Ben Reilly

Ben Reilly’s softball career began in 1948 when he was invited to join the Westfield Legion Post team for games at Murray Playground at 73rd and Wood Streets. He played mostly outfield positions but also spent some time playing infield. As a left-handed hitter who threw with his right-hand, he remembers many great moments of neighborhood pride when Westfield beat many teams from surrounding neighborhoods in league competition and in money games. Because of his time with Westfield, he expanded his playing opportunities when he joined teams at St. Sabina and Little Flower in the parish leagues. In the early 1950s he left Westfield to play left field for Bonnetti’s out of Ogden Park. Unfortunately, he missed playing most of that summer because of his work schedule. The next season he was back playing when Bob Wilson, the player/manager of the Crusaders recruited him to play for them. They played their games at 31st and Hoyne and at Byrne Field at 59th and Damen. Like many great players who loved the game, he and his teammates played “eight days a week” in league and money games. In the early ‘60s he joined Ready Paving and Brennan’s Tap, playing in leagues in the 19th Ward and Ridge Park. These teams were competitive in both leagues and won a few championships. But Ben mostly remembers that the softball played on the Southside during those years was the best that it could be. He played mainly left and center fields where his outstanding speed gave him an edge in tracking down long fly balls. He batted at the top of the lineup but spent most of his career as a number three hitter. He gave up the game when he was thirty-nine years old because of a growing family and other compelling issues. He will always remember the great memories and friendships he made during his twenty-one years of playing Chicago’s great game. Ben is a graduate of St. Rita High School where he played basketball and of Chicago Teachers College South (now Chicago State) where he also played basketball. Upon graduation from college, he became varsity basketball coach at Mendel Catholic High School in 1954 until 1959. He returned in 1961 as a teacher and athletic director for the next seven years. During this time he started what would become a twenty-five year career officiating basketball with fifteen of them as a Big Ten official. He concluded his professional career with a title company for twenty years in sales and public relations. Ben and his wife, Wilma, have four sons (Gregory, Terry, Rich, Rob), a daughter (Nancy), and two granddaughters. They live on Chicago’s far Southside.