Bill Wadington grew up in the Jefferson Park neighborhood on the Northwest side of Chicago at a time when you went outside and played sports – pinners on the front step until your dad told you to cut it out, running bases, hockey on the North Branch of the Chicago River (when it still froze over), pickup basketball, touch football in the street (“Head to the Chevy and cut to the Caddy but watch out for those fins.”), and swift pitch at Farnsworth School. But the game that the neighborhood loved the most was sixteen-inch softball.
Like generations before him, he started playing it with his brother and a few friends in the street. The fire hydrant was home and the street corners were the bases. That arrangement worked well until you started hitting the ball into Mr. Clemen’s bushes. Then it was time to head to the schoolyard. Growing up in the 1960s was great for a number of reasons. You stayed out until the streetlights came on and later as you grew older, parents didn’t worry about where you were (or they didn’t show it), and there were plenty of kids your age to play with. Summer days were filled with countless softball games, interrupted by trips to Fines’ Candy store for a pop and some Hostess cupcakes. Then it was time for more softball.
You chose sides by placing hands up a bat and trying to kick it out of the other person’s hand. If you did, you got first pick. As the players got older and grew tired of playing each other, they decided to join a league. So Al Maag (HOF) went to a sporting goods store, ordered some jerseys, signed the guys up for a league, and the Baggers softball team was born. The Baggers played at local parks on the Northwest side with some success. They played at Clarendon Park and in the CYO Tournament at Grant Park.
Bill gave up the game in the early 1970s when his interests changed and he realized that he didn’t have the talent to play as the Baggers morphed into a more competitive team.
In 1997, after the inaugural Sixteen-inch Softball Hall of Fame Dinner, Bill asked his childhood friend and Hall of Fame co-founder Al Maag what he could do to help. Al said that he could write the bios for the next dinner. For the past nineteen dinners, Bill has been writing and editing the bios that appear in the dinner book and on the plaques at Forest Park. He has also written the script for the dinner program and served for a number of years on the board of directors of the Hall of Fame. He helped organize the Hall of Fame Golf Outing and for two years compiled the bios and ads for the dinner book.
Bill taught high school English and reading at Reavis High School, Downers Grove South High School, and Glenbard South High School. He was an adjunct faculty member at Moraine Valley Community College. Bill and his wife, Mona, live in Downers Grove, Illinois. They have two children – Megan and Benjamin – and three grandchildren – Claudia, Nathaniel, and Emily.