16" Inch game at Forest Park

16″ Inch Softball game in Forest Park, site of the Hall of Fame

Described as “every man’s game”, 16” inch softball is a sport that has unified Chicago neighborhoods since its rise to popularity in the early 1920’s. Companies such as Commonwealth Edison began forming teams with employees from different positions and backgrounds, allowing players to trade their work boots and slacks for stretch-knit pants and team t-shirts. 16” was a neighborhood game and many players would agree that the day’s really serious business took place on the diamond, not in the workplace. Chicago neighborhoods were able to identify with each other through softball. Pulitzer-prize winning columnist and Chicago Daily News pitcher Mike Royko once said that while other players would “slink away, moaning about their twisted fingers and painful booboos on their hands,” Chicagoans reveled in the machismo of no-gloves softball.

Mike Royko in Chicago Daily News jersey

Mike Royko in Chicago Daily News jersey

In 1996, the Hall of Fame was created after founder Al Maag and Tom Tillisch produced a video documentary titled “Chicago’s Game- 16 Inch Softball”. The key players in the sport banded together with co-founder Tony Reibel (Sobries) and park director Larry Piekarz to choose the location of the museum and begin creating the idea for the Hall of Fame. The building, located in Forest Park, was originally a gas station and eventually a children’s arts and crafts room. Since then, the Hall of Fame has evolved to include an outside common area featuring plagues and bios of inductees, while renovating inside to incorporate both historical and contemporary attributes of 16-inch softball and Chicago.