Austin “Spider” Ware

A lifelong softball player, Austin “Spider” Ware began playing with Hall of Fame inductee Billy “Bumstead” Johnson in 1961 at Parkman Elementary School.  He co-founded and played second base with his first team, the Invaders, in 1963. They dominated play until 1967 when they merged with the Van Dykes, managed by the great Floyd Neal. From 1967 to 1969, the Van Dykes were the team to beat, winning a streak of local championships. In 1969 the Van Dykes played in the legendary Cocktail League at Tuley Park. In 1970 he followed his mentor, Leonard “Sarge” McKinnon (HOF), to the Iron Men in 1970. He then played for these tournament-winning teams: the Demons, the Safari Tigers (mid-’80s), the Bandits (early-’90s), California Gold (mid-’90s), the Rolling Dice (he was the extra hitter), the B-Athletes, and at the young age of fifty-five his bat was instrumental in making 10-Deep a contending team in area tournaments.  Austin “Spider” Ware was known both as a gap-hitter who could hit down both foul lines and as a homerun hitter. As a player, he played alongside many Hall of Fame players, including Michael and Randy “Stretch” Lee, Michael “Ice Mike” Coleman, and Larry “La La” Washington. He was managed by Hall of Fame inductees Dan Dumas, Pete Dawkins, and Claude Rhodes. Spider credits most of his success to these three managers. He counts Henry “Hammering Hank” Kemp (HOF) as one of his idols.  At sixty-three, he is a more experienced hitter and plays with and mentors the Silent Assassins, an up-and-coming young team. Austin served his country in the United States Navy for four years and was a Chicago police officer for twenty-nine years. As a Chicago police officer in the ’80s and early-’90s, he pitched his team to victories in the Grant Park Chicago Police Tournament, pitching against officers who played for the Whips, Bud 45s, Lettuce and other top teams of that era.  He pitched the Sixth Police District to the championship and was named MVP in the Police Olympics. In 1986, he earned the title of Most Decorated Police Officer for the Chicago Police Department when he walked into a robbery-in-progress while off-duty. He struggled with the gunman and eventually killed him during the struggle. Since his retirement, he serves as a parole agent supervisor for the Illinois Department of Corrections.   Spider is the father of five children – Scharice, Moriah, Albert, Jozetta, and Allison and the grandfather of twelve grandchildren. He lives in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood.