He is survived by his wife Marge and three children. He is since deceased.
Vito “Tasty” Yario / Inducted 1996
Vito “Tasty” Yario
This righty pitcher was most widely known for inventing the hesitation pitch and also having a big drop on the ball even though the pitching was much faster in those years. Considered the best before the great Lewa Yacilla came on the scene. He was a Chicago American Hall of Fame member. Also known as Tasty, Vito played for Adduccis, and Salerno Cookies. Came in 2nd in the 1st National Championship game in 33 with Cinderella Florists. Deceased.