Betty Kollar

The fourth of five children, Betty Kollar grew up on the Northwestside of Chicago in the Hermosa neighborhood. There she played whiffle ball, league ball, and softball with the kids on the block. But for someone who was destined to become one of the top female softball players of her time, it was important that she lived only one block from Kelvyn Park. There she learned the game by watching the men’s leagues and occasionally claiming a forgotten softball. At Kelvyn, she and her friends followed the age-old tradition of learning the game of softball by playing right-field out and using a flattened sixteen-inch ball box or a stick to mark out the base. No equipment needed except a ball and a bat. She played in her first competitive game when she was just twelve in the Chicago Park District Pony Tail League. She and her good friend led the Kelvyn Park team to victory. Her friend played first and Betty pitched (mainly because she was the only one who could consistently get the ball over the plate). She remembers bringing home a ribbon after playing in an all day tournament at Riis Park. In 1973 she received a phone call that would change her life. Another grammar school friend’s team was short of players, so she called Betty at five (in the middle of dinner) and asked her to join them at six. Little did she know that that phone call would begin a forty-plus year softball career. That summer she never missed a game and met and became a teammate with some of the legends of women’s softball: Mary Kay Schaefer- Monaghan, Pat Pasko, Tony Paolini, and many others. The next summer she joined the OJs and the Slow Pokes and played multiple nights a week for the next forty years. Betty was usually the number three hitter on her team. Besides her great power and ability to hit to the gaps, she rounded each base perfectly and always took an extra base if the defense was slow to react. Teammates remember the excitement she brought to the game as she rounded third base and dove head first into home plate. But great players are not built on offense alone. Like all great players, she had the speed to patrol centerfield. But she had the instincts of a great player. She knew how to break on the ball. She knew the perfect route to take to either make the catch or cut off a possible extra base hit. She knew when to dive and make the catch or hold-up on it. And her great arm and ability to always know where the runner was made her one of the best outfielders in women’s softball. Besides softball, Betty also played twelve-inch softball in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and eleven-inch softball in tournaments all over the Midwest. Her eleven-inch team, Precision, played out of Kenosha. In 1984 they placed fourth in Nationals. Besides playing softball, she also competed in the Illinois Women’s Soccer League and played soccer in Germany where her team went undefeated at 11-0. She graduated from Lane Technical High School and played basketball at UIC on a scholarship. She completed a Board of Governors Degree at Chicago State University in 2008. Since 1989 she has worked as a FedEx courier in downtown Chicago. In 2012 she received the Blainey Butler “Love of the Game” award at the Bucks for Burns Annual Softball Tournament. She currently plays for the Hangovers. She still plays the game that she loves. Betty lives in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago with her partner and a dog and two cats.